On the shelf of the pass-through between my kitchen and living room is a sympathy card preserved in a navy blue frame. It is a beautifully calligraphed version of Lamentations 3: 23. The words are surrounded by pink and purple and yellow and blue flowers of all types and sizes. The verse, one of my favorites and the source of one of my favorite hymns reads:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
After years of suffering from a variety of illnesses my husband died last October. We had experienced the steadfast love of the Lord many, many times. Now he had died rather unexpectedly, and I had to remember that steadfastness on my own. I stored the rest of the sympathy cards in a basket and read them all, often on Sunday mornings. But this card I placed where I could see it dozens of times a day every day as I cook or wash dishes or get a drink. I knew it would be an important tool in my quest to find reasons for gratitude during a time of deep sorrow. I didn’t realize how my connection with simplicity and gratitude would become a new blessing.
My history with the spiritual discipline of simplicity goes back decades. I vividly member sitting in a room at Spring Arbor University listening to Richard Foster speak about the spiritual practice of simplicity. Someone asked him for an example of simplicity. He pointed to his yellow sweater vest and said, “Wear your clothes until they wear out!” I’m sure that was a foreign concept to most people in the room, but I was immediately drawn to it. I began to watch during the rest of the week and sure enough he wore the same vest, pants and shoes every day. And no one cared, least of all him. I decided to work on that discipline.
I didn’t own (and still do not) a lot of clothes, so showing up in the same clothes was not difficult. The adjustment was purging the embarrassment and the caring about what other people might think of me for wearing the same clothes over and over again. After all, Richard Foster had shown nothing but pride about wearing his sweater vest. I learned that it wasn’t a discipline about clothes; it was the discipline of changing my attitude how important those clothes were. As I practiced letting go of what I thought I needed to be happy, I was rewarded over and over with gratitude for what I had.
Now that I am on my own physically and financially, I am grateful for what God has shown me through these two spiritual disciplines. After Fred died, living expenses became a prime focus. How would I financially survive the years that are left to me on my own? Slowly I realized that I already knew the answer. I would focus on gratitude for what I have and continue practicing a lifestyle of simplicity.
Soon I saw the mercies that never come to an end. Some examples: A friend saves the local daily newspaper for a month and then brings them to me. Papers for free and plus a regular visit from my friend! A few months ago, I realized that I was driving very little since Fred died, so I checked with our agent about a reduction in my premium since I was reducing my monthly mileage. Now have a fancy Bluetooth device that tracks my mileage and adjusts my monthly payment each month.
Living simply means buying only what groceries I need; I have to watch the cost more since I now have them delivered. (Living simply means taking care of my back, too.) Sometimes I get great cost reductions based on what I regularly buy from coupons in the mail. These can’t be used via the delivery process. Practicing gratitude has taught me that people want to help, and I am learning to accept the gift of help. So, a friend takes my coupons to the store, shops for me, and then stays for a visit after she delivers them. She enjoys being helpful; I have learned to enjoy being helped.
Recently a close friend whom I had not seen for years called and asked if she could visit. I was thrilled; I had missed her. Soon she began describing her new job with Instacart. She shopped for other people and then delivered their groceries. She said she really loved the job because she could spend time with a special-needs relative in her family who really loved shopping. Then she said, “I don’t need this income so I want whatever money I make each week to be deposited in your account.” I was about to argue, but was stopped in my tracks by the verse on the card over my sink: God is faithful and his mercies are new every morning. So, I accepted her gift. After she set up the account, she texted me about how fun this was going to be!
And that gave me a new realization: God’s mercies are new every morning . . . and it is delightful for everyone to see how they work out.