Standing in line at the grocery store, I did my best to avert my eyes from pictures of scantily clad women and gossipy headlines. Thanking God for my ordinary, unnews-worthy life, my wandering gaze finally landed on a picture of a beautifully decorated kitchen underneath the title Real Simple.
My heart stilled. I sighed audibly. I could feel the simple, relaxing life I crave oozing from the glossy magazine pages. I grabbed it from the rack, threw it onto the conveyor belt, stuffed it into a grocery bag, and headed home.
Problems greeted me as soon as I pulled up to our humble abode: ungroomed shrubs, a cracked, heaving driveway, and best of all, a broken screen door. On a warm summer day, one of my littles had fallen through the screen and later decided it was a super-cool doggy door for kids. Naturally, his brothers readily agreed. I mean, who has time for opening doors when you can just jump through the screen and land your muddy shoes right on the kitchen floor? And so now I am left with a choice: be the best mom ever and keep the boy-sized-doggy-door-style-flapping screen, or do what most normal people would do and get the door fixed. So far, the door is still super-cool, and so am I. At least for now.
I unloaded the groceries onto my pink formica countertops, putting the nonperishables inside wood-look laminate cabinets, on a wire shelf in the basement hallway that pretends it’s a pantry, and on plastic shelving in the basement that is also having a food-pantry identity crisis. I get frustrated at the lack of acceptable storage. Where am I supposed to put all this food?
All. This. Food. All. This. Space. But I can’t see the blessings for the formica, the laminate, and the wire. Because when I am done unloading all this bounty, I grab my Real Simple magazine, make a cup of tea, and spend way too much time flipping pages, dreaming of a simply beautiful house and a simply beautiful life that I could have if only things were more simple.
As if ripping out our kitchen, living in a construction zone, and plunging ourselves into debt is going to make my life simpler. Seriously, I don’t think so. What if the secret to the real simple life is simply seeing what I already have and being thankful for it? What if I stop trying to complicate things that aren’t supposed to be hard? Because really, so what?
I love our house. I really love it. When we bought it, we saw its potential. A diamond in the rough, but not too rough, because we had already done that. We painted, did the floors, and even opened up a wall, so that being in the tiny kitchen would feel more like a privilege and less like a prison sentence. And it does. And it’s enough.
Someday, we will redo the kitchen. We have picked up a few things along the way that we hope to use when, as we like to call it, “The Great Someday Someday” finally arrives. It’s okay to dream, as long as the dream doesn’t ruin my reality.
The secret to a real simple life isn’t found in a magazine, on Pinterest, or the never-ending episodes of HGTV. We all know this, of course. Of course we do. We regularly affirm the ridiculousness of it all. But we don’t really know it, because we keep buying, pinning, searching, and watching. We keep looking around and feeling like what we have is not enough. Like we’re not enough.
The real simple life is contentment. Contentment with my house, my life, myself. I thank God for what I have, what He has done, and who He is making me to be. Contentment lowers my expectations in the most wonderfully simple ways.
I have enough, because He is enough. Now, isn’t that real simple?