I was asked to write on simplicity for Asian American Women on Leadership, and wanted to post my personal reflection here as well. I hope it helps you consider simplicity in your own life too.
For the last few years, I’ve chosen a key word or phrase to help give focus to my year. I don’t think of these words and phrases as goals to achieve, or as new year’s resolutions to feel guilty about when I don’t measure up. Instead, my key word or phrase often represents what I hope for the coming year.
So when I resigned as a pastor to focus on my writing, my word for the new year was “blossom,” because I hoped that my writing would blossom in the year ahead. The following year, “blossom” became “journey,” as I hoped to deepen my journey as a writer. This year, “journey” gave way to “choosing the better part”—instead of rushing around distracted like Martha, trying to take care of everyone and everything, I hoped to choose the better part like Mary (Luke 10:38-42).
At the start of this year, it felt as if that key phrase—“choosing the better part”—had chosen me. Between my husband’s medical appointments, my preaching and writing, church, family, friends, household chores, errands, and all of life’s many details, I felt overwhelmed. I knew I couldn’t do it all, so I needed to choose just the better part.
I still feel that way. A month after I settled on “choosing the better part,” my husband was hospitalized with what we thought was a bad reaction to his chemo. Three weeks later, he seemed to be getting better. His medical team talked about him getting stronger to come home. But cancer and its complications can be unpredictable. Instead of coming home, he passed away suddenly while still in the hospital.
I’m grateful that until the sudden downturn, my husband was in good spirits and feeling positive about the day. He enjoyed the wonton soup I brought him for lunch. We watched some of the Olympics together. I’m grateful that I was able to be with him to the end, that I had one last chance to say “I love you.”
In the months since then, I’ve felt overwhelmed—overwhelmed by grief and loss, overwhelmed by the love and kindness of so many, overwhelmed by the prayers of the church and God’s faithful presence. I’m overwhelmed still by too much grief and too many things to do, so each day I find myself choosing just the better part and letting everything else go.
That’s why I didn’t write my blog post on creation care in March for Asian American Women on Leadership. That’s why I’m still speaking online instead of worshipping in person. That’s why I haven’t finished with all the “death work” on the two lists I have from the hospital social worker, the list from the funeral home, and the list from the credit union, for each list is different and overwhelming. I can’t do everything there is to do at once. All I can do is choose the better part.
That’s what simplicity means for me today. In the midst of what looks like chaos, I take a step back. I take time to breathe. I make space for prayer and pondering. For me this is the way forward, as by God’s grace, I learn once more to choose the better part, and leave the rest. Tomorrow is another day.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What does simplicity mean to you today?
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