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More-with-Less blog by Valerie Showalter.
Simply in Season wins award at Green Book Festival! Read about it here.
By Nancy Sleeth
It all began with two simple questions.
A decade ago, I was living out the American dream in a beautiful home filled with beautiful things. My husband was a physician at the top of his career, a chief of staff and director of emergency services.
One winter break, I asked Matthew two questions that would change our lives forever. First, 'What is the biggest problem facing the world today?" His answer surprised me: 'The world is dying. If we don't have clean air, clean water, and healthy soil to sustain life on earth, the other problems won't really matter."
Then I asked him, 'If the world is dying, what do you think we should do about it?" Matthew didn't have an immediate response. But he said he'd get back to me.
So we embarked on a faith journey. Together we read many of the world's great sacred texts, finding much wisdom but not the answers we were seeking. Then, on a slow night in the emergency room, Matthew picked up an orange Gideons Bible. He began reading the Gospels and found the truth he had been seeking. My husband became a believer in Christ. One by one, our entire family followed.
Eventually, Matthew got back to me about my second question. His answer: he would quit his job as a physician and spend the rest of his life trying to serve God and save the planet, even if he never earned another cent. Hmmm, I thought. A job without a job description. Or salary. Or benefits. 'Honey," I said, 'are you sure we need to do that much about it?"
So Matthew and I read through the entire Bible, underlining everything that had to do with nature, creation, and how we are instructed to care for the earth. Matthew 7:3-5 seemed to speak directly to our family: 'Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? . . . You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye."
We took Jesus' advice and began cleaning up our own act before worrying about cleaning up the rest of the world. Over the next couple of years, we downsized our lifestyle, giving away half of our possessions and moving to a house the size of our former garage. Contrary to my earlier fears, we found that the more we 'gave up" in material things, the more we gained in family unity, purpose, and joy. Eventually, through many small changes, we reduced our energy usage by more than two-thirds and our trash production by nine-tenths.
After we had our own house in order, we felt called to share our journey. Matthew wrote a book called Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action. Using stories from our family's life and the emergency room, he communicated why we made these changes. Letters poured in from readers who felt called to change but didn't know where to start. So I wrote Go Green, Save Green, sharing stories about what worked, what didn't, and what our family learned in the process.
Living More with Less takes simple living one step further: it addresses not only caring for God's creation, but also four related life standards, all interwoven like threads of the same cloth. Originally published in 1980, Living More with Less has served for three decades as a clarion call for the kind of living Matthew and I now follow.
Doris Janzen Longacre and the Anabaptist writers who contributed to her book knew then what many people are just now discovering: living with less can bring more joy and contentment than living with a lot. What I love most about this anniversary edition is the opportunity to hear a chorus of diverse but harmonious voices, singing together for the first time in one volume. Living More with Less—both the 1980 volume and this one—is a book filled with hope and encouragement rather than a one-size-fits-all plan. Each reader is challenged to decide which changes work best now and then to keep doing a little bit better every year. Once our hearts are changed, action follows.
Regardless of where you and your family members are on the journey, this book provides practical advice on everything from household cleaners to gardening to fast food, as well as stories about people changing the way they celebrate Christmas, making conscious choices about technology, and finding quiet time with God.
Years ago, two questions launched our family on this journey. Today, when making a purchase or decision, we ask ourselves two questions: Does this bring us closer to God? And does this help us love our neighbors? The answers will always lead us down the right path.
Nancy Sleeth co-directs the nonprofit Blessed Earth. She is author of Go Green, Save Green: A Simple Guide to Saving Time, Money and God's Green Earth and The Year of Living Without: One Woman's Quest to Regain Peace and Quiet.