Welcome You may have noticed that I’m really into these monthly “challenges,” or at least in recent months. In November I chose a Positive Thinking Challenge and December was the Gratitude Challenge. For January I decided to start the year off with a Minimalism Challenge. In the past year I have really tried to refocus my priorities on what’s most important in life, so I thought this might be a good check-up to see how I’m doing. I’m on day 23 and I’ve enjoyed it so much! Today I’m going to share what I learned from Day 6 and 7. If you’d like to check out the Positive Thinking or Minimalism Challenge, check out my Mental Health board on Pinterest. The Gratitude Challenge is saved to my Spiritual Life board on Pinterest. I did not create any of these challenges, but found them from various sources on Pinterest and saved them for personal use.
Food For Thought Merriam-Webster defines minimalism as a style or technique that is characterized by extreme sparseness or simplicity. There have been trends of minimalism in art, music, architecture, fashion, and more. The current ideas associated with minimalism comes with a desire to put less value on stuff and more value on people and relationships. This is a very “minimalist” definition of the concept put in my own words, but there’s an abundance of information about this movement online and in books. I will never be on the “extreme” end of minimalism, but I am intrigued by the idea of having, and wanting, less. The daily activities I found in this challenge are quite diverse, but beneficial in different ways.
The described tasks for day 6 and 7 focused on people in my life. Day six prompted me to make a list of friends or family that I most admired and qualities they possess leading me to admire them so much. My list focused on some dear friends from college that I don’t get to see nearly often enough and also my husband. Characteristics topping the list included patience, flexibility, faith and trust in God, positive attitudes even through adversity, and the desire and commitment to serve the Lord. I believe the people we admire most are not the people who mirror our own personalities or character traits, but the people we desire to model our own lives after. We admire them and want them in our lives because, either consciously or subconsciously, we are hoping that their best qualities will somehow “rub off” on us. And it is true that the people we spend the most time with are the ones we begin to act like, for better or worse. That’s why our parents were always so particular about who we spent our time with growing up. Were they going to be a good influence on us or were they going to lead us down the wrong path? There’s positive and negative forms of peer pressure, more often having to do with the actions we see and imitate than dialogue convincing us to do the right or wrong thing. We are encouraged to surround ourselves with positive influences. On that note, I would like to share 2 Corinthians 6:14.On day seven of the challenge, I was asked to list personal qualities that others in my life may admire about me. Now considering that I talked about humility last week, this may seem a little contradictory. But I get it. First of all, I’m not going to share my list with you, or anyone else because the task was not to convince others to admire me. I simply needed to think about the traits I have that may be my best ones, the ones I want to cultivate and grow. The second advantage of this focuses on contentment. In minimalism, you learn to be content with what you have and content with less. If I cannot be content with who I am as a person, how will I achieve contentment in my environment and with what I already have around me. Trust me, this is SO hard for me! So, I came up with four qualities that I think are most likely to be my best traits. Do others have to agree? No, the point is becoming a more positive, accepting, and content person leading to joy for myself and those around me.
So, 23 days down and seven more to go in this January minimalism challenge. I have done some cleaning and organizing. I’ve definitely realized I have too much stuff. I’ve noticed that my family is a lot harder to convince about minimalism than I would like. I’ve come to realize that it’s easy for me to do without some things and other things, like my cell phone, is a lot more difficult! The point is not to donate or sell all of my possessions in thirty days and go live off the grid, however there are moments that sounds very appealing! My goal is to improve my focus and priorities and learn a little about myself along the way. Not a bad way to start off a new year, is it?
Today’s Scriptures I know that one of the biggest areas of my spiritual and emotional life needing improvement is with contentment. I pray for God to help me be content with what I have, where I am, and who I am, realizing that Satan knows that this is an area of weakness for me. This is an area that I’ve noticed improvement, but I’m far from “fixed” yet! I have to consciously make the effort to feel and act content. I believe God is helping me with this struggle, but I also try to keep some important scriptures handy for my toughest days. These are the six verses that I go to most often when I’m struggling with contentment. Maybe they will offer you comfort and wisdom as well.
Matthew 6:25-27 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do no sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
Matthew 6:31-32 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”
Luke 12:15 “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Philippians 4:12-13 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”
Today’s Recipe Are you looking for a cute Valentine treat recipe that uses minimal ingredients and requires minimal effort? Then this is the perfect recipe for you! Warning, though, this is only for those with a love for INTENSE fudgy chocolate flavor!
Fudgy Brownie Valentine Cookies (makes about 2 dozen-depending on the size of your cookie scoop)
- 1 18.4-oz pkg dark chocolate or fudge brownie mix (I used Pillsbury dark chocolate family size mix)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup Valentine color M&M candy pieces
- Valentine sprinkles (optional)
Heat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with silicone mats or spray with nonstick spray. With electric mixer beat brownie mix, oil, and eggs. Stir in M&M candies. If desired, add a couple tablespoons of Valentine sprinkles to the dough. Using a medium-size cookie scoop and place cookie dough in mounds 2-3 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake cookies 10-14 minutes (see note). Allow to rest for 3-4 minutes before removing cookies to wire cooling racks.
Note: Here is my disclaimer about baking cookies! My oven never seems to match recipe directions when it comes to cakes and cookies, so it always makes me leery of giving exact cooking times. Ovens are calibrated differently among brands, can vary within the same brand, and are effected by age and care. I have a double oven and my cooking times even differ between the two ovens. My cookies always need 3-5 more minutes of baking or they don’t get done in the middle. My first round of brownie cookies were too fudgy in the middle! The baking time also depends on the size of cookies you make. A small cookie scoop will yield a shorter baking time, about 8-12 minutes. The medium scoop I used, combined with my oven temps, meant my cookies needed to bake 14-16 minutes to be done all the way through. By using the silicone mats, my edges did not burn! My general rule for baking cookies is set the timer for the shorter time, check the cookies and add time as needed.