Wednesday, August 11, 2010

'Tis a Gift To Be Simple...

Okay, how many of you former Girl Scouts out there read that title and kept on humming the rest of the song? 'Simple Gifts' is actually an old Shaker dance song (they danced?), but I learned it as a wee Brownie back in my scouting days. I hadn't thought much on it, until the other night when my husband and I were out berry picking. I guess there's just something about walking around in bushes up to your shoulders while scavenging for little red treasures (read: thimbleberries) to make one mull over the beauty of a simplistic lifestyle.

So, there I was; bushwacking my way along a 45 degree angle slope to gather berries to make into seriously yummy jam. My husband was a few yards away in his own patch. The tide was going out and the sun was setting over the flats. The chaotic kiddos were home with my niece, and it was truly a moment to breath and rest my mind as my fingers worked. That's when this song popped into my head.

'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free,
'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.

I couldn't remember how the rest of the song went, but this stanza just kept running through my head. As a 1st grader, I'm sure the meaning of those words were lost on me, but given our current station in life, I was amused at how much that song sums up our family's feelings about the life we desire to lead. No, don't worry. We do not plan to convert to Shaker-ism (shaker-ness? Shak-ist?), but to adopt a debt-free lifestyle in this day and age in America, you almost feel as if you are! You must deny yourself the immediate gratification that comes with fulfilling your agendas NOW. You must deny yourself of all the cute little incentives and enticing plans that offer to 'reward' you if you just use their piece of plastic. You may have to walk away from the good deal knowing that it might not be there when you have the money. It's a lot of learning to tell yourself "No, No, No". Not fun!

It's funny though, that as you keep up the practice, it does become an easier habit. In fact the habit of saying "No! Not today." overrides the old one of saying "Yes. Me. Now!" You'll start to enjoy the benefits that come with a simpler lifestyle that is not cluttered by what others expect you to drive, your house to look like, what your kids wear, etc. It does truly become a gift to be simple. But I have to admit, what really struck me about the song was the next line regarding the gift of being free. It is a freeing life on a myriad of levels. There's the financial freedom that comes when your paycheck is not spent before you even get it. There's the freedom that comes when you boldy embrace your situation and quit trying to keep up appearances of affluence or make excuses. There's an amazing freedom when you are able to let a few more chains of this world fall off of you in order to stay better focused heavenward. These gifts of freedom and simplicity dwarf those previous idols of immediate gratification and temporal good deals.

"And when you find yourself in the place just right, it will be in the valley of love and delight."
Even though Elder Joseph wrote this song about 160 years ago, I feel like I'm living in a 'valley of love and delight' now. By choosing to live simply and deny myself, I'm finding delight in so many things that were previously clouded over. It's like my little valley had a serious fog that had settled in and was hiding the most wonderful delights such as reading aloud to my children, playing board games, harvesting wildberries and gardening, sewing, repairing things, going on picnics, tent camping, writing and photography,etc. I know I could have done all these things before, but I was so busy and consumed with appearances and upgrading my lifestyle, when would I have had the time? I was too busy bowing down to my idols of HGTV, Pottery Barn, and Visa to enjoy my valley of love and delight. It is truly a gift to live simply. It's not always the socially acceptable choice, but at least it's becoming more popular than it used to be! I know that Brent and I are living in the "place just right" for us and I'm so thankful that the Lord was repeatedly merciful to us before we finally figured that out!

It is truly my prayer for everyone who reads this, that they will find their own "place just right" and be delighted by simplicty and love simplicity's partner; freedom.


  1. LOVE it as always Hillary! You are a very gifted and eloquent writer. We miss you all like crazy and hope we can arrange a visit soon. We're off to "tent" camp this weekend with the kiddos and focus on the simple joys in life :)


  2. Hillary, just had to include the original words here, as it seems to hit on the head, the true meaning of what we are also trying to accomplish in our lifestyle changes.


    Simple Gifts

    Simple Gifts was written by Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. in 1848. It was first published in The Gift to be Simple: Shaker Rituals and Songs. Simple Gifts was a work song sung by the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing (more commonly called the Shakers, an offshoot of the Quakers).

    'Tis the gift to be simple,
    'tis the gift to be free,
    'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
    And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
    It will be in the valley of love and delight.


    When true simplicity is gained,
    To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
    To turn, turn will be our delight,
    'Til by turning, turning we come round right

    'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
    'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
    And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
    Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,


    'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
    'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of "me",
    And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
    Then we'll all live together with a love that is real.