The Simple Life

I have two friends who host a podcast called “Cultivate Simple“. It’s about working toward living simply, intentionally, in every area of life. They certainly are quite good at this, but I always chuckle at the title as I am also aware of the multitude of actitivies and responsibilities and events that dot their schedules. (To the point where these ‘dots’ often commingle into much larger ‘blobs’.)

Not too long ago, as I discussed our family’s schedule for the week with Jen, I saw many of my own dots chaotically infringing upon one another, and my own blobs growing unmanageable and out of my control.

And I longed for simple.

My heart nearly begs for simple. Maybe even my body. After a full day of celebrating Cameron’s birthday, I crashed on our bed—out like the proverbial light—much, much earlier than I would normally bed down for a night.

And though that longing is present and making itself known, here I am, amidst six growing-older children, a wife who loves to keep relatively full schedules, and running a couple of my own businesses, too.

Where and how do we find simple in the middle of all that life is? Is it possible to have a quiet, peaceful, serene, simple existence?

Perhaps my definition of simple is all wrong.

Simple. Simplicity.

simple |ˈsimpəl|

adjective ( -pler , -plest )
1 easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty : a simple solution | camcorders are now so simple to operate.
plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation : a simple white blouse | the house is furnished in a simple country style.
[ attrib. ] used to emphasize the fundamental and straightforward nature of something : the simple truth.

2 composed of a single element; not compound.
Mathematics denoting a group that has no proper normal subgroup.
Botany (of a leaf or stem) not divided or branched.
(of a lens, microscope, etc.) consisting of a single lens or component.
(in English grammar) denoting a tense formed without an auxiliary, e.g., sang as opposed to was singing.
(of interest) payable on the sum loaned only. Compare with compound 1.

3 of or characteristic of low rank or status; humble and unpretentious : a simple Buddhist monk.

4 of low or abnormally low intelligence.

Well I don’t think number four is the one I’m looking for. And I’m sure the mathematical and botanical applications are not … applicable here, either. So, am I looking for ‘low rank or status’? ‘Humble and unpretentious’? Yes. But do I live in such a way that is so other-than-that as to cause me to long for ‘simple’? Probably not.

So if I go with these definitions of ‘simple’, I think the second definition under number one might be the thing I am wanting most: “plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature or design; without much decoration or ornamentation.” If you know me, you’re likely aware that I’m not much for ornamentation. I definitely lean toward “plain” and “basic”. (Ha! basic!)

But how—and why—am I lacking that? Where did this train run off the rails?

There’s a problem many of us have: saying ‘no’. Whether it’s out of fear that we might hurt another’s feelings, or whether our own reputation might be somehow sullied—we’re not great at saying, “No.”

There sure is a lot to which we can say ‘no’! There are probably dozens of physical and spiritual and relational and educational opportunities of which we could partake; and in our family, multiply that by eight! No, there is no shortage of chances to exercise our No Muscle.

But instead, we just keep saying yes.

Now, I may have an even more difficult time as I have inherited something of a defect. You see, I look at life as though it might be more conquerable than it truly is. I tend toward optimism, as I have said before. This will often—nearly 100% of the time!—causes me to misjudge the time it might take to do something, usually by at least half. It is quite likely, I believe, that such poor estimation of the duration of various tasks is a direct result of this inherited defect (from my dad) that we call “Cramming Ten Pounds into a Five Pound Bag Syndrome”.1

And boy do I have that… bad!

I don’t intentionally add things to our schedule for appearance (reputation) or for my own sense of accomplishment or anything of that sort. I think if I’ve crowded my schedule, it’s often because I either have those rose-colored, sure-I-can-fit-that-in view of my day or week ahead, OR because, I just forget that I don’t want to do that!

Thus, I frequently return to this place of longing for simple.

My podcasting friends hold solidly to the line of thinking that “simple” does not mean not busy. (Though I would say that they often long for down time, too.)

But isn’t there something to doing less?

I think much of this comes back to technology. As we increase the efficiency with which we do things (via technological advancement) we are able to do more, do it better, do it faster … and honestly, I think this makes us less. We are stretching ourselves beyond what we are designed to do. I will certainly continue this thought in a future post (it’s been ruminating for quite a while now), but to elaborate here would not be… simple.

And simple is what I’m hoping to rediscover.

We do lead a fairly simple life in some ways: we have one vehicle, we live in a relatively modest home, we are not extravagant in our spending, we are not members of many organizations, we like 80s TV shows… simple.

But I think there’s more. And if I do rediscover it in some areas, I’ll be sure to share those discoveries here.

Until then, I need to wrap this up so I can get ready for today’s three events. (Oh, and make breakfast for everyone, gather the laundry, send emails, prep dinner, pay bills, read the library book due back tomorrow, discuss several upcoming events with Jen, mow the lawn, play a word game or two, maybe play a game with Alex, brush my teeth, feed the fish, and save the world.)


  1. This reminds me of the other verses I found when I was writing the post Messes. Right before where it says “children are a blessing from the LORD”, it says: “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Admittedly, one thing that keeps me busy is needing to make money to feed our family. Perhaps God was gently nudging me here?

[FromTheArchive] I’ll Never Make a Million

Highlighting Articles from the Archives!Recently, money has been a big issue again here in the Campbell household. I wonder if it just is for every household. I know it’s not for some. But I think it might be for many, if not most.

And it is here.

Sadly it seems there are times where the topic of money (money in, and money out) begins to just take over. Every decision is greatly affected by how it will affect money flow. How we spend our time, how we spend our money… that’s when it really frustrates me: when it “takes over”.

Somehow I was reminded of a post I wrote a long while back where I mused about the reason that we often find ourselves here. It’s me. It’s definitely me. I not only don’t love money, I think I don’t like money. I don’t want money. I’m grateful that God gives me many chances to get money. He gives us what we need to live, to be sure. (And there’s so much more that he does there, that I can’t elaborate here, now.)

But I still don’t like money.

Jen read a book recently called, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. She’d like me to read it, and so I will. But I just feel like I won’t connect with it because of my disdain for money. We’ll see. Maybe it will change my attitude towards currency and the pursuit of same.

Maybe that would be a good thing?

For now, I only feel like it takes over. When you have too little, it causes you to seemingly alter your priorities so that you can have more. When you have too much then you have other problems (taxes, where to best invest, etc). Most people laugh at the notion of “too much money”, but I think the biggest problem we Americans face is our affluence. We have too much stuff, and it chokes the life out of us.

So, lemme know what you think … perhaps you’ll help me have a better view towards money? (Or perhaps you’ll join me in the non-pursuit of money?) Either way, please add your voice below, or on the linked article page.

Article: I’ll Never Make a Million

Modern Parallels In 50-Year-Old Novel

Altas Shrugged by Ayn RandI am currently reading a book from the 1950s called “Atlas Shrugged”. It’s a novel about government and business, and the various interactions between regulations and “the public good” versus free market (and individual freedom), capitalism and profits and such. It’s quite intriguing on many levels (also very long!)

I had heard Ayn Rand’s name mentioned a time or two—it’s quite a memorable name—but I actually decided to read her novel based on seeing that a friend on Facebook had “liked” a group titled, “Plugging the Gulf oil leak with the works of Ayn Rand.” (Really? That’s really worth “liking”?)

Sufficiently intrigued, I looked up some information on Rand, and discovered her most notable—and controversial—title was the fictional story, Atlas Shrugged. I borrowed a copy from the library and have been reading it over the past several weeks. (I got the audio book as that is my favorite way to “read” fiction…)

As I was listening yesterday, these paragraphs stuck out to me as amazingly parallel to current events:

They had not heard the text of directive #10-289, but they knew what it would contain. They had known it for a long time. In that special manner which consisted of keeping secrets from oneself and leaving knowledge untranslated into words. And, by the same method, they now wished it was possible for them not to hear the words of the directive. It was to avoid moments such as this that all the complex twistings of their minds had been devised.

They wished the directive to go into effect. They wished it could be put into effect without words, so that they would not have to know that what they were doing was what it was.

Nobody had ever announced that directive #10-289 was the final goal of his efforts, yet for generations past men had worked to make it possible, and for months past every provision of it had been prepared for by countless speeches, articles, sermons, editorials; by purposeful voices that screamed with anger if anyone named their purpose.

Replace “directive #10-289” with the health care bill, and remember things spoken by our politicians like: “…we have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what is in it,” or, “…read the bill… What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”

Fascinating. And I do believe it’s true that for many generations we have systematically removed God from the foundation of our country and our lives, and then the family—the one main social structure of our society—began to crumble. And add to that the various social agendas of the various political groups… yuck.

I know that Atlas Shrugged is just fiction, but those paragraphs just jumped out at me. Food for thought, and perhaps discussion.

(See ya in the comments…)

Mastering Money or Money Is Master?

Dave Ramsey - Total Money MakeoverA couple conversations of late have reminded me of a book I read a while back (at the recommendation of a friend who had really loved it) regarding the management of money.

It was (and is) particularly relevant as we are facing mountainous debt (accumulated over many years, and some the result of “questionable” business practice by others…) and God convinced us that trusting him even more—by only spending money when we actually have it—that life would go even better for us. Or perhaps better stated, that life would continue to get harder if we didn’t do that.

(If you like reading, see this post, and this one, too. Good historical accounts of God’s direction for us.)

So in recent conversations, I’ve been very encouraged that people are getting smarter about money. Maybe not everyone. And maybe the people I’ve been talking with recently have always been smart. But either way, it’s so nice to see the results of diligence and wisdom in money management.

A friend of mine told me today that their house would be completely paid off this year, and both of their cars by next year. Debt free. All by the age of 35. That’s awesome. Other friends tell similar stories, and almost always it is a result of being smart with the money you have.

Our culture has for too long thought that you could spend money you’d make later. (Just look at how our government, from federal down to local, handles money and budgets!) That just doesn’t really work. In a way, it seems there’s no other way to purchase something as large as a house, but we’ve heard stories of young adults who have saved up to purchase their first home with cash (and did!) so we’re already starting Ian (our oldest) on such a savings path. Rather than instant gratification—enjoy now, pay later—Ian is learning the value of saving, which in the end means you keep much more of your money, and usually get to enjoy the things you wanted to anyway. And more!

We are coming up on three years of not adding any debt to our existing debt. That means that the overall amount is coming down. That’s fantastic. And it’s fun to hear real-life examples along the way.

Do you have one? Feel free to share it here. Hope you, too, are your money’s master, rather than the reverse.

God Provided… by NOT Providing?

We had an interesting little “wrap up” time as a family tonight. After returning from dinner with friends tonight, we got jammies on and then all gathered in the family room. We were going to read a book, but I had some things on my mind that I wanted to share before we did.

See, I’ve posted here many times before how incredibly we have seen God provide for us time and time again. Whatever our financial needs, somehow God would provide for them. In a different way on nearly every occasion. Fantastic.

So this week we were waiting for God to do the same. I even knew where it was going to come from. A few outstanding invoices that had not been paid yet – and several of those that I was told were “in the mail”. Problem was… it didn’t happen.

We waited a few days… nothing. But still, we knew God would provide. There were some things we needed to buy, some things we wanted to do… God needed to give us money. We had paid our bills and funded a trip to visit family in Buffalo the weekend prior, and then on Monday, we waited for God to give us more money for the next stuff we needed.

But it didn’t come.

By Wednesday, it still didn’t come, and we were starting to wonder. Not really if it would come, but … just wonder. Will it come in time to pay the next bill we need to pay? Will it come in time for us to buy food or diapers or whatever? Just… wonderings.

Thursday, and then Friday came… no money. Only a $2 profit from the sale of one domain name. Fascinating.

BUT HERE’S THE BEST PART. (And what I passed on to the kids tonight in our family gathering.)

In the past week of God not giving us any money, I still end the week knowing, seeing, and feeling God’s provision.

This week we had all the food we needed. We had gas to get where we needed to go. We had clothes on our back, electricity in our house, even fun stuff to do here (though that’s probably not a “need”). We even used the $2.00 we got to buy a couple loaves of bread for the coming week.

We had and have everything we need. Isn’t that God providing?

It IS!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall ever hearing (or saying?) how God provided, even when some could say that he didn’t provide. But my heart is so content and peaceful tonight, knowing that he did. As he always does. Perfectly.

Oh… the book we are reading? A story of the life of George Müeller. A man who lived his entire adult life without a job, and without asking for money from anyone but God himself – and was never in want. Ever. (Look it up, it’s worth it.)

Can’t wait to keep reading his story, and in some ways… living it.

Deposit @ Home: Electronic banking the way it should be?

While listening to an episode of MacBreak Weekly, one of their frequent tangents took them to a service offered by a bank that I hadn’t ever heard of: deposit from home.

As a self-employed web design guy, I often get payments in the form of checks. The craziest thing in the world to me is that in this electronic age, I have to wait up to four or five days after I deposit those checks to received the funds for them. Really? That’s the best you can do?

Clients also pay me via PayPal, which is cool because the funds are instantly available via PayPal’s debit card option. I appreciate that, but there are limitations and fees that make some instant access to my money, well, bothersome. Why can’t I just have my money?

Well this bank, USAA, offers a service called Deposit@Home that allows you to scan checks, submit them with your deposit via the website, and… here’s the kicker… the funds are available to you instantly! Really! Isn’t that how it should be?

Needless to say, I am intrigued. I will be looking into this bank’s services for that feature alone. Fantastic.

God’s Provision: Perfect.

I’ve mentioned here many times how God has arranged things for us to be able to pay our bills, feed our kids, and keep our house. It’s really astounding at times. I’m pretty sure that “on paper” … it just shouldn’t work. But it does. It always does.

I forgot to, or didn’t get to, or perhaps just chose not to … however it happened, I did not communicate last month that we had reached a milestone of sorts. On July 4th, 2009, we celebrated our independence.

No, I’m not talking about our country’s independence on Independence Day. And really, in a way, it would be more appropriately labeled Dependence Day.

Let me explain.

For many years we have lived a life of trusting God. Our “career” paths have always been determined by where we felt God was leading, not by any predetermined path or plan. Often that meant less money, or seemingly no money… but we knew that God was our Provider, and trusted him to do so.


Last year, we were really having trouble keeping up with the increasing cost of life, our regular bills, and probably especially our mounting debt. It was really crazy. We finally reached a point where we really, really needed to do something or we’d start losing the stuff that we had – which seemed bad, but, honestly, if that was where we went, we were OK with that too.

We spoke with a friend who is a financial advisor. We spoke with our family and close friends. We asked God what he wanted us to do about this debt that he seemed to never help us pay off with some giant windfall of cash. The answers we got were basically: you need more income, and…

“You need to trust me.” (That was God…)

So, if you know me (us) … well, you know that sounded a little funny. “TRUST YOU?? Um… what do you think we’ve been doing??!?!?!” 🙂 BUT, you see, we discovered (by God’s gentle revealing voice) that we were indeed not trusting him. At least, not like we really could be.

See, in the past (over the past several/many years) when we felt like God was giving us something to do (a CD, a tour, or whatever project it may have been) we would pursue it with gusto, and “know” that he would provide. That’s all well and good – he owns the cattle on a thousand hills, etc – but… the problem was, whenever stuff got tight … we’d really turn to our credit limits. (Which were gargantuan.)

Over time, when we would fund one project here, another there, this trip here, that trip there… even paying bills and buying groceries with “money” that we were confident “God would provide” (really, we were) well, the debt added up. And up. We kept paying for (taking?) things that God had not yet given us. (Even if he had “given” us the leading to do it, which I still believe he did.) If you have every toyed with credit card debt you know that “living beyond your means” for more than 5 years (let’s say closer to ten?) … well, that’s really icky.

So last year God helped us see, helped us realize that while we were completely trusting him by following his lead… we were NOT trusting him by waiting for him to provide. And is has stung us. Badly.

When he helped us see that we decided that the best (the only?) course of action we could take was to completely cease all additions to the pile of debt before us. We would lose our stuff before we would pay anything with “credit” again. (At least, until God clearly leads us otherwise.) We decided we would only spend what we had. If that meant missing a bill payment by a couple days, that’s what we’d have to do. If it meant not getting food or gas or something else we might have previously “financed” with credit… so be it.

(What if our government would come to this realization???)

And folks, for 13 months now… it has totally and completely worked!!! And it has been simply astonishing to watch God provide.

He has provided jobs. I got to work the ideal job for me at the Apple store for a time. When that time ended, I was able to work another ideal job leading music for a local church. All along he continues to bring in a steady stream of web business. (All without any advertising or looking for clients of any sort. Crazy.)

He has even met deadlines. Time and time again when we wait for him – even when it is really hard, and even seems foolish – he provides right on time with the exact amount that we need. (Now, so far it hasn’t been exact like, to the cent. I have heard stories like that, but that’s not what we’ve seen. But it usually is to the dollar. Perhaps he knows that I like stuff a bit more loose and general?) 😉

I can’t say enough how simply incredible, astounding, amazing, mind-blowing it has been. And I think the best part is, it has been life-altering. Whether it happened that day in early July of 2008 or was more of a process… we just think differently. We don’t even consider using credit now* … we’re actually happy to wait for God to provide, no matter how big or small the want or need. (Even as I type this, it’s still surprising!)

The most recent example of this has been how God arranged everything for me to take a break to take care of the kids while Jen recovers from the birth of Cameron last week. My want is to completely shut down my business(es) for a week, or hopefully two, so that I can manage the house while Jen recuperates following delivery. In our precarious financial state I wasn’t sure how that would work. I know a lot of people live “paycheck to paycheck” and well, we’re one of them. We really do. So, when I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Was curious to see how God would work that out.

He has! Even so much that I can see how he has, so that I can have peace about taking this two weeks off. First the commitment to leading music came to an end on July 26th (the Sunday before our son was born!). Second, there were a few bigger jobs that I did leading up to Cameron’s birth that were recently paid (and will be paid) this week, creating a slight surplus of funds for paying bills and feeding mouths. Third, God has brought in 4-6 new jobs that are all ready to go, but can all also wait till mid-August when I plan to return!

I shouldn’t say I can’t believe it, because certainly I can. But in a way… I still can’t! Somehow the way he takes care of us still surprises me. If the circumstances worked out differently… if somehow we didn’t pay our bills, or were lacking some other thing… he’d still be a great Provider, and I’m certain we’d see that. We’d see his provision even if it was different than we thought it would be. But at the moment, it’s been very clear and easy to see how God is arranging stuff to provide for our family and we’re loving living a life of truly trusting him by being completely content with what he has given us. (Not what he will give, but what he actually has given.)

I’m sure there are many ways to live that out, but I can’t recommend enough learning to listen for, wait for, and follow our Father. It’s exciting, scary, yet peaceful and perfect. Fantastic.

I just needed to say all of that … kind of for my remembering down the road… and hopefully to encourage you along the way too. Hope you’re enjoying your journey, too!

* I don’t believe that credit or credit cards are “bad” … but for us they would currently be trusting ourselves more than trusting (or being content in) God’s provision. They can certainly be used “wisely” but more often than not, they become a trap. Still, I am in no way condemning the idea of credit.

** We watched a couple documentaries via Netflix re: credit card craziness. If such things interest you, perhaps you’d like to watch them too? They were Maxed Out, and In Debt We Trust.

What Does a Trillion Dollars Look Like?

Got an e-mail from my Dad today, one of them there e-mail forwards. (He enjoys those…) I try to read most of them (sorry, Dad, can’t read them all…) and several I comment back to him on, but only a very few do I share. (Almost none do I forward. If I share, I share via the web. A more passive “share”.) 🙂

This particular one, a website visually presenting what a TRILLION dollars looks like is both impressive and staggering, while really easy to comprehend visually.

These days, the word trillion is thrown around like the word million perhaps. We know it’s a big number, but ignore the true immensity of it.

And just think, before this so-called “stimulus” plan that is near a trillion dollars itself, aren’t we already in debt as a country near the sum of ten trillion dollars? Yikes.

So, check it out, if you have the stomach for that sort of thing.


As you are well aware, I do not frequently comment on things in the political realm here. Mostly because it either seems irrelevant to me, or too annoying to talk about anyway. (Or, too volatile to post thoughts here… why are some people so tied to their political thoughts/beliefs/affiliations??)

But today I saw the first “bailout” news I really felt I could applaud.

I’m sure you are well aware of all the government efforts to “bailout” various private institutions. Banks, mortgage lenders, other creditors, and most recently, the auto industry. Chrysler announced cut backs, extended layoffs, and various things indicating they are in serious trouble. The thought behind these bailouts is that if these giant foundational pieces of our economy were to “go under” then our entire economy would collapse. And, that would be bad.

But not entirely.

When poor choices are made, the consequences of those choices are bad, painful, difficult, hurtful, etc. What the government is doing is trying to avoid the natural consequences of these poor decisions. But the problem is, they are just borrowing more money (in the trillions) to “bailout” these large industries. Who is going to bail them out? Who is going to bail us out??

Who is going to pay this debt, and how?

So, when I saw this headline (thanks to a Twitter post by Scott) I felt good about one company in America. I was proud to see Ford state publicly that they do not want/need the government’s short-term financial assistance. Their plan is to restructure their business and make wise choices to keep going – without a hand out from the federal government. And I applaud them.

I don’t think it would be a bad thing if these institutions were allowed to suffer the consequences of their spending choices. All will balance out. Someone new will rise to the occasion. Jobs will be found. The economy will get over the bump in the road. It may be a big bump, but it might be a deserved bump. Dumping more money (that doesn’t really exist) into the problem will only exacerbate the problem.

So, I applaud Ford, and though my loyalty has been to General Motors, thanks to my Dad’s working for them for 31 years, I admit to adding a big star next to their name on my imaginary star chart on my wall. They are now (if they stick to this) one of my favorite American companies.

Maybe one day the government will stop meddling in private sector business… but I’m not thinking it will stop for at least the next four years. Hopefully more of the private sector will say, “No thanks.”

Not How I Planned It

Well, I just got back – AGAIN – from Buffalo. We spent the extra long weekend there visiting with Jen’s family, and came home pretty late tonight (got the kids in bed around 11pm) to find that I had forgotten my laptop there. An hour and a half away there. And, not only do I have a lot of work to do tomorrow (for which I need my laptop) it is also the only day this week that does not have something else going on.

This was not good.

So, I was contemplating when to fit in the extra three hour round trip I was needing to do, and decided to call my in-laws to let them know what happened, and that I would need to come get it. I talked to my father-in-law about it and said I’d need to either just come right then, or maybe get up super early in the morning, to get started on my work at a decent hour. I was leaning toward the morning, and told him so.

To my surprise, he called back about five minutes after we hung up and said they would meet me about half an hour closer to me as soon as I could make it there! That saved me an hour, so I jumped right in the van and headed out.

When I got to our meeting place (in about 55 minutes! Gotta love traffic at midnight on a Monday night!) there was my father-in-law, waiting for me in his car. I offered to buy him some of his favorite coffee to say thanks, but he declined. Instead, after saving me time and money by meeting me, he also gave me twenty bucks for gas! That paid for my unexpected, unwanted trip! Wow!

So, a bad situation was made nicer by the generosity of my second dad. That definitely made the late-night trip much nicer, and the end of this long day much nicer!