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Dana Byers | Minimalist & Church Online Thought Leader

Guatemala

Guatemala: Lemonade International Bloggers Trip

Guatemala: Lemonade International Bloggers Trip

Not long ago I mentioned that Chris and I were eager to give our kids the best gift we’ve provided them to date. Our kids hugged my neck so tightly and I cried happy tears on Christmas morning when we shared with them that our family is headed to Guatemala with Lemonade International in April.

Why go to Guatemala? 3 reasons.

1) Sharing. This trip is an opportunity to use one of my best strengths – sharing. I’ll share opportunities, ideas, mindsets…and then connect you (my friends) to them. My goal is to provide you specific ways to get involved in the positive change happening in Guatemala and to expand your sense of what living a minimalist life can do for you, or rather…do for others. This approach of sharing is the one we took across Europe while building up a team of church online leaders, and it’s the same approach I use today of sharing our simple life through this blog as a means of challenging you to live with less.

In Guatemala, our family will work in what’s known as the largest urban slum community in Central America. While there, I will share stories and images of the beauty and pain that make up the incredible country. I will allow you to observe the awkwardness and joy that can be experienced simultaneously by entering into others’ lives, and I will invite you to do the same as you feel led to in your own life.

2) Heritage. Guatemala is my daughter Mackenzie’s home country. She belongs in our family forever, but it is sad she does not get to grow up in that wonderful place. Chris and I developed a love for Guatemala, its people, its food, and its landscape during our previous two visits there, and Mackenzie is old enough now to have her first memorable experience of all that Guatemala truly is. We want her to love her home country as much as we do. It’s a large part of who she is, and our goal in adopting her was not to erase her past but to expose her to her heritage as a means of shaping her life into what God intends it to be.

3) Disruption. Everyone needs to be disrupted now and then. One of the best ways to gain a fresh perspective on life is to travel. Chris, my children, and I – despite having been on many travel adventures together already – could use a little disruption of our suburban American life.

Most of these statements of mine cannot be said by those whom we will encounter this April in Guatemala:

* Food is available when we are hungry.
* We do not fear the gangs operating outside our doorstep as we sleep at night.
* Our children can attend school.
* No one in our family struggles with drug abuse.

We are eager to witness the increasing hope in the slum of Guatemala City, brought on by the passionate team at Lemonade International. Through the use of micro-finance projects, a school, and vocational training, they are transforming a community and bringing change to our daughter’s precious homeland. How could we not go and share with you the great things God is doing through Lemonade International? What a privilege!

In the months to come, I look forward to sharing with you how Chris and I are preparing our children for this experience, and I am eager to discover all that God leads you and me to do as a result of our family’s journey shared via this blog.

Learn more details about our bloggers trip and those who will join us for the journey with Lemonade International here.

Top 10 Minimalist Posts to Kick off 2013

Top 10 Minimalism Posts for 2012

Top 10 Minimalist Posts for 2012…use them to kick start your 2013!

No need to worry about your resolution to simplify life. You’re going to take 2013 one step at a time, and I’m here to help you take those first few shaky steps! These Top 10 Minimalist Posts will help you get started, too.

These were the most popular minimalism-specific posts at DanaByers.com in 2012. I’ve combined them all right here in a pretty little list of links so you can use them as a resource to get hopping with a simpler life in 2013. Review the list and pick 1 or 2 posts to help you take your first steps of simplification in life. Bookmark or pin this post and come back after you’ve made progress. You’ve got all year…and you’re going to do it right! YAY for you!

10. Choosing Minimalism
9. A Minimalist Viewpoint on Vehicles
8. Minimalist Kids Bedroom
7. How to De-Clutter Your Office (Before & After Pics)
6. Make Your Minimalist Home a Retreat
5. How to Minimize Belongings
4. Minimalist Packing for Women (Travel)
3. Don’t Get Organized…Minimize!
2. Moving House the Minimalist Way: Packing
1. Welcome to My Minimalist Closet

Happy New Year, friends! I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for all of us as we seek to remove what’s unnecessary from our lives in 2013 to make room for more of what matters most. (If you aren’t yet sure what matters most to you for 2013, take a look at yesterday’s post and learn how to create a simple plan to get started.) While you’re at it, take two seconds and sign up in the sidebar to receive these posts via email so you don’t miss out on all that’s to come!

Love,
Dana

2012 in Review…and a Sneak Peek at 2013

2012 in Review: I landed my dream job.

2012 in Review: I landed my dream job.

Recently I was given the wonderful idea from Courtney Carver to write out a love list. The list includes things I’m so glad I did this year and I identified some things on the list which I’d like to give more priority to in 2013. Taking a few minutes to do this helped me gain some clarity on how to reframe a few habits I currently have for better impact in the year to come. It also caused me to recognize activities I want to be sure to include in the next year that might have been forgotten had I not been intentional about them.

I admit that at first I felt as though my answers were pretty common – who doesn’t love hearing their kids laugh or trying a new restaurant? Then the thought occurred to me to scan the photos saved on my phone from the past year. That’s when the light bulb truly came on! I had snapshots of some of the most important moments of my 2012. Some of the best moments couldn’t be captured by camera, of course, but my heart remembered them as I began to list out memories that flooded back to mind. Here are a few things I’m so glad I did in 2012:

  1. Took a vacation alone with my husband
  2. Volunteered in my kids’ classrooms at school
  3. Developed my writing with the help of my friend Ben Stroup
  4. Blogged to help others learn how to simplify their lives
  5. Taught my children how to do their own laundry
  6. Took a risk and landed my dream job
  7. Paid off our credit card
  8. Lost 10 pounds
  9. Began mentoring younger-than-me women
  10. Met Carlos Alberto face to face
  11. Created a grocery plan that works for our family
  12. Made Chris laugh
  13. Showed grace to my kids

As I review this list, it’s helped me identify experiences and values I lived out in 2012 that I want to repeat and do more of in 2013. As we move into the next year…

* You can expect to follow our family through at least one (if not a few) international excursions.
* Anticipate hearing more about adjustments to my gluten free lifestyle that provide results even better than I had 6 months ago.
* Be on the lookout for a book or more downloads from me this year.
* Know that I will continue seeking to simplify my life as God leads, and I will share it all right here.

Thank you for joining me on a wild and fantastic, faith-filled journey this year at DanaByers.com! Do yourself a favor now and sign up in the sidebar to receive these posts via email so you don’t miss out on all that’s to come.

Tell us…what do you want to do more of in 2013? Write your responses in the comments below. I’d love to hear them!

 

My Simple Christmas

Joshua Becker and me - part of my simple Christmas

Joshua Becker and me – part of my simple Christmas

The best holidays are simple.

Here are a few highlights that made my simple Christmas special:

* Being given a replacement of my favorite minimalist shoes with a new pair…in the color pink!
* Meeting my online friend and best-selling author Joshua Becker (who’s a minimalist and a pastor, like me) face to face
* Taking naps on my mom’s couch under a blanket my grandmother made
* Seeing a movie on Christmas Day with my family, a tradition we’ve had for years
* Receiving a quirky bracelet that is a unique fit for my taste.  It makes me smile and is the perfect addition to my minimalist jewelry collection
* Serving at Church Online by praying with people who are lonely or in need right now
* Taking a walk to the grocery near my parents’ home on Christmas Eve to pick up tomatoes for our meal. Being car-free (as we were in England) is something I truly miss, and it was so nice breathing in the cool air and enjoying time alone to think.
What are some of the simple moments of your holiday that made it extra special this year?

Raise Generous Kids

I write on my blog because it’s fun to share. Sharing helps people. Over the past 6 years I’ve enjoyed sharing our travels, discoveries, failures, ideas, and stories. I love sharing, and I’m doing my best to raise generous kids who share well, too.

Yesterday when I mentioned an idea we’re using in our family and two people said they’re going to use this idea, I got excited! Why? Because it meant I had instant blog content I can write about and share! If the idea helps one person, it could potentially help many more.

So here’s the idea:

Raise generous kids.

Ok, so that idea isn’t new. But you might like this one:

As a new holiday tradition, we’re giving each of our children a set amount of money as one of their Christmas gifts. Our kids were asked to come up with a cause or country that matters to them, donate this money Chris and I provide them, then report back to us why this issue needs attention and tell us how we can pray for the cause and/or country as a family. The goal is for us to support and empower them as they learn to be generous kids.

Blake (9) is concerned for kids who don’t have clean water, and Mackenzie (7) has had the people of Haiti on her heart since the earthquake in 2010. Together, they found an organization that serves both populations: WATER is LIFE. I’m so touched that the kids chose to combine their gifts and provide portable water filter/purifier straws to 20 people this year.

What matters most to the kids in your lives? Take time to identify these things then give them the opportunity to be generous kids both financially and with their time.

The Minimalist Christmas Gift Plan for Kids

The Minimalist Christmas Gift Plan for Kids

The Minimalist Christmas Gift Plan for Kids

I’ve been asked a number of times lately: What do you guys buy your kids for Christmas? Do you have a plan for gifts?

It’s a good thing my kids don’t read my blog…so I’ll tell you.  :)

In the months leading up to Christmas, I keep a running list on my smart phone of items the children mention they’d like to have or need. This list is a great place to include items my kids would consider buying with allowance money but haven’t yet been able to save it all up. When one of these items is given, it’s a double surprise because they also have allowance cash available again. When the holiday shopping season arrives, we choose a few of the items on the running list to provide for our children and share the other ideas with grandparents, uncles and aunts who ask for hints as to what to buy our children. (More on this list idea here.)

I cannot take credit for the plan I’m about to share with you. I’ve heard it from a number of other people and admit I don’t even know where it originated. Just the same, I think it’s quite helpful and makes for a simple experience of buying gifts for our kids.

SOMETHING THEY WANT
SOMETHING THEY NEED
SOMETHING TO WEAR
SOMETHING TO READ

If this plan doesn’t work for you, you might want to change some of your views on giving. Remember that every holiday giving experience can be simple if we remember that not all gifts are tangible and experiences together count for a lot.

This year Chris and I are giving our best gift yet to the kids under the “Something They Need” category…will share more about that after Christmas. (Hint: it requires a passport. Don’t tell my cuties just yet! They’ll find out on Christmas Day.)

Would you like some creative ideas on what to give loved ones on any occasion? Download a free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas today!

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Change Your Views on Giving

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Change Your Views on Giving

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Change Your Views on Giving

If you’re struggling to find gift ideas for a person you’d like to give something to, stop and ask yourself what you want the outcome of giving the gift to be:

* If the goal is to remove guilt, wasting time and money on a gift won’t do that for you.
* If your purpose is to appreciate them, give them something you know they value (which might not be an item but an experience or a donation to a cause that matters to them).
* If your purpose is to meet a need, don’t assume you know what they need. Ask them. Then experience the joy of knowing you’re providing something they’ll use, value, and thank God for upon receipt.

Here are some perspectives on giving that, if you adopt them, will make for a better experience:

Define the victory before you begin. What will be a win when 1 January comes around? Will it be the memory of your friend’s expression when she opens your gift or the receipt of a credit card bill you can’t pay in full? Make your decision now and act accordingly. No one you’re gifting would enjoy it so much if they knew you were paying more than you can afford.

Trust that quantity doesn’t trump quality. Similar to the thoughts shared in this peaceful shower post, having a few targeted, intentional, and specifically selected gifts is better than crowding the floor around your recipient with a lot of wrapped items. Just because your friends give their kids many presents doesn’t mean you have to. Ask yourself, “Would I rather have 10 ho-hum trinkets or a few awesome ones?” Your loved ones feel the same way.

Remember that bigger (or more expensive) often isn’t better. While wealth isn’t the minimalist’s goal, remember some of the examples shared in The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy (affiliate link). Appearances don’t count. People who matter don’t place a dollar value on your gift; they know you gave them something you believe they’ll love. Trust that your loved ones value the gift because it’s from you and not because you felt the need to impress them.

Need help with specific gift ideas that bless the recipients and don’t break the bank? Download a free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas today!

Previous posts in this series:

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Introduction

Minimalist Gift Ideas: How to be Easy to Buy Gifts For

Minimalist Gift Ideas: My Definition of a Gift

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Receiving Gifts

 

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Receiving Gifts

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Receiving Gifts

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Receiving Gifts

Receiving gifts makes up for about 50% of your minimalist gift experiences in life, therefore a lot is riding on how well you receive gifts. Are you forth-coming about what you’d like or need? Do you refuse to let others give to you out of pride?

Are you like me, appreciative of the experience of receiving a gift of something you can use? When I wear my favorite shoes 3-4 times a week, I think of my sister who bought them for me. I wear the cozy fleece robe my mom bought me nearly every morning. My smart phone was actually provided by a family who donated to our non-profit organization last year and knew I wasn’t receiving a salary at the time. They said the money should specifically provide something to help me do my job better. At that time my old smart phone was on the fritz, and receiving their gift met a practical and fairly immediate need. How cool is that?!

Today I challenge you to not buy what you’d like to simply because you can. Consider that your money might be put to better use and your wants or needs could be met by someone else on a different – though less immediate – time schedule. Start leaving a gap in what you own and what you’d like…to see what could happen in due time. If you’re always providing for yourself, you’re missing out on the joy of receiving gifts.

Need help with specific gift ideas you could ask for next time someone wants to give you a treat? Download a free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas today!

Previous posts in this series:

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Introduction

Minimalist Gift Ideas: How to be Easy to Buy Gifts For

Minimalist Gift Ideas: My Definition of a Gift

Minimalist Gift Ideas: My Definition of a Gift

Minimalist Gift Ideas: My Definition of a Gift

Minimalist Gift Ideas: My Definition of a Gift

Sometimes we have to give way until the time is right for us to own or experience something. Two years ago I saw a purse I really like, and I immediately wanted it. I thought about it regularly, and it seemed everywhere I went I saw an ad for the bag or saw someone carrying it. The price of the purse meant I’d have to save up for a few months straight without really buying anything besides groceries. I chose not to buy the bag even though I was still interested, because the opportunity cost was just too high.

Recently Chris told me we had some extra money at the end of our month (after our tithe, all bills, and savings were accounted for) and he casually said I could buy this purse I’ve wanted so long. It was a great surprise and a gift to me to have waited and been rewarded!

I set out to buy the purse, but my local store didn’t have it in stock and I had to order it online. It’s not a big deal to wait 5 more days for delivery, but I had to laugh at how even though I’ve wanted this purse for 2 years it still ached a little to discover the “immediate” gratification wouldn’t come.

The final (and much better) part of this story is that the bag represents to me so much more than it would have 2 years ago. It represents having paid cash, having waited more than long enough to know it’s of benefit and still liked, and not having come up on the wrong end of an opportunity cost due to giving in to the temptation to buy something the very moment I discovered it. It represents a purchase in favor of quality counts.

Unexpected, undeserved, affordable, useful, and paid for in cash: Now that’s a gift! Is there something you’d like, but don’t need, that you’re willing to wait for? A big part of receiving it as a gift (instead of purchasing it yourself) could be the thrill another has in providing it for you.

Note: This post refers to the definition of an actual object being a gift. As a minimalist, I also classify some experiences or actions as gifts, too. To learn some specific examples of wonderful gifts you could give, download a free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas today!

Previous posts in this series:

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Introduction

Minimalist Gift Ideas: How to be Easy to Buy Gifts For

Minimalist Gift Ideas: How to be Easy to Buy Gifts For

Minimalist Gift Ideas: How to be Easy to Buy Gifts For

Minimalist Gift Ideas: How to be Easy to Buy Gifts For

Are you an easy person to buy gifts for? In many cases, we want what we want when we see it. There’s little delay in gratification today, meaning we buy things on the spot. We are an independent culture. It feels good to say we bought something for ourselves, even it it causes us to incur debt. We like to appear we can meet our own needs. We leave no gap for others to provide. We value having it all right now. Some of us don’t know what it’s like to wait for something and eventually realize we don’t want it so much anymore!

How do we take steps away from the habit of gifting ourselves all year long?

  • Recognize that some things we think we deserve, we don’t. Let’s say someone lost 20 pounds – does this mean his monthly budget should suffer because he’s been conditioned to “earn” (or buy) himself a reward? Seeing the purchased object as the reward for losing 20 pounds is a mistake, in my opinion. Having lower cholesterol, loose-fitting pants, and more energy is the reward.

 

  • Keep track of things that could be of use or that need to be replaced. I like to use this Pinterest board and a note on my smart phone to do this for me. I have a list for our whole family that made sharing Christmas ideas pretty simple this year once I took the time to review them. Sometimes I use this list to surprise one of my kids but most often we use it as a guide for birthdays and holidays. We do provide unexpected surprises, but we want to do our best not to train our kids to want more and more or confuse needs with wants, and having a running list helps us all do that.

 

  • Recognize that most of our needs aren’t legitimate if they aren’t immediate, and someone else could help meet them. Look back at a previous post’s example of waiting to buy supplies for our first child. I remember sitting in Blake’s empty nursery and longing to see an assembled crib with bedding, ready for his arrival. But he still wasn’t due to be born for several months, and the need wasn’t immediate. Having a crib wasn’t going to move up his birth date. As tough as the lesson was, it was proven true that when Chris and I were faithful to stick to our plan of using only $100 per month, we would have all we needed in time for the baby’s birth.

Need help with specific gift ideas that bless the recipients and don’t break the bank? Download a free copy of Minimalist Gift Ideas today!

Previous posts in this series:

Minimalist Gift Ideas: Introduction

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