My Own Backyard 

  • Lara Van Hulzen

I've been spending time reading a wonderful book called Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver. I'm actually re-reading it having read it a few years ago. When I read it the first time, it helped me purge clean my house before my husband and I downsized and moved to the beach as Empty Nesters.

Reading it now is bringing about a whole new level of wanting to live a simpler daily existence. Maybe it's because I'm a few years older, maybe it's because I am in a completely new season of life and maybe it's because I have spent time deep diving into my anxiety issues and seeing how "stuff" has only added to my angst.

As much as I am seeing the clutter around me that has added to my anxiety, I am also recognizing how often I try to "add" things to my life because I think it will enhance the person I feel I need to be rather than embracing WHO I AM.

For example, I was sipping coffee and watching Home Town on Saturday morning. I was also reading favorite blogs. I noticed apps on my phone that I had added to "help" me enhance this Lara I imagine I need to be.


I am now a Chaplain. I read my Bible. I pray. I study. But I had added two apps to "help" me listen and read scripture MORE. As I looked at the apps again Saturday morning, I was reminded of something I already know about myself which is I don't listen, I read. I am not an audiobook person and I only have 2 podcasts I listen to and one of the main reasons is that they are never more than 15 minutes long. For some reason I can sit still for an hour to read something but not more than 15 minutes to listen. (And yes, I've tried listening while driving or doing other things but I end up driving or doing those things and zone out so I don't listen.)

This embracing of who I am (a reader type) and letting go who I am not (a listener type) is freeing. Quite frankly, all of this reminds me of something vitally important that I forget all too often…

I AM ENOUGH

How I read or study scripture is ENOUGH

How I prefer to read over listening is ENOUGH

I don’t need to add MORE to make anything better.

I have all I need.

I AM ENOUGH

It's mental clutter I am learning about this time around as I embrace and glean wisdom about Soulful Simplicity.

I am learning that living simply isn't so much about having less, but rather seeing what I have or who I am is enough.


And it's not just about stuff in my house - physical items. I have always had a mentality that having choices is best. I am learning how false that notion really is. I am becoming aware of how many streaming services I have. Do I need them ALL? Yes, some were acquired during 2020 when watching shows was a part of survival. But how many of them do I really, truly use? And I didn't realize until recently how just knowing they are there is stressful. They are there so I have to use them right? One more thing to do. One more thing to choose from. It's not all that different from the apps either.


So I am trying to pay attention to what I honestly use and what I don't. Or rather, I'm asking myself the question, "Do I have this because I really want this or do I have this because it fits into the category of me trying to be a different version of myself?" If I really want it and use it - including non-tangible items like apps or streaming services - then it stays. If not, it goes.


And it is so awesome how freeing it is to let go.


I have just begun to de-clutter my mental life and it is amazing how free I am feeling already. I was worried about letting go. And on some levels I still am. I appreciate that Courtney says in Soulful Simplicity that it's a marathon and not a sprint. We don't just purge clean our homes and all the emotional "stuff" that led to having more than we need just disappears. It's a process and a journey. And we all live it and walk it in our own ways.


I'm just grateful that my journey has less...less to worry about, less to take care of, and less of stuff I simply don't need.


I have all I need

I am enough



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  • Lara Van Hulzen

Being out in the world again has reminded me of all the things I want to write about - smiles, great food, wonderful characters, beautiful settings and quite frankly, a renewed sense of curiosity about the world.

Life moves in seasons. With all the changes that came in the past few years, it’s time to begin again. It's a new season.

I begin again…

I find a new normal. I embrace things with wonder and curiosity. And move forward with excitement and joy.

The season I find myself in right now is one of an Empty Nester. It has been a long and painful road to get to a place of peace, and at some point I will blog about the tougher moments.

But for now, life is full of baseball games, road trips, and my husband and I getting to know one another again with all the new things we want to do and try, while having a 30+ years history to build on.

It's a beautiful time. Truly.

I think in many ways we begin again over and over and over in life. After marriage, when a child arrives, when a job changes, when a move to a new city is required…. When kids grow up and leave the nest.

I just recently discovered how much I love the work I am doing. I am writing and now I am working as a Chaplain. I love it. And not that I didn't love any of the other jobs I've had in my lifetime, but this is the first time in 20+ years that I can wake up, have coffee with my husband, walk the dogs and them dive into a work day. I really, really enjoy it.

I being again…

New season. New work.

New can be scary.

And I am beginning to see it can also be great.

Whether you are in a season for a while or headed into a new one, I toast you. I applaud all that you have accomplished and celebrate with you all that is to come. As we begin again after this crazy year or so. Great things are ahead. I know it.

We begin again…

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  • Lara Van Hulzen

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty much over 2020. I think many of us were over it a few months ago. As soon as we get back up, it just seems to knock us down again.


Stories have always been important to me. I can't remember a time in my life where I wasn't reading a story, watching a story, or writing a story. We moved from Florida to Colorado when I was 10 years-old. I remember sitting at a folding card table my mom had set up for me with her typewriter (I know, this ages me) and tapping out a story about two chipmunks who were best friends and one had to move away. Writing was my way of processing how I was feeling about leaving my best friend.


When I was a kid, I loved to read the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary. I WAS Ramona. I had a bossy big sister and was always living in my head, which caused others to see me as "flighty" or not paying attention when in reality, I wasn't any of those things. I was paying attention. I was also imagining in my head the stories that helped me process reality. Reading Ramona allowed me to feel that I wasn't the only one who got excited about the first day of school or imagined heart-shaped bangs would make me more girly and noticeable.


I don’t think there has ever been a time when stories have been more important.

As we are all at home, MUCH more than we are used to, streaming shows and watching movies is the norm. I am a rabid reader, and I'm reading MORE than I normally do. And after time away from my computer for various reasons, I am now ready to write books again. It is hands down the most unusual period in our history. We are navigating things that we have never had to navigate before, and we are finding hope in other's stories. Left and right, in the media, we see stories of parades for birthdays and those graduating. We see people visiting loved ones through windows of nursing homes and hospitals. We see city blocks erupting with applause for the relentless work of first responders and those tirelessly working in the medical field. We see and read stories of hope, and we are comforted and don't feel quite so alone.


There is power in stories. They cause us to not only escape sometimes, but draw us into the experience of others. They bring us comfort and a reminder that, although our own story is unique, there is so much we share with those around us. 


What are some of your favorite stories?



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