Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

‘Lord, help me simplify my life’

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published February 5, 2016

When I was a child I shared a room with my sister—and all our games, stuffed animals and clothes fit into one modestly sized closet. Later, when I went away to college, everything I needed was stashed in the trunk of my parents’ car.

Little by little I branched out, first to an apartment off campus, which I shared with three other girls, and then eventually to my own place.2016 02 04 GB MURRAY Lord, help me simplify my life

When my husband and I married, our first abode was a small townhouse in northern Virginia, but then we moved to Atlanta and bought a larger house. And—you guessed it—somehow our stuff mysteriously cloned itself to fit into the more expansive space.

In fact, if scientists ever want proof that inanimate things do in fact reproduce, they could investigate our basement, which started out with a few boxes and is now thoroughly populated with them.

In my study a painting shows a girl sleeping near a window that opens to the sea, illuminated by a crescent moon in a star-studded sky.

Rosary beads are draped across one hand, and a book is in the other—and the viewer can imagine she fell asleep while praying.

Perched on her blanket is a butterfly—an unlikely creature to see at night—until you realize this is a mystical setting and the butterfly bespeaks resurrection.

For me, this painting is a daily reminder to keep our hearts centered on God.

There is nothing wrong with possessions, but sometimes the upkeep, plus the sense of almost being smothered by stuff, can distract us from our true goal, which is heaven.

The winter months find me pruning my belongings, throwing out junk and donating usable items to charity. It’s certainly not easy saying goodbye to things, but I remind myself that we came into the world with nothing—and will leave the same way.

Over the years, I’ve given away numerous sacks of clothing—and invariably there will come a moment later when I hunt for a particular item and then realize I gave it away.

This is the price we sometimes pay for simplifying our lives, and I’m willing to pay it—even if I do grumble a bit at the moment.

Of course, some items for me are keepers, like my comfortable chair, shelves crammed with books and my colorful collection of orchids adorning a windowsill. And don’t forget my leopard-print bathrobe and fuzzy, pink pig slippers that bring me joy.

But, really, do I need all those purses—especially that blue one I’ve never even used? And what’s up with all that extraneous stuff living in the basement?

Sure, there are tools and rakes and beach umbrellas, which come in handy, but why am I keeping seashells that have sat there, untouched, for decades? I mean, it’s not like there’s a shortage or something!

Life sometimes seems so complicated as we run hither and yon, accumulating more items that we hope will make us happier.

Still, the girl in the painting, sleeping peacefully with beads in hand and butterfly nearby, is a lovely reminder of how simple life can be.

And so I pray, “Lord, help me to simplify my life. Let me be grateful for the stars, the moon, the sea and the sky—and butterflies—and keep my heart centered forever on you.”

Artwork (“Gulf Stream”) by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s email address is