Lillie Duncan

A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough
Part Five Thoughts : A Revolution Within Ourselves.

Living a life of enough. From most of the readers I have talked to, they have come to this point of the book and are eager to know what the application living a life of enough actually looks life. I felt that too. I find that it is interesting that this is also the shortest section of the book. I believe this is because this is the point in our journey where we take what has been written, all of those thoughts and feelings that were evoked in us and we begin to sort through them.

Over the summer I spent some time in Ireland, some of it by myself, some of it with a group of sojourners there to spend time and learn from poet, David Whyte. You may have noticed his poem in the beginning of the book. One of the consistent themes that David talks about and writes about is “the conversation.” This is where change begins. So in regards to living a life of enough you have to begin the conversation with yourself. You have to dig into the hard questions brought up during your time reading. You have to take notice of what parts of the book you underlined. You have to pay attention to what parts of the book you struggled with, lean in to find out why.

As I finished the book the first thing I thought to myself is simple. What I want in life and daily really is simple. It is all that is outside of me that complicates this whole journey for me. I had a friend a day later write me confessing in vulnerability that she did not necessarily struggle with the idea of living a life of enough but yet managing other people's expectations of what her days and time should look like. It hit me hard. Often I have gone a step further and presumed what others expect of me, and added to my days unnecessarily.

So what does life look like now? Now that you have read and been awaken to the ideas in this book. Honestly, that is the beauty get to choose.

For me, I feel the freedom to set my days up for a slower pace. To not overcommit myself any longer. To plan for downtime. To plan for the things in life that really bring me joy. I now feel free to release anything, any commitment, and anyone that is not serving my greater goal.

Life is really short. I know too well the 10 thousand sorrows talked about in the book, I want to make room for the 10 thousand joys still waiting to be felt. I want to live quietly, in love with life around me. I want to be open to the needs of others. I want to be ready when the Lord calls upon me for his purpose. To do that. I need simple. I need the simplicity of Enough.

Enough is not a destination, but yet a journey.


“How many times in the rush and hurry of our important work and hectic lives are we so driven by our search for happiness that it is impossible for us to ever find it because we literally rush past the very fragrance of happiness that surrounds us everywhere?” pg. 206

“Here, we restate our opening premise: Happiness is an inside job. Sufficiency and contentment are grown in the soil of moments, choice points, and listening at each juncture for the simplest, most deeply true, next right thing... When we are willing to be surprised, receptive to sensual cues in our bodies and hearts, when we are awake and attentive, not driven by fear, willing to give and receive, able to see the beauty there is and find on our lips gentle, unexpected eruptions of gratitude,we may find happiness where we never believed possible.” pg. 202

“When begrudging acceptance slowly becomes a full-hearted, honest, loving acceptance, some uncontrollable, unpredictable alchemy invariably has its way with us, as we begin to feel grateful. Yes, we can practice it, try saying it, journaling, or writing about it, and these things are all good and useful tools. But the truth is that acceptance simply becomes gratitude.

Make no mistake: Gratitude does not come swiftly or easily, nor does it in any way erase the searing grief of the loss, the pain, or the fury at the injustice. It merely invites something beautiful, fresh, and new to grow and flourish right beside it.” pg. 214

“When we allow this world of ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows to fully and honestly find room in our heart, there is a holy alchemy that erupts within us. Grace and healing grow and flourish right beside our sorrows, and our faithful heart gently cradles the mall. The spacious sufficiency of our heart can teach us the next true thing and plant the seed that forms after the fire. Being present with ourselves, making choices from our own quiet wisdom, finding sanctuary deep within us, gives birth to a beginner’s  [not expert’s] life, toward an unknowable destiny, our path created by our every moment walking it. ...A life of enough is born in every moment – on the way we listen, the way we respond to the world, the way we see what is and tell the truth of who we are…” pg. 236


What is the first thing that comes to mind that you want to change about your days?

Do you feel more expectations from yourself or others when it comes to what your days look like?

What does your most ideal day look like? Life?

What are you willing to give up in order to experience the freedom of enough each day?

Is there a person in your life that would support your journey?

Is there a person in your life that would oppose your journey?

How are you ready to set your boundaries?

How are you ready to ask for what you need?

What is it that you need most right now, each day?

Lillie DuncanComment

Part Four Thoughts
Energy and Boundaries

At the beginning of Wayne Muller's chapter A Broken Heart he talked about his deep struggle with the amount of energy (or lack thereof) after being sick. It was his severe limitation that brought him into a deeper awareness of how much value is held within the energy we have to give to others. This chapter brought so much freedom to an area of my life that has been hard to articulate, until now. I too struggle greatly with energy output and energy exchange. So much so that if I have too many social obligations or engagements back to back...I almost always get sick. It has been like this for over 10 something years, but only recently have I started noticing and connecting the dots. For Wayne, his limitation came from an unfortunate illness. For me, it has taken some time to understand and even admit but I believe it is just how I am made. I am sensitive to life, constantly taking in, observing, and feeling at levels deeper than I even know how to articulate. So, looking at it from a bird's eye view, it makes sense why I am the way I am. It is hard to explain to close loved ones that want to spend time together, or business partners who need to meet, or other sweet mommas who want to have a play date or a friend that is hurting.  The reality that I can really only commit to at most one thing a week is hard and often misunderstood. Most days I would mourn the feeling of not being able to “give” enough. The reality is whether you are highly sensitive to life, have limitations, or if you are blessed with the ability to give of yourself abundantly with little side effects, there will always be limits, there will always be a point where you have to lovingly choose how to take care of your precious energy so that you can show up best for others around you.

This is where boundaries come in to play. It took me a long time to learn how boundaries are not selfish, they are loving. I love that Wayne included his section about boundaries into section four of this book. Continuing the thought from above, I have had to facilitate hard (but good) conversations with people I love about what I need most to be the best me I can be, which involves a lot of time to myself. More than most, which is not easy for someone to understand who may not be created the same, but it is a boundary I have to honor in order to be the most loving version of myself and give good quality energy to the things and people who matter most. When I am honoring my boundaries and being aware of my energy output, I feel freer and at ease, I feel like I am giving “enough.” The moment I don’t….that all goes out of the window.

Healthy boundaries, no matter how you have been created, are needed for each one of us to cultivate the type of life that makes room for silence, that makes room for stillness, that makes room for listening. Often what we find in the center of our stillness, once we have quieted the world around us and fought past the discomfort of our own self reaching for “more” is, in fact, a moment of enough. We all of a sudden see life differently. We hear the sound of our children and are moved to tears out of gratitude. We feel the warmth of the fire, and know that on this day all that we have is enough. All that we have given is enough.

As Wayne teaches, it is hard to get to that point when we are functioning on the world's timeline though, that is why it is essential to create a life, to create boundaries so that each day you step outside of the timeline of the “every day” and step in to this life that waits for you. One full of beauty and joy.


“Have I loved well? Have I lived deeply and fully? Did I waste precious time distracted by too many unimportant things? Did I attend carefully to my loved ones, my work, my community? Have I left a legacy of kindness? Has my life in some way brought benefit to others?”

“Living and loving well require us to make difficult choices each day of our lives. The heart-opening unconditional love we seek requires our hearts best time and attention. Love, friendship, children, kindness, good and fruitful work- all these things need time, accompanied by our full, unhurried, undistracted attention. Because the sheer number of hours in a day is limited, we must choose where, when, and with whom we will share whatever brief time and attention we have.” pg. 152

“We cannot control what will happen to the seeds we sow, the words we speak, the actions we take. We can only be as honorable, truthful, and compassionate as we are able. The moment we try to control what does or does not happen, we are left in a lingering state of insufficiency, wondering what more we could, should, have done, to make it all turn out right. Once we fall into self-judgment and doubt, we work harder and harder to become more and more perfect – and we feel less and less satisfied we have done enough. Our work is on ourselves, to be clearly certain we have listened, seen, felt in ourselves what, at this moment, is required. Then, forces far greater than ourselves will have their way with whatever we plant, build, grow, or create. This, then, is our work. To do what we can and have mercy.”  pg. 186

“I only surround myself with life-giving people.” pg. 198

Questions to think about?

When is the last time you ended your day and thought to yourself, today was enough? No anxiety, no stress, no worry of what didn’t get finished or what still needs to happen.

How often do you set aside time to be still?

What does your still time look like?

Are you easily swayed by the pull of this world to fill your every waking moment?

Where does the majority of your energy go right now?

Do you ever feel depleted of your own energy? Does it make you feel like nothing is ever enough?

What type of boundaries do you have in place?

What type of boundaries could you implement to protect yourself and your energy?

What is most at stake if you don't take the necessary steps to find stillness during the day, or set your boundaries?

If you have children, what type of legacy are you wanting to leave?

How do you want your children to remember you?

At this point in the book, what is “enough” to you? How is this applying to your life?

Lillie Duncan

Part Three Thoughts

Part Three is a section that I read through so fast and only because I can not absorb the wisdom fast enough. So, my first introduction to Wayne Muller was through his book Sabbath. It is hands down one of the best books I have ever read. It speaks right into the heart of every human and gives an answer to the questions we did not know we were carrying around. In part three of the book we are reading now, I see how he builds on his previous book. He digs into our relationship with our worth, time, and impermanence. We can fill our lives with so many expectations, obligations, material things, and worries that we become barely capable of even knowing what enough looks like, let alone feels like. We lose sight of what is most important, we forget to honor the small miracles in life, and we bypass ourselves in the process. Which is a big deal. You were created to enjoy this life, even with the sobering heartaches attached to living. You were created for purpose also, so when you spend your time disconnected, overwhelmed, and ridden with the weight of the world it is easy to not fully know your worth and miss the innate call on your life.  

When you sit and read some of these chapters, underline words and phrases that touch you. Save the parts that you struggle with internally. Then think on these things. Examine your heart. Examine your daily patterns.

I will be honest, I was on a plane ride from Dallas to Los Angeles when I read the Loss and Impermanence chapter...and it undid me. Hard truths, but we need these truths to fully feel and understand the importance of really living life NOW because no day is promised to us. Lately, after putting into practice a lot of what I learned from Wayne, I am now able to slow down more. I am able to really see the significance and beauty of really small moments, like the way my son lines up his cars in a row on my bathroom counter. The way my daughter sings as she is coloring. The way the sun always comes in through the back of the house at the same time each day creating shadows and bringing warmth. Life seems more colorful in these moments. At the same time, I know that it won’t always be this way. I know that things will change. I also know that my knowledge is limited, I do not know what is actually instore for me today. So with that awareness, I hold each one of those moments close to my heart. I appreciate them in a new way. I feel the immense joy hidden within the everyday moments of life. Moments I used to easily pass by in efforts to hustle, work harder, have a perfect house, look a certain way….you name it.

If that section was hard for you to read too, I am right there with you. Press into that feeling though. See what treasures are hidden beneath whatever you must work through to get to a place of enough in your everyday life.


“As a child of the Spirit, you are simply this: light of the world. You carry a spark of divine fire.” (pg 75)

“When we move in jagged and hurried ways, it becomes impossible to see, recognize, or drink deeply from any beauty, wonder, or grace in anything or anyone in our path.” (pg. 80)

Speaking of worry….“While neither healing nor repairing anything at all, is saturates us with stress and uses all our attention to project fear and weakness into every possible future disaster. We manufacture catastrophic expectations, which cause our biological and nervous systems to remain forever on full, exhausting alert.

More importantly, worry steers us away from trusting in our own essential wholeness, wisdom, and strength to be able to handle, in the moment, whatever we are given. It denies any capacity or recognize, when the time comes, the next right thing to do.” (pg. 80)

“More than additional classes, lessons, adventures or toys, our own children will likely let us know what they most want, crave, desperately need, is our presence. What they long for most is a single moment of shared presence, to offer us what they have found, what they have seen, something only shared when they feel held by our undistracted, unhurried time and attention.” (pg. 82)

“To relentlessly force the tender wisdom, thoughtful reflection, and perceptive honesty of the human heart to conform to the ridiculously impossible, inhuman speed of the world, to its ever-increasing mind-driven technologies, is to cause violence to our most precious and valuable treasure: the necessary guidance of the human heart.” (pg.86)

“For every moment of loss there is a corresponding moment of unexpected joy, celebration, healing, success, beauty, grace, and love.” (pg. 97)

Questions to think about?

What sections were hardest to read?

How do you feel about the law of impermanence?

In what ways have you felt your heart shift as you have been reading this book?

Do you place your value in what you do?

Is sitting still hard for you? Why? What will you meet in that space?

How often do you show mercy for yourself? Towards others?

Lillie Duncan Comments
Book Club: A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough- Part 1 & Part 2
Lillie Duncan

Part One and Part Two Thoughts

At the beginning of the book Wayne quotes a poem from the great poet, David Whyte. Upon first glimpse it seems simple but the more I read the poem, the more it settled into the areas of resistance in my life. “This opening to the life we have refused...again and again...until now.”

David’s words prime our hearts, leading us to deeper thoughts, deeper questions, and a honest look within. What life have you been refusing? In what areas do you feel like you or life just isn’t enough? How would life be different if you sank into the reality and or a new understanding of what “enough” really is in your world?

Wayne made the case that knowing and feeling the fullness of enough has to start within the body. That enough is not a static moment in time, it is a choice we have to make time and time again because like life, everything changes. Therefore, our measure of enough will most likely change as we change, as life changes. He goes on to ask a life long question many spiritual leaders have asked for years, “What if you already have what you seek?” I hope that was a question that stopped you and made you ponder what it is you really want in life. I hope that it also opened your eyes, as it did for me, that so much of what I really want in life...I already have in imperfect fullness.

There is a section in Deadly Sins and American Values where Wayne asks a series of introspective questions, getting to the root of what kind of life do we really want to be living. Then contrasts our answer with the type of life we actually are living now. How often and how easy is it to say yes to things that don’t fill our souls but yet drain us. It is no wonder we as a culture increasingly feel drained and not satisfied, our attention is spread thin and we are not setting up our days or lives to seek the natural order of joy innately embedded into some of the simplicities of life. He called this “empty substitutes for authentic needs.” Naturally when those needs aren't met we strive harder, we go faster, we hustle, we become busier with things that do not give life back to our souls.

So how do we get to a life of enough? Wayne points us to evaluate our day to day choices. That within these seemingly small little moments we have the power to transform our time, our attention, or energy, and our inner life...if we are choosing in a way that is based out of love not just efficiency.  


“We overload our expectations on ourselves and others, inflate our real and imaginary responsibilities, until our fierce and tender human hearts finally collapse under the relentless pressure of impossible demands. No living organism can sustain this kind of violent overwork before it breaks or dies...Why then are we so reluctant to ever stop, be still, or allow our work to feel sufficient for this day?” (pg 5)

“How do we reclaim a life of deep sufficiency? We begin with ourselves. The world around us will be unrelenting, saturating us with a multitude of offers of peace, contentment, and well being through this or that purchase, event, affiliation, or experience. But our most reliable experience of enough begins within our own visceral is a sufficiency tasted first through intimate conversation between our own fully incarnated spirit and flesh.” (pg. 6)

“There is no guarantee that we will ever find enough of anything in the same place, or in the same way, twice.” (pg. 7)

“Am I truly able to say that I really love this? Or is it more honest to say that I can handle this?...The more we choose the next right thing based on what we love and less on what we can handle, we are likely to have many sources of sufficiency and nourishment.” (pg. 13)

“Our journey is an adventure in listening for how we find sanctuary and see more clearly what is good, what is whole, what is beautiful and holy, and what is, in the end, this day, this moment...enough.” (pg. 19)

“A life that becomes spacious and full is a life made of moments chosen carefully, decisions that each, one by one, lean into an abiding trust in the power of life, the fecundity of love, and the wholeness of our own heart’s wisdom. Each choice that feels like the only and perfectly next right thing plants a tiny seed of ease and well-being in our day.” (pg. 29)

Questions to think about?

In what ways have you experienced the fullness of enough in your days?

How often do you find yourself overworked and over committed?

How often do you feel satisfied with your days?

How often do you say yes to things that do not fill you with joy?

How often do you say yes to things that drain your energy?

How often do you base your choices off of efficiency? Love?

What do you want to change in your day to day life?

Does the thought of slowing down scare you?

How often do you get time in your day just to enjoy the simplicity around you? The sun setting. Birds singing. The sound of children playing. The passing of clouds. The fragrance of a meal. The warmth of a fire.

Lillie Duncan Comment
Be Humble: On Motherhood, Expectations, & Kendrick Lamar
Lillie Duncan-1-11.jpg

Recently I wished Kendrick Lamar was rapping back when I had my first child. Lyrics from his song “HUMBLE.”— “I'm so fuckin' sick and tired of the Photoshop/Show me somethin' natural like ass with some stretch marks...”—resonate deeply every time I hear them. This is the message I want to stand for and pass down to my children and other woman who look to me.

It wasn’t until I became pregnant for the first time that I realized the full weight of the American ideal for women and, more personally, for mothers. It started with seemingly innocuous praises here and there: “Wow, you haven't gained much weight at all,” and “You look so great, how do you stay so thin while pregnant?” and “I hope I’m as thin as you are when I’m pregnant.”

Then, once I gave birth to Rosalie, there was the overwhelming pressure to not only “bounce back,” but also to keep a perfect house and feed the whole family, all while somehow looking like I didn't just have a baby or stay up for all hours of the night with a newborn who could barely nurse yet. Yes, the pressure comes from my own expectations, but also through the slow, incessant inundation from the mommy blogosphere and advertising geared towards moms.

While nursing, it was easy to sit there for thirty minutes browsing the world of another mother who was somehow able to nurse her baby while vacuuming with one hand and making lunch with the other. Mind you, the entire family is dressed in matching clothes, her couches are white (without a single stain), the walls have no hand prints, the counters are tidy, the floors are spotless...oh, and her makeup and clothes look flawless.

I realized I’d traded my fashion magazines for “perfect” motherhood via the internet and social media. I never felt good after browsing these seemingly impeccable lives. “I’ll just try a little harder,” I’d whisper under my breath as I looked around at the mess of my house, or when I caught my tired face in the mirror, a reflection I could barely look at anymore.

I was full of shame. There was an underlying discontent and over-comparison of my life to what was being portrayed as normal motherhood, normal womanhood. Honestly, it was this feeling I had carried with me my entire life, woven into the mapping of my adolescence. From a young age I learned, secondhand, what was most important in life for a woman. I have grown up with the conscious and subconscious thought that my identity is most defined by what the world sees on my exterior, with little regards to the multitudes of art and wonder held within.

One night, as I sat rocking my beautiful baby girl who would one day be a woman. I imagined her looking at herself in the mirror, the same way I did as a teen, then as an adult, and then as a mom, with eyes that dissected and compared. I imagined her wearing the burden of “not enough.” Not beautiful enough. Not thin enough. Not tall enough.

I imagined her crying, broken over her reflection in the mirror. As her little baby eyes fluttered and glanced at me, I knew all she saw in return was my love, not how I looked. And isn't that what we should all see when we look at another...the way in which we love ourselves and the world around us. I embraced her tight and lamented for all of the woman I knew stuck in this same bondage.

It was the moment I stopped filling my mind with magazines, mommy blogs, and unwanted social media influencers, that suddenly that reflection—my reflection—in the mirror started to glow. I crowded out these things by filling my mind with art, poetry, literature, words, and music, offering myself a rebirth of my own. I stepped into the confidence of my skin, the beauty of my own soul, and the depth of my love for others.

Shame started to melt. The truth is, I set my own standard as a mother and woman, not the world around me. My daughter will learn that perfectionism is a lie meant to make us feel small so that we buy into whatever someone else is selling.

Choose freedom. Walk away from that mirror. Put down the magazine. Turn off your phone. Stop reading blogs from people who don’t live your same life. Then look around at what you have, and you’ll see that embracing what it truly means to be free is wrapped in gratitude.

So, I join Kendrick in saying, “Sit down/Be humble.”

Lillie DuncanComment
Searching for the Broken Ones

[Originally published in the Simple Parenting Column by The Dispatch]

Each day when I drop my 4-year-old daughter off at school, I kneel down to look her in the eyes. I tell her, “I love you, Sis. Tell me again, what makes you beautiful?” To which she replies, “How I love people and how I treat others.”

I kiss her and, before she runs off I remind her, “Look for the broken ones, look for the ones that may be struggling today, love them hard and be EXTRA kind today, okay?!”

Before I had my first child, Rosalie, I had many set notions of what good parenting looked like. Most of my ideas were based on what I saw on mommy blogs. From my internet research, I started judging good parenting based on whether a parent chooses to breastfeed, bottle feed, co-sleep, homeschool or send their child to public school, to name just a few of the contentious parenting topics that ricochet around the blogosphere. For the first two years of my parenting journey, I became obsessed with mastering all of the parenting methods I found online. It was tiring, relentless, and I often felt as though I was just touching the surface of what “good parenting” actually was.

All of these judgments on parenting began to shift after I gave birth to my son, Elias, who is now two years old. Seven weeks after he was born, I held my infant son in my arms watching him nearly bleed to death due to complications of an undiagnosed rare disease. The week that followed changed everything for me when it came to my perspective on parenting, and even life. I would hold him at night so that he could sleep comfortably while connected to all of the IVs and machines, and while he aid peacefully in my arms my mind ran through all of the “good parenting” measures I had learned and practiced on Rosalie. I thought about how none of that mattered anymore. In that momen, I still was not sure if my son would survive, and I thought to myself  “If he did live one more day, or even ten years, would it honestly matter whether he was breastfed, bottle feed, co-slept, homeschooled or sent to public school?”

This forced me to ask the questions. “If Elias lived through childhood, what type of childhood do I want for him and Rosalie?” “What does good parenting look like now?” “How am I going to raise my children so they don’t turn out to be selfis ouchebags who expect perfectly-prepped school lunches in the shape of panda bears and care more about how they dress than how they act?”

In the two years since those life-changing nights, I have shifted my idea of what makes for good parenting. Instead of emphasizing the external, I now believe that good parenting is empathetic parenting, which encourages emotional development that will inevitably produce kindness, grace, and unconditional love.

A 2002 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology that investigated the connection between how much a parent invested in a child, and how competent a child was, found that how emotionally involved a parent is truly does matter. If we care about our children, our children are more likely to care about others. So we can’t be parenting from the sidelines or distracting ourselves with the unimportant flash of whatever’s buzzworthy as the moment. Empathy starts with us.

One way that I approach teaching empathy to my children is by teaching Rosalie and Elias to look outside themselves for people (mostly kids) that may be having a hard time. I often tell Rosalie that, “people who are hurting will often hurt people.” I reinforce over and over that it’s not our job to judge another's actions, but it is our job to love them deeply regardless. My hope for them as they grow into this idea is that they will have the ability to see people with their eyes closed. The more I teach my children empathy and kindness the more empowered they will be to look past the hurt of others and to intervene with love.

There is no blog, book, or guru that has all of the answers when it comes to parenting, and I am not a perfect parent, but I truly believe the simpler we make the art of parenting, the better the outcomes will be. The more we focus on sowing seeds of kindness and empathy, the closer we’ll get to giving our kids a better future. Every lesson we teach our children is also a lesson for us. Every day we, too, have the opportunity to look up and notice the world around us, notice the real live people in front of us.

Look for the broken ones.

The Twisted American Dream

[Originally published in the Simple Parenting Column by The Dispatch]

For the past 100 years, we have been fed lies by marketing and advertising schmucks about what it means to be free and prosperous. Tragically, we have been passing those same lies down to our children. Lies that say that to be successful and free you must own a house with a picket fence, own a car, dress a certain way, pay to attend a certain college, wear your hair teased approximately 2.5 inches above your head, successfully produce one male and one female spawn (in that order), and probably own a happy golden retriever that fetches your mail for you, too. What we have learned to believe about this “American Dream” is that what we own determines our worth.

The founding dream for America was based on a very limited, but still forward-thinking for the time, concept of peace and opportunity. During the 1920's, that dream changed from being about freedom to being all about consumerism. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald illustrates how the American Dream transformed. Suddenly, it was all about money.

When I was 21 years old, I was living in Portland, Oregon and finishing up two degrees in Education. These were not degrees that I wanted, but they were the ones I thought I needed to be successful. I was also working in an office right in the middle of downtown. Every morning, I would begrudgingly get my ass out of bed, drag myself over to the mirror, and give myself a morning pep talk. “This is what life is all about, right? You are good, right? You are happy, right?”

Then I put on a corporate costume to play a game that I didn’t even want to play. Fake it until you make it.

The internal dialogue came with me on my commute. “I have everything I need to be happy. I am 21! I have an apartment, a car, a closet full of clothing and shoes, I can buy whatever I want or need. I have the freedom to do whatever I want or to go wherever I want to go….or do I?” The questions poked out from the shadows of my mind until I heard the ding of the elevator doors opening on my floor. Day after day.

Until one day when I arrive to work early, but my boss said I wasn’t early enough. To that, I thought, “Fuck this!”

Fuck this so-called Dream. If this is it, it is not for me. I quit and took a part-time barista job. I cut my hours in half, and cut my pay by more than half. In return, I gained freedom, sanity, and more than anything, I gained time to live. I traded money, materialism, and possessions for living.

Ten years later, this is still how I live and how I parent. My Rosalie and Elias are only 4 and 2, but I remind them that we don’t need much to be happy. They have a few small toys in their room, a basket downstairs, and that it is it. Rosalie is starting to understand that the less we buy, the more adventures we can go on, and she likes the adventures best.

The original American Dream was for freedom and peace. Whether it has ever been achievable is up for debate, but at least the concept has gone far off of the original track. As parents, we get to reteach the “Dream” to our children. We can teach them to accumulate, or we can teach them to value. We can live fast, or we can show slow. We can pass down our values by explaining why we buy less so we can prioritize time together. We get to teach them that peace and freedom are found in simplicity and that we’ll never reach an internal dream if we measure ourselves against someone else.

The Crowding Out Method
Lillie Duncan Writer

[Originally printed in the Simple Parenting Column by The Dispatch]

Last month, I had a conversation with a friend over text in which they explained how they only liked wearing colored socks. Ever since that conversation, I have seen advertisements on my phone via Facebook, Google, and Instagram for fancy socks, work socks, and even for a monthly colorful sock club.

This strange coincidence makes me giggle. By giggle, I mean that I have developed a slight conspiracy theory that someone is reading my conversations.

It may just be a theory, but I’m aware enough to know when someone is trying to sell me something. My four-year-old daughter Rosalie, though, has no idea that some of the cute Youtube shows she likes are made by influencers who are paid by brands and products looking to hook a younger audience.

Kids as young as two are spending nearly two hours a day looking at a screen. For American children eight and up, that number nearly quadruples to more than seven hours. Nearly all of this time staring at silly cartoons and colorful screens is chock-full of advertising. In the 80’s companies spent $100 million marketing to kids. Today, they’re spending nearly $17 billion. Whether on the television, a computer, tablet, or walking down the street, American children are inundated with advertising.

The data shows that marketing strategists are targeting our children, and even Advertising Executives admit it. In the article “How Marketers Target Kids,” former Advertising Executive Barbara A. Martino, said straight up, that advertisers are “relying on the kid to pester the mom to buy the product.”

This makes me mad, so I’m trying to protect my children. When I say “protect,” I don’t mean that I’m burning every TV they come into contact with and throwing my mobile devices out of the window. No, I’m just saying that we need to make things simple.

Let’s take advantage of every moment with our children and fill our time with things other than screen time. I like to call this the “crowding out method.” In my home, we fill our days with so much in-person face-to-face play, art time, music, mud pies, cookie making, food eating, and serving other people activities that, before you know it, no one has even twitched towards the tv remote.

During this time, I get to shepherd their little minds, helping them understand the world around us, including the inner workings of mobile devices, advertising, and marketing strategies. It is in this time together, not in front of a screen, that I am preparing them for the world that they will one day be free in; free from the bondage of advertisements, social norms, and social media, which is less social these days and more marketing anyhow.

So let’s be known for what we are for, not what we are against. Let’s crowd out what is ruining childhoods, and fill the time that magically opens up with memories that don’t include screens, remotes, or ads designed to direct us to the sugary cereal aisles. Let’s keep parenting simple.

Things to  do together instead of allowing marketers to get to your kids earlier and anywhere:

  • Bake cookies for your neighbor

  • Ask your other neighbor if you can wash their car for them.

  • Have a dance party.

  • Write cards or letters to friends or family.

  • Volunteer at an animal shelter.

  • Make a cardboard box house.

  • Go camping in your backyard.

  • Learn about a different culture then have an international dinner.

  • Visit the fire station.

  • Then play with fire. (just not without supervision)

  • Plant a garden.

  • Learn to use a compass.











For more resources visit Common Sense is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids, families, and educators by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.

Just Write

I am terribly tender these days. Each season as the leaves start their phases of change and descend to the earth, and trees let go making space for their much needed and timely dormancy…I feel it too. I feel winter coming laying its quiet blanket over all living things. I feel it in and through me and there is nothing I can do about it.

I have best described it as a wave that rises up. You see it coming before you feel it. You can sense the retraction of air and the pull of the sea as it prepares to rage up and crash forward. It is an act of nature and just like the change of season…there is nothing you can do about it.

For the past few years, I have warred against it though. I have fought the feelings. In some years I have disconnected to not feel what is coming “I am fine, I am fine, I am fine…” In other years I have been overcome with grief and feeling with no hope, no guidance. It has felt much like being pulled under a wave and instead of surrendering, instead of letting nature run its course. I was fighting the wrong fight.

I was fighting against myself and against my God instead of fighting for myself and fighting the Good Fight for the sake of others, for the sake of my story.

Since I was a child I have been plagued with this concept of purpose. I pondered the purpose of most things around me: life, joy, and pain. There are some things we never grow out of, as though we think we should, as though that is the goal. Instead, there are things we grow into through the means of the story we are given.

All of the trees barely have any leaves left. Christmas lights are everywhere. Songs of joy are being sung everywhere I turn and yet I sit here with tears because I feel, Oh how I feel so deeply. A few days ago I wept at the feet of my Christmas tree right after I hung an ornament with my brother's name on it. I wept because the moment was beautiful. I wept because it hurt so much at the same time. I wept because of the balance of life and death, in this world and in me.

My weeping was a prayer, a wordless prayer and God answered with an impression deep on my heart…

”Write. Just write. Keep writing. Let others in on the interworking of your heart and mind and journey. Be a voice. Just keep writing….”

Lillie DuncanComment
You are not your weaknesses

We were intricately created with great strengths and intentional purpose. It is easy to forget this and hard to really identify those giftings or strengths at times. In my own journey of self growth, my mind would basically collect all of the feedback the world gave me to identify what my weaknesses were. My philosophy was… identify weakness, eliminate the weakness, then I would be able to continue my personal growth. The huge problem with this is that I was letting other people balance my strengths and weaknesses for me. In all honesty, it left me feeling defeated at times, until I gained the understanding I needed.

We all hear it to some think too much, feel too much, too motivated, too laid back,  not enough of this, or not enough of that. Just fill in the blank. Perhaps those things that are intricately unique to you are your best giftings to this world.

As a culture, I firmly believe we don’t spend enough time celebrating the strengths and giftings of those around us. We don’t speak life into people nearly enough. We don’t look at people and appreciate how they are different from us, instead we set expectations that everyone (to some degree, whether conscious or subconscious) should think and act like ourselves. And when they don’t, the words we use can break others.

A few weeks ago I was part of a intellectual conversation about that created a paradigm shift for me. This individual introduced me to Clifton Strengthsfinder. Maybe you have heard of it, I know it is used a lot in corporate and business settings but it is profoundly beneficial in all areas of life. He told me a fascinating story… during the 1950’s there was a study done using 6,000 students. These students were given a speed reading test with no prior teaching. They took the data for comparison, taught these students how to speed read, then tested them again...the results were fascinating! For the students that were not naturally good at speed reading...their results went up minimal BUT for the few students that naturally read around 300 words per minute, after they were taught skills on how to speed read, their results went up to almost 2,900 words per minute. The greatest gains in human development are based on investment in what people do naturally...areas or talent, strengths, gifts.

I thought about this study for a long time. It puzzled me and went against every notion I have worked mindset has always been focus on the weakness. Fix it and you will grow but in reality, when we identify our natural, God given strengths and invest in maturing them and using them, we grow exponentially. We are then in the best place for God to use us as He created. We have the ability for true success and accomplishment.

It’s beautiful and freeing.

I loved this quote from the StrengthsFinder page:
All people have a unique combination of talents, knowledge, and skills -- strengths -- that they use in their daily lives to do their work, achieve their goals, and interact with others. Gallup has found that when people understand and apply their strengths, the effect on their lives and work is transformational. People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their work and three times more likely to say they have an excellent quality of life.”

After I took the test I was a little surprised to see certain items show up as my strengths. I actually had to wrestle through the majority of my top strengths. I will explain why in a moment…

When Gallup was doing all of this research all of the strengths were narrowed down to 34 strengths, and from there are four main domains in which these strengths fit under:  
Relationship Building
and Strategic Thinking.

When you get your results back, the focus is typically on the top 5. People can have a a few strengths from each domain, it varies for most people...except me. Mine was extremely heavy on the Strategic Thinking!

This is the part that stumped me...I had come to view my intense thinking as a weakness. I have been told over and over that I was too intense, too deep, too complex, think too much, it is something that always hurt me because I felt that this is how I was created. I saw it as my greatest weakness, the more I tried to suppress these things the more it burdened me. I had no idea that within this domain of thinking holds my greatest gift to the people and world around me. And more than that, this is how the Lord of All creation designed me.

I have been passionate about sharing this with people because it offers a level of freedom and grace within relationships and connections. I love that these are used in a corporate setting, I hope that more and more people will invest into this test for their own personal growth. It offers such a grace and appreciation to look at someone and say, I see that this is what you are gifted in, I may not be gifted the same, but I can appreciate your gift and praise your gift.

It gives an opportunity to speak life into others.


Lillie DuncanComment