Sunday, April 22, 2012

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.

Book photo by Asta (from her bookshelf)

Books have been very much on my mind lately. I am surrounded by them at work (a library). I work and play at writing them. I read them (all the time), and in my previous post I shared my book culling efforts.

As a  novice with the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis (an Anglican order for everyday people like me) - I am going through a period of formation. Today I was reflecting on Saint Francis' attitude toward book knowledge. He was very wary of it, to the point that he actually discouraged it. Thankfully our order today encourages study, but as I read more of the reasons for Saint Francis' concerns I realised that he just might have had a bit of a point. Here are some of the thoughts that have been rattling around my head:

Perhaps we can become so puffed up with learning that we are unable to come 'naked' and humble before our God.

Perhaps knowledge can become a God in itself.

Perhaps we may begin to think that we are better than our brother or sister who is less well educated.

Perhaps from all our learning we can be so busy telling others how to live that we forget to do the work ourselves - and so we do plenty of talking (or writing) without doing what we preach.

Just maybe too much concern with knowledge could be considered little different to excess wealth.

And maybe we aren't discerning enough about what we read.

Any thoughts?

Asta x

The title of the post comes from Louisa May Alcott's 'A Story of  Experience'.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Keeping the clutter out...


I am so thrilled. I have managed to rid myself of a whole bookshelf of books. This is the second big cull I have done in six months, but I confess I still own hundreds of books. I L.O.V.E. books! Initially saying goodbye to them was not easy. It is a relief to have discovered that they didn't have the hold over me that I thought they did. I haven't really thought about the ones I have given away. I am quite sure if I went around the house again I could give away another significant amount of books. 

The books I have kept are mostly reference and inspirational books, books filled with beautiful words and images, that excite me and that I return to over and over again. Of course I have kept books for purely sentimental reasons. I have a box of my childhood books, and the children have their own favourites stored away too. 

 I am wondering if it would be a good idea to toss the favourites that are falling apart (like our 'The Hobbit') and to replace them with a hardback, or a first edition, or a leather bound copy instead.  Is it really worth keeping an old, mouldy, yellowing and torn paperback? 

I am fortunate because I work in an environment where I am surrounded by books (a library). I feel so rich, so full. I have also acquired a Kindle. I have so many books on there and it takes up no room at all. It isn't the same as a paper book though (it is cold and doesn't smell bookish and there are no pages!)- and I feel quite sure that my favourites will always be in a print edition. 

The (almost) empty bookshelf. 

Now the hard work begins. If I thought the hard work was in de-cluttering the house I think I might have been wrong. I suspect it is keeping 'stuff' out that is going to be the challenge, and I am not just talking about the things I will personally bring into the home, but gifts given in love... Oh how to deal with them?   

Monday, April 9, 2012

Loving what you already have - by Georgina (Nans Common Sense)

Welcome to this week's guest blogger - the lovely Georgina Kalwak. She is known to many of us as the 'owner' of the inspiring Facebook Page - Nans Common Sense. 

As I sit here and think of what to write (after having worked an 80-hour workweek in the past 8 days), it has slowly and surely dawned on me that simply being at home is wonderfully serendipitous. Now, please don’t get the impression that in the past being at home was not at all a pleasant experience.  What I rediscovered was the longer you stay away from your home, whatever shape that takes, the more you long for all the wonderful and even unappealing qualities that reside there. Every day during the past two weeks thoughts of our comfy bed, our 18lb not-so-mini dachshund, gardening that needs to be done, and even overdue spring cleaning was foremost on my mind.  Yes, even cleaning seems appealing.  

As I continued to reflect, I found that I am thankful for things that are not tangible, but are to most of us, representations of luxury.  They are: freedom and autonomy, an amazing husband, intelligent sons, newly acquired friends, other people’s wisdom, family traditions, the availability to pursue education, gifted health practitioners, security of employment and a soon to be and much needed retirement from the military.  These things are acquired throughout life as the journey brings us around all the twists and curves of a life well lived.  None of these (tangibles) can really be purchased except by way of experience and interaction.  Their stations are what I hold dearly to my heart as my life enters it’s fourth decade.

The value we place on our treasures and belongings is each singularly unique.  As we de-clutter our homes, and often attitudes and minds, we essentially come to the core of what we really need in order to appreciate this gift we call life.  My grandmothers used to dispense sage advice in the simplest of terms when we had tea together; and there was lots of tea.  There were long afternoons of sorting out the mysteries of relationships and what goals to pursue next. The message that both of my “Nans” conveyed was very often, “Punt.” Meaning, don’t overlook the important things now in order to see too far down the road. Relax. Breathe. Appreciate. 
Over the years there were many times we needed to manage with less material possessions than desired.  But as time wore on, incomes have climbed to a comfort level that reflects very little about lack. As I look back on those days, I cherish those long talks. I cherish the creativity that abounded afterwards and while during tough times. I cherish the moments that cannot be retrieved now that both grandmothers are no longer here. Their legacies permeate my being every day.

Lessons now to my adult son are about holding those moments close to your heart. I strive to be a better mom and confidant for him as he finds his own answers in life. I try to be the wife I need to be to keep a wonderful marriage strong.  Both of those things could not and would not flourish if those quiet moments had not happened with either grandmother.  As my husband and my life continue to incorporate simpler and more meditative beliefs, I find I love what I have been blessed with in ways deeper than previously known.  Travel is sweeter. My mind is quieter. The house is more settled - all the while life speeds past the rest of the world at a seemingly incredulous pace. 

One thing still resonates after all this contemplation…the simpler life is what we all yearn for in one form or another. I know my grandmothers are looking down on us these days and are (hopefully) saying, “You got it, gal.  You got it.”

Georgina Kalwak

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Is the Simply Living Challenge working?

St Boniface -  Anglican Cathedral, Bunbury 
(a spacious place)

So is it working - this Simply Living Challenge? (
Am I really managing to simplify my life? The simple answer is yes - but the long answer has a 'but' attached to it. BUT I have a long way to go. Thank goodness I still have a large part of this year left. And thank goodness I have a lifetime to work on it. The more I travel this simple living journey the more I come to realise how much more there is to pare back, and in so many ways. 

A word that has always scared me is now wooing me in the strangest and most unexpected way. The word is 'minimalism'. I used to think it meant white, and plain, and 'lack,' and boring. But now I see it can mean spacious, in a spiritual sort of way. And I long for a spacious place. I don't mean a large place. I mean a place where I can breathe. A place of simplicity. It certainly doesn't mean that I need to get rid of my eclectic furniture and colourful pre-loved crocheted blankets and cushions, but it might. I still have much to consider on this Simply Living Challenge. 

In month one - January - I considered 'Appearance'.

In February - the challenge was 'Making from Scratch'.

In March - it was 'Simplifying the Soul'.

And this month - April - it is 'Clutter-busting'. 

I started January alone and then friends, and then friends of friends started liking the page. And then I invited Ellen Scott Grable to administer the page with me. I knew her input would encourage others, but I also (selfishly) knew that if anyone could help whip me into shape it would be Ellen! And how right I was. Her mini challenges have had me dress more simply, feed my family by bartering, taught me how to budget and had me consider what I would replace if a fire burnt down our home - surprisingly, very little!

The Simply Living Challenge has me exposing the real me, in many different ways. For a start I'm no longer hiding behind make-up. I'm not putting anything on my skin that I can't eat. I think before I buy: Am I prepared to spend money on this? Will it hurt anyone, animals or this beautiful earth? Can I use what I have? Can I make it? Can I buy it second hand or can I swap or share? And I positively love to upcycle/ repurpose. I re-gift. I consider (and re-consider) my commitments. I ponder on how my living simply might help others to simply live. How might I be more generous? Where can I bring peace? Where can I make a difference?  As stuff loses its hold on me - all of creation, including nature and animals and humankind, increases in importance to me, and I can truly walk in the footsteps of St Francis who followed the way of Jesus.  

And now, in challenge 4 I am cutting the clutter from my life - both outer and inner, and I am learning that outer clutter makes inner peace much more difficult.I can't stand my paper piles and the boxes and boxes of cards and photos, and jars of human bits and pieces, like baby hair and teeth! 

I hate to admit it but all those books (those books that I profess to love) are causing me stress too. They clutter our already very small house. And so I am hoping - though I am not too confident - that I can cull some of them. I am also happy for the first time to sit with space. I no longer feel the desire to fill up a half empty book case. 

If I can make some room in our home I suspect that I might actually be quite happy to have a wall with nothing against it! Perhaps less really is more. If I keep walking my talk I think I just might find out.

Asta x

If you are following the Simply Living Challenge please share with us what you like about it. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

'Close Enough to Hear God Breathe', by Greg Paul

This was a free book from In exchange I am expected to give an honest review. 

Greg Paul takes the reader through 'the great story' from the beginning of humankind to redemption. Along the way he weaves stories from the bible but also from life today, some very personal for Paul. It is this intimacy that makes this book so readable. He is a wonderful story teller, often poetic.
 It seems appropriate, this Easter season, to share a segment from his chapter entitled 'Dreaming of me'. Here we read the touching story of a' homeless' man from his community - where the wealthy and poor live, work and share their experiences and resources together - who dies alone at the bottom of a stairwell. He considers what this man might have been thinking as he lay there dying, perhaps he was 'dreaming of the life his son might have. The eternal night, falling, falling.' (He had left behind his family feeling they were better off without him, an addict. Paul wonders whether this might have been a huge sacrifice. Many might not see it this way. Certainly the family of this man show great understanding and forgiveness, and love at his funeral.)
And then Paul considers the thoughts of Jesus as he faced his death -  '....I can creep toward the squalid killing ground at the base of that eerie rock. Holy ground. He (Jesus) is sprawled on the timbers, and the soldiers are stretching out his arms and feet. His chest heaves in agitation, but he makes no sound. A hammer is raised. As it falls, he is gazing upward, dreaming of me.' Jesus dreaming of me. What a concept.
The book comes with a study guide, and so it could easily be used in a book club.
I enjoyed moments of this book, but I have to confess that I did find it easy to put down (perhaps not a good sign). However I really appreciated the heart behind this author, and so I wish him every success with his various ministries, including his writing.