Life is not an emergency but a gift to slow down down and savor. It glorifies God to spend your extraordinary life paying attention to the moments that you enjoy. The moments matter. Daily decisions add up to the measure of your life. Your liturgy, if you can accept this word in this context. I don't meant the Sunday morning service. Liturgy is the public service of your life experiences like Saturday morning breakfasts, folding laundry, doing dishes, checking homework, and all the other mundane things we do everyday.
Her book offers the refreshing possibility of entering into something more artful, more peaceful, and more fulfilling. Do the choices we make line up with how I really want to live? This book gives you permission to creatively change the little things in our lives that our path is better aligned with our values and passion. To put it short, to live with intention.
Part one is entitled awakening and we encounter another quote. "When we ask God to move a mountain, God may give us a shovel." (Shane Claiborne)
She explains about her family's time in Turkey and how much that and the reverse culture shock of coming back to the United States affected her. The blue bike is explained. (No, I am not going to explain it here. I encourage you to read the book.) And I begin to fall in love with this woman and her lists. Things that can be done to live more intentionally, the 'notes' part of the title of her book. Food, work, education, travel, and entertainment all done simply, intentionally, slowly.
Part two of the book is about food. Finding local sources, sauteing, and serving meals done seasonally and slowly. Acknowledging the rhythm of seasons and our desire to savor the creativity found in food. Lots of good thoughts here and I enjoyed all of them. She isn't writing anything new in terms of slowing down and paying attention to what we put in our mouths. But, it's still a fine point when you look at the remarkable world of 'instant' food at any supermarket
Part three is about work. "Your time is limited. Don't waste it living someone else's life." (Steve Jobs) She writes sensitively about trying to balance blogging with taking care of her children. How do you balance the constant needs of children with running a home business? I also appreciated chapter 20 where she talks about the challenges of raising children with a number of people who have regular jobs. Balance? It's always a question of balance.
Part four is about education. "I am not your teacher, but an awakener." (Robert Frost) She dives into homeschooling here. You get a little about her own journey in and out of the homeschooling movement and all the challenges involved. On a side note, I have the utmost respect for mothers who tackle this challenge daily. In my own life, homeschooling has been (at best) one and a half hours of a hodge-podge of reading books together, a minimum amount of time in an English workbook, art projects, and cooking together in the evening or Saturday mornings.
Part five is about travel. "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." (Saint Augustine) I agree that traveling together with your family can be a bonding experience. Our family just came back from Pyoungchang where we visited a family who lives on a small farm/retreat center where my children where able to see and experience gathering food not from a grocery store and were enriched by the experience. The first time we went there, my son talked about it on and off for over three months. We were all enriched and a little closer as a family because of what we saw(homeschooling, organic vegetables, strong community bonds, and still this beautiful Christian openness to having others to share with). Traveling and exploring can make you more self-aware.
Part six is about entertainment. "The ordinary activities I find most compatible with contemplation are walking, baking, bread, and doing laundry." (Kathleen Norris) I admit to loving chapter 36, Bugs Bunny Speaks Turkish, where her daughter asks her, "Mom, did you know that Bugs Bunny speaking English?" The family's time in Turkey had colored her daughter's idea of what language Bugs Bunny could speak! Lots here about turning off the television, enjoying each other's presence through other family activities, date night, the liturgy of life with the people in your life (conversations over doing the dishes together?).
Part seven is about revival. "What lies behind us and what lives before us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us." (Ralph Waldo Emerson) Many concluding thoughts here on planning. I loved the family purpose statement in chapter 43. "We will put each other first, cultivate deep relationships with one another, extend love to those around us, live simply, be true to who God made us, take care of our health, be good stewards of creation, and be lifelong learners."(p197-98) There are lots of other gems in this last part of the book, so go buy the book and read it for yourself.
Another highlight of the book were the discussion questions at the back. This would be a great tool in a Bible study or a discussion group, if you are one of those blessed people who has the time to talk about this others face to face and not just on-line. (Yes, I just negated myself!)
The last thing I want to say is that I read this very slowly. Quite often I have been known to read books for information. I didn't with this one. I read it slowly. I pondered ideas. I asked questions. I put it down quite often when children were running around wildly. I picked up again when the children were playing nicely again. It's a lovely, leisurely, and still rather thought provoking read from one woman's heart to another.