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Less is Better | Five Favorite Books

I didn’t begin the year with an urge to start fresh goals. If anything, I only had the desire for less. Less time commitments. Less of my own ego. Less busyness with unimportant things. Less things cluttering my time and kitchen cabinets. But living with less, as most Westerners realize, requires humility, fortitude, and remarkable discipline. This month, I have been slowly inventorying my capacity and desires right alongside my belongings. If less is what is needed, then the answer is certainly not found in doing more but instead prioritizing something I already have or am already doing. Then, put the rest aside. Sometimes the reminder we need isn’t a notification on our phone or a mark on the calendar, it is a line of wisdom sitting on our bookshelf currently collecting dust. Here are the books I have been re-reading at the start of the year, fortifying some rhythms and re-making others.


Essentialism | I have read this book annually the last four years (just finished it again this week), mostly because I am not an essentialist by nature. Although the book is technically about business and economics, the life applications are endless, reminding me with each read of the power of choice, of my need to define and protect what is most valuable, and as I mentioned in the last post, to recognize the trade-offs as Mark and I work toward long-term goals. I walk away from this book with more clarity and vision of our values, with more resolve to say no.

This is Home  | Although there are heaps of coffee table books with beautiful images of homes, I love how this book by the stylist Natalie Walton explores the soul of the home as much as the aesthetic. Broken up in three parts with interviews and images of 16 international homes, This is Home explores how we create, live within, and nurture our sense of home. The featured homes are lovely, no doubt, but much like our own home, they are not primly designed or overly fancy. The homes seem more organically designed, more slowly grown into by the people who inhabit them. This books always helps stir my creativity in our home’s design, to think through what we already own, to see the space we inhabit in a new way.

Simple Matters | I read this book by blogger Erin Boyle cover to cover when it first released, and I reference it often throughout the year. She and her family of four live in only a few hundred square feet in the NYC, and again and again, I find myself challenged by their minimal lifestyle, by their intention and creativity in tiny apartment living. The book is neatly categorized by areas of the home and is quite practical whether you are cleaning out a closet, decluttering your office drawer, or making your own cleaning products.

Teaching From Rest | I did not begin homeschooling because I love grading or creating academic tasks for my children. I do not think I am the best teacher or the most consistent one either. I sometimes find myself slipping into that role, looking at our homeschool as a machine of “did you?” Check. Check. I am perpetually aware of my short-comings and theirs. How do we do it all? We don’t. No one does. This quick read is always encouraging for me. It gives practical helps, of course, but more importantly, it slows me down and reminds me, less is better here, too. This read is faith-based, but I find instead of a didactic how-to, it is a comforting voice of a friend, asking me to consider again why our family chose this path this year. I find myself identifying my core values and goals for our learning again, instead of simply looking at what the curriculum guide says or what another parent is doing. I see my children. I see me. I see our own style and pace and needs. I am finding the important less that makes it more for all of us.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership | I read this book last fall and am re-reading it again now, even referenced it here last week. Clearly, this is not a book either on minimalizing the home or organizing closets, but it recognizes our humanity, that we are not tasks or things to shuffle about, nor are those in our care. We are souls, and as such, we need margin and solitude. As one who can easily believe doing more or strategizing better is always the answer to a problem, this book quite practically reminds me to simply stop and listen, to make room for my thoughts and emotions, to make room for God to speak to me. It is a faith-based book, and although it is directed toward people in spiritual leadership, I found that the principles applied equally to those leading in any capacity––as a parent, mentor, or business owner, too.

 

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morning

morning

Honestly, I haven’t always loved the morning. My body and mind seem to move in half-time, fumbling for order with garbled words and hair and breath. And I don’t like fumbling. But these years of motherhood have taught me to appreciate the sacredness of morning, its power to give me new, to offer what is yet to be and somehow rekindle hope and promise in my chest. Enough for the day, if I’ll pay attention. Morning neatly draws the lines between past and present and future, like a metronome counting out the rhythm of time, parting me with yesterday’s success and failure and reminding me to look ahead, to receive something new, something unique for today. I am neither the first nor the last to draw attention to the sacredness of mornings. Mary Oliver describes morning as a new creation, a time of rebirth. Harriet Beecher Stowe exclaims the new day beckons us into change. The Old Testament recounts every morning contains new mercies. Over the years I have found so much hidden in those first waking hours, strength and wisdom tucked into quiet moments easily overlooked. At times, I am awake before the sun, sitting alone with a cup of coffee and pen and paper or a book or in prayer. Sometimes I make it to the gym or for a walk or run through the neighborhood. On other mornings, I share these first hours with my children, snuggling them and hearing their dream-stories, making breakfast and beginning our daily routine. On the best of mornings, I awake with the sun and my husband. Regardless of the way my morning adapts to our family, I have learned these hours are intended to nourish me for the day’s demands, for whatever might be required.

This year, I’m wanting to pay closer attention to what has become my favorite part of the day, to take notice of the wisdom and rest and promise that comes through these early hours. And to share them periodically here with you.