How about a book review in Seven Quick Takes? (Oh yeah, you know there’s an affiliate link!)
Haley from Carrots for Michaelmas is one of my online besties. When I learned she was writing a book about her family’s experiences downsizing and simplifying I was all:
While my family’s experiences are different, Haley’s book really resonated with me because Tony and I also struggled for years with what we wanted our family dynamic to look like vs how our daily lives were playing out. I wish Haley’s book would’ve been around about 13 years ago to help me see how it was possible to put the radical ideas I was reading about in ‘The Catholic Worker’ into modern-day practice. We had to struggle along and find our place through trial and error. Thankfully, other couples looking to reconnect with a simpler life, that I think is truly more in tune with what God wants for our families, can turn to Haley’s book for concrete steps that will move them in the right direction.
Here’s seven key take aways from ‘The Grace of Enough’.
1. Following God’s plan for our lives can, and will be uncomfortable, even when we’re confident we’re on the right path. Oh how different Haley’s story would’ve been if she’s let the knots in her stomach overrule the opportunities that opened up for Daniel. Even as she wrestled with anxiety and fear, she and Daniel knew these scary steps were leading them towards the life they wanted for their family. It’s encouraging to read how making the leap of faith can really pay off.
2. You don’t need to “go back to the land”, to appreciate the land. One of the biggest differences between Haley’s book, and older books on similar themes is that when many early 20th century Catholics wrote on these ideas, they wanted to literally move everyone back to self-sustaining agrarian communities. It’s a noble goal, but Haley speaks directly to struggling 21st century Catholics who don’t necessarily want to farm. There are other ways to connect with your food, your neighbors, and nature without retreating from the world entirely. Don’t think because Haley and her family lived without flushing toilets that you need to give up modern plumbing to be more holy! There are lots of great steps for urban, suburban, and rural Catholics who want more from life than material goods but also don’t want to slaughter their next meal with their bare hands.
3. It can be hard to go against a consumer mindset when everyone around you is caught up in stuff. You don’t need to move halfway across the country to a farm to be considered a weirdo. If you change your relationship with stuff, and make decisions based on something other than profit, you will raise a few eyebrows. Your family and friends will make comments, and maybe get offended by your choices. It’s sad that the views outlined in Haley’s book are considered radical and countercultural by some but, the more satisfying home life, the more satisfying relationships nurtured through hospitality, and the space we gain in our spiritual lives when we give up so much of the world’s stuff are proof that God’s plan for our lives is greater than the empty promises of living for material gain.
4. People don’t know their neighbors anymore. I have an easier time meeting strangers on the internet, then from our street. I have more friends in California, then from the development that sits across from our house. I know homeschoolers from all across the state of NJ, but since Teddy and Fulton started public school, I’ve only made small talk with a couple of public school parents. I’m grateful for all my friends, online and IRL, but Haley’s book made me wonder if the problem is really with ‘all the other people’, and if there is anything else I can do to build more community in my actual, local community.
5. Hospitality does not equal entertaining. Welcoming people into your home does not require matching silver, seasonal decor, or even enough seating for everyone (ask me how I know). And it also doesn’t need to be some well planed soirée, just the willingness to open your door to people when they need it most. While I was away one Sunday, and Tony was on solo parent duty, a family at our parish experienced automotive trouble after Mass. They drive a long way to attend our church, and the condition of the van required it to be fixed right away at a local shop. It required a couple back and forth trips from the church to our house, but Tony brought the whole family over for a few hours while their van was repaired. The house was not in top shape, I’m not sure what food was in the fridge, but I was told it was an enjoyable few hours. As someone who devotedly read Dorothy Day’s work, I often felt inadequate because I couldn’t help at an inner city shelter or soup kitchen due to the demands of my young children. But I see now how extending true hospitality is not reserved for only shelters or saints. If we have a home, we have something to share with whomever God has placed in front of us.
6. You will not like everyone in your community all the time. The idea that we can unfollow, unfriend, block everyone we do not instantly click with is an internet phenomenon. I’ve read enough books about attempted, and more often than not failed, planned communities, to know that learning to get along with people through thick and thin is what makes a true community. When we commit to a parish or organization or town, we will come in contact with people different from us, and that’s okay! Haley reminds readers that when we surround ourselves with only people exactly like us, we may avoid some annoying features of different people, but we also miss out on all the gifts those different people may bring into our lives.
7. The internet can only go so far in building community. Too often we are not building relationships, but allowing social media and such to distract us from what truly matters. Even if we give up physical stuff, we are mentally, and often emotionally, burdened with an overwhelming and constant stream of virtual garbage. And as Haley points out, all this information doesn’t make us any better informed, but only takes up the space in our lives that could be focused on prayer, family, or simply silence. Neither Haley or I will be giving up the internet any time soon, but it is always good to check whether we are using sites like Facebook and Twitter for ways that enhance our lives, or rather in ways that only give us a false sense of community action and involvement.
So those are a few of my thoughts.
Feel free to buy Haley’s book for yourself and see what I mean. You can also visit all the other stops on ‘The Grace of Enough’ virtual book tour!
Now it’s your turn to link up your Quick Takes below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!