123. Quiet

December isn’t usually a quiet month.

But for some reason, (God-appointed perhaps?) quiet is my focus-word for December. It wasn’t supposed to be — December was to be Joy or Giving…

Yet here it is: one month left in 2014 and one word left for the monthly focus. Quiet.

snow on branches

I’ve been wondering what to do about it. In a way it is appropriate for me because for the last several years — actually the last two three decades — I’ve moaned and groaned about the commercialization of Christmas. And quietly, I’ve tried to eliminate much of the hoopla, created by modern culture. I don’t go into stores unless I have to — but even I noticed that commercial Christmas was there on the shelves right alongside the Halloween masks.

Christmas decorationsIf honesty were to prevail, I have to admit that I like bringing Christmas into my house. Those little white lights made in China? I like them. Big red bows? Yes. Two on the mantle please. And a garland or two or as well. Make my own Christmas cards? Check. Make lots of cookies? Check. Can you hear the Jewish man Tevye singing in the background? Tra-di-tion!

I just finished photo101 in which I published a photo and poem each week day for a month. And I enjoyed it. It was different; I felt like I had assignments, and I mostly got them finished with a decent grade, as well as making new friends in blogland.

But, if honesty were to prevail, I have to admit that this is mostly what my morning devotions looked like:Technology

And so for Advent, my blog is going quiet. So that I will be distraction-free for quiet contemplation on the coming of Jesus. To the world. To the Church. And to me.

So for your Advent and Christmas season, I urge you to try on some Quiet. Breathe. And make room for the quiet whisper of the Savior.

people who walked in darkness

65. More Stuff on Stuff

This is part 4 of several posts discussing Richard Foster’s chapter on Simplicity in Celebration of Discipline.

Of the ten practical ways to embrace simplicity in your life that Richard Foster discusses in Celebration of Discipline, this next one has made me most uncomfortable. I must confess here: it has taken me several weeks to write about this one. Oh, I started it. Three weeks ago I started it…

Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.

Foster is not talking about dangerous addictions here; he is talking about the generally good or fun things that people enjoy, that become obsessions or idols in our lives. Such as buying books, shoes, clothes, watching TV or other media, sports, games, Facebook, Blogging, Pinterest, or ________________(fill in the blank here.)

But please note that Mr. Foster says specifically, “learn to distinguish between what is a real psychological need, like cheerful surroundings, and an addiction.” That line made me smile — Right, we’re just making the cottage into a place with cheerful surroundings!

Bookshelf

“My heart will be on books when my strength has failed.” –Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

But I spend a lot of time buying books. I’m a librarian. I buy books from Amazon, Half-Price Books, Powell’s, Abe Books, Barnes and Noble (I’m still in mourning for Borders…) Westminster Book Store, Christian Book Distributors and others. I buy them for work, and I buy them (ahem) for myself…Is it a real psychological need? Yes — for study, for serious reading, for reference; I don’t buy fluff. Well, not much.

And the other thing is — I like owning books. I like the way they feel in my hands. I love opening new books and reading the dust jacket. I enjoy the art on the dust jacket — if you ask me Nooks and Kindles can’t compete. But that’s another post…

And I do give them away. If I loan a book, I generally loan it with the expectation that I won’t get it back. (Unless my name is on the flyleaf; then there are no excuses, right?) I’m glad to give away books I love. And sometimes I buy myself another copy…

20130513-233515.jpg

My nightstand is proof that I don’t need to buy myself another copy — I have plenty to read. And this is just one nightstand; I have another that looks just like this one at the cottage. (This feels like True Confession time…)

It’s interesting because that’s what Foster recommends — give away the stuff that you love to prove it has no hold over you. He tells a funny story about a young man who was so addicted to his morning newspaper that when it didn’t come one morning, he found himself plotting how to steal his neighbor’s paper. Horrified, he immediately called the newspaper to cancel his subscription. Cold turkey on newspapers! Not because newspapers are bad, but because he didn’t want to be obsessed.

And another suggestion for simple living that goes right along with this one is this: Learn to enjoy things without owning them.

Could I get my books without buying them? Yes. I’m a librarian, for goodness sake! Amazon just makes it so easy…

Bookshelf

Support your local library instead of Amazon. Rent a vacation house instead of buying one. Go to museums. Window shop. Rent tools. Lease a car, or better yet, take public transportation if you can. Celebrate public parks. Do free stuff. Steal share your neighbor’s newspaper (with their permission, of course.)

So, some of my books are going to have to go…One of the rooms I love in my city house is the library. Built-in bookshelves all along a wall — such a luxury — and we don’t have the space at the cottage. Though Mr. H.C. has offered to build me a wall of bookshelves in the living room… But boxes of books are so heavy. Should I give away the ones I’m saving to read some day; or my favorites that I’m saving to read again? Hmmm…

Is there something you need to be careful about buying because you buy too much? Is there something that you need to be careful about doing because you do it too much?

62. Take a Stand Against Stuff

Dear Readers, I have lots to say about too much stuff. Stuff is taking over my life, and I am taking a stand! In the last post I promised that we would talk about Richard Foster’s suggestions for simplicity. He gives ten (10!) suggestions. That is way too many to deal with in one little blog post. So what I have decided is to discuss several at a time — in no particular order, just as they come up in my life with Apple Hill Cottage. There will be other posts in between; so if you are not interested in dealing with STUFF in your life, they will be clearly titled, and you can just skip them. And please know, that I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty, ashamed, or materialistic. It’s my struggle; maybe it isn’t yours. And feel free to leave me comments.

I am sitting here in the car repair shop waiting for my car to be inspected. The TV is blaring out the game show Let’s Make a Deal, and I’m trying to write this post about how to simplify and get rid of stuff. Ironic, isn’t it?

Poor lady. She lost a trip to Belize, 2 iPhones, and $500 just because she was greedy. The host’s refrain is “How does fifty thousand dollars sound?”

Here’s the thing — We Can’t Escape It and We Can’t Avoid It. So we had better change our hearts to have Inner Simplicity and our lives to have Outward Simplicity. One does not work without the other.

Number One on Mr. Foster’s goal for outward simplicity:

1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.

Buy a car for its utility or consider a bicycle. Don’t try to impress others. Cut down on your living space. Consider your clothes. Buy comfortable and solid. In other words, don’t let fashionistas and HGTV rule your purchases. This is hard, I think. Who wants to look dowdy or left over from the eighties? And who wants seventies paneling in their living room??? Please don’t take offense if you like seventies paneling…

and we've got some paneling we'll sell you...

and we’ve got some paneling we’ll sell you…

Where I’ve succeeded: The floor at Apple Hill is VCT — one of the most inexpensive lasting floors that can be purchased;

Ugly kitchen cabinet

This is what our cabinets looked like when we dragged them out of Construction Junction…

much of the kitchen stuff we purchased at Habitat for Humanity Restores, Construction Junction, etc.

We deliberately set out to buy re-purposed items for what we needed. I generally stand over the recycle bin and just toss in the catalogs without looking at them. But there are always a few I have to look at — Pottery Barn, J.Jill…

Our beautiful new brushed stainless steel kitchen faucet

Our beautiful new brushed stainless steel kitchen faucet

Where I’ve failed: Our faucet (if you are a regular reader, you knew I was going to say that. You can read about my remorse in this post.) I also tend to obsess over color and the decorating “look” I want.  There is nothing wrong with beauty and cheerful surroundings. God obviously loves beauty; it’s just a matter of knowing when it becomes an obsession or an addiction or an idol. That will be covered in another post…

What I could do better: Throw away all my catalogs without opening them. Better yet, eliminate the catalogs altogether. (I’ve gone to catalog choice and started eliminating them–and yes, I’ve put Pottery Barn and J.Jill on the list. I highly recommend that site.) I need to stay off Amazon.com. and Pinterest. I need to say No when people want to give me stuff.

What could you do better?

2. Develop a habit of giving things away.

This is a good time of year to give away clothing. Why store winter clothing that you haven’t worn? Why store summer clothing that you won’t wear? So that’s what I did. I went through my clothes

Lots of sweaters

Thirty-one sweaters — enough for every day in January. (That little furry thing in the top left corner is NOT a sweater…)

and I’m taking a garbage bag and a big box to St. Vincent de Paul. I’m down to one closet, one dresser and half a cedar chest. (The other half is for Mr. H.C’s sweaters–he’s got a bunch to go through as well.) And you know what? I only threw away some of that 80%.

clothes hanging in closet

My pared-down closet…

Here’s what I got rid of:

  • The clothing that I’ve been saving because I think it might fit me again next year, even though it hasn’t fit me in two years. (The ugly truth!)
  • A very stylish green sweater that I bought online (clearance) that just doesn’t look good on me.
  • Three sweaters that I haven’t worn in two years.
  • Pants and jackets that I’ve been keeping because I think I might like them next year better than I do this year.
  • Everything that I put on and then take off again because I don’t think I look good in it, even though it’s perfectly fine looking.

And here is a lovely photo:

1979 Buick Le Sabre being donated to Make a Wish Foundation

Michael’s Buick (affectionately known as Grandpappy) is being donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It was a sad day, but happy too, as we thought about the blessings it will bring to someone. It started, and Michael drove it up the driveway one last time for it to be towed.

It was two days between contacting the charity, and the tow truck arriving to tow Grandpappy away. And now it’s lovely to back out of the garage and not have to worry about smashing into him.

Mr. Foster challenges us to give away what we are attached to, to prove that things have no hold on us. What can you give away?