I am a firm believer in learning from our experiences, and if there's one thing that cancer has taught me, it's to slow down and savor life. I am a deeply committed, type-A overachiever. I like to be busy. So it's hard for me to just. stop. doing. When I was forced to do just that last fall and focus entirely on my health and my family, I found a pace that I fell in love with.
I entered 2014 with a resolve to simplify my life. The first thing I noticed is how truly difficult it is to live simply. It soon became clear that if I want my family to eat more simply (and healthy), create wiggle room in our routines, and truly focus on what matters in life, I would need to make some tough choices. It won't just happen; I would have to be intentional about it.
So when I was presented with the opportunity to review Tsh Oxenreider's new book, Notes from a Blue Bike, I planned to decline, proud of myself for drawing some much-needed boundary lines. Then I read the subtitle to the book: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World. Well, given my new lofty goal of simplicity, it would just be irresponsible of me to not review the book, wouldn't it?
So I agreed, and I'm so glad I did!
Tsh's warm and conversational writing style drew me in instantly. It was less like reading a book and more like chatting with a friend over coffee, hearing about her wild, overseas adventures. I flew through the short chapters easily. Who wants to wade through long and cumbersome chapters in a book about living simply? Tsh nailed it here...short and to the point.
I quickly realized Tsh understood my goals, as well as my dilemmas, in achieving a simpler life. After returning from life overseas, Tsh found herself in the midst of the North American chaos to which most of us have grown accustomed. Realizing her new life competed with her longing for simplicity, Tsh created a list of five areas in which her family would live with intention: food, work, education, travel, and entertainment.
To live with intention means to make little daily choices that resonate deeply in our souls.
The principles Tsh shares for pursuing simplicity, and the wisdom with which she applies those principles in her daily life, are easily worth the read. Yes, living intentionally takes time and energy, and Tsh shows you how to make it completely doable.
Here are some of my takeaways from the areas Tsh addresses:
Tsh introduced me to the term "slow food": contrasting the fast-food culture by growing (or purchasing locally), cooking, and eating good, clean food. I love it! As a cancer-fighter and mother of a child with multiple food allergies, overhauling our family's diet has become a pet project of mine. Plus, she set my all-or-nothing personality at ease with her 80/20 principle: "If 80 percent of my family's food consumption involves whole, seasonal food made with care, then we're doing all right. The 20 percent is the sprinkles on top of the ice cream. Literally."
Tsh shares a story in this section of visiting a friend who introduced her to the concept of a "boundary stone" which was simply a tangible reminder to work with intention. Tsh explains it this way, "To give myself the time and freedom to create my best art, and to confidently turn down those roles and opportunities that aren't the best fit." As a chronic people-pleaser, I sure needed that one...anyone else?
Tsh's honest struggle with her family in this area was refreshing...to simply know that we are not alone in the battle is comforting. And to know that she has made intentional choices that fit her family reminds me that, with a little work, it is possible. My favorite line from this section: "When we're intentional about what we watch, it's a lot more interesting to watch it."
Tsh explores two other areas of living intentionally, education and travel. She writes beautifully and compellingly about each, but I'll let you read those for yourself. I don't want to give away all her wisdom!
If you find a longing somewhere inside for a quieter, simpler life, it won't be easy. It will take intentionality and perseverance. But you don't have to go it alone, Tsh has bravely paved the way for us. And if simplicity is a quest you're on, you might want to pick up this handy little guide to help you along the way.
We were made to live slower than our fast-paced Western culture deems normal. But it means paddling upstream through strong currents. ~Tsh Oxenreider
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