Good for the soul

Somewhere out there is that “better person” I’ve been trying to be for about 30 years now. There are some lines of thinking that say the better person is actually inside of me and I just need to find it. Either way, there’s looking and finding involved.

I am a believer in fiction. Good fiction can teach us much about ourselves and the human condition. As an undergraduate, I majored in English (mainly Literature) and minored in Psychology. Many people found that to be an odd combination, but I thought it was a perfect fit. Psychology is the study of why we do what we do and and Literature is one of many creative expressions of just what it is that humans have done throughout the years. The power of story cannot be underestimated.

However, non-fiction is also a treasure. Through the printed word, we are able to learn from another’s experience and expertise. I spent years of my life overdosing on non-fiction. How-to-be-a-better-wife-mother-daughter-friend-housekeeper-cook-studentoftheword-homeschooler books reigned in my reading life. I thought there had to be a system out there that I could learn that would master all of my life glitches. Somehow, there must some missing piece of information that I was missing that would solve the problems.

I don’t think that anymore.

I think we live in a flawed world and we are flawed people and sometimes the problems just don’t go away. And that’s OK because God still loves us and still forgives us and comes and lives in our midst even when we aren’t perfect.

It’s OK to be flawed.

The non-fiction I read now doesn’t have the same tone as what I was reading during my quest for perfection. Here’s what’s on my life for this break. By the way, if I don’t make it through my whole list, it’ll be OK. I’ll just chalk it up to the fact that I’m a flawed human being who doesn’t always get everything done.

  • Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth : Yes, it’s been over there in my sidebar as “What I’m Reading,” for about 3 months, but all that means is that I picked it up and read 10 pages right before school started. Remember yesterday’s confession? Once the semester starts, I read almost nothing. Sad, but true. Anyway, this is a re-read of a book that struck me in a profound way the first time I read it. I felt like I had read some new truth that I somehow already knew. Life has a way of making us forget, though, so I want to let this book wash over me again.
  • Touching Wonder by John Blase : My friend Lindsay (also a librarian) recommended this book to me because I was struggling with feeling Christmasy. It’s not a book to read through quickly. It’s a book to take in small doses and ponder. I love letting Blase’s thoughts and questions about the incarnation make their way into my tired brain.
  • Thin Within by Judy and Arthur Halliday : I have reasons for needing this book, but I’m also kind of scared of it. It won’t be a sit-down-and-read-through book. It’s a one-day-at-a-time-and-really-spend-some-time-with-it book. I’ll start it the week my sweet kiddoes go back to school so that I have some time with it before I go back to work. I’m tired of my life being about food, but neither do I want it be about not being about food. Yes, I know that probably made no sense. There’s not an easy way to say what I’m saying.

Other than what we’re reading aloud — Voyage of the Dawn Treader— that’s my reading list for this break. What’s yours?

A Confession

Although I am a reader, I rarely get any real reading done during the semester.

There. I said it. Well, I at least wrote it and hopefully someone will read it.

I would love to tell you that I get up before the sun to make sure I have time to ponder some CS Lewis and that I set aside an hour each night to stay current with contemporary, quality fiction. If I said either of those things, I would be lying.

My mornings are usually full of, “Time to get up!” and “WE ARE LEAVING IN 5 MINUTES! IF YOU ARE IN YOUR UNDERWEAR, THAT IS YOUR PROBLEM!” When I do wake up early, I tend to just sit on my couch in the dark and enjoy the quiet for a while.

My evenings are either spent with supper preps and cleaning up (or not cleaning up), or activities in town, or (I really hate to admit this) sitting on the couch watching tv with my family and trying desperately to stay awake until bedtime. I often fail at that last part.

So — yeah — no real reading happens during the semester.

Christmas break, though? THAT is my reading time. I’ve never enjoyed staying in bed after waking up, and I still wake up early, but I wake up and READ. It’s absolutely delicious. Almost as good as the coffee and hazelnut creamer that’s by my side. I spend most of the semester making note of what I want to read over my breaks. Sometimes Thanksgiving break lets me knock out a book, but it’s usually filled with housework, cooking for Thursday, and getting Christmas decorations out. Christmas break is the true time for reading.

Here’s my list for this year:

  • The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton : I’m about halfway through this and I love it already. There’s mystery and family secrets, multiple time lines, and an old manor in the English countryside. What more could you ask for?
  • Remarkable Creatures: a Novel by Tracy Chevalier : Since reading Girl with a Pearl Earring, I’ve tried to read everything by Chevalier. She is one of my favorite contemporary authors.
  • Half Broke Horses: A True Live Novel by Jeannette Walls : A prequel to The Glass Castle allows Walls to tell her grandmother’s story. If you haven’t read Glass Castle, I highly recommend it.
  • Knit Two and Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs : The other thing I am very intentional about during breaks is knitting. It just makes sense to read books about it too. These books are follow-ups to The Friday Night Knitting Club, a book about a diverse group of women who wind up in the same knitting group and wind up being great comfort and encouragement to one another during several life crises. Good writing, knitting, and the importance of female friendship. What more could I ask for?
  • True Grit by Charles Portis : Would you believe I’ve never read a western? Ever, ever, EVER? True Grit is one of the few John Wayne movies I like and I’ve been looking forward to the Coen Brothers’ remake of the movie. (It hits theatres today, btw). Keith just finished the book and thinks I’ll like it, so I’m going to have a first-ever experience and read a western! My Louis L’Amour loving mother would be proud of me.

That’s my fiction/creative non-fiction list. There’s still more. Stay tuned.

We think about Mary a lot

We do, don’t we? We sing songs about her, we have images of her on our Christmas cards, and we wonder what it was like for her to raise God’s son. Rightly so, but have you ever considered that God only appeared to her once and yet he spoke to Joseph directly at least three times? Once to assure him that it was OK to marry Mary, once to tell him to flee to Egypt, and once to tell him it was OK to go back home after the years in Egypt.

There’s a lot we don’t know about Joseph, but I imagine that he was an exceptional man. If God was choosy about the mother of his child, I’m sure he was rather particular about the earthly father too. Good fathers are involved. Good fathers care. Good fathers protect.

25 Questions for Mary

From Max Lucado in one of his earliest books, God Came Near.

1. What was it like watching him pray?

2. How did he respond when he saw other kids giggling during the service at the synagogue?

3. When he saw a rainbow, did he ever mention a flood?

4. Did you ever feel awkward teaching him how he created the world?

5. When he saw a lamb being led to the slaughter, did he act differently?

6. Did you ever see him with a distant look on his face as if he were listening to someone you couldn’t hear?

7. How did he act at funerals?

8. Did the thought ever occur to you that the God to whom you were praying was asleep under your own roof?

9. Did you ever try to count the stars with him….and succeed?

10. Did he ever come home with a black eye?

11. How did he act when he got his first haircut?

12. Did he have any friend by the name of Judas?

13. Did he do well in school?

14. Did you ever scold him?

15. Did he ever have to ask a question about Scripture?

16. What do you think he thought when he saw a prostitute offering to the highest bidder the body he made?

17. Did he ever get angry when someone was dishonest with him?

18. Did you ever catch him pensively looking at the flesh on his own arm while holding a clod of dirt?

19. Did he ever wake up afraid?

20. Who was his best friend?

21. When someone referred to Satan, how did he act?

22. Did you ever accidentally call him Father?

23. What did he and his cousin John talk about as kids?

24. Did his brothers and sisters understand what was happening?

25. Did you ever think, That’s God eating my soup?

I’m off to buy some chickens

Watch this through to the end and you’ll see why.

I love the words:

Always in the Season, by Pomplamoose

mistle toe and silver snow,
and ivy growing on the walls,
i wish i could erase these dreams, i do.

but all my days are running by
in shopping malls with endless lines
i don’t know how i got here, do you?

somewhere between the catalogs
of what to get for him
somewhere amidst the china dolls
my vision starts to spin

’cause i thought christmas was supposed to be
more than lighting up the christmas tree
more than filling up our socks with toys
more than all of this tremendous noise

so all i really mean to say
is let’s not throw this time away
i’d rather just sip chocolate with you

and if you’d like to treat me nice
don’t wait for snow don’t wait for ice
i’m always in the season, are you?

somewhere on santa’s list
my name’s been crossed off with a slash
somewhere i’m gonna find a better way
to spend my cash

’cause i thought christmas was supposed to be
more than lighting up the christmas tree
more than filling up our socks with toys
more than all of this tremendous noise

i’m always in the season, are you?

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