Two months away from my blog have flown by. I wonder how much life I’ve missed these past weeks simply because I’m not writing about it? Writing forces me to pay attention, and attention is something I’m all too prone to overlook as I bustle through my days with four children.
At the same time, having space for reflection without having to share my thoughts has allowed me to process them slowly, and since I’m a slow thinker, this has been a welcome relief. Simmering sometimes brings out a fuller flavor. (Sometimes, of course, it makes everything turn grey.)
One of the delights of my blogging break was that I got to read. A lot. Here are three of the highlights:
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
This mind-blowing book is going in my desert island trunk. I have learned more from this one book about spiritual disciplines than I have from all the others I’ve read put together. In part, I think it was a grace-of-the-right-book-at-the-right-time thing, but it’s also because Willard paints such a compelling portrait of what discipleship looks like, of the transformation that could be mine if I would put my hand to the plow and not look back. I’ve asked Doug to read it, and two weeks after finishing it, I’m starting it again. It’s that good.
The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith
Willard was Smith’s teacher and mentor, and I’m pretty sure reading this book is what prepared me to receive Willard’s book with such an open heart. I highly recommend this book for anyone who’s exhausted and in need of Jesus’ easy yoke. Smith’s disciplines include sleep and stillness and tea (or coffee, if that’s your beverage of choice).
The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson
I have long resisted reading this book; I was afraid it would promote a health-and-wealth gospel. How wrong I was. This little book voiced my nascent longing for my own life: that I would live—and live to the full—for the glory of God.
This trinity of books, read with time to ponder and meditate on them, may have changed my life. I see hopeful signs of it (more on that in another post, I hope), and I am praying that whatever good work God has begun in me through these books, he just keeps at it.
I also got to read to my kids quite a bit. Here are a few of the books we read that I don’t think I’ve mentioned before.
With Luke and Ben (age 2)
The A to Z Picture Book by Gyo Fujikawa
Delightful illustrations with a wealth of words beginning with each letter of the alphabet. This is one to pore over again and again.
The Other Dog by Madeleine L’Engle, illus. Christine Davenier
When Touche’s master and mistress bring home another dog (one that wears diapers, no less!) Touche is unimpressed, to say the least. Not, perhaps, L’Engle’s best work, but still fun, especially if you can manage to read it with an English (or better yet, French) accent.
Baby-O by Nancy White Carlstrom, illus. Sucie Stevenson
Nancy is a poet, and this book is a colorful romp through a world of wonderful sounds as readers join an African family on market day.
Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
Not for the faint of heart, this book of tongue-twisters gets ever twistier for your tongue as you progress through its pages. There are a Luke and a Ben in it, which may or may not be why my twins ask for it every couple of days. Maybe they just like hearing mama read about tweetle-poodle-beetle-noodle-bottle-paddle-battles.
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, illus. Clement Hurd
From the same duo who brought us Goodnight Moon comes this little allegory of the soul. Not to be missed.
Little Bear by Else Homelund Minarik, illus. Maurice Sendak
This was a staple of Jack and Jane’s literary diet before they outgrew it. Earlier this month, my twins sat through this whole book for the first time. They kept wanting “one more story” until before we knew it we’d read the whole thing. Yay!
Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins
When Rosie the hen goes for a walk, she unleashes all sorts of unintended mishaps on the not-so-wily fox who’s following her. Very fun.
Jack (9) and Jane (6):
Since we’re studying early American history right now, most of our reading has to do with that.
Exploration and Conquest: The Americas After Columbus: 1500-1620 by Betsy Maestro, illus. Guilio Maestro
This husband-wife team has written and illustrated half a dozen books about American history. Their American Story Series forms the spine of our study, providing the broad brush strokes of early American history within which we can set our other reading.
North American Indians by Marie and Douglas Gorsline and The Very First Americans by Cara Ashrose, illus. Bryna Waldman
Two short introductions to a number of Native American tribes from the Makah and Salish in our neck of the woods to the Hopi and Anazazi to the south and the Sioux, Seminole, Iriquois and Penobscot to the east. Jack wants to be Native American; when I remind him that he’s 1/8 Eskimo, he declares that he wants to live 400 years ago and hunt buffalo.
Pedro’s Journal by Pam Conrad
The fictitious journal of a ship’s boy on the Santa Maria during Columbus’s first voyage to “India.”
Walk the World’s Rim by Betty Baker
In 1527 a Spanish expedition set off from Cuba to explore Florida and the Gulf Coast. Of the 600 men who set out, only four survived, finding shelter and food with native tribes near what is now Galveston, Texas, in exchange for their services as medicine men. Betty Baker imagines their journey from Texas back to Mexico through the eyes of a young native boy who joins Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions on their walk along the world’s rim.
Jamestown: The Beginning by Elizabeth A. Campbell, illus. William Sauts Bock
Did you know that the Virginia Company of London sent three ships to start a New World settlement and didn’t bother to include a single farmer among the settlers? I know they were planning to find gold and silver and copper and whatnot, but what were they planning to do–eat it? In this and so many other ways, the expedition was an exercise in idiocy. That the settlement survived at all is, to my mind, a miracle. Fascinating stuff, this.
My favorite read-aloud of the past months has nothing to do with American history…
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, illus. by N.C. Wyeth
I never read Treasure Island as a kid, or a teenager, or an adult, so this was new territory for me. What a book! Besides the well-drawn characters and adventure-filled plot, it’s a treasure trove of new vocabulary words (color me happy). Also, just for the record, Captain Smollett is my hero.
There’s more. Always there’s more: so many books; so little time. But I’ll stop here. For now.