Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Springs of Life (a Reading List)

 Our oldest and youngest, reading their new books.

Happy New Year to all my friends. 2013 was a good year for our family. We didn't have the health struggles that robbed us of joy in previous years. We had regular employment (for Nate) and busy, productive days. Some days were difficult, but they were of an ordinary difficulty. They didn't feel impossible. Even the loss of Nate's dad was a reminder of the Lord's faithfulness. We wish we had more good years with him, but we are thankful for the time we were given.

But I know that gratitude for the last year is not true for everyone. I know that some people struggled mightily, with illness and sadness and loneliness and loss. We have been there (and knowing the nature of life, we'll cycle through some valleys again). I've been thinking about the sorrow of this time of year. About darkness. About what helped me most when the future seemed bleak and scary. 

What worked for me won't work for everyone. But for what it's worth, here's what I did (or on some days, vaguely attempted to do. You who are in it, understand):

Start the day with a song
For me this means singing out loud, usually an old praise song. Some of my favorites are "Praise the Savior," which no one seems to know anymore, and "You Can Have This Whole World, Give Me Jesus." I often sing hymns. Find what works for you, what you love to sing, and start to sing the minute your feet hit the floor. Praise banishes darkness.  

Find friends who know how to listen
Or, find a good counselor who is paid to listen.

When my mind swirled with confusion, and it didn't feel like God was answering any of our prayers, I kept going to the gym at the beginning of the day (about four days a week). God made our bodies to move. You can't buy endorphins, you have to earn them. And they're worth every bit of pain and any inconvenience. Now I don't go to the gym, because I'm home with two kids. I try to do bit of the Tracy Anderson workout and some Pilates. But they aren't the same. What works best is a good old-fashioned work-out.  

Guard your heart.
Proverbs 4:23 (ESV) says, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life."
And yet we do so little to guard our heart, to keep it with all vigilance. We feast on bread that does not satisfy, and we wonder why we are left hungry and desperate. These last nineteen month with a nursing baby, I've spent countless hours in front of the television. It's a waste of time. But some stations are more of a waste than others. I keep that remote handy, I try to practice vigilance, and if I can't find anything worth watching, I turn off the tv and lean my head back and rest. And pray.

So on the topic of guarding your heart, I'm including our family's current reading list. It's so cold this week. Yesterday never even reached zero degrees. But with the fireplace burning, and the cream puffs baking golden in the oven, and the baby running around, and all of my big kids burrowing into their books, it felt warm. It felt nurturing and peaceful. I only wish I could join them. My reading is done in fits and starts, usually very late at night and in the wee hours of the morning. 

Malachi is reading Barnyard Dance, Jorge el Curioso, Mr. Brown Can Moo!, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. He especially loves the Brown Bear book because each corner "swipes" to reveal the next animal.

Anna Kate just read Katherine Patterson's Jacob Have I Loved. Next up: either a Narnia book, or a Betsy-Tacy. I will choose, and she probably won't be happy about it. 

Julia just finished How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. I think it's one of my top five faves, but my sister, an English teacher, doesn't love it as much as I do.

Caleb does not have time to read. However, the books he got for Christmas include Manalive, Heretics, and Orthodoxy by Chesterton, The Checklist Manifesto by Gawande, and The Beloved Works of C.S. Lewis.

Isaac just finished Phantases by George MacDonald, a book he's read twice before and enjoys so much that we gave it as a gift this year. Now he's reading Pensees by Blaise Pascal, which Caleb gave him. 

I am reading The Wind in the Willows for the first time. It was a gift from Isaac. I like it very much, and it's high time we owned it.

Nate is reading a book from Isaac called Beyond Band of Brothers. I think he's liking it.

What are you reading this year? I'd love to know.

(lyrics to Praise the Savior)

Praise the Savior, ye who know him,
Who can tell how much we owe him?
Gladly let us render to him
All we are and have.

Jesus is the Name that charms us
He for conflict fits and arms us
Nothing moves and nothing harms us
While we trust in him.

Trust in him ye saints forever
He is faithful, changing never
Neither force nor guile can sever
Those he loves from him.

Keep us Lord, oh keep us cleaving
To thyself and still believing
Till the hour of our receiving
Our eternal home.

Then we shall be what we would be
Then we shall be what we should be
Things that are not now but could be
Soon shall be our own.

(hope that's right - it's from a faulty memory)

And here's a promise for 2014: Neither force nor guile can sever those he loves from him.


  1. I usually have more than one book going. Right now I'm reading "I am Milala", a autobiography about a Pakistan girl who is shot by the taliban for going to school. I am also reading a self help book called "Unglued" be Lisa TerKwurst. I am also starting "Seven" by Jen Hatmaker to motivate me to declutter, spend less and live a more self-disciplined life. I read "Wind in the Willows" when I was in the Junior Greatbook program afterschool a long time ago.Remember enjoying it!

    1. Jodee, I've heard good things about the Jen Hatmaker book.
      Yes, having different kinds of books going is the best, for different moods. I'm also chipping away at "Mere Christianity." It's unbelievably good.

  2. I think it's: Then we shall be what we would be / And we will be what we should be / Things that are not now nor could be / Will be ours that day. I really like this song. I forgot about the first verse. Thank you!

    1. Ruthie, I bet you're right. You can google almost anything! So I will.
      But...what are you reading??

  3. Laura, I'm so impressed with what your kids are reading (all of you, really). I'll have to ask Joanie what she has against How Green . . . Sounds like your older boys are into some wonderful stuff. I'm re-reading Ben Hur after a long absence. My favorite hymn for singing aloud to myself is "Come, Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing". So great to see you Saturday, precious niece.

    1. LOVED seeing you and Sue and everybody. Yes, we also sing Come Thou Fount all the time! And Julia just got Ben-Hur off the shelf to read.
      Love you Uncle Steve!

  4. I LOVE what your kids choose to read! Give them good "food" and they'll turn their noses up at the "junk food" that's out there. :) My 12 year-olds have been reading through our collections of Sir Walter Scott and G. A. Henty for the last few weeks, and are now in the middle of Sherlock Holmes and the old Signature series of biographies. My 9 year-old is reading The Simarillion to herself, and The Hobbit to her 6 year-old brother. My husband is reading The Great War, and I'm in the middle of 4 different books - I'm like you…bits and pieces of reading at odd times. My pile (which apparently consists entirely of books I'm pre-reading for high school - might need to fix that soon and pick something for myself!): How the Irish Saved Civilization, Heroes of the City of Man, The Alhambra, and Of the Imitation of Christ. There is no shortage of reading material around here! :)

  5. I'm glad you commented Jamie, because now your list is saved on my blog. All those books sound wonderful!