The Reading Report, Vol. 8: Reading in the New Year

Welcome to the first 2018 edition of The Reading Report! I hope that you are off to a positive start to this new year. I can hardly believe that it is already the middle of January! Here in Middle Tennessee we are enjoying a beautiful snowy day, which is a bit of a rarity around here, I think. We have already chuckled just a bit (sorry Southerners!) at the speed at which everything gets cancelled when a little snow is falling. But, homebody that I am, I guess I don’t mind the added excuse to stay home and enjoy the extra time playing in the snow, drinking hot tea, and (of course) reading good books. Which leads me to the main point of this post–what I’m reading in the New Year!

What I’ve finished reading…

If you read the last installment of The Reading Report for 2017, you know that I have taken on the “Back to the Classics Challenge.” That post outlined the 12 (or more) books that I plan to read to fulfill each category for the challenge. I do, however, plan to read other books as well, and I have set a goal to finish 30 titles this year. I have already made a small dent in that number in just 2 weeks, which is good because I actually have been so busy with other things that I feel like I haven’t spent as much time reading as I should.

First, I finally finished Triggers! This book was so packed with good spiritual insight and practical help for me in my parenting struggles. I really think I need to read it again, focussing on just one chapter every week and intentionally trying to improve in that area. If you have any anger issues at all as a parent, I highly recommend this book!

The kids and I listened to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland together on Audible. We enjoyed it so much! I had read this book years ago, but it was delightful to get re-aquainted with the story with my children. We listened to this one for free on Audible Channels, which is a feature for Amazon Prime members. They have several classic audio books, both for families and adults only, as well as newer releases. If you have Prime and haven’t used Audible Channels, you should give it a try! And if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you should! Ha! 😉

Another great book I finished (also via Audible Channels) was The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. It was so good! I am finding that Christie’s mysteries make a really good “break” from heavier reading or non-fiction.

What I am reading now…

The first book I am diving into from my Back to the Classics list is Howards End by E. M. Forster. It is also the current selection being discussed on the Close Reads podcast. I knew nothing about Forster or Howards End before I started reading, but so far I am thoroughly enjoying it. Several thought provoking passages have jumped out at me, as well as many humorous lines. I still am not sure where the plot is going, but the characters I have met so far are delightful!

One of my goals for this year’s reading is to work my way through at least one of Charlotte Mason’s volumes. Since I still have young children, it made sense for me to start at the beginning and read Home Education. I am taking it very slow, only reading a few pages at a time, because I want to absorb the ideas and make lots of connections as I go.

The third book in my basket right now is Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu. I started this one as a companion to the 40 Day Sugar Fast devotionals. Although I am only a chapter in, I can already tell it is going to be good! The focus of both the book and the fast is not food as much as it is on breaking free from bondage to food fixation and other sins so that we can find our satisfaction in Jesus. I am looking forward to talking more about these concepts as I go through this journey over the next month.

Oh, and I almost forgot! I also am listening to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Since this was one of the books that I said I was “afraid” to read on the Back to the Classics list, I decided to get an early start on it. The first several chapters have been fine so far, just a little slow, perhaps. It is a lot of character set-up. But I think listening to it on Librivox has been a good way to get into it. I will probably start reading it in print, too, and go back and forth between the two.

That’s all for now…

I have been interrupted so many times while writing this post, I certainly hope it doesn’t sound as scattered as I feel! If it does, and you still made it this far, thanks for hanging in there with me! By the way, if you are a regular reader of my blog (or hope to be one in 2018), would you mind filling out this quick little survey for me? I am looking for some input on what you all would like to see more of in this space, as well as how I can best connect with you in the future! It is just 3 short questions, so if you can give me just a minute more of your time, I will be so grateful.

 

My Goals for GROWTH in 2018, Part 2: Personal Growth

Welcome to the second post in my Goals for Growth series! Last week, I wrote about my goals for developing stronger relationships. Today, I want to share my 2018 goals for personal growth.

Physical Growth:

In the area of my physical health my overall goal is to get in better shape so that I can have more energy and strength so that I can better serve my family now and in the long term. Since my pregnancy with my daughter three years ago, I have had very little energy and strength. I have largely neglected my physical health, at least in terms of getting the exercise and intentional movement I need on a daily basis. I am not a highly athletic person naturally, anyway, and since it has been a long time since I have asked my body to move in many different ways, I am intentionally starting small and being very gentle with myself. My action steps to achieve this goal are as follows: complete the Foundational 5+ course from Fit2B, exercise at least 30 minutes 3-4 times a week (also using routines from Fit2B), and go outside for 30 minutes every day for fresh air and sunshine.

My second goal is the area of physical health is to break my addiction to sugar. I have struggled with craving sweets for a long time, even though I know that sugar depletes my immune system and causes blood sugar spikes and drops that contribute to bad mood swings. My first line of attack in this sugar addiction battle is going to be following the 40 Day Sugar Fast hosted by Wendy Speake, starting January 8th.

Spiritual Growth:

Tied closely to my physical health battles, my spiritual health is going to be of paramount importance to the rest of my growth. Recently I have realized that the scripts that run through my head are normally pretty negative. This negativity spills out into every other area of my life. My goal in 2018 is to exchange those negative thoughts with the truth of Scripture. This will increase my joy and gratitude and decrease my anxiety and discontent. My action steps to accomplish this goal include waking early each morning to spend time alone studying the Word and praying before the rest of my family gets up. I will also be writing down at least 3 things I am grateful for each day.

Educational Growth:

My goals in this area are not really new but more of a continuation of what I am already doing. My goals for my personal education in 2018 are to continue bettering myself through wide reading and learning new skills. I want to always be learning and growing my understanding of the world, of God and of other people. I never want to stagnate and stop using my mind or lose my sense of wonder at the marvels of creation. As I mentioned in my last Reading Report of 2017, I am joining the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Of course, I also have other books that I want to read that are not on that list, and I am hoping to complete at least 30 titles this year. As for learning new skills, I am planning to study some basic drawing and watercolor techniques. I want to practice at least once a week, as well as using what I learn in my nature journal entries each week.

I will be back in a few days with the last post in my goals series, all about my professional goals for 2018. In the meantime, tell me about your personal growth goals for this coming year. What are you going to be doing to improve your spiritual, physical and mental health? 

The Life-giving Habit of Mother Culture

Mother culture

There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth.

from “Mother Culture” by “A.” in The Parents’ Review, vol. 3, no. 2, pgs. 92-95

I had never heard the term “mother culture” until about two years ago when I was listening to Leah Boden talk about it in one of her Periscope broadcasts. At the time, I was knee deep in the duties of caring for a young infant—diapering, nursing, feeding, bathing, soothing, and all the rest. I was also in the infant stages of homeschooling our son, and that in itself felt like a full time job. The rest of life did not stop, either, just because I had many demands at home. There were outside commitments snd situations that also depleted my physical and emotional energy. I was definitely feeling “used up” in those days!

Thankfully, since I had so much time to sit while nursing a baby, I started to read during those many hours each day. I don’t remember how intentional I was about it at first, but I knew I needed to give my mind something more nourishing to chew on than Facebook, Instagram and random blogs. I am not sure I had read Brandy Vencel’s wonderful post on Mother Culture then, but if not then, I know I read it sometime not too much later. She does a great job of pulling the meat from that article in the PR magazine from which I quoted earlier and distilling it down to give us a good working definition of this thing called “mother culture.”

Basically, mother culture is another way of saying that we as home educators, and arguably, even parents who do not keep their children home for their schooling, must continue to education ourselves even as we teach our children. If we do not, our minds will certainly stagnate, and lapse into unhealthy patterns of thinking. I do wonder if I had developed this habit of mother culture when my first child was born, perhaps I would have lessened the degree of my postpartum depression. We will never know, I guess, but I certainly believe it helped keep me out of the doldrums with my second baby! And now that my children are older and learning and growing in their education, wide reading and other habits of self-education are important for me to continue feeding my mind and growing as I pour out to teach and train them. Perhaps this will become even more crucial as they enter the high school years and are encountering books and ideas that I never had the chance to explore in my own formal education (Latin, for example).

There is no education but self-education.

Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.

Charlotte Mason

If the above statement about self-education are true for our children, how much more so are they true for us as adults, when we are no longer under a formal course of study? It seems that as mothers we must form habits of tending our own minds and hearts as much as we help tend to those of our children. Also, even though the original article on Mother Culture only mentions wide reading, I do think that these habits of self-education extend to other areas of study. I have found for myself that it is equally life-giving to practice handwriting, drawing, nature study, and watercolor as to read a book. It is refreshing to my soul when I listen with attention to an opera or symphony, when I knit or crochet or do needlework, and when I commonplace quotes from my own reading. The important thing is to do something which is expanding my mind and my skills, not mention my own habit of attention, so that I do not stagnate or drain myself dry.

So now I want to encourage you, whether you are in the toddler years, or the teen years, do something that gives life to your mind and soul. Read a stretching book to challenge you to think deeply. Learn a new skill to do with your hands. Take in a piece of art or music, paying close attention to the beauty in its details. Walk out in nature and take notes on what you find. Whatever small habits you can begin to cultivate your own education, I do believe that developing your own mother culture will be well worth the effort! What will you do to fill yourself up today?

What Do I Need? #fiveminutefriday

Thinking about “needs” today, I was struck by how many things I think I need on a daily, or at least a regular basis:

I need quiet.
I need personal space.
I need my morning tea.
I need to write.
I need to read.
I need to create.
I need to connect with my husband.
I need to connect with my kids.
I need time outside in nature.
I need water.
I need wholesome food.
I need to feel understood.
I need prayer.
I need a plan.
I need a to-do list.
I need sleep.
I need structure.
I need flexibility.
I need peace.
I need a clean house.
I need the internet.

Most of all, though, I need the grace of God to get me through the day.

Some of my needs are healthy things. Others may be less than healthy. Some are things that are easy to get on a daily basis. Others are more challenging for me to get right now. Some of my needs are filled by means of self-discipline. Others are filled as a simple matter of habit. And still others are actually out of my control. All my needs, in the end, are ultimately fulfilled by God’s provision, either directly or indirectly. And to Him I offer thanks and praise at the end of the day for giving me what I truly needed.

And my God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19 (NASB)

This post is part of Five Minute Fridays. To read my other FMF posts, click the tag #fiveminutefriday at the bottom of the page. 

The Reading Report, Vol. 3

Welcome to the August edition The Reading Report! Even though I am in the midst of some pretty unpredictable days what with starting the moving process and all that entails, I have been finding a decent amount of time to read lately. Actually, I may be reading a bit more right now to distract myself from thinking about the myriad details over which I currently have no control! I just read an article online that cited a study in which researchers found people felt more stressed by moving house than they did by going through a divorce. So let's just call any extra time I spend reading this month "therapy," okay?

What I am currently reading…

I finished two(!) books yesterday, so my "currently reading" list just got shorter. I am still working my way through The Brothers Karamazovand I am getting deep into the action now, I think. There has been some blood and a lot of ranting and raving and a late night ride across the country. But that is as far as I have gotten. I am anxious to find out what happens next! The characters in this book, or I should say, at least in the Karamazov family seem to have a fatalistic view of themselves. They often say things that imply they feel they cannot help their actions because they are Karamazovs, or they were just drawn into an action by some unseen force they could not resist. I am curious to find out if any of them overcomes this fatalism, particularly the one brother who is introduced as the heroic character in the story.

Also still on my current reads list are these three parenting books: Heartfelt Discipline, Grace-Based Parenting, and Triggers. I mentioned before that I struggle with non-fiction, especially the more self-help variety, so I have not been cracking these titles open as often as I probably should be! If you have any tips to help me become a better non-fiction reader, or how you keep books rotating more evenly, please leave me a comment. I need some ideas how to keep these going even when I don't FEEL like it!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

Last week I was delighted to receive a package of books in the mail from an Instagram giveaway hosted by the lovely Amy Bennett of Abiding Ministries and the Feathers: Faith in Flight podcast. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of titles she sent, and I immediately started reading the one that stood out to me the most: The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron. I had perhaps heard of this new book once before but did not know anything about it. After just a few pages, I was sucked into this riveting memoir of a woman who was the daughter of a polygamist cult leader and convicted murderer, Ervil LeBaron. I had never heard of him or his cult, I think because I was too young at the time that most of the drama played out on national television. Reading Anna's heartbreaking stories of childhood abuse and neglect made me really think of how little we really know about the people we pass by in the store or on the street each day. To a passerby on the street, Anna probably would have seemed like any other little girl living in poverty, but the realities of her life at home were not things most of us would imagine happening in modern America. Her conversion story was definitely uplifting, but not without its own share of struggles. This book made me think a lot–about gratitude, about faith, about real hardship, about grace, about compassion, about forgiveness, about redemption, about healing and about God as a true Father to the fatherless.

The other book I finished was Brideshead Revisited. I have yet to listen to the final Close Reads podcast about the last few chapters. This book was truly beautiful from beginning to end. It did not end quite as I might have expected, but when I finished I realized it had ended just exactly as it should have. It also was a story of conversion, but not at all in the same way that The Polygamist's Daughter is. The conversions that take place in Brideshead are quieter, more private, happening off-screen, so to speak. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read it again one day. I do think it helped me get more out of it by having listened to the discussions of David, Tim, Angelina and Andrew. I am sure there was still much that was lost on me, but at least their insights brought many ideas to the surface that I would never have had the eyes to see myself on this first reading. I can hardly wait to see what the next Close Reads selection will be!

What I'm reading next…

I might be pushing myself a bit here, considering what I said earlier, but I am going to try starting another non-fiction book! Since I have this lovely stack of brand new books from Amy, I want to keep reading them! (Plus, I think I will be having a giveaway or two in the near future to "pay it forward" and give someone else a chance to be blessed with some new free reads!) I just have not quite decided which one to start next. So, any opinions? If you have read one or more of these books already, please let me know what you think and if it should be added to my current reading list!

Your Powerful Prayers by Susie Larson (Thinking this one would be a nice devotional read since chapters are packed with Scripture and include study questions at the end.)

Josiah's Fire by Tahni Cullen (This one is about a boy with autism, written by his mother. It sounds really captivating, and would be a nice story-based balance to my self-help nonfiction list!)

Come with Me by Suzanne Eller (This one sounds great for me where I am right now in the midst of transition and uncertainty about the future!)

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (Again, this sounds like a good one for my current situation. Moving can seem very un-lovely at times!)

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu (This is probably at the bottom of my list right now. I probably could really use the message, though, since I do tend to self-medicate with food. Ahem. Moving on…)

Well, that's it for Volume 3 of The Reading Report! Here's hoping that the next issue is written from my new space in Tennessee! In the meantime, tell me what you are reading right now in the comments below! Happy Reading!