Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stop, Drop, and Read

I have a tall stack of books sitting by my bed.  And I'm not the kind of girl who reads one at a time.  Normally, I have about five books going concurrently: a fiction, a non-fiction, a devotional/Christian theology, a classic, and a few magazines just to round out my world.  Back in the day (before children), I would pick up whatever I felt like reading at about 9:15 p.m. and would read until I fell asleep or Teacher Man was tired of the lamp being on.  It wasn't the fastest way to finish books, but for whatever reason I struggled to staple my behind to the chair and just read (books of substance) during the daytime.  I guess on a normal day I find plenty of distractions to keep me moving and occupied, and I just can't give myself permission to sit and fill my mind.

Now, if you hand me a thrilling fiction, I'm all set.  It'll be done in a couple days.  I'll be reading when I should be cooking, cleaning, and sleeping so that I can find out what happens next!  I have to be careful though.  If I get too many of these in a row, my house goes to pot, we eat fast food, and my children forget my name.  Mommy who?  Is that the lady on the couch who's still in her jammies reading the latest Beverly Lewis?  Yep.

Recently though (and probably due to the number and type of blogs that I follow), I've found myself with a hunger to know more, to study more, to learn more than the incidentals, to be intentional about self-education.  Here's where you sigh and say, "Does Krista need one more thing that she's intentional about?"  Yes, yes I do.

My children are entering a new season of life.  Caleb is a preschooler, hungering for direction and challenges. Ben is hitting the stage where we actually are seeing that strong will coming out, and I need to remember how to lovingly guide a toddler.  And as I said around Christmas time, we're really in an exciting phase of parenting.  We're starting traditions and habits without even knowing it because of the ages and stages of our sons.  I would rather those habits be developed intentionally because we are making informed choices rather than just conveniently filling up our days with twaddle.  And the books just weren't getting read with my old system.  Every mom knows what happens if you get to bed, even a few minutes early.  You open the book, you read the first paragraph, and you fall asleep.  The end.

So last week, I started a very helpful tradition called Stop, Drop, and Read (SDR).  After the boys go down for their naps around 1 p.m., I take fifteen minutes to switch out the laundry, clean up lunch, start the dishwasher, and pick up the house.  Then I turn off all unnecessary drains on our electricity bill.  The desktop computer is put to sleep, the lights around the house are turned off, extra appliances are unplugged.  I brew my cup of tea, grab my bag of chocolate (every woman needs one of these), and head to my room.  The pictures don't do it justice.  It's just lovely.

Why my room?  Because when David and I married, we determined that our bedroom would be a place of rest and solace.  Even in the early days with a two-room apartment, we kept our bedroom free of clutter, bills, or paper piles.  Instead, we filled it with reminders of our vows to each other, things we love, and glorious books.  Sometimes my room is trashed. You betcha.  But most of the time, it's the quietest, cleanest room in the house; and that's the way (uh huh, uh huh) I like it.

After that rabbit trail...  I move my rocking chair into the sunlight, look out on my flowering tree, and read.  This time could be for fiction, I suppose; but for now, it's reserved for books of substance.  My mind has enough energy to focus and think in the afternoon (unlike at night these days!) and often the afternoon gives me the opportunity to practice things that I learned from my rocking-chair-reading time.  The boys sleep/rest in bed from at least 1-3 p.m., giving me about an hour and half of reading time without distractions.  Hurray!

What am I reading?

1) Devotional/Theology
Be Mature by Warren Wiersbe
This is his study of the book of James.  Each chapter can be read in about 15 minutes, starting with a passage of Scripture and then moving into Wiersbe's exegesis of that passage.  They're just deep enough to give me some more meat from the Scriptures without being so deep that I drown.  If you're looking for something more than your normal daily short devotional, I'd highly recommend your picking up one of Wiersbe's many commentaries.  They're easy to find since they all start with the word "Be." Be Mature, Be Wise, Be Joyful, etc.

2) Non-fiction
A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola
Even if you're thinking about just doing preschool at home, I'd encourage you to pick up this book.  Charlotte Mason was an educator in the 1800s who believed in teaching teachers to work with children's natural curiosity in order to encourage true learning.  This does not mean that students are allowed to study whatever they choose whenever they choose it.  Her theories actually encourage students to explore complex topics through living (good) books, to learn good habits and discipline from a young age, and to develop age-appropriate processing skills for comprehension.  I'm learning a lot about guiding my children's learning without dictating it.  If this sounds confusing, it's because it truly is an art form.  I'm sure I'll write more on this book later.

3) Classic
Elsie at Nantucket by Martha Finley
Sigh... The Elsie books.  Elsie really is too perfect, which can sometimes annoy; but I appreciate her perspective and the manner in which she handles life's struggles.  It makes me want to be a better mom.  A better Christ follower.  It's also an interesting cultural perspective into life at the turn of the century.  For the record, this is the tenth book in the Elsie Dinsmore series, which is available for FREE for your Kindle.

4) Inspirational
The Hole in the Gospel  by Richard Stearns
Written by the president of World Vision, Stearns tells the story of how he was led from a successful, lucrative career to a non-profit ministry position.  He challenges believers to serve and reach out to the world's poor as Christ did.  The more I read, the more I am convinced that every American Christian needs to read this book. Even after living in a third-world country, I am far too easily lulled into complacency by the ease of American culture.  Loving his perspective on how we can meet the needs of the poor and the fatherless of today's world.

5) Fiction 
Since zipping through The Hunger Games Trilogy in record time, I'm making myself take a break from fiction.  I love it.  A little too much.  There's nothing wrong with reading fiction in balance, but that's just it.  I need to tip the scales in the other direction a bit more.  If you haven't read this trilogy though, it's worth the read.  Call it cultural research if you need an excuse.

So there you have it, I cheated today on my Stop, Drop, and Read to update the blog because so much of what I want to write is about what I'm learning in my little self-education hour.  It's changing me.  I feel more rested and refreshed, but, more often than not, I'm inspired at the end of the hour.  I love the saying:

You'll be the same person you are now at this time next year but for the books you read and the people you meet.  

So true.  So glad my life now intentionally includes both amazing people and strong books.  And chocolate.  Never forget the chocolate.

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