I know. I’ve gone and done the thing that I said I was not going to do, and gotten behind in writing my weekly book posts. Oops. School happens. I will continue plugging away at these and the longer, more focused pieces that I’m working on. I’m just having to be a little more realistic about the demands on my time versus the writing that I want to do.
The week I’m sharing now was a huge reading week for me. We were still finishing up some homeschooling books from the previous semester, and I really did a large amount of personal reading as well. It’s partially because I’ve been rewarding myself as I finish Greek translations with pieces of the books I’m reading. It gives my brain a rest from Greek and allows me to enjoy the books I’m reading. I count it as a win-win. So here are the books:
Your Future Self Will Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible and Brain Science by Drew Dyck. This book discusses the importance of self-control as a foundational virtue. Dyck explains why we fail at the commitments and goals that we set for ourselves and he progresses to share some tips (using brain science) to help set ourselves up more for success. This was a really great read, and I felt like I understood more of why I struggle to do the things that I know I should do.
One of the examples where I have already put his ideas into practice is that I had received a new bubba cup for Christmas. I dedicated this cup to water, and keep it on my kitchen counter. Using the new cup, I have developed the habit of drinking water everyday because, most days, I fill up this cup three times with water and drink it before I allow myself my beloved Coke Zero. It’s a little habit, but a new one that I’ve been building that I noticed because of my reading of this book.
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler. This book is a short, slim volume. In fact, I devoured Bowler’s story and her musings on theology in less than a day. It was just too good to put down. Bowler is a young mom and professor who is diagnosed with stage four cancer. She spends much time thinking about the fact that she is mostly likely dying faster than she had thought she would. She ponders God and whether or not healing will come, and she ponders what happens to our faith when God does not answer our prayers in the way that we think he should.
As Americans, we spend so much time pondering fairness, believing that we control our own destiny, and associating prosperity with God’s blessing, that I think we are completely taken aback when we find out that life isn’t really fair. People die young. Some stories have a tragic ending, and we do not have to make sense of that or share platitudes that minimize that suffering. This is truly a helpful book for those who find that life has not been what they wish for it to be.
What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, “You are limitless”? Everything is not possible. The mighty Kingdom of God is not yet here. What if rich did not have to mean wealthy, and whole did not have to mean healed? What if being people of “the gospel” meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough.
The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson. This is a book the IRL book club I belong to has been reading over the past two or three months. I found going through this book slowly, and talking over it with other moms to be a very edifying experience for me. In this book, Stixrud and Johnson explain that children are suffering through vast amounts of stress, and that the cause for much of it is the lack of control that these children have over their lives.
Over the months I had many takeaways from this book, but the biggest was that I often cause stress in my children’s lives because I try to force them to fit a mold that I feel like is successful, forgetting that they have their own lives, talents, and dreams. Once I have created this “right” pathway for my children, I spend a lot of time in worry and fear over whether not my children are meeting this ideal. Because of my own anxieties over their future, I fail to enjoy my children now and to keep our home a safe place for them to be their selves. In order to be a “non-anxious presence” in their lives, I must stop this crazy cycle I go into at the source of my projection of success onto my children. I do not have the right to tell them whether or not their goals or dreams and their talents are “good enough.” Instead, I must trust God to provide them what they need and trust God with where they are now.
While I, as a Christian, couch my talk about my children in terms of God’s will and God’s provision, there is none of that talk in the book. There’s a little talk of transcendental meditation, but on the whole, the book is non-spiritual, and any parent with children in their middle and high school years could benefit from reading this book.
Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster. The children and I have been reading this book for history for two or three months, and I must say that I love Foster’s approach to history. She chose a handful of important men, who lived at the same time as Augustus Caesar, and used their stories to paint a more composite picture of Augustus’s time period. My children mostly seemed to enjoy Cleopatra, but Herod the Great had his moments as well. This is a history book that the kids and I enjoyed turning to each day.
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We’ve been reading through the Little House series off-and-on for at least a year now. I have to admit that this one might not have been the best selection for January because it is bleak. It’s dark. The snow keeps blowing. They’re slowly starving. Except for Almanzo and Cap’s trip to find wheat, this book has very few highlights. I must admit though that it is strange to see the self-sufficient Ingalls family placed in a position throughout this story where they are so dependent on the train and other neighbors. I wonder how that dependency felt for Pa Ingalls. I find that, as an adult, I have a completely different response to these books than I had as a child.
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. The children and I have been listening to this one on Audible for a while now. The reviews are mixed in our house on this one with my boys loving it and my girls hating it. Personally, I found The Fellowship of the Ring to be a little boring and slow moving, so I felt like this book was the payoff for that one. The conversations in this book often still come to mind when I think about the story. I also find myself often thinking of the story. I totally recommend the audible unabridged version because I love the narrator, and I love the musical quality that he lends to the songs and poems in the story. The narration really makes this one.
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. Ona Vicktus is 104 years old, but she’s feeling more alive and filled with purpose than she has in many years. The reason? A very special 11-year-old boy has forged a connection with her and has convinced her that she has a life worth living and a future worth striving for. The problem? One day the boy stops coming to her house, replaced by his father and eventually his mother too. They are grieving and coming to her to finish this boy’s special deed becomes a way of healing.
I really expected this one to be a story of friendship, and I found it to be a story of redemption. Somehow, the loss of a son becomes the salvation of a man named Quinn and his journey towards connection, friendship and commitment to other relationships. I really rooted for Quinn and felt strongly about this story, even though it was not at all what I expected.
Well, that’s all my reading for the middle week of January. I’m going to try, but not promise, to catch up my weekly reading posts over the next few days so I can work on some fun posts. The analytical side of me won’t let me work on some of my other writing until I have this caught up 🙂