Sunday, January 8, 2017

On The Eve of the First Day after Christmas Break

So on Friday, the Feast of the Epiphany, the Three Magi safely made it to the fireplace mantle to deliver their gifts to the Baby Jesus, Miss Elizabeth found the quarter in her piece of the Galette des Rois, and just for good measure an ice storm topped off with a dusting of snow passed through.  But with all of that, Christmas break has ended.
Our Christmas break has been a delightful couple of weeks of gifting, and feasting, and reading, and friends, and crafting, and movies, and staying up late, and sleeping in, and playing in pajamas well into the morning and occasionally past lunchtime.
But tomorrow, things need to go back to 'normal'.  We will begin school again, picking back up the last few weeks of the term before exams and starting fresh with a new pile of books.  On Tuesday, the children resume their swimming lessons and choir practices, and on Wednesday we will meet with friends again for co-op.  We're not easing back in, we're diving back in.  
On the one hand, we're ready for it.   After two+ solid weeks off, preceded by the flu and a slow limp to the finish line, it feels like it's been a long time since we've had a day in which we followed a normal routine.   The crankiness that is creeping in around the edges is telling me it's time to reclaim it.  On the other hand, I feel overwhelmed by the thought of trying to get that ball rolling again.  Inertia.  An object at rest wants to stay at rest….   Oh how I want to stay at rest.  Sloth is a vice I wrestle with   I need a little something to kick-start me back into action, to help me to gladly go forth and resume the work He has given me to do.
Maybe I'm not the only one?  I suspect perhaps that I am not.   I can't offer you a package bundle of resources and checklists that guarantee to help you start the New Year with a bang.  I can't even offer you a blogpost in which I attempt to weave these wise words I have gleaned from others into a coherent whole.  That said, these are a few of the words that have been feeding my soul and strengthening my heart and helping me combat my propensity toward sloth this week as I prepare to shift gears and begin "normal" life again after the slower rhythm of these past weeks.
"…the real problem of Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it.  It comes that very moment you wake up each morning.  All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.  And so on, all day."  (Pt. 4, Ch. 8)
"Every time you fall He will pick you up again.  And he knows perfectly well that your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection."  (Pt. 4, Ch, 9)
~CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
"MIDWINTER.  The commonest simile in connection with the new year is a book with blank pages.  Nature's year is also a book to be written.  This midwintertime represents a pause in the turning wheel of life.  It is, in northern lands, the year's low point, its nadir.  Life will swell, reach its zenith, before the next resting time. All the events of spring and summer and autumn, of sprouting and growth and seed time, the beginning and the end, lie ahead.  The whole circle of the seasons stretches away before us as we view the year from the cold plateau of January." (p.2)
~Edwin Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons
"Care is not passive – the word derives from an Indo-European word meaning 'to cry out', as in a lament. Care asserts that as difficult and painful as life can be, it is worth something to be in the present, alive, doing one's daily bit…combating sloth, being willing to care for oneself and others on a daily basis, is no small part of what constitutes basic human sanity, a faith in the everyday." (p.41-42)
~Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries
A new year with all its possibility spreads out before me.  Tomorrow morning I will get up.  I will push back the voices that will whisper that it's just too hard, pray this prayer, and trust in His grace and goodness and strength to do my 'daily bit'.   Who's with me?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Reading Plans for 2017

So…yesterday was the *best of* 2016.  Today, I attempt to share my reading plans for 2017.
It's a little tricky because I don't really plan out my reading in great detail.  I used to, and doing so sucked all the joy out of reading for me. 
That said, there's so much that I want to read.  I don't want to default to nothing but light novels and Netflix.  So, I've settled on a sort of loose plan, more or less, which I thought I'd share here for others who maybe want to try planning their reading in a little more detail, without overwhelming yourself with a neverending list. J
At this season in my life, I find I can fairly successfully juggle about 4 titles at a time, in addition to devotional reading, a volume of poetry to sprinkle in here and there, and maybe a book to read with my husband.   I like to keep balance among those four titles, so I have four basic categories:
Theology or Practical Christian Living
On Education (which I consider "Professional Development")
Nonfiction (Other than Theology or Education)
So pretty much the way it works is that I read a title from each of those categories, rotating through them according to what I feel like when I get a few moments here and there to sit down and read.  When I finish one book, I choose another in that category – whatever sort of strikes my fancy at the time.  No particular time limits or schedules or writing of long lists.  I do try to make sure at least one of them is lighter in nature so I don't end up with huge masses of dense, heavy reading and nothing to dig into when I'm tired in the evening.   It's a pretty simple system that allows me freedom to pick and choose, while helping me stay focused and intentional with my precious bits of reading time.
The only things I can guarantee that I will be reading in 2017 are these, because I'm already part way into them and I intend to finish. :)
You can see my basic categories at work there: Middlemarch is my fiction pick, Echoes of Eden the nonfiction, CS Lewis' Mere Christianity (one of the titles in the big "Signature Classics" collection you see there) my theological pick, Norms and Nobility the educational one, and TS Eliot's poetry.  My husband and I are between books right now, but will probably continue our ongoing Jane Austen project (Persuasion?).   And devotionally, I am using The Ancient Christian Devotional which pairs the Sunday lectionary readings for each week with relevant quotes from the church fathers, along with a slow reading of the Gospels, and prayer resources from The Book of Common Prayer.   I fully expect the devotional readings, the TS Eliot poetry, and Norms and Nobility to take all year.  But as I finish books from the other categories I have lots of choices.
This is basket of books I've picked up here and there that I'd like to read at some point:
Some of those are pre-reading for future AO Years.  Some are just because.   There will most definitely be some Shakespeare, and hopefully at least one or two of the book discussion titles over on the AO Forum.  I also have the stack of my "12 Days of Christmas" books from my husband.  (Yes, he bought me a book for every one of the 12 Days of Christmas.  He's pretty amazing, isn't he?)  Pictured here are only days 1-6…there are more to come!  Not to mention things that are trickling in from my Amazon gift card purchases….
So very much to choose from!  And who knows what else will come my way before the end of the year?  Last year two of my favorites were Mere Motherhood and You Are What You Love which weren't even published or on my radar until later in the year. J   I won't read all of these, of course.  But there is so much possibility here.
I'm looking forward to a good Year in Books.
What are your reading hopes, plans, and dreams for this coming year?