Sunday, April 30, 2017

Growing Up, Competitive Streaks, And Good Sportsmanship In Life

As I sit to type this, it's the most heavenly Sunday afternoon. Being that we're into parks these days, I tend to rank weather on how worthy it is of being at one, and today's warm blue sky and hint of cool breeze is hovering somewhere between nine and ten. At the moment though, we're home. Weekend hockey is on and the girls are all piled onto a scooter (yes, one scooter) in the yard and sharing a bag of chocolate banana pieces. Being that it's that middling point between the end of one week and beginning of another, I'm just sitting here turning over all the details of both.

We had a pretty big family event recently involving Alanna losing her first tooth. She was so proud (after the initial shock of seeing it stuck in the peach she was eating), and waved that seed sized thing over her head like a champion who just fought a battle and gained a kingdom. I had forgotten what a big deal that moment is to child sized heart. One of our favorite books all about losing teeth and growing up (which is dirt cheap on Amazon right now, by the way) summarized the moment simply and perfectly for the both of us: "That's nothing to worry about. That just means that today you've become a big girl."

Big girl indeed. I'm surrounded by "big girls" at the moment. Even though Wrennie is technically a baby and Selah a toddler, they've suddenly put their heads down and started racing one another in this whole growing up thing over the past few weeks. And when I say "racing," I literally mean racing. "I WIN," is the most commonly shouted phrase around here. "Put your pajamas on girls," (cue much yelling and rustling and bumping), "I WIN!" "Someone please take this to the trash," (cue arguing and shoving and feet pounding the floor), "I WIN!" "Who wants lunch?" (Cue a race to the table, laughing, gobbling, and choking), "I WIN!" Come to think of it, it's Wrennie's first full phrase. Anyway, I don't really encourage all this, but judging by the amount of crying that comes from the loser, I should probably bank on it as a golden opportunity to mention good sportsmanship. Or not, as it is mostly toddlers we're talking about. It has had me thinking about good sportsmanship for myself though, and not in the most traditional sense, I suppose.

Life has struck me as a bit problematic lately. Not actual problems, but more along the lines of I can't keep the floors clean, I'm losing my hearing from female screaming, and why do I always feel so tired and discouraged sort of problems. Usually, I struggle through this in the framework of contentment verses discontentment, but the girl's competitive streak has had me thinking about it in the more intense framing of Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (vs 1-2)
These three young hearts, this patient husband, these dirty floors, I know they're woven into this race set before me, I know they're part of the life of faith the world observes. The problem is that it seems like I'm never running well, and, like my girls, I want to be able to get through each day and victoriously raise one fist on the other side triumphantly declaring, "I win!" But I never get the chance because the inevitable tripping and weighted slowing never fail to happen.

But what I've been remembering lately as I struggle through this course of the race, is that it's not my win.
Because of the joy awaiting [Jesus], he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won't become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. (vs 2-4)
"Throw it all aside, Carissa, run hard because the win is already secured at the end by Him. It's His glorious win and you get share it. Run hard." This is what the competitive streak of these babies of mine is teaching me. Thank God for babies.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

On Choosing The Books You Actually Buy

Well friends, it's Spring and a beautiful one at that.

After a the brown shriveled nature of the drought we've had these past couple of years, seeing so much green popping up to blanket hill and flatland feels something like that cool evening breeze that closes out a desert day. So refreshing and rejuvenating. Even the sandbars of our wetlands have tangles of reed and sage for the sea birds to explore, which hasn't been a typical sight.

Even with the welcome changes, out family couldn't leave Winter behind without a solid snow trip, which we were able to sneak in a week or two ago. But I suppose most of you already know that so I won't blabber on about it other than to say it was a worthy way of closing out the season, especially for the Narnia-like feel (fitting, since it happens to be our bed time read at the moment). All that to say, I think we're fully embracing the longer days and warmer nights now.

The burst of warmth and color in the world seems to have affected my reading as well. Rather than automatically reaching for the next new title, I've been drawn to the shelves that house old favorites: Gene Stratton Porter, Elizabeth Goudge, Elizabeth Elliot, C.S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, and on and on I could go. Anybody else finding this true? Which, by the way, brings up a subject I've been thinking on and chatting about with dear ones here and there:

In an age where we tend to have pared down spaces yet infinite access to all the goodness of the literary realm, how in the world do we choose which books to actually give shelf space to?

There are some who heavily load their shelves with anything that catches their fancy, while others collect only a handful of absolute favorites. Aesthetic minds might purchase only the loveliest copies worth displaying, while black and white souls of practicality shelve only their current needs or interests then rotate those titles by selling or trading when moving on to new things. It's an interesting and sort of overwhelming variety of methods that we have to pick and choose from, but we can be encouraged that the beauty in the great spectrum of them is that even in such a small thing as book ownership, the creativity of God in our personalities is on full display. "The [bookshelves of us all] declare the glory of God," I suppose we could say. Of course that's something we can't break down into a sort of refer-all formula, but some tips to save us the hassle of figuring our way the hard way would sure be nice.

Thankfully, there do seem to be some key commonalities that dapple the whole unique spread. I know I didn't cover all of them, but here are a couple to keep handy when staring at your overloaded Amazon cart.

1) Buy what you love and put the library to use for the rest
Here's a handy mental exercise: Stand in front of your space for books, close your eyes, and let your mind's eye roam over the shelves. What's there? In walking by this space every day, what do you want to find there? How about others in your home? What special titles do you and they consider necessary or come back to again and again and again?

You see the direction I'm going? I guess we could say, that in the same way we choose what's displayed on our walls, we can choose what's displayed on our shelves. It's not a fool proof method, there will always be the dud buys, but it does help. What you and your family don't love or find useful, you probably don't need to own. And thankfully, for those titles we need but don't want or want to try but not buy, the library will probably have on hand for free.

2) Buy by author 
As far as I can remember, Carol Joy Seid was the first I'd heard to bluntly state that real readers read by author. And let's be real, the more you read, the more you find this true because you don't want to waste precious time reading something you don't even like (Please note that I'm talking about preference here, not necessity, so don't use this logic to toss your "classics that everyone should read" list or whatever). There's always time for exploring new authors and titles, but finding your favorite authors first really does shine a light on your preference and helps direct those explorations - another topic for another day.

Anyway, the logic in collecting your favorite authors pretty much lines up with collecting your favorites in general, it's just a more focused way of doing so.

3) Buy by edition (otherwise said, "we don't need all of them")
One benefit in reserving your shelves for favorites and necessities is that there's wiggle room to invest in some good editions. For most of us, that probably means the quality of the cover because most everyone loves a good book cover, right? Whether it's the foil stamped linen of vintage fame or unique beauties like the Puffin in bloom editions or the Juniper editions, there's so much to choose from and so many to love. But did you know editions can mean content too? Most of us know about abridged and unabridged, sure, but did you know that post 1950's reprints of more classic titles can have subtle (or not so subtle) cultural changes as well? Huckleberry Finn is probably the most noted, but Nancy Drew might be a better example.

Originally, the Nancy Drew series was published in the 1930's. In the 1950's, they were reprinted with a change to Nancy's personality and interest to fit the times. Yet again, the series was recreated in the late 80's and onward to fit yet another cultural shift. Now not everyone reads Nancy Drew, so for a more widely read example I'll point to Shakespeare, whose phrasing is "outdated and hard to understand" and has plenty of politically incorrect content to keep critics in seizures until the end of time. It's possible to now pick up a "contemporary" edition of the Bard, which isn't wholly bad (as long as you don't mind it being interpreted by modern academics who care more about political correctness than context). But I digress, so basically, if the possibility of content changes bother you, stick to editions with copyrights dated 1950 or before (this doesn't mean, by the way, to buy all used books. New editions of classics most often have old copyrights, just be sure to check if you care).

Whatever your method of decision on your keepers, embrace it; but I hope this helps clear a little space on your shelves for what your timeless titles are. Now that you have this rattling in your brain, I'm hugely interested in which titles those are, so do please share with me via instagram, facebook, or the contact page here on the site. If you're interested in ours, I made a list of some of them here

Happy reading, sweet friends.