Stories on the Shelf

January is wrapping up and with it, unusually warm weather.  I’m guessing February will surprise us with a intense gust of sleet, ice and snow, but we’ll see…

As much as I usually just want to curl up in a cozy chair and drink tea and read books in winter, I haven’t so much this first month of 2012.  Case in point – yesterday, I took my road bike out for a 15 mile ride and only had a light jacket on.  And, this Wednesday’s forecast? 65 degrees!

Maybe I brought the warm weather home with me from Arizona.  Right after the New Year, I headed out to Phoenix for a week of “Auntie” time.  What a great trip!  Sunshine, snuggling with Kate and Grant, swimming OUTSIDE in the community pool, some shopping (well…a LOT), a surprise 40th birthday party for my friend Ashley, and of course, sister-time with Nora.  It was incredible to see how much my niece and nephew have grown up…or I should say, outgrown their ‘baby faces.’

Kate is high-strung, intensely loving and intensely emotional, social, inquisitive and energetic.  She always has a question, and she never sits still.  She needs people.  When she’s up, she’s up; when she’s down, she’s down.  And, she’s DRAMATIC.  Sounds like someone else you know, right? J  I love my niece.  She is such a compassionate child…she sees needs, and concerns and others’ “boo-boo’s,” and immediately seeks to comfort that person.

Grant is curious, easy-going, competitive, a charmer, active, athletic, and sweet.  I can tell that he will have a strong personality as he grows.  Not necessarily “strong” in the sense that he is stubborn, but “strong” because he exudes a natural confidence and toughness.  Even though Kate is older, Grant has no issues taking charge and stepping in.  Grant is in the stage where he doesn’t necessarily recognize people quickly, so the first day, I was a stranger…but, he warmed up to me soon enough.

So, it’s sweet to see Kate and Grant as “siblings” already.  They are each other’s daily playmates, and yet most certainly their own unique persons.  Here they are above reading their new favorite book that I bought Kate for Christmas.  I think it I read it to me at least twice a day for the entire week I was there!

My week in Phoenix was certainly a great story already the shelf for 2012.  I love my brother-in-law Travis, sister Nora, and Kate and Grant, and only wish they lived closer.

Along with this story is three other stories, in a manner of speaking: I read three books this month.  Not very impressive, I know, but I decided to make my literary resolution feasible this year, instead of far-fetched.

First up, At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time (ongoing read…)

Author Sarah Author’s eclectic mix of stories, poems, excerpts and scriptures for a complete 29-week reading plan that follows “Lectio Divina” (Divine Reading), which is basically an ancient method of micro-meditation on Scriptures and spiritual literature.  As someone who loves words and linguistics and thematic passages, this book has been a fantastic platform for my daily devotional.  Each week contains 4 specific scripture passages to focus on each week.

Second, The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller, bestselling author and pastor of “Redeemer” church in the heart of NYC.

Tim and his wife Kathy have fleshed out their popular sermon series given at Redeemer for the purpose of addressing both religious and secular schools of thought in regards to the marriage relationship.  At the macro-level, the Kellers offer scriptural basis for various aspects of Marriage within the larger framework of a Christian’s biblical calling; but, in a similar vein, the husband-wife duo present fresh inspiration and questions based on personal experience and practical examples.  I haven’t read very many books on Marriage, but in addressing the larger conversation on Christian relationships and the equivalent value of “singleness,” I applaud the Kellers for assembling such a well-rounded book.

After reading this, I have come away with a stronger conviction for the advantages of both singleness and marriage, and therefore, that neither status is meant to be a platform for “competition” or formula of “completion.”  The first contains the pitfall of comparison often leading to pride or striving – “A” is better than “B”; the latter contains the pitfall of discouragement or discontentment – “I won’t be wholly fulfilled with “A,” but I will be with “B.”  Hence, the solution is found when we filter our “status” (single or married) through the sieve of God’s own being.  If we – as humans – are created IN the image of God, FOR God’s glory, and ultimately to be transformed INTO the image of God, then we should be fully convinced that our identity is secure – and always perfected – in God Himself.  He uses both singleness and marriage to show us more of Himself, His relationship to His Son, His relationship to His Church; yet, he ultimately guides us to Himself as the relationship for which we are made.  Same truths I’ve known for years, but freshly inspired…

Third, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. 

Battle Hymn of the What…?!  This brutally honest memoir is the reflections of a Chinese mother on her own parenting methods and how she raised her two daughters to become concert musicians (piano and violin).  The reason I loved this book was because of my own experience with the Russian methods of classical piano training through my own teacher, Svetlana Gorenman.  While Mrs. Gorenman was not nearly as intense in the way she instructed me, I related to the unconscious PRESSURE that is put upon young musicians to NEVER fail or give up or quit or stop seeking to literally be THE BEST.  Many of you may have read up online about the criticism this mother/author received for the stabs she took on Chinese parenting methods after she finished her book, or the interviews she conducted on various TV stations as her book spread like wildfire through blogs and newspapers and bookstores.

At the end of the day, the question she throws out to the world is this: “Do parents identify, encourage, and set the course for our children’s “giftings” and consequent successes in this life?  OR, is it solely our job to ‘expose’ our children to many different opportunities, in hopes that our child(children) will recognize their own ‘callings’ and instinctively follow those paths?”

I don’t have children yet, but I would venture to say it has to be a balance of both elements.  In making me take piano all the way through elementary, middle and highschool years, my Mom didn’t necessarily make me believe that I had a ‘natural’ talent for piano.  She did teach me to believe that I had a ‘natural’ ability and competence to persevere, steward my time/talents, practice, improve, and eventually, succeed.

Next Up for February Books:

1) Through the Language Glass, Guy Deutscher (How the World Looks in Other Languages)

2) Death Comes to Pemberley, PD James (Mystery Spin-Off of Pride & Prejudice)

3) Small Loans, Big Dreams, Alex Counts (Memoir on Micro-Loans)

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