Books I Read in February

This book I would highly recommend.  I love Jen Hatmaker’s heart, and was deeply encouraged by her focus on showing more grace to yourself and to others.  Her chapters on the church, on women, on community, on aging, and on parenting, I felt were spot on.

I also laughed out loud during this book more than I normally do while reading—which was a problem since I mostly read while breastfeeding and the baby kept getting distracted.  I love Jen’s sense of humor.  Her personality is different from mine and I don’t always get her, but what I do get makes me laugh.

I could tell reading this book that Jen Hatmaker is primarily a blogger.  Each chapter could almost stand on its own as an individual blog post, and sometimes transitioning from one to another felt like whiplash since the topics were so different.  But once I accepted the jumping around as a matter of course, I really enjoyed this book.

I will say I didn’t like her chapter on fashion.  For one thing, the whiplash factor before and after that chapter was a bit intense; it hardly seemed like it belonged in the book.  I think when Jen talks about fashion, she is just expressing her personal taste with her typical sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes blunt humor.  But her fashion advice can easily be interpreted as legalistic rules, which is jarring in contrast to her overall message of grace.

This book I would recommend even more.  It changed me powerfully.  I’ve never read Emily Freeman before, but now I want to look up her other books.  Her personality seems very different from Jen Hatmaker’s—more like mine I think, more quiet and sensitive and introspective—but her heart is similar.  This book was all about embracing the small and simple in our lives, slowing down, finding where God is working in the here and now.

The cover of the book depicts a bench, and that’s a major symbol—find a bench, a place to sit and rest, a place to connect with God and others.  This was especially poignant for me this month since with my injured foot I’ve been sitting much more than normal.  At times I’ve been intensely frustrated by how slowed down I am.  Don’t I have important things to do?  Shouldn’t I be able to move faster, better, get more done?

Another major symbol of the book is the idea of Tuesday—finding meaning in the day that is generally unimportant and mundane.  And again, that was this month (and really, this season of life) for me.

Emily’s message was just what I needed in my easily-anxious, frustrated, hurrying lifestyle.  Here’s a typical quote from her book:

“Everything in me wants to fight the unveiling of the anxieties that threaten to overwhelm, push them back from showing up in my day.  I want to ignore the smoky unknown; it is counterintuitive to let the anxieties rise up to the surface.

“But Tuesday teaches me to let them rise up so I can release them into God’s hands.  Speak the fear out loud, so he can give words of truth.  Don’t run away from those places where it seems faith is small.  Run into them, look around, and be honest about how it feels while standing there.”

Emily has great wisdom and this book impacted me.  Even this week, after a morning of rushing around hectically (as much as I can rush in a foot brace!), I sat down in the quiet afternoon to try to get some grading done.  After being so busy, I couldn’t immediately focus, and my natural response was frustration: “Right now is when my kids are quiet!  I need to get this done!”

Thinking about this book encouraged me, in that moment, to take a deep breath, to be kinder to myself, to stop thinking that I and my work are so earth-shatteringly important, to slow down and just be until I was focused enough to actually grade effectively.

Middle School Literature

So much homemaking has fallen by the wayside this month—clutter and dust is overtaking my house—and when I’m back up on my feet I can’t wait to catch up on all those projects staring at me.  In the meantime, I’ve been working ahead on my teaching job and planning next year, since I can do that sitting down.  I’ll be teaching these seven books:

Some of my “work” for this month was reading and deciding on these books.  I Am David, Wrinkle in Time, and Island of the Blue Dolphins I have taught before and didn’t need to re-read yet.  Prince Caspian I know the story well enough that it was automatically in.  Where the Red Fern Grows I read for a couple days, not in its entirety, but enough to know it was a definite choice.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry I read all the way through, since the last time I read it I was probably ten or eleven.  This is a beautifully written book, and I appreciated the emphasis on strong family and on the land.  It’s a sensitive story and I think a good way to introduce students to the racial tension in our nation’s history.

Redwall was a lot of fun to read—this is actually the first time I’ve read this book.  I don’t know that there is anything original in this story, but that makes it all the better—Brian Jacques is playing around with archetypes that are classic for a reason (the malevolent tyrant, the underdog hero, his gutsy girlfriend, the finding of a mythical sword, the sinister serpent, need I go on?).  I also enjoyed the combination of animal fantasy with a medieval setting.

Now that I’ve decided on these books, I’m looking forward to getting back to adult fiction this month, beginning with When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi.  I’m also starting on Never Say No, a parenting book by Mark and Jan Foreman.  Despite my previous blog post about parenting books, I do believe in reading the good ones (sparingly), and this book was given to me by friends at church whose parenting I deeply admire.  I’ve never heard of this book before, but their recommendation means a lot to me.

What about you?  What have you read this month?


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