Breakfast & Bath: (Picture Books)
L still needs to be read to mostly when he is contained, although he is starting to pay attention to what he sees on the pages and occasionally point to things or laugh and smile at the illustrations. Cute animals especially delight him, so cute animals it is! And if it’s cute animals you’re wanting, search no farther than Emma Dodd’s Love You series.
When I stumbled across these books at the library, I truly felt like I’d found a gold mine. I firmly believe that reading to children works best when the parent (or whoever else in their life is reading to them) genuinely enjoys the book being read. Enthusiasm, interest, and delight are catching. It’s also hard to fake those feelings, at least for very long, so when I’m picking out books at the library, I try to pick out books that spark something inside of me, hoping that then I’ll be able to share that spark with L.
There are many different things I look for in picture books, but, after scores of hours spent in the children’s section of the library, I know for certain that there’s hardly a book I will pick up if I don’t like the illustrations. I know that might not be fair, to judge a book by it’s artwork, but with picture books the illustrations make up so much of the story and they set the tone for the entire experience of the book. So I have to like the art. Emma Dodd’s illustrations take my breath away. I’m always eager to see what’s on the next page. The illustrations are simple, but beautiful and mesmerizing in their simplicity.
The words of these books are also simple, but powerful in their simplicity. They are about a parent’s love for their child, and I love them because they always take me back to the almost primal emotions I had when L was first born, and the emotions I still have whenever I set aside my distractions and look at the beautiful and precious child before me: Love such that I cannot comprehend. Wonder and tenderness and vulnerability and being swept off my feet, head over heels in love. What wouldn’t I do for this child? I count the days that we get to spend together like pearls on a necklace. Treasure.
Husband’s Reading: (Audiobook)
S has been listening to a biography of George Washington by Ron Chernow (of Hamilton fame) on his commute, which means that he and I have spent a considerable (an embarrassing?) amount of time lamenting the loss of George and Martha Washington’s entire correspondence, which she burned after his death!!! How could she?! Those letters would be a national treasure! It’s prompted Sean to say (multiple times), “Now that’s something I would jump in the DeLorean and go back and save!” IF ONLY.
I’ve made it to the twelfth and final book of the How to Train Your Dragon series. The books really mature and grow in depth as the series progresses, while still delighting me with their humor and quirkiness. I’m a bit sad to be off for Spring Break right now and not driving very much because I’m dying to hear how the story ends.
As I’ve worked my way through this series and enjoyed it so much, I’ve realized that some of the joy it’s brought me has come not so much through the narrative, but through the simple joy of being able to sink into a story. When I get into the car before or after work, there’s always this deep exhale as I realize I get to mentally relax into a story and stop having my life be so Rush, rush, rush, me, me, me, do, do, do for just a bit. It’s an escape from myself, and from the—at times—very narrow cage of my mind. It also puts me in touch with my true self: the person who loves what is Good, and True, and Beautiful. The person who values story-telling, and courage, and joy, and laughter. The person who has time to smile, and breathe deeply, and listen, and laugh.
A few weeks ago I walked into church—a few minutes late, the service had already started—and I experienced this exact same feeling of being freed from the tiny, narrow version of myself and relaxing into the Great Story: the story of God, the World, His People. I felt myself peacefully sinking into the words and the story-arch of the liturgy. What a freedom to know my place in this Universe, to know Love and be Loved, to live and wait in Hope for the Resurrection of the dead and Life of the world to come. What a gift that the Story is not about me, but to be graciously given a place in the Story where I can be the true version of myself that I was created and designed to be.
Lenten Reading: Non-fiction
Lent is a time of turning away from some things in order to turn toward other things. Perhaps the things we turn away from are not bad at all, but occasionally we need to take breaks from even the best of distractions and turn towards focus, self-discipline, and a re-evaluation of how we are spending our days and therefore, our lives.
This Lent I took a break from all the “pleasure” reading I do (meaning reading whatever books I can get my hands on about France, the ocean, Ireland, writing, traveling, California, Nature, New York City, and oh, anything else that strikes my fancy) and decided to do only spiritual reading in my free time.
One of the books I read during Lent: Barking to the Choir by Father Gregory Boyle. His first book Tattoos on the Heart is one of my all-time favorite books and was very instrumental in helping me to heal from perfectionism and learn to experience God’s love as a living, breathing reality and not just an intellectual fact. Father Greg is a Jesuit priest living in the heart of Los Angeles who started the largest gang recovery and rehabilitation program in the world. Reading his writing always brings me into a place of spaciousness, of abundance, where I feel surrounded by the vastness, the sheer gratuitousness of God’s love for his beloved children.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but of what book isn’t that true? And like all great writing, he leaves me with questions to turn over and over in my mind, wonderings that I cannot easily dismiss. In addition to comforting me, his words haunt and disturb me in important ways. I keep turning over the quote he cites from Dorothy Day, (which I am paraphrasing from memory because my sister is borrowing the book), when she was asked how to keep the faith and responded, “Stay close to the poor.” As someone who lives in perhaps the most affluent part of the United States, I am wondering how to stay close to the poor in Silicon Valley. And I’ve also been reflecting on the different ways there are to be poor: poor in money, of course, but people can also be poor in peace, poor in time, or poor in the experiences of love and beauty. These questions and meditations do not bear answers easily, but must be wrestled with over the course of my days, months, and years.
I suppose this spiritual reading is parallel to what I described above about being saved from myself by getting lost in a story. Here I get to be saved from myself by encountering the true needs of both myself and others and seeing God’s passion for loving and saving His children.