Monday, July 26, 2010

For the Love of Books: Little Wake-up Call on the Prairie

Do you ever get sick of it all?
Your job?  That you still don't fit into your skinny jeans?  Homework?   The laundry?  Your crappy car?  The fact that _____ still isn't done and it's been ____ months?  People who don't return phone calls?  That you never get to take a vacation?  And so on and so on and so on?

I was having one of those days.  
One of those days when I felt like all I do is engage in an endless stream of meaningless chores that I will have to do again and again, maybe within hours or even minutes, from now until eternity.  
It was bad.
Chores like cleaning up another spill of water from my 2 year old, who likes to help herself to water and then walk around the house sloshing it from her cup.  And usually, she likes to clean it up, but sometimes she misses a spot.  She missed a lot of spots that day.

And then that towel gets tossed on that pile of dirty laundry that finally gets done, only to magically multiply over night until the pile is sky high again.  Will I ever be done with laundry?

And the dishes.  Don't even get me started.  I wash, dry, and put away and suddenly the sink is full again.  The goose who lays the dirty dishes lives in my house.
And I hate her.

And when I stepped on one more Lego piece I was sorely tempted to pick up all their Legos and chuck them in the trash.
Have you been there before?  

I felt like shooting myself when I had to wipe one more bottom.
Seriously, how many times can my kids poop in one day?
I didn't want to cook dinner.  
I didn't want to make the house nice before Daddy came home.  
I didn't want to do one more thing!

By the time Aaron came home, I had allowed myself to get into a horribly grouchy mood.  I could think only of complaints.  I had nothing positive or uplifting to say about the kids or my day.  Everything I did was pointless and it was never going to end.
In short, I was sick of it all.
I was a beast.

After my kind and understanding husband gave me some space and let me wash yet another load of dishes in peace, I calmed down. (cleaning is how I calm down.  At least it is productive.  It's that or drink)   I repented and asked God and my family for forgiveness.  
But in my heart I was still feeling pretty sorry for myself and bitter about the endless drudgery that lay before me.

The boys and I settled down on the couch to begin the next book in the Little House series.  I have loved these books for as long as I can remember.  Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa are not characters in a book; they are friends.  They are a part of me.  Reading these books with my boys has been one of the sweetest experiences in my life.  They love them as much as I do. 
They want to read all 9 books.
Right now we're reading the 5th book, By the Shores of Silver Lake.

As I began to read the first chapter, the words were like a slap in the face.
Ma, the ever clean and cheerful, was tired and disheveled.  She was too sad to care.  
4 of the 6 of them have had Scarlett fever.  Mary is blind.  Pa's first wheat crop was devastated by grasshoppers and he has not had a good one since.  He walked 300 miles to find work back east and still they have debts, doctor bills and no idea where the money will come from.  

What in the world did I have to complain about?  
Dishes?  Laundry?  Toys scattered on the floor? 
I was embarrassed.  
I was ashamed.
I was convicted.


This is why I love good books so very much.  A good book has much to teach me, and my children.
A good book transcends age.  CS Lewis said a book worth reading at 10 should be worth reading at 50.
These are.
I have read them more times than I could count and they never stop opening up my mind and my heart.

They boys asked me why I was crying.  Again.  
I was able to explain to them about my selfish attitude--the one I tried to hide from them all afternoon, but they knew about anyway.  I explained that reading about Laura and Mary reminded me that I needed to be thankful instead of complaining.  They could see the difference in our life and the life of the Ingalls family.  They could see that the world is much, much bigger than the walls of our house, or our own experiences.
Books give us that.

One of my favorite authors, Gladys Hunt, writes about reading and books and all they have to offer us.  These are some of my favorite quotes on the subject.

"Reading may be an escape, but it is not an escape from my own life and problems.  It is an escape from the narrow boundaries of being only me.  Reading in some wonderful way helps me find out who I am."

"Reading enlarges my vision of the world: it helps me understand someone who is different from me.  It makes me bigger on the inside."

"Good literature helps me understand who I am in relation to what others experience.  Far from being an escape from reality, good literature is a window into reality."

"Good books instruct me about the world."

"I have more breadth in my thinking."

"A great novel can be kind of a conversion experience.  We come away from it changed."

And my favorite:
" The critical moment in a story may not be when we read what is happening to a character, but when that character begins to see what is happening and we ourselves enter into that character's life.  It never hurts to stand in another's shoes.  We learn to sympathize with other people, but the real surprise is that we learn truths about ourselves that we had not seen before.  In this sense literature does affect our world /life view.  It does not always provide the standard; it provides the opportunity to see the responsibility of choice and the consequences that follow.  It extends our range of vision."  

This quote reminds me of another life changing book, To Kill a Mockingbird.
It is one of my lifetime favorites.  
I can't wait to share it with my kids.

How grateful I am that the world is full of good books.  How grateful I am for people who have to tell the stories that are inside them.  How grateful I am for reading.
It is truly one of the best gifts I was ever given.

Do you have a life changing book to tell me about?  I'd love to hear.
Love from,

*all quotes are from Gladys Hunt's book, Honey for a Woman's Heart.


Tammy Callis said...

Oh, how I love this post. Where would we be without beautiful literature? I love that first quote, I've never heard it before. Some of my all time favorites are To Kill a Mockingbird, The Glass Castle, East of Eden, The Color Purple, and A Thousand splendid Suns.

Christina said...

So happy to hear of another family who loves to read together. We're currently reading "Where the Red Fern Grows" with our boys. Some of my favorite life-changing books are: Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Little Men (great book for moms of boys!) and Through Gates of Splendor. (the story of Jim Elliot's life and ministry to the Quichua Indians of Ecuador).

Betsi* said...

The Blue Castle, the Narnia series and the Lord of the Rings books. They maybe didn't change me, but rather shaped me. As a child they taught me to love and seek beauty and to be brave and true.