What I’m reading in 2017

It’s become my habit to keep a list of what I’ve read, and I’m continuing that this year. My main reading goal this year is to read 45 books, mostly from my own shelves. I’ll add to this post as I go.

January:

  1.  Cometh the Hour (Book Six of the Clifton Chronicles) – Jeffrey Archer
  2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – Marie Kondo  (a few thoughts on this one here and here)
  3. 30 Days — Change Your Habits, Change Your Life: A Couple of Simple Steps Every Day to Create the Life You Want – Marc Reklau
  4. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Duckworth

February:

  1. What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast – Laura Vanderkam
  2. The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ – Andrew Klavan
  3. Food Freedom Forever: Letting Go of Bad Habits, Guilt, and Anxiety Around Food – Melissa Hartwig

March:

  1. Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything – Anonymous
  2. Rules of Civility – Amor Towles
  3. Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously

April:

  1. Emotional Intelligence 2.0Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves
  2. The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things – Courtney Elizabeth Mauk

May:

  1. Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and BetrayalNick Bilton

June:

  1. American WifeCurtis Sittenfield 
  2. My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout
  3. Boy’s Life – Robert R. McCammon
  4. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will – Kevin DeYoung
  5. Island of the World – Michael D. O’Brien (my second time through this one and it’s still my favorite novel)

** Disclaimer: Whenever you click on a link to books around here and then make a purchase at Amazon, you’re helping me — a few pennies at a time —  feed my book habit. Many thanks!

“All life isn’t hearts and flowers…”

boys-lifeFrom Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon:

“All life isn’t hearts and flowers.” Dad put down his paper. “I wish it was, God knows I do. But life is just as much pain and mess as it is joy and order. Probably a lot more mess than order, too. I guess when you make yourself realize that, you” — he smiled faintly, with his sad eyes, and looked at me — “start growin’ up.”

“Foolishness, on the other hand, is turning from God and listening only to yourself.”

just-do-somethingI’ve been reading through Proverbs lately (tweeting a verse here and there), and I’ve been thinking a lot about the contrast between a wise person and a fool. I’m also currently reading Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, and I highly recommend it. He’s making a case that while we’re inundated with information, wisdom is something entirely different. And we’re called by God to seek wisdom, not “some hidden will of direction. He expects us to trust Him and be wise.” DeYoung goes on:

Wisdom is understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God. Wisdom, in Proverbs, is always moral. The fool, the opposite of the wise person, is not a moron or an oaf. The fool is the person who does not live life God’s way. Wisdom is knowing God and doing as he commands. Foolishness, on the other hand, is turning from God and listening only to yourself.

Here are just a few characteristics of a wise man, as described in Proverbs:

~ fears the Lord
~ makes his parents glad
~ diligent
~ walks in integrity
~ listens to advice
~ loves discipline
~ guards his mouth
~ hangs out with other wise people
~ exercises self control

Contrast those with characteristics of a fool:

~ brings sorrow to his parents
~ lazy
~ runs his mouth
~ despises wisdom and instruction
~ refuses to listen to others
~ hangs out with other fools
~ reckless and careless
~ is easily angered

It’s pretty easy to look at those lists and immediately think of people we know – either in person or from television or Twitter. But the trick is finding ourselves there and seeking God’s help to grow in the characteristics of a wise person.

I realize I’m not on to anything new here, but it’s been on my mind and in my reading, and it’s worth pondering. All day long, I’m making little choices to be wise or to be foolish, and I really want to be wise. I’m thankful that God’s doesn’t hide that wisdom from us. He tells us to seek Him and His wisdom, and His word is the place to find it.

For the LORD gives wisdom;
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. ~ Proverbs 2:6

“What’s that song?”

boys-lifeFrom Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon:

“What’s that, Davy?” I said. “What’s that song?”

…Round…round…get around…wha wha wha – oooooh….

“What’s that song?” I asked him, close to panic that I might never know.

“Haven’t you heard that yet? All the high-school guys are singing’ it.”

…Gettin’ bugged drivin’ up and down the same ol’ strip…I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip…

“What’s the name of it?” I demanded, standing at the center of ecstasy.

“It’s on the radio all the time. It’s called –”

…Right then the high-school kids in the lot started singing along with the music, some of them rocking their cars back and forth, and I stood with a peanut butter milk shake in my hand and the sun on my face and the clean chlorine smell of the swimming pool coming to me from across the street.

“ — by the Beach Boys,” Davy Ray finished.

“What?”

“The Beach Boys. That’s who’s singin’ it.”

“Man!” I said. “That sounds … that sounds …”

What would describe it? What word in the English language would speak of youth and hope and freedom and desire, of sweet wanderlust and burning blood? What word describes the brotherhood of buddies, and the feeling that as long as the music plays, you are part of that tough, rambling breed who will inherit the earth?

“Cool,” Davy Ray supplied.

It would have to do.

.. Yeah the bad guys know us and they leave us alone … I get arounnnnddddd …

I was amazed. I was transported. Those soaring voices lifted me off the hot pavement, and I flew with them to a land unknown. I had never been to the beach before. I’d never seen the ocean, except for pictures in magazines and on TV and movies. The Beach Boys. Those harmonies thrilled my soul, and for a moment I wore a letter jacket and owned a red hotrod and had beautiful blondes begging for my attention and I got around.

well, hey there

I didn’t mean to take a blog break — especially such a long one, but sometimes life gets in the way. February flew by, and March is nearly gone, too. I don’t have much to show for it here, but I did get to go see my peeps in Chattanooga for a long weekend last month. Kenna (now 8 months old!) has grown so much and is learning new tricks every day. Paul and I kidnapped her and had so much fun. She’s a sweet, happy girl.

meandk

(photo credit: Will)

I have been knitting up a storm and reading some, too, but not as much as I’d hoped. I cast on a center-out baby blanket that should have been really easy, but I took it apart and started over about 10 times — once after starting the third skein of yarn! I can live with some imperfections in a project, but I decided to rip it all out when I realized I would never be happy with this one as is. So I cast on yet again — which is a real pain because it starts with a circular cast on and then double-points. If nothing else, knitting pushes me to persist and be patient.

embracing-obscurity

Last month I finished reading Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything (by Anonymous!), and y’all, it is good and challenging.

I read Rules of Civility, a fiction work I’ve heard fellow readers recommend again and again. I enjoyed it.

I found a copy of Sweater Quest on my shelves recently, and it was my bedtime reading for about a week.

I’m still slowly rereading Island of the World, and I’m juggling several other books, too.

 

If anyone is still reading this poor little blog, thanks ever so much! I’m looking to make some changes in my life — inspired by some recent things I’ve read and heard which I want to share — and hope to return to more regularly updating this little corner of my world.

Happy Saturday!

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“Nothing but art can do this.”

great-good-thingFrom The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ by Andrew Klavan:

Stories are not just entertainment, not to me. A story records and transmits the experience of being human. It teaches us what it’s like to be who we are. Nothing but art can do this. There is no science that can capture the inner life. No words can describe it directly. We can only speak of it in metaphors. We can only say: it’s like this—this story, this picture, this song.

(I highly recommend this one! So very good and thought-provoking. I love to hear conversion stories, and this one is beautifully written.)

“…but the mightiest among us is granted no more than 168 hours per week…”

before-breakfastFrom Laura Vanderkam’s What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast:

As with money, we have a tendency to fritter away the time in front of us as if it were infinite. For some of us, that’s because our hours are sucked into the Reply All maw of an in-box. Others, perhaps, can see that the customer who wandered into their store left with her real need unaddressed and won’t be coming back. A dentist sees that a patient didn’t absorb her halfhearted pep talk on flossing and knows that the patient will be back soon for more fillings and another tepid pep talk. We find ourselves counting minutes and wishing ourselves elsewhere. These hours pass, inexorably, with little promise of leading to much that matters. They are spent and the transaction is done, like paying a late fee on a cell phone bill or buying a sweater that you never wind up wearing.

But as with money, people who build wealth take some chunk of what is coming in and invest it in ways that generate returns. Successful people know that hours, like capital can be consciously allocated with the goal of creating riches–in the form of a changed world, a life’s work–over time. Indeed, successful people understand that work hours must be more carefully stewarded than capital because time is absolutely limited. You can earn more money, but the mightiest among us is granted no more than 168 hours per week, and it is physically impossible to work for all of them.

2017 reading

It’s become my habit to keep a list of what I’ve read, and I’m continuing that this year. My main reading goal this year is to read 45 books, mostly from my own shelves. I’ll add to this post as I go.

January:

  1.  Cometh the Hour (Book Six of the Clifton Chronicles) – Jeffrey Archer
  2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – Marie Kondo  (a few thoughts on this one here and here)
  3. 30 Days — Change Your Habits, Change Your Life: A Couple of Simple Steps Every Day to Create the Life You Want – Marc Reklau
  4. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Duckworth

February:

  1. What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast – Laura Vanderkam
  2. The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ – Andrew Klavan
  3. Food Freedom Forever: Letting Go of Bad Habits, Guilt, and Anxiety Around Food – Melissa Hartwig

March:

  1. Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything – Anonymous
  2. Rules of Civility – Amor Towles
  3. Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously

April:

  1. Emotional Intelligence 2.0Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves
  2. The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things – Courtney Elizabeth Mauk

May:

  1. Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and BetrayalNick Bilton

June:

  1. American WifeCurtis Sittenfield 
  2. My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout
  3. Boy’s Life – Robert R. McCammon
  4. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will – Kevin DeYoung
  5. Island of the World – Michael D. O’Brien (my second time through this one and it’s still my favorite novel)

** Disclaimer: Whenever you click on a link to books around here and then make a purchase at Amazon, you’re helping me — a few pennies at a time —  feed my book habit. Many thanks!

“A calling is not some fully formed thing that you find.”

gritI just finished reading  Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. It was recommended to me by a dear friend, and the subject matter is right up my alley. I’ve often wondered what makes some people able to weather adversity while others wilt and give up under it. And I’ve wondered if this mental toughness — or grit — is something you’re simply born with. Duckworth is convincing me that grit can be encouraged and developed, and that is some very good news if it’s true.

We all know that talent matters, but that’s only one ingredient of success. Even more important (we all know talented people who just can’t seem to get it going) is effort. And gritty folks make the effort — over and over again. Gritty people have passion and perseverance, and Duckworth argues that these traits aren’t fixed. We can learn them.

Which is very good news for younger folks, if they’ll just pay attention. And it’s very good news for older people who may be discouraged about their own progress or frustrated by what they see in millennials.

The instant success story is exceedingly rare, and I’ll bet that when we hear of one, we’re only hearing a tiny piece of that story. Yes, some people — very few people — seem to “luck” into something great. But that’s the exception and not the rule. The more likely scenario is putting in time, effort, figuring out how to bounce back after failure, and eventually creating a rewarding career or calling or hobby out of all of that.

Actually becoming good at something doesn’t often look like much at the beginning, and sometimes we don’t even know we’re beginning something. But if we stick with it, over time, we see nuances and get interested enough to pursue more. Here’s Duckworth’s colleague Barry Schwartz:

“There are a lot of things where the subtleties and exhilarations come with sticking with it for a while, getting elbow-deep into something. A lot of things seem uninteresting and superficial until you start doing them and, after a while, you realize that there are so many facets you didn’t know at the start, and you never can fully solve the problem, or fully understand it, or what have you. Well, that requires that you stick with it.”

Duckworth contends that “passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.” Just think how much time all of that takes! I think we all have a romantic aha! moment picture of passion, and we impatient humans don’t make the time to develop interests and cultivate passion. We think that just because we have an interest in something, we’ll naturally be good at it  and love every part  and will see instant success. That reminds me of a quote from this “literary perfectionist” (I love that description!):

“The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.”

Drudgery. Time. Effort. Perseverance. Work. Development. Learning. Failure. Pursuit. Patience. 

Dirty words. But true, time-tested ingredients of getting good at something.

Unlike Duckworth, I’m no expert here. I came to my current career only in the past few years (although it is a return to my field of study in college) through a series of events that turned my world upside down. And I feel like there’s just not enough time to learn all I want to learn about it. But I do know that the more I learn, the more I want to learn. I feel a sense of urgency. But there is no substitute for time and picking up new things every day, trying to figure out how the parts fit into the whole, asking questions, messing up and determining not to make that same mistake again, and, yes, drudgery.

More from Duckworth:

“What do you tell people,” I recently asked Amy [Wrzesniewski, a management professor], “when they ask you for advice?”

“A lot of people assume that what they need to do is find their calling,” she said. “I think a lot of anxiety comes from the assumption that your calling is like a magical entity that exists in the world, waiting to be discovered.”

That’s also how people mistakenly think about interests, I pointed out. They don’t realize they need to play an active role in developing and deepening their interests.

“A calling is not some fully formed thing that you find,” she tells advice seekers. “It’s much more dynamic. Whatever you do–whether you’re a janitor or the CEO–you can continually look at what you do and ask how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, how it can be an expression of your deepest values.”

“A calling is not some fully formed thing that you find.” Amen.

And as a side note, I think these ideas apply to hobbies as well as vocations. My first knitting project is embarrassing to look at, but now over two years in, I’m able to make pieces worthy of wearing and giving as gifts. And I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I want to learn and make. Time, practice, watching You Tube knitting tutorials over and over again, asking questions, getting stuck, messing up, ripping out, and starting over. This is the stuff of knitting. The more I do it, the more I enjoy it.

I usually fly through a book like this one, but I’ve taken my time and thought a lot about it. And I’ll keep thinking about it after I return it to my local library. Have you read it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

monday miscellany: new year edition

From around the web:

~ Don’t believe in yourself:

One of the most dangerous qualities of pride is that it sneaks into places in our hearts where other sins once lived. We begin to conquer some sinful attitude, or habit, or addiction with God’s help, and soon enough we marvel at our own strength, or resolve, or purity, as if we somehow accomplished it on our own. C.S. Lewis writes, “The devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one” (Mere Christianity, 127). The confidence we feel in ourselves after defeating sin can carry us as far away from God as, or even farther than, the sin we defeated.

If we battle some sins, but welcome pride, we will lose the war. But if we suffocate pride, we will starve every other sin of its oxygen.

~ 5 Ways Daily Bible Reading Impacts Your Life. Here’s one:

The Word of God is like an anchor. Each time you read it, you are putting your anchor in the ground and holding on. It keeps you from drifting. But without daily grabbing on to this anchor, you may be miles away before you realize what happened. This is why frequent study and meditation of the Word of God is crucial.

~ Speaking of daily Bible reading, this is the plan I’m using in 2017.

~ Lord, deliver me from distraction.

~ This year I’m planning to use a combination of the lists in the 2017 MMD Reading Challenge, with an emphasis on reading books I already own.

My New Year has started off well. I’m off work today and still in my pajamas!

Happy New Year & Happy Monday!

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