Enough. If you pluck one word from this post, let it be enough. Enough fruitless striving, or striving an inordinate amount for a small yield. Let our striving instead put us into the posture of those who choose the better part. We know it when we get there because our very breath and pulse reverberate, enough.
5 lifestyle principles shepherd me and mine into green pastures and beside quiet waters. They are the working out of our efforts to love God with all we are and our neighbors as ourselves. They are:
- Cultivate life-giving practices. Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms. Sabbath, prayer, meditation, reading, retreat, etc.
- Eat (and drink) fresh, whole foods. I am CONVINCED that to the extent that we replace the processed foods in our diets with food that is as close to the source and natural state as we can consume it, we will settle into a comfortable balance in our bodies.
- Moderate consumption. Develop an appetite for a serving size, in all appetites, not just food and drink.
- Make active choices. Alter the default mode from looking for the path of least resistance to one that builds physical work back into our daily chores and transportations.
- People and planet. Make choices guided by what cares for people and planet rather than by economy, convenience and desire.
1 practice I would like to spotlight is reading. It is life giving because it can delight, inspire, and instruct, but most of all it shapes us. Justin Zoradi muses that there is a connection between those that read and those that flourish in foreign places. That should motivate us of the third-culture tribe, yes?
My little city in China, 1.4 million, has a wonderful xiuxi (rest) hour after lunch when things slow down. In my home, no matter what is yet undone in my day, I stop. I tuck my kids into their beds to sleep or spend some quiet time with books, puzzles, Legos on a tray, wooden beads and shoelaces, or magnets. (No need to comment on hazards; it’s all age appropriate, but thanks for your concern.) And I read. I also read most evenings. This is regularly interrupted by great conversation with my husband, often about what he is reading.
I read in categories and am always reading multiple books at a time. I wrote out a calendar to document where I’ve been and where I’m going. The calendar reflects my particular circumstances and is always evolving. I’ve added some notes and examples.
Monday – Monthly category. (See the monthly calendar below.) For example, January is poetry so I’m reading Help Me Be by Dale Fredrickson and The Song of the Toad and the Mockingbird by Elizabeth Weaver-Kreider.
Tuesday – Justice. Justice is a drumbeat of our generation and there is much shaping work being written in this category. Start with Half the Sky by Kristof and WuDunn.
Wednesday – Leadership and Ministry. To Transform a City by Swanson and Williams.
Thursday – Parenting and Family. Third Culture Kids by Pollock and Van Reken.
Friday – Samples. I do most of my reading on Kindle and download free samples of books that I come across. If I am sad when I get to the end of a sample, I put it on my wish list.
Saturday – Periodicals. I regularly read People and Parents.
Sunday – Spiritual Formation. Here’s a good one on practice: Invitations from God by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.
January – Poetry
February – Writing or Personal Development. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
March – Biography
April – Business and Finance. There are very readable books out there and stewarding our finances should be a regular practice.
May – Home Education. At present, we home-school our children. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.
June – Marriage. As an egalitarian, I am discouraged by many books written from a Christian perspective. I have hope for this one: The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason.
July – Children’s and Juvenile. We are usually in our country of origin during the summer months, which means we use the library, a lot.
August – Contemporary Fiction.
September – China. Amy Young wrote a great post about a novel approach to Chinese history.
October – TESOL. This is my profession and I read to stay current in the field.
November – Cookbook. I learned to read cookbooks from my husband. Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain.
December – Classics. There are many in the public domain, which means there are free electronic versions. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
A manageable load builds momentum. My intentional reading life took off with a single book I categorize as Justice which lead to another book in another category (maybe Spiritual Formation) that referenced a book in Parenting I wanted to read. If you desire to integrate reading into your daily practice, start with one category you desire to be shaped by, choose a book by recommendation or review, and read a chapter or smaller section a day. It’s enough, and reading breeds reading. As you read, you will discover more you want to read and you will want to read more. Read and flourish.
What categories of reading shape you?