5 Principles, 1 Practice, and a Calendar


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:

  1. Cultivate life-giving practices. Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms. Sabbath, prayer, meditation, reading, retreat, etc.
  2. 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.
  3. Moderate consumption. Develop an appetite for a serving size, in all appetites, not just food and drink.
  4. 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.
  5. People and planet. Make choices guided by what cares for people and planet rather than by economy, convenience and desire.

Library - 5 principles

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? 

Photo Credit: Carlos Porto via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: [email protected] via Compfight cc


  1. Sally Todd January 5, 2014

    thank you Kim for shifting my perspective… staying up professionally  requires so much ongoing research and review; language study consumes the other spare hours of each week, my devotional life has been my only nourishing element.  But I can remember an earlier time when there were open and page marked books stacked on my nightstand that I would choose between to savor for just a few minutes every night after that last child settled to sleep.  I WILL resume reading.  Hopefully I can develop an intentionality and order to it but today, I will simply open Half the Sky.

    1. Kimberly Todd January 6, 2014

      I like the words savor and nourish for this practice. I’ve found that my devotional life and my reading life totally bleed into each other and strengthen each other; I can’t really even tell one from the other anymore because I find Him in unusual places. (But I’m certainly not suggesting there is a substitute for the Word. Before I read anything else, I read from my prayer book and the Word). I’m sure you will find Him in Half the Sky.

  2. Morielle January 5, 2014

    I also live in NW China, and love that xiuxi hour!  Mine is usually spent napping (beginning with reading, which almost always turns into napping….) or knitting. I love your idea of designating themes to months to make sure you hit all the themes in one year. That’s probably too structured for me. I like to pick up books on a whim and devour them. But I will think about how I can incorporate the idea into my life in a way that works for me.

    1. Kimberly Todd January 6, 2014

      Napping is an entirely wonderful way to spend that hour. Some of us could stand to practice that. This calendar evolved from wanting a system in place so that I could think less about what to read and read more, and it’s out the window (for the length of a book) when I’m into one that I can’t put down. =)

  3. Shelly Page January 5, 2014

    Kim, recently I was wondering how you land on the books you have recommended. I read voraciously as a child and teen, and even as an English major (by necessity).  Then I entered the workplace and reading was my job as a literature teacher. Somewhere along the line a habit of reading faded away and now my reading is so random, coming in fits and starts.  Thanks for sharing and providing a structure that just might help this I-like-to-read, I-want-to-read, I-need-to-read woman get some lift.

    1. Kimberly Todd January 6, 2014

      Yes, this has taken me to some random and thrilling places. =) I’m glad you may find here some help for your own reading life. I’ll be looking for recommendations from you. =)

  4. Anna Scianna January 6, 2014

    Love this, Kim.  As you know, I do love to read, but this really challenged me to be more intentional about it. I appreciate your intentionality in this and in the way you live your daily life!

    1. Kimberly Todd January 6, 2014

      Thanks, Anna. I’ve gotten some great book leads from you. This practice is so much richer for being shared.

  5. Debbie January 6, 2014

    I never thought about becoming more intentional in my reading. I know of another blogger that does this and it interests me. Probably not this year though.

  6. Kimberly Todd January 6, 2014

    Huh, I thought about the connection between reading and living internationally. Not surprising that there may be one between reading and blogging. It may work for some to make a resolve and follow a plan, but for me it was an organic process and this was just documentation of what I was already doing. Take it as it comes, and maybe it won’t this year. =)

  7. Ashley Felder January 6, 2014

    Ok, I’m gonna be a rebel and not talk about reading. But about food. Because I’m the wannabe foodie around here. I remember you mentioning in another post or comment that you’re mostly vegan. I’m not quite there, but love cooking with things as naturally as possible. When I really get fixated on it, though, I drive myself nuts here. How do you find all the specialized ingredients? And do so with our budget? Do you bring stuff from the States? If so, I’d love to know what’s on your “must-bring” list!

    1. Kimberly Todd January 6, 2014

      I love a rebel. I’m not there (vegan) either and I don’t know if I ever fully will be, but I feel the pull towards progressively minimizing animal protein both for health and environmental impact. Processed foods, though, are generally gone, gone, gone from pantry and diet, and certainly gone from our staples. We bring our boosts from the US (flax, chia, brewer’s yeast) and some dry stuff like garbanzo beans. Other than that, we buy local. If a recipe we want to make requires super special ingredients, we substitute or adapt, but sometimes we just have to forego. When I’m tempted to grumble about the absence of anything, I remember (sometimes grudgingly) that for us these precious-to-us principles developed BECAUSE we live where we do. On budget – we “vote with our dollar/kuai.” The more of us who ride that wave, the more affordable the wave becomes. And we just generally buy a lot less. That way when we need an “expensive” item, we buy it guilt-free.

  8. Amy Young January 6, 2014

    I “heart” this post!! And this is why I enjoy being part of book groups — there are some books I simply wouldn’t not read no matter how well intentioned unless I have some form of accountability. And I say YES, YES to

    Bird by Bird

    Anna Karenina

    and Half the Sky

    My mom loves poetry and somehow that love skipped a generation and her four granddaughters live for April — poetry month — and the new poetry books they will get. Their “thank you” is to memorize a poem and say it to Grandma. These girls are poetry crazy 🙂 … the memorize poems for fun, write poems to process their feelings, and to memorialize special memories. Anyone up for a haiku on sledding?

    1. Amy Young January 6, 2014

      p.s. thanks for sticking your neck out and naming yourself an egalitarian — I know not everyone here is and that is COOL — but it’s also nice to know I’m not the only one 🙂

      1. Kimberly Todd January 6, 2014

        I finally decided it’s much nicer out here in the open where I can find others…like you.

    2. Kimberly Todd January 6, 2014

      I plan to go sledding soon. Hit us with the haiku.

      1. Amy Young January 8, 2014


        Down down I will go

        Over bumps and through the snow

        This is how I flow

        (written by eight year old, Anna)

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