Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Living (and Blogging) Coram Deo

We women are notorious for comparing ourselves with others, aren't we?
I know I struggle with it. I know in my head that we are all normal human beings, with our own strengths and weaknesses. Still, I can't seem to help myself.

I suspect that most women do a better job at keeping house than I do. On the other hand, I have mad skills at whipping up a meal when any other person would think there is nothing in the house to whip a meal up with. When it comes to homeschooling, I do none of the wonderful creative, crafty things so many seem to be able to do with their little ones. And yet we have a wonderful time with our nature study and our living books and our math games.

And I don't just compare myself and other women. I compare my children with theirs. It just seems like a natural reflex. How do their skills measure up against other children their own age? I feel encouraged in areas that they are doing better than their peers, discouraged when another skill doesn't seem to measure up.

To be honest, this is the one thing I struggle with when I blog. I know that homeschoolers are going to read what I write and compare their lives, their gifts, and their children's gifts with mine. I know this because I fall into that myself when I'm reading other people's blogs.

We all need to remember that we live coram Deo. As R.C. Sproul defines it, "To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God." 

It should not matter at all what anyone else is doing. It should be enough for us (more than enough!) to try to faithfully use the gifts God has given us for his glory. It should be enough to do daily the work He has set before us.

The gifts and the callings he has given us are different from those he has given our blogging friends. We are not called to faithfully use their gifts or to do what they are called to do. We are called to encourage one another and build each other up. I hope you see that heart here, and that when you visit this blog you look for encouragement to apply to your own calling as you live before God.

We do not live before the face of the internet. (coram interrÄ“te?) We live before the face of God.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Not Subjects, but Relationships

Dear Readers, I have just been going through old drafts that never got finished and published on the blog. This fragment is several months old, and I've long since lost that train of thought (It seems to have been a good one!). I want to save it, so I'm publishing it just as it is.

In a Charlotte Mason education, the so-called "extras" are not really extra. They are what make life rich. The poetry, the music, the handicrafts, the nature walks are all part of the "science of relations"...the relationships children are forming with the world around them. Yes, the core subjects of reading and math are essential, but not for any utilitarian reason. Reading is a skill that opens the door to even more relationships...with people from history, with places far away, with ideas. And yes, math is about relationships, too.
"a system of education should have for its aim, not the mastery of certain 'subjects,' but the establishment of these relations in as many directions as circumstances will allow." (vol. 3, p.88)

Monday, December 5, 2016

My Top Ten Books of the Year

Last year at about this time, Tim Challies put out a reading challenge on his blog. While I have always loved reading, my reading had slowed down considerably in the last few years. I blame my four rambunctious little boys. I was still reading childrens' books for them, and homeschooling books for me, but that was about it. Reading through the challenge last year, I was very inspired to begin to read intentionally again. I first set my goal at 26 books, then later changed it to 52. I would have liked to jump to the next category, but 104 still seemed a bit much for me! Right now I'm at 70 books (a few of them did not fit into the categories in the challenge), and I hope to finish a few more before December is over. I will definitely be joining the 2017 Christian Reading Challenge again.

I must admit, I did not work through the challenge in an orderly way. I used the categories as inspiration as I looked for books to read, but then I read whatever I wanted and found a category to fit. I am thinking I will do the same next year.

I recently charted all the books I'd read to see what I could find out about myself and my reading habits. Here's the breakdown:
I read 32 fiction books, and 38 nonfiction. Of the nonfiction, 22 were memoir, biography, or autobiography. Of the fiction, 14 were historical fiction. For some reason I expected that I would read more fiction, and before this I had no idea that memoir was a favourite category of mine. Only 16 of the books were explicitly Christian, though a few more were by Christian authors. I would have expected more than that at the beginning of the year. But there you are.

I also broke down when the books were written. I read six books that were over 100 years old, and eight more that were over 50 years old. Forty were written after 2000. The rest were in between. I was surprised at this, too. I also noticed that I started reading more newer books about halfway through the year (That's when I started to listen to Modern Mrs. Darcy's What Should I Read Next podcast. I'm thinking maybe I should stop, but I do enjoy it so much!)

Here are my top ten books of the year (Links for your convenience, not affiliate links. If you're buying, please find a blogger you want to support that way!):

1. The Island of the World by Michael O'Brien. I reviewed it here. I still think about it.

2. Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins. Here's my review. I know I will come back to this one again and again.

3. George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore. Here's my short goodreads review of the first volume. This was a set of two HUGE volumes, and they were definitely worth the time I put into them.

4. More Than Conquerors by William Hendriksen. I would never have expected an interpretation of the book of Revelation to be in my top ten, but it was wonderful. When I was finished, I wanted to start at the beginning again.

5. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. It was even better than Hannah Coulter, which I read last year. Lovely, lovely writing. My goodreads review is here.

6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I read this with the classics book club I'm a part of. I also narrated it to myself, which slowed me down and surprised me by allowing my imagination of the book to become much more vivid than it would normally be. I loved it.

7. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. There was a specific category for this author in the 2016 Reading Challenge, and I am so glad there was! I will be reading more by McCullough.

8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If you haven't read this before, you need to put it at the top of your to-read list now. I didn't review it, but Cindy Rollins gives it ten out of five stars, and I agree with her.

9. Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman. Jane Eyre is my favourite book of all time. This biography of the author is well written, and I found it fascinating.

10. Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener. I read this for the "Pulitzer Prize winner" category of the 2016 Reading Challenge. It transported me into a world that is completely foreign to me. This is another book that I would never have picked up without the reading challenge, and I am grateful.

Honourable mentions:
Persuasion by Jane Austen. This would have gone into the top ten at number 6, except that this is probably the fifth time I've read it, so I decided to give the space to the books I hadn't read before.

High Call, High Privilege by Gail MacDonald. Another re-read, and on a specialized topic that's not for everyone. If you're a pastor's wife (or will be one), this is well worth reading. For pastors, I'd recommend On Being a Pastor by Derek J. Prime and Alistair Begg.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer.
If all the above titles seem a bit over-serious to you, go for this bit of fluff. Just lovely.