Today is the first day of summer. It’s summer solstice—the longest day of the year.
As a high school student, the first day of summer was like a big happy sigh. It was the start of two whole months of freedom. Even if I worked a job, summer still felt like a break: there was no homework lying in wait to attack me at the end of the day.
But before all this free time went to my head, Mom came along with that old favorite—the “summer schedule.” Now, Mom wanted her girls to have a fun summer as much as we did. She’d plan trips to Kings Dominion (a nearby amusement park) and we’d go berry picking and to “free-swim” hour at the pool. But she was determined we wouldn’t completely waste those long summer days.
That’s where the “summer schedule” came in. It meant waking up before noon, having morning devotions, practicing piano, maybe cooking dinner once a week. But no matter how it changed from year to year, it always included one hour per day of mandatory reading. And those books I read—they have shaped my life, and still bring me joy all these years later.
Maybe you’re not much of a reader. But in John Piper’s book When I Don’t Desire God he shares a great idea for non-readers or not-so-fast readers to actually finish good books. (Maybe his mom had a “summer schedule” too.) He writes:
“Suppose you read slowly like I do—maybe about the same speed that you speak—200 words a minute. If you read fifteen minutes a day for one year (say just before supper, or just before bed), you will read 5,475 minutes in the year. Multiply that by 200 words a minute, and you get 1,095,000 words that you would read in a year. Now an average serious book might have about 360 words per page. So you would have read 3,041 pages in one year. That’s ten very substantial books. All in fifteen minutes a day.”
John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2004), p. 129.
Now I tried to work out how many pages you could read before the autumn equinox (the first day of fall) in ninety-four days, but I was never very good at math. However I bet you could read three books this summer if you set aside fifteen minutes a day.
May I offer some suggestions?
1. Read a book about God. And there’s no better place to start than the modern classic Knowing God by J.I. Packer.
2. Read a good biography. My elementary school librarian, Miss Kisiel, used to make her students read three biographies before we could check out one Nancy Drew. We complained, but today I am still inspired by the godly men and women I met in those books. My current pick for a good biography is The God I Love by Joni Eareckson Tada.
3. Read a classic work of literature. A Tale of Two Cities has to be my favorite novel of all time. The key is not stopping after the first chapter. It gets better. Much better. And the ending…wow!
So, what are you still looking at this blog for? You have some reading to do!
I wanted to get up early, but C.J. encouraged me to stay in bed a little longer. I had been up quite late the night before. He thought I needed a little more sleep.
By the time I arose, the demands of the day came rushing at me in rapid succession. There was breakfast to fix. Conversations to have. The unexpected phone call. Family members to shuttle from point A to point B. One interruption after another.
It was 10:00 a.m. and I still hadn’t taken a shower, much less made progress on my to-do list. I was struggling. This wasn’t the way my morning was supposed to go. I wasn’t completing the tasks I thought were most important. Peace and joy had vanished.
Then I recalled this perspective-altering thought from C.S. Lewis:
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it’s hard to remember it all the time.”
—The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (20 December 1943), para. 5, p. 499; quoted in The Quotable Lewis, (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1989), 335.
It is hard to remember. But what a difference it made when I called to mind this biblical truth.
All these interruptions—they weren’t interruptions after all. They were “sovereign deliveries.” These “unpleasant things” were God’s perfect plan for my day.
Contemplating this bit of wisdom brought a smile to my face. And from that moment on, I met each subsequent “interruption” with joy. The shower could wait.
My prayer is that, next time, God will help me to remember this truth. Because Mr. Lewis was right. It’s easy to forget.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
Had there been such a thing as weblogs in 1973, the year Mom graduated from Southeast High School, she would not have been voted “most likely to become a blogger.” Maybe it’s her Mennonite ancestry. Wonderful people, to be sure. But historically not the first group that comes to mind when you think of cutting edge technology.
Don’t get me wrong. I think my Mom is hip. You’d never guess she’s a recently-turned-fifty grandmother. But she’s not your stereotypical blogger either. I mean, if you had to pick the guilty blogger out of a police lineup, Mom is the first one you’d rule out.
This is Mom. When she got her first computer, she kept all her information in one document. Seriously. ONE file. I’m not kidding. This massive document included health records, message outlines, weekly menus, Christmas lists, journal entries—you name it. It was the prize pumpkin of all WORD documents.
To come from these humble Mennonite beginnings in rural Virginia farmland, to the virtual cusp of the information age is a momentous journey. One to be celebrated. Marveled at, really.
All this to say: if our blog doesn’t have the snappiest layout, or the wittiest posts, or the coolest pictures you’ll be patient, won’t you? This is a big step for Mom.
Plus, if you know Mom, you know she’s happiest outside of the spotlight. The idea of posting her thoughts on the WORLD WIDE web didn’t originate with her. Rather, she was prevailed upon. And she only agreed because she has a heart to serve and encourage women—even when it means leaping out of her comfort zone. Her one request was that we take the leap with her.
So think of this blog as a seat at Mom’s kitchen table.
This is where the Bible is read, issues of life discussed, questions asked, opinions shared, hearts opened up, sins confessed, and grace recognized. Here encouragement is always on tap and laughter overflows. It’s where the gospel is prized. It’s every day Titus 2.
So on behalf of Mom, Kristin, and Janelle, I want to invite you to pull up a chair and join our little chat. We’d love to have you, no matter your age or season of life. It’s our hope that you’ll have tons of fun on this new adventure with us!