Ray LaMontagne is soothing my ears right now. The swish of his swinging, jazzy beat and the raspy voice... it brings me back to college days, and summer nights in our first home. Tonight I am far from H Dorm and Willow Grove Ave. I'm all alone; the kids sleeping soundly with the memorials of their day still scattered here and there throughout the house. The worlds are swimming and swirling like a small galaxy hovering over my head. The stories I'm reading... Ozarks and coon hounds, Johannesburg and Shantytown, coast of Maine and Prodigal Sons, and then Ray in there with my memory lanes.
I want to share about books tonight because it's been awhile since I've been able to do that, but also because I've been reading some good ones. I am so thankful for the books we have here, the old friends that have followed us from place to place and even over oceans. And the children's books, the ones that the grandparents have blessed us with time and time again, they are priceless. Many an early morning, long afternoon, sick in bed day, or be quiet while I put the baby to bed, has been saved by these precious books. I love that in all her clambering, the Busy One has started to sit and look intently through her books. She's clearly catching on to what is expected of her. Her little board books may be discussing belly buttons or runaway rabbits, but she is getting the idea.
The books tonight are some of my old favorites. I have also been weeping openly nearly every day now as I've fingered their pages and held their words in my mouth. I have got to stop crying over these coon hound pups. So, as a form of thanks, I offer up this short list-- of books.
Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
As you can tell from anything I've mentioned about the coon hounds in the past few posts, this story has left me a soppy mess of tears nearly every time I try to read it. This week its just me and the boys, waiting for Daddy to return home and needing an "interim" story. So because the oldest has been talking every day about wanting two puppies, and has already named them, as well as planned out an entire training regimen for when they arrive (which will be when we live on a large farm in the country), I thought this was a fitting story to begin. They are loving it, and I am too- when I can speak without my voice quivering and tears welling up in my eyes. Billy is just so darned determined, and sweetly passionate, and burning up with dog-love. His grandpa is so moved and bewildered by the coins dumped out on the store counter, his parents so torn up about the lack of money and the heartsick dreams of their young boy. Then there's the way he loves his family, and that he buys his sisters candy so their eyes will light up, and his mother material for a new dress. The names carved in the tree, the generous fishermen. I could go on and on.
I also love that the mother and father are highly concerned about living in the country, at the foothills of the mountains, far from town. "It's no place to raise a family," the father says. And they want to move to town so their children can get an education... "more to an education than reading, writing, and arithmetic." I love this because it is so ironic to me, who worries that living in the city is no place to raise a family. "More to an education than reading, writing, and learning a language..." Like throwing rocks and splitting wood and romping through streams and feeling dirt between your fingers and seeing where the food you eat comes from. Not sure all of why, but I am thankful for this sweet story right now.
Cry The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
If I had to give a list of my all-time favorite books, I believe this one would top the list. Maybe at some point in my life this will change. For now, it reigns secure.
The story is tragic. An old minister who is from the hill country in South Africa, where the "lovely little road that runs to Ixopo" lies, goes to Johannesburg in search of his wayward son who has been missing for some time. What he finds brings deep suffering. The road he travels in the city is full of humbling moments, of finding grace through the love of God's people, of temptation and failure, of grief and mercy, of great joy in simple acts of love, of uncertainty and provision.
Some of the things that stood out to me this time were things I didn't notice the first couple times through. At several points, a friend who sacrifices much to help the suffering minister is thanked, and he with some chagrin states, "I am a weak and sinful man. But God laid his hands on me. That is all." It is no small statement, and has come to my often as I think through all that I am that is not of me, and all that I am not that is not counted against me. All of him... his hands on me and that is all.
I love how it ends. I love how it begins. I cry for South Africa, for all that happened there and all the crying out for humanity and a country torn and fearful. I am humbled by how much this man who wrote these words loved his country, and the people, and knew that what was needed when the hating had turned to loving was forgiveness. I love how he lifts up the way God meets us in our need with mercy and grace, but also questions why some people receive the healing of their suffering and some never see an end (because I too ask these questions), and answers that it is a mystery, but not in a way that makes you question God's goodness, just how much we are able to understand.
I hope you read it. I hope you like it. Given my infatuation, maybe just pretend or say something vague and polite if you don't.
One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
For some reason we've been picking this one up frequently these days. I think the Middle One likes the pictures. He will sit and slowly leaf through them for long periods of time. A simple story of a little girl, Sal and her Saturday morning on the coast of Maine, where she helps her father dig for clams, and loses her first tooth, takes a boat ride to town, and gets ice cream with her sister. The wildlife, the townspeople, the new spark plug, it's all very Maine-ish and delightful.
The Prodigal God by Tim Keller
A friend gave this to me for my birthday and I'm just getting around to it. A quick, but insightful read into the real issues of the Prodigal Son story. Perhaps it's not the younger brother who really has the more serious problem. And if you've grown up religious, or with your moral ducks in a row... it's likely you'll find yourself in the hot seat.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
My faithful husband is still plugging away at this monstrosity of a book. He is loving it and often reads sections to me aloud (sweet, but not recommended in a house with several children under 5, who are not sedated with television or benadryl).
I Can't Believe I'm Knitting (no author)
I feel like I'm reading this book only because I constantly have my nose buried in it, trying to figure out the directions. I am sooo thankful for it and the simple directions which are guiding me through my baby steps as a knitter. And I am pleased to say that I am halfway through my first simple sweater!! I can't believe it... hopefully I will be proud enough of the finished product to be able to share pictures soon.
There you have it, a short but important list and one that I truly am thankful for and all the joy it has brought me these past few days and weeks. If you want to share, I'd love to hear what you are reading. Of course that means you'd have to leave a comment... which I know is like public speaking or something awful like that.