Monday, March 31, 2008

Finish Line -- March Reading Challenge

Okay, fellow bibliophiles, how did you fare? If you were a participant in the March Reading Challenge, and you were able to meet your goal, please leave me a comment below and let me know. I will be drawing for prizes on Friday, so please be prompt in responding!

I enjoyed my reading this month very much! I completed Basbanes' A Gentle Madness, and read chunks of Books that Changed the World. Initially, I'd intended to skim How to Read a Book, but only got through the first few chapters before I ran out of time. I don't think it's possible to begin to read a book like that, and then decide to gloss over the content! Even if it means not quite making my goal, I am happy to finish reading Mortimer Adler's classic work in the future so I can really enjoy it. I'm glad I challenged myself anyway!

For your viewing and pondering pleasure, I've put up a woodcut by Albrecht Durer that I've come to love called "The Book Fool" (from the religious work, The Ship of Fools). It is also on the cover of the gorgeous 600-page book I just finished.
Happy April Fool's Day to you all!

Check back soon for a new installment in my series on the Benzing Family!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Booklover's Collection

Here are a couple of gift items we recently pulled in at the bookstore where I work. I am trying to put together some great items for those of us who just love books! I call it "The Booklover's Collection" (go ahead and snicker, Stuart!). I think I need a bit of a tutorial on photographing objects. Who does this all the time? (Sara!!!)

This is the first in a series (hopefully) of mugs with quotes from author's about their love of books and reading. It says "You can't get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." ~C.S. Lewis. This is a prize in the great March Reading Challenge, so pres
s on! We also have a lengthier quote from Spurgeon on a blue mug. The mugs are really terrific, chunky and earthy.

Next is the amazing Booklover's Borrow Book found by Manda. We now carry them in our bookstore, and I was one of the first owners (while I wait for my cute kit from Lennis!). This little book is really quite lovely. Each page inside has 2 stubs to tear out with different little pictures and quotes from authors on the "bookmark" portion you put in the borrower's book. What a nice little reminder! Doesn't seem at all like you are implying they would steal your book when you give them such a pretty little bookmark. Here is a picture of the inside -- which you can tell I've already put to work.

Whether or not you are participating in the March Reading Challenge, these little beauties can be yours, if you wish! Simply let me know, and I'd be happy to connect you with the retailer. :) If you are a contestant, than read, read, read! You have 5 days left to meet your goal and be entered for the chance to win.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Love Lustres at Calvary

Here's a Good Friday prayer taken from The Valley of Vision:

"My Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,
supply words that proclaim 'Love lustres at Calvary.'
There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on thy Son,
made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;
There the sword of thy justice smote the man, thy fellow.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
cast off that I might be brought in,
trodden down as an enemy
that I might be welcomed as a friend
stripped that I might be clothed
wounded that I might be healed,
athirst that I might drink
tormented that I might be comforted,
made a shame that I might inherit glory
entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes
groaned that I might have endless song,
endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
experienced reproach that I might receive welcome
closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness.
expired that I might ever live.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Can you help me find . . .

I have been looking all over for something, and I cannot find it. This thing exists, I know it, I just have not happened upon it, I guess. I am not a good online shopper for anything besides books, and I'm sure some of you out there do quite well at it.

Here's what I am looking for, in case you have ideas of where to look: some sort of personal library record keeper. I have heard such things be called "a booklover's log" or journal, and that is something I am interested in, but besides just the journal part to record what I'm reading, I want something to record my book lending. Mrs. Mohler has these fabulous "book checks" over which I am extremely envious. She lets her students borrow her books and tear out a check to use as a bookmark, all the while keeping the stub in the original binding so that she will know who has what book. She got hers on clearance at Borders, so that is no help there! I examined them closely one night after class.

Is it possible that this is one thing I simply cannot buy online?? Must I *gasp* go shopping the old fashioned way to try and track down what I am looking for?? I am willing to pay a moderately decent amount for something like this. Who has time to kill clicking away on line??

Who will take the challenge?? (inquiries concerning a stipend will likely be disregarded).

Friday, March 14, 2008

My Book Collection

Except for a brief stint when I was 10 or so, and I thought collecting clowns was a great idea (until I figured out that I actually thought clowns were creepy, not cute at all), I have never really been a collector. My sister collected cats. My dad collected -- still does -- Coke Houses. My mom collected Hummels and Precious Moments and teapots and silverware and most especially quilts. I had some baseball cards, but not really a respectable collection. I had an American Girl Doll and a couple of her accessories, but an actual collection.

I've been thinking about collections because of one of the books I'm reading, A Gentle Madness by Basbanes. It has been outlining some of the most fantastic collections of books
through history around the world, and this idea of a book collection -- especially a very selective, very narrow and excellent book collection -- really appeals to me.

So here's my collection: Autographed books.

Not just any books, of course. Only excellent books written by people I really admire, and books that I actually intend to read (or already have read). Most of the titles in my collection come from book signings I have been to, which means, I also met the author (or illustrator) who signed my book. It is not a huge collection, of course, but I am very happy for the few I have. Here is a list of titles (perhaps if they are someday auctioned off, you might refer to this as the initial catalog):

A Chance to Die, the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot
The Journals of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot
Culture Shift by R. Albert Mohler
Humility, True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney (okay, actually not signed, but I kept something he wrote his name on and put it in my book, so I think it counts)
Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Meet Addy by Melodie Benson Rosales (the original illustrator who modeled Addy after her daughter, whom I also met!)
The Felicity Collection by Valerie Tripp
Jessica by Kevin Henkes (my former boss had him sign a bookplate for me so I could put it in my favorite book of his -- I chose Jessica).

Hmm. On this end, my collection seems pretty small. I see why it is an impulse for those slightly touched collectors to nearly go mad getting the books they want. It is not merely a matter of money, or else the very richest people of all would have only the best collections. It is a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and knowing what to look for. Like anything else, this hunger for MORE books, is fueled by our base passions -- namely greed.

***Contest update: Good news, we got in the special prize designed and sent to the manufacturers by yours truly. If you are still in the running, this unique little baby could be yours! If not, I will be letting you know in a later post how you can buy your own. :) Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Elyse Fitzpatrick

What a late post! As you noticed in my last post, I am attempting to be more efficient at home. The honest truth is that leaves a bit less time for other things -- including blogging. :)

Last Thursday, I attending the Elyse Fitzpatrick event I promoted here, and it was outstanding. She urged us to not overlook the gospel even as we search the scripture for the "to-do" lists. She asked "In seeking to pursue godliness, have you left Jesus behind?" and reminded us that we're "more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe". One of her scriptural examples were Ephesians 4:31-32 -- "Be ye kind . . . forgiving one another". Often I focus on the part that is my job, and forget the rest of the verse "even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven you." There it is -- the GOSPEL! That is what enables me to forgive -- because I am forgiven! She urged us not to be bored with the gospel, because it is so familiar, and not to think of it only as the "door" into the Christian life, but instead as the WHOLE of the Christian life, our means of accomplishing any of those divine "to-dos".

I left, reeling.

The next day was supposed to be the book signing. But it snowed and snowed more than it has in 14 years, so Elyse took an early flight out of here. She did kindly stop by and sign the books we had on hand, though. As a bonus to my readers, if you post in my comment field that you are interested, I will send you a gorgeous 35% off pre-order coupon for her up and coming book that deals with this whole idea of how the gospel DOES apply to my life. Even if you don't preorder the book, you may want the coupon for a bookplate or bookmark -- they are really really pretty.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

On the Gospel and Clutter

I am taking a life-changing class right now. I say "life-changing" because this class has practically impacted my life and lifestyle more than any other thus far. It is "Redeeming the Time" -- basically a class on time management, or rather, a class on self management within the amount of time I have.

Among other things, I have had to track my every move for 4 days (including weekends), write out goals for this season of life, submit my day planner to be scrutinized by Mrs. Mohler (yes, it was just a year ago that dear woman inspired me to go purchase such a thing), write an ideal week schedule based on my priorities and declutter t
he worst areas of my home (see photos below).

The living room closet BEFO
RE pictures -- a mess of outerwear, art supplies, tools, videos, games, etc. Scroll down to see the delightful after!

This week our assignment was to make a housekeeping schedule. I have had a rather ragged schedule in the past, but ironing it out a bit has helped tremendously. Most of the weekly jobs I do I can fit in to the early morning time slot before I go to work (that was the depressing part of keeping track of every day -- so much was covered by being gone to work!). With the help of my housekeeping schedule, I can keep things fairly tidy and clean, just leaving minimum maintenance for the weekend (for instance, the neighbors might get frowny if I vacuum at 5:00am). I do all the laundry on Mondays, and focu
s on our bedroom that day. All clothes, shoes, jackets and bags get put back in their proper place (especially helpful if we've been gone over the weekend, or just running around alot). Tuesdays I clean the bathroom. Sometimes this means scrubbing down the tub and shower, sometimes bleaching the floor, sometimes just the basics. Wednesday is grocery, and once a month cleaning out the fridge (entirely). Thursday is general household straightening (mainly living room), and Friday and Saturday are dusting, vacuuming and special projects (those are the nights Josh works, and I can put in at least an hour or two while he's gone).

This has been so helpful to me! Instead of feeling like "ooooooooh, more chores!", (which is what I was afraid of), I instead feel relief! I simply do not stress about the chore that does not go with that day. I know it is planned for another day, so
I do not need to consider it now. It actually takes a mental burden away.

Another thing that has been utterly helpful, and ultimately freeing is to recognize what is causing my disorganization. Is it overcommitment? Procrastination? Perfectionism? Maybe you can identify with those. What are the roots underneath those failures? Usually pride, selfishness, laziness, etc. Call that sin what it is! That is good news! That means the gospel applies to my disorganization! Christ died for my sin of pride and laziness, so I have grace to repent of those sins, and walk in newness of life. I do not have to flounder in despair, trying time and again to pull myself up by my bootstraps to "get it together". I can't save myself from sin. Christ saves me. I must repent and ask for his aid.

Some people are more naturally inclined to organization -- my sister Anna, for instance. But being a messy person naturally is no excuse. We are all sinners naturally. We must fight the sin of laziness and pride, and cling to the gospel as our solution!
Okay, if you care about this sort of thing, here is the after of my closet. I put the hats and scarves in a basket, my paints and crafty stuff in a shoebox, combined the tool boxes so the little one can be used for lightbulbs (they were always dangerously teetering on the edges of shelves), and organized the videos and game baskets so they are accessible in the front of the closet, not under the coats.