I’ve been reading a lot. I’m in the middle of A Praying Life and it is ministering to me greatly. Yesterday I finished Sacred Marriage, which reminds me of a lite version of Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. Sacred Marriage has less academic appeal and works with material that is more easily absorbed by those of us who don’t have extraordinary educations. Today I began reading The Rage Against God and it is proving to be equally interesting as Peter Hitchins’ is an engaging writer in addition to giving me a valuable glimpse into my atheist friends and family’s perspectives. If you are wondering how a mommy to 4 young children is able to read this much, here are some thoughts with the hope of encouraging other mamas to do similarly since I have found it to be a good use of my time.
Reading is important. It is mentally stimulating and as a stay at home mom to littles, staying mentally challenged is somewhat a challenge in of itself. Thinking is a type of muscle, if we allow it to relax for too long, we will be come weak-minded. Given that raising children into adults is both difficult and essential work, staying sharp is less of a luxury and more of a tactical approach to child-rearing. An added bonus is that reading keeps me from lapsing into “The Mom Bubble” wherein all I can think and talk about is diapers and toys. It is good to realize that the world is much bigger then my home. Staying connected to subjects outside my immediate focus helps me raise my children with a mindset of sending them out into the world, as opposed to protecting them from the world.
Reading is encouraging and/or fun. Generally, in addition to my daily Scripture Readings, I am often reading 3 books at once. One of them is fiction. This one is used purely for entertainment purposes. It is the one I read before drifting to sleep at night or when I am sick. The second one is a type of practical self-help book, commonly on the subject of mental health, relationships or motherhood. The third is spiritual food, something that aids my understanding of God and brings me closer to Him. The latter, particularly, is the one I find myself reading the most on days when I feel worn out or sad. It lifts my eyes to Christ, which of course means, I can’t focus on things of this earth quite so much — something we are specifically challenged to do in Colossians 3:2.
Reading keeps me out of trouble. Where mommies don’t often have idle hands, we can easily slip into idle mindsets. It is in those times that I find myself most prone shop online, watch too much television or sin against others. If I am feeding my brain, I’m less likely to get worried over BPA scares or pick fights over vaccinations. It also keeps me off Facebook, which sometimes, is a great blessing to my friends. Similarly, reading creates a buffer between me and my mental health challenges. Anxiety is less likely to get ahold of me if I am distracted by an engaging book.
Many of the books I read, I actually listen to. This allows me to read while I attend to my housekeeping responsibilities. I used LibriVox (free audiobooks) for about a year and read many great classics there. I also learned that most Public Libraries have audiobooks available on site and online for card holders to enjoy. After hunting around a bit, I found a company that allows me to listen to (or read) as many books they offer for one, low, monthly rate (unlike more popular audiobook subscription companies who only allow 1 book per month). Scribed has a large collection of audio books by Francis Chan, NT Wright, and Gary Thomas. I was delighted to discover that I can read at least 3 books a month using their service which is saving money and space on my bookshelves.
I was amazed at how much reading time opened up when I started listening to books. I can sit outside and watch my kids play. I listen while I’m getting dressed in the morning, fold laundry, making dinner or knitting. Switching to audio books made it possible for me to read for several hours a day. The times I do read a hard copy or on my kindle app, I do so either in the morning (before the kids get up), at nap time or at night (after the kids have gone to bed). However, this is due, in part, the fact that I’m not a very good reader so it takes a lot of time and effort for me to learn this way. I’m sure a more capable reader could find a way to read paperbacks when her children were awake.
Regardless of which method of reading you employ, you will find that the truth is that you won’t find time to read. You have to make the time. Wherever your treasure is, there will your hearts be found (Matthew 6:21). This truth is especially convicting when it comes to reading our Bibles daily. If reading your Bible is important to you, then you will read it daily (as best you are able). Where there is a will, there is a way. Jesus Himself, rose early to get quiet time in with God (Mark 1:35). When Jesus was preaching, people came early in the morning to hear Him (Luke 21:37-38). While there is nothing sinful about reading your Bible in the afternoon or evening, there are countless benefits to getting up earlier to do so:
- You can be literally still and know God.
- You can get your priorities straight before the day starts.
- You can pray quietly.
Last year, rising early meant getting up at 4:45 most mornings, this year it is 7:30. What the time is will vary from person to person, but I’d encourage you to stop making excuses and settle into the discipline.There will be seasons when you really can’t accommodate early rising (like if you have a newborn, or a husband who works the night shift), but for most of us, when we refuse to set our alarm 15-20 minutes before we have to get up, we are simply being selfish. God’s mercies for us are new every morning, yet we can’t lose a little sleep to touch base with Him? This is not ok. I know that sounds harsh, but it is true. If you are looking for accountability, we do have a facebook group that may be able to help. I’m 31 and only in the last year and a half have I begun to consistently read my Bible on a daily basis. It is work to get into the habit, but my only regret is not disciplining myself to do this earlier in my life.
When it comes to reading non-scripture, a similar principle can be applied. If you really want to read more, you will find the time. Remember that saying yes to one thing always means saying no to something else. Pick the best option and commit to it.
Now the question left is what should you read? Your Bible, of course. Definitely start there. After that, ask your friends for recommendations (Goodreads is great for this). Check out blogs to find modern writers who capture your interest and then read one of their books. Ask your pastor what book he would suggest for you. Look for subjects that you want to learn about (I need to read about training a puppy asap). The possibilities are endless and overwhelming if you don’t start with baby steps. Pick one book and commit to reading (or listening) for 10 minutes a day. Eventually, you will begin to fall in love with reading like I have. It is simultaneously restful and productive which suits it perfectly to this busy time in our life.