Friday, December 6, 2013

"God bless us, every one."

Tis the season for Christmas movies, music, decorations and books. Specifically for country Christmas music and Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Both of which filled my shift at work today. I work at a fitness gym and after getting my cleaning done I usually have a couple hours of reading time while I sit at the front desk. And so I turned on my country Christmas station on Pandora and sat down with Dickens. It was wonderful. Not to mention the fact that every time I looked out the window I felt like I was in a snow-globe. It was seriously wonderful.

Now, after I finished Tolkien's The Silmarillion, I was at a complete loss as to what to read next. So I did the practical thing... I got on Facebook and asked everyone to pick a number between 1 and 4. Whichever number had the most votes would be the title I would read next. A Christmas Carol was number 4 and had the most votes.

I had never read A Christmas Carol until today. Granted I knew the story from various Christmas movies and quotes, as well as a fabulous Doctor Who Christmas special from 2010. But today was my first reading of it. Last year for one of the Classics Club discussion topics, we wrote about A Christmas Carol and I had admitted to being nervous to read it. I was nervous because before that point, I hadn't read any of Dickens' works and didn't know what to expect. But everyone had told me that I would love it and well... they were right!

While I am not a huge fan of short stories or novellas (I'm not even a fan of that word... it just sounds funny to me), Dickens' A Christmas Carol was the perfect, little Christmas story. It had so much imagination and detail and so many characters and descriptions that it was easy to get caught up in the story and to understand why so many have loved the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim for decades. Because it was a short book, the story moved along quickly and kept my attention better. It also kept me interested in finding out what would happen with each new Christmas Spirit.

While Scrooge is a person that many people frown upon,  I saw him as a lonely, old man who had nothing tying him to the holiday. That is until he traveled with the Spirits of Christmas Present and Future where he saw Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit and his nephew and niece. And granted seeing his own grave shook him up quite a bit. But I think it was the images of family and love and sacrifice that really spoke to his heart. Those were the things that I think really woke him up (kind of like the Grinch... perhaps Scrooge's heart was two sizes too small). And in thinking about how Scrooge was a lonely, old man I began to think about how so often at the holidays, the elderly of our society are often forgotten about. We forget that there are those who have seen many more Christmases than we have and their families have either forgotten about them or gone before them in death. And they find themselves alone and grumpy because of it. Lonely and just wanting someone to share the holidays with. Granted, that probably wasn't what Dickens was writing about in the character of Scrooge. But that is part of what I saw in him. A man who was lonely, but found a new family.

I am amazed at Dickens and how he has such a way with words and pictures. I have now read two of his works (A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist) and I am really learning to love him. He is climbing the tree of favorites and I'm sure will have a prominent place there soon. I am glad he wrote such a beloved Christmas story and that I had the chance to enjoy it this morning while sitting in my own little snow-globe at work.

Happy reading!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

~ a Tolkien masterpiece ~

I know that most people either gasp and hyper-ventilate, run in fear and agony or jump for joy at the thought of reading Tolkien's The Silmarillion. I know that most people have some very distinct opinions and thoughts on the book, as well as it's interpretation and importance in relation to the rest of his writings. I, on the other hand, don't fall into any of those categories of people. I just fall into the general category of Tolkien Lovers who read for the pure pleasure of his stories and characters. And that didn't change when I tackled and conquered The Silmarillion. 

I had tried multiple times before to get through The Silmarillion.  However, this was the first time that I was actually able to finish it and follow it for that matter. As with everything I've read about and from Tolkien, I was amazed at his creativity, style, imagination and capability to transport his readers to a whole other world. The various dimensions and the levels of story that he incorporated can only be described as pure genius.

While it was hard for me to get through the book because of the many, many elvish names and places, I enjoyed getting the back story of Middle Earth. It was like reading a history book for one of my favorite places. And it seemed like the last pieces of the puzzle of Middle Earth were uncovered and put into place. It was great. Just sayin'.

One of my favorite parts about the entire story was the history of Galadriel and Elrond, as well as the wizards included in "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age." Since I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings trilogy numerous times, having those histories and back-stories makes everything make so much more sense. Not to mention, the story of Eärendil and the Silmaril that appeared like a star to those who saw him in the sky. It made me understand better what Elrond would talk about in The Lord of the Rings about the light of Eärendil.

While it may not be on my Top Ten favorite list or even on my to re-read list, The Silmarillion was incredibly good and definitely worth the time that it took for me to get through it. I am amazed, as always, at Tolkien's writing and can't help but wonder just how he came up with all of his stories, languages, characters and lands. But however he did it, I'm glad he did because he has blessed the world with some amazing books. The Silmarillion included.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

~ No Nonsense November ~

I am in absolute awe at how fast this year has gone. I sit here by my fire that is now decorated with garland and lights and stockings. And I stare at my twinkling tree and wonder how can it already be December? How can it already be the beginning of the end of another year? I just want time to slow down a little bit. I don't want each day to go by faster than the day before. But yet, I don't have that super-power. So I guess I will just work even harder to enjoy every single minute by the fire with a book or at home on the couch with family or on a car ride with My Love.

The last month has been full of travels and reading and illness. My Love was sick for a couple of weeks and then I got sick after him. Then we traveled to the far side of Missouri for a missions conference and then to Indiana for Thanksgiving. And in the middle of all of that we worked and I read a ton, as always. 

The majority of what I read this last month was on adoption, foster care, and ministry to at-risk children and youth. They were all picked in honor of it being National Adoption Month. While I didn't write as much as I wanted to (I never do... I seem to have lost some of my love for writing over the last year), I really enjoyed all of the books, blogs and articles that I read. They all challenged me and encouraged me to think more clearly about what my role is and will be in the world of orphan care and children/youth ministry. A lot of it was good refreshing of what I learned in some of my college classes and put in a new light now that I work in a church setting with My Love. 

After reading 8+ books in a row on adoption and children's ministry, I tackled JRR Tolkien's The Silmarillion over Thanksgiving vacation. I just finished it a few hours ago. It definitely wasn't the most logical follow-up book, but I was in a Tolkien mood and wanted to knock a book off of my TBR and Classics Club lists. So The Silmarillion it was. I'm going to try and write my thoughts on it in a separate post since there is so much to think about and digest with that book. We shall see if I succeed or not.

As the year draws to an end, I am amazed every time I look at my stats with just how much I have read. This is my second year of tracking my reading and I wish I had started years ago. It's fun for me to see how much I read and how fast. Not to mention the wide spectrum of books I seem to bounce around to and from. I have blown away my stats from last year. I have read 49 more books and 12,000+ more pages than I did in 2012. That is unbelievable to me! And I still have one more month of reading for 2013! And with that said... here are my stats and I'm off to start another book!

Happy reading and happy Thanksgiving a few days late!!!!

Books read this month: 
Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story by John Sowers 
Too Small To Ignore by Dr. Wess Stafford 
Whose Child is This? by Bill Wilson 
Reclaiming Our Prodigal Sons and Daughters: A Practical Approach for Connecting with Youth in Conflict by Scott Larson & Larry Brendtro 
Children of Hope by Vernon Brewer with Noel Brewer Yeatts
Children in Crisis: A New Commitment edited by Phyllis Kilbourn
There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz 
Fighting the System by Lilly Star
Favorite book read this month: 
 Too Small to Ignore by Wess Stafford... 
This book is an amazing book for anyone who is interested in children's ministry. 
Wess writes from years of experience as a missionary kid and president 
of Compassion International. And he does so with great passion, humility and honesty.

Least favorite book read this month: 
Fighting the System by Lilly Star...
I picked this one up for a couple bucks at the Half Price book store in my hometown.
I thought it look interesting because it was a fictional telling of how life looks like in 
the foster care system from the viewpoint of foster parents. However, it was poorly 
written, incredibly chaotic and had no rhyme or reason or fluidity. It took a lot for 
me to finish it because of those things. I can't say I would recommend it. It was just awful.

Number of pages read this month: 
1,966 pages  

Number of pages read this year: 
29,979 pages

Number of books read this year: 
104 books

Number of Classics read so far: 
18 of 76