Is Your Tank Full or Empty? – Tuesday March 31, 2009

     I love reading.  I always have.  For some reason, my parents never felt the need to buy many books for our home, though I’m sure it would not have been a financial burden for them to have done so.  Neither one of them were really readers.  Oh, we had a few books around, and I remember occasionally being given money to cover the public school’s Weekly Reader book club orders. 

     However, it wasn’t until I was old enough to ride my bike to the local public library, that I really was able to begin reading a lot.  And read a lot I did!  I was blessed that my best friend was usually able to ride to the library with me, and that her mother often drove us when the weather wasn’t suitable for bike riding.   I devoured books.  My love for reading has continued to this day!   

     However, as a homeschooling mother of four, time to read was, more often than not, in short supply.  And buying books for myself??? Forget about it!  I couldn’t be so selfish. 


     Several years ago, an article titled “Mother Culture” by Karen Andreola appeared in a Homeschool Catalog I received.  The article talked about the need homeschooling moms have for replenishment.  Not a desire.  Not a want.  A need.  Truth be told, I passed the article by several times before reading it.  I, very pridefully, felt I didn’t need it.  Yet, as happens to me time and again, my pride was soon dealt quite a blow.  (Proverbs 16:18, Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.)

    I hit a slump.  One of those low spots.  I was making it through my days, accomplishing my tasks, homeschooling my children, but I felt like I was running on empty.  I was still keeping my daily Bible reading time.  I’m sure that without that, things would have been in chaos.  In the midst of this low spot, I was blessed to able to attend a homeschool conference.  One of the featured speakers at the conference was Cindy Rushton, and I attended several of her sessions.  The Lord certainly used her put the wind in my sails again, but I came home wondering how I’d gotten to such a low point.  Then I remembered seeing Mrs. Andreola’s article, and I took the time to read it.

      Mrs. Andreola’s article was a turning point for me.  I realized that it was not selfish nor self-centered for me to do whatever it took to re-fill my teaching tank.  Finding time to read was a necessity!  Keeping my mind sharp would make be a better teacher.  Keeping abreast of current events would help me to converse with my wonderful husband, as well as with friends and family.   Learning new skills through reading would help me to be a better homemaker.  The article recommended choosing two or three books to have going at the same time. 


     I developed a plan.  The first thing I did was to think of all the different areas that I wanted to read about.  I came up with several categories: Religion/Theology, Wife/Marriage, Parenting, Homeschooling, Homemaking. Christian Living, Christian Womanhood, Brain Food (for those extra meaty books), and Just for Fun.  I then pulled books from our shelves, one book for each category, and filled up the area under my end table.

     These days I like to pull a couple of dozen, or more, books to fill my “reading basket”.  I generally have book marks in at least three of the books at the same time.  When I’ve read everything, or most everything, in the basket, it’s time to fill it up again.  You can find the list of what is currently under my end table in the “Reading Basket” section of my side bar. 

     Having more than one book that I’m reading at a time serves me well.   When I am tired and “brain dead”, I can pick something light from my basket.  When I’m up for more of a challenge, I can choose something deeper.  When I’m anxious to learn a new skill, or to keep abreast of current events, or to read a new book on child training or homeschooling, I’ve a book at the ready.  The categories keep my reading varied and there’s always a book that fits my mood or circumstances for the day.

     I don’t schedule reading time for myself, but I do find time, most days, to read for at least a bit.  I can, quite often, catch a few minutes to read in the early afternoon while my boys finish their homeschooling.  It gives me a few minutes to sit and relax, with a cup of tea before getting dinner started.  Copper, Dani and I also usually spend our evenings reading.  I always take a book with me if we’re going to an appointment or somewhere where there might be some down time.  How about you?  Can you find a bit of time each day to refill your tank with a book?  Are you keeping your tank filled?  Are there some new skills that you’d like to learn?  Read a book!

     One of the questions I’m asked most often is where do I learn about all the different books that I read or have read,and how do I remember the titles of books I want to read.  First, I use Amazon’s Wish List feature to keep track of all of the books I want to read.  It’s a free service, and quite handy to use.  Then, when a friend recommends a book, I simply add it to my wish list.  I usually check the foot notes and/or bibliography in a book I’ve particularly enjoyed and add any interesting sounding titles from there.  I check out the book lists on the sidebars of blogs that I especially enjoy.  I also look at the “you might also like” and “people who bought this also bought”  titles that Amazon pops up when I add a book to my wish list.  I jot down titles mentioned by speakers I hear in person, on the radio or on recorded messages. 

     I purchase the majority of the books I read, but the vast majority are purchased used and for pennies on the dollar (and sometimes for pennies!).  My family and friends know that books are some of my favorite gifts.  Paperback Swap is a great service for those of you who do not necessarily want to keep your books.  The library, of course, is a great resource for free reading material, and most libraries these days are linked with others making it possible to obtain even those hard to find titles.  Swap books with friends.  Check out your church’s library.  Find the books you want and read them!

     Every job, to be well done, requires the proper use of the proper tools.  Reading is no exception to this rule.  Besides proper lighting and the right pair of glasses,  there are three tools that are always close at hand when I sit down to read – a small sized dictionary, my Reader’s Journal, and my Commonplace Book.

       I keep a small Merriam-Webster Dictionary in my reading basket.  My favorite dictionary is our big Webster’s 1828.  However, it is really too big and cumbersome to keep chair side when I am reading.  It is much more convenient for me to have a small sized dictionary by my side.  Some books, of course, rarely require the use of a dictionary.  Other books, however, require such frequent referral to a dictionary that I actually keep the dictionary in my lap!  I like the stretch that a book with a challenging vocabulary gives me.

      A Reader’s Journal is a wonderful tool, and will be used differently by everyone.  I set up my first reading journal with four divisions – Books Read, Books Recommended, Books Lent/Borrowed, and Book Notes.  These days my reader’s  journal simply has one page for each book that I’ve read.  The title of each book is at the top of the page, followed by the book’s author.  I note the date that each book was finished, and then I jot down my thoughts about the book.  The first letter of the author’s last name is noted in the top right hand corner, and I file the pages alphabetically by author.  You might rather keep your pages in the same order as the books you’ve read, or alphabetized by title; and you’ll certainly want to record the information that’s most important to you.

     I am faithful to fill out a page for each book I read.  If I reread a book, which I frequently do, I note the month and year it was reread next to the original entry, and record any further notes I might have after the second (or third!) reading.  Keeping these notes helps me in several ways. 

     Thumbing back through the pages of my Reader’s Journal reminds me of books I’ve read and what I learned from them.  It’s also very helpful in recommending books to others, or in letting them know why I wouldn’t recommend a particular book.  I don’t need to rely, solely, on my memory.  I can read what my thoughts were when I first finished a particular book.     

     Last, but my no means least, is my Commonplace Book.  I first read about the notion of keeping a Commonplace Book in Clay & Sally Clarkson’s Educating the Wholehearted Child.  The Clarkson’s said, “Students and adults alike used to keep a “Commonplace Book” with quotes, wisdom and sayings they would read or hear.”. 


     This idea of a Commonplace Book grabbed me immediately.  I always want  to share with others the wonderful quote I’ve read recently, or share with them something profound I’ve recently read in a book.  But my brain!  Oh, my brain would never recall the quotes verbatim, nor could I ever find the desired passage in the book it was from (that is, if I could even remember which book I’d read it in!).  The idea of keeping a Commonplace book took root, and I pulled out a nice journal I’d had on hand and began at once.  The very first entry is the quote from the Clarksons about keeping a Commonplace Book.

      My Commonplace Book now contains pages and pages of quotes.  Some are very brief, and there are up to four on a page.  Others are quite lengthy.  I have quotes from several presidents, including John Adams and Theodore Roosevelt.  I have quotes from well-known Christian authors and heroes of the faith -Oswald Chambers, Corrie ten Boom, Jeremiah Burroughs and C.S. Lewis.  There are quotes from Martin Luther, Saint Patrick, Emilie Barnes, Elizabeth George, Daniel Defoe, and W. B. Yeats. 

     I reread my Commonplace Book often.  I find some of the quotes refreshing.  Some stir up emotions in me afresh with each reading.  Some inspire.  Some make me smile. Others encourage.  Here’s an example of how I record quotes in my Commonplace Book:  “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”, Thomas Edison, excerpted from the book Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family, by Steven Maxwell

     Make the first and most important reading you do from the Bible.  Don’t miss a day in His precious Word!  It is vital.  However, make time for reading other books, too.  This quote, from the late Ruth Bell Graham, sums it up,

“Read, read, read!  Use the Bible as your home base, but vary your diet.  I usually have several books going at once, tucked around here and there for easy access.” 

     Don’t allow yourself to become dry and empty.  Don’t let your own tank run dry as you pour yourself out to your family.  Fill your tank with a good book.  Invest in yourself a bit and find the time to read.  It doesn’t have to be every day, though that would certainly be great; but you should find the time to read several times a week.  If you can only find the time to read a few pages here and there, then read those few pages.  Keep a book in the bathroom.  Keep a book in the car.  Keep a book near your nursing chair.  

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your household!
Proverbs 31:27

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