Advent Reading

Reposting from 2012, 2013 and 2014. Just like the book box, the post has become an Advent tradition.

The favorite Advent tradition in our house is our book box. I wrap all our Christmas books and put them in a box. Each day the kids get to pick a book and we read it.  I’ve posted in the past about the individual books we enjoy year after year. I thought this year that I’d compile a list with links to some of those past reviews.

For Animal Lovers
Who Would Like a Christmas Tree? by Ellen Bryan Obed
Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer
Cat in the Manger by Michael Foreman
Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell
One Winter’s Night by Leo and Diane Dillon
Who Was Born This Special Day? by Eve Bunting
Counting to Christmas by Nancy Tafuri
The Animals’ Christmas Carol by Helen Ward
Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
One Small Lost Sheep by Claudia Mills
Christmas Cricket by Eve Bunting
Dream Snow by Eric Carle
The Christmas Cat by Maryann MacDonald
A Letter for Bear by David Lucas

Just for Fun
Merry UnChristmas by Mike Reiss
The Twelve Bots of Christmas by Nathan Hale
The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup
The Christmas Crocodile by Bonny Becker
Morris’s Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells
The Twelve Bugs of Christmas by David Carter

The True Meaning of Christmas
Listen to the Silent Night by Dandi Dale Mackall
Little One, We Knew You’d Come by Sally Lloyd-Jones
How Many Miles to Bethlehem? by Kevin Crossley
A Child is Born by Margaret Wise Brown
The Christmas Story by Patricia Pingry
This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar
Mary’s First Christmas by Walter Wangerin Jr.
The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park

Because You Have To
The Night Before Christmas by Jan Brett
The Polar Express by Chris VanAllsburg
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles Schultz

Starring Favorite Characters
Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
Humphrey’s Christmas by Sally Hunter
Henry and Mudge and a Very Merry Christmas by Cynthia Rylant
Max’s Christmas by Rosemary Wells
Lyle at Christmas by Bernard Waber
Harry and the Dinosaurs Make a Christmas Wish by Ian Whybrow
Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer
Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker by James Mayhew
Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O’Connor

From a Carol
Drummer Boy by Loren Long
What Can I Give Him? by Debi Gilori
Silent Night by Susan Jeffers
The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats

I Dare You to Read One of These and Not Cry (I Can’t)
Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

And Everything Else 
The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
Christmas for 10 (a counting book) by Catherine Falwell
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
Coming Through the Blizzard by Eileen Spinelli
Christmas Is… by Gail Gibbons
The Snow Globe Family by Jane O’Connor
The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter Reynolds
Shooting at the Stars by John Hendrix
Santa is Coming to Virginia by Steve Smallman

A lot of other people do an Advent book basket. If you don’t, I’d encourage you to consider making it part of your family’s yearly tradition in some way. It’s one of the easiest and cheapest (get the books from the library or use what you already have) ways to make some great Christmas memories with your kids.

This year my 10 year old was talking about the books he knew would be in the basket. I asked him if he was too old for this particular tradition or if he was getting tired of the same books. “No way,” he said. “I’m hoping to memorize them all eventually.” So there you go. If you’re a homeschooler this can be your memory work and Advent tradition all rolled into one.

Recently Read

Reading together can happen in a living room or a dining room or in a back yard, in a classroom or in a car or in a Florida room or on a wrought-iron couch. Within the confines of a story shared aloud, we get to see one another in new ways. Our hearts are open to the story and open to one another- and because of this, some kind of subterranean magic occurs. Reading aloud binds us together in unanticipated ways.

It brings us home.

Kate Di Camillo, “An odyssey guides the heart of its reader,” in The Washington Post, Style Section, Nov 19, 2015, pg 1.

For the full essay: Go here. It’s a beautiful ode to books and reading aloud.

A Day with a 7th grader, 4th grader and 1st grader

6:15– I wake up. Inwardly, I groan as I had meant to set the alarm last night to get up earlier. I’ve realized lately that our days go better if I get up early and I have a new goal of getting up at 5:00 or 5:30. I used to do that every day but I’ve gotten out of the habit in the last 6 months or so. I debate with myself about whether or not I should get up and walk. It’s raining out and very warm and cozy in bed.

6:30– I get up. I call the answering service and find out there are no patients at the hospital for me to see. Thankful for small mercies, I decide to go for a walk. I’ve also lately realized that if I’m going to exercise I need to do it in the morning (part of getting up early). I get dressed and get Roxy (the dog) ready to go. She hates walking in the rain but once I get her about two houses away from our house she gives up resisting and decides to enjoy it. The walk is great. I love walking in the rain, something it’s hard to remember in my warm cozy bed. I also love fall and something about the rain makes the colors outside even more vibrant and beautiful. I also like the rain because there are fewer other people out. It’s just me, Roxy and three deer on the trail this morning and I like that.

7:30– I get back home and make a pot of coffee. I then head to the shower.

7:50– Showered and dressed. H. is waking up the kids. John is hanging halfway off the side of his bed reading, probably whatever book he was reading at bedtime last night. David and Ruth are slower to wake up and are protesting the very idea of getting up. We play Eddie from Ohio (Tommy the Canexican and Monotony) at full volume to get David out of bed. He is not amused.

8:00– We all eat breakfast. Spinach and cheese omelets for me and John. Cereal and fruit for H. and David. A bagel with Nutella and fruit for Ruth. Someone has changed the music to Tchaikovsky who the kids have been into lately. I read the paper. Kids read various parts of the paper. John reads Wonder, the current selection for his Boy’s Book Club class at our co-op. Ruth plays with her Lego friends during breakfast.

8:45– John heads to the shower. David and Ruth get dressed. Roxy goes in and out at least once during breakfast. She wants to chase squirrels in our backyard but still isn’t happy about the rain.

I tell David to practice piano. It’s his least favorite thing to do and we’ve learned it’s better to have him get it over with first. He asks if I’ll sit with him so I do. While I’m down there I read a chapter from Praying with Paul by D.A. Carson, the selection for a women’s church book group. Ruth comes downstairs with us and plays while David practices. When he is done, I tell him to get his Math book and tell Ruth to practice.

David comes back down and I give him an assignment that I know is a little easy. He’s working on fractions now and tends to get frustrated with Math, another least favorite of his. I’ve recently decided my goal this year is for him to feel more confident with Math and to be less frustrated. He’s actually pretty good at Math but he doesn’t realize it and I’d rather take it slow and have him maybe enjoy it a bit more than to have him become more entrenched in thinking that he’s terrible at it. He finishes in 15 minutes which is much faster than I expect and I’m tempted to give him more to do but I don’t. A few years ago I would have given him more but now I’ve learned that kids feel like that’s unfair, like they are being punished for finishing quickly.

9:30– We come back upstairs. John finished his Sunday School homework (reading through the Book of John which would be funnier if his real name was actually John) and is now lying on my bed working on Algebra. He uses Academy of Problem Solving which is fairly self-taught. He really enjoys it as he likes being an independent learner. David starts working on typing. Ruth watches him. I clean up the kitchen from breakfast which I forgot to do earlier and start making dinner in the crockpot, “20-40 clove garlic chicken” from Make it Fast, Cook it Slow. I ask Ruth if she wants to help but she says she wants to “do archery” with her toy bow and arrow that she bought last Easter with her Easter money. First she changes into a new outfit. Just because.

10:15– David is done with typing and helps me a little with the chicken, which is somewhat ironic since he’s a vegetarian. He likes cooking though and finds it interesting to help peel the garlic. John checks the computer to see if he can watch a video from AOPS but there isn’t one for the lesson he just did. Both boys work on Latin. David is making new vocabulary cards and John does his daily 5 minute vocabulary review and a page of sentence diagramming in Latin. He then takes a break to read Wonder while draped halfway over the back of the couch. David and I listen to his vocabulary list from Lively Latin and then I correct John’s Latin from yesterday and today and quickly go over it with him.

Ruth and I do narration and copywork from Writing With Ease. David sits down at the computer to self-edit a fable he wrote earlier in the week (an assignment from Writing and Rhetoric: Fable). John works on a report he is doing on an Arctic explorer. Ruth and I lie down and snuggle and read two chapters of Night of the Ninjas. She’s a good reader and finished with the formal phonics program. We alternate reading pages as reading practice for her. David writes the last of his birthday thank you notes.

11:30– I feel sniffly and like I’m coming down with a cold so I decide to make tea. David want some too and offers to make it for me. He then ends up making it for everyone and somehow this morphs into teatime. We read a few random picture books and a few poems from The Death of the Hat. David, John and I have a discussion to wrap up or current study of Canada. We are spending the year on world studies, doing a little geography, history and culture from each place we study.

12:30- Teatime turns into lunch for Ruth as she asks for mac and cheese. I let her make some. The boys are full from their teatime snack (mini bagels with cream cheese) and David has a TON of energy so I send them out for a walk with Roxy. It’s stopped raining now although it’s still cold and wet outside. I sit down to lunch, soup and a grilled cheese. Ruth plays with a Math Wrap it puzzle. I do a logic puzzle, which I’m weirdly addicted to.

1:00- Boys return home. David and I do a few pages of Grammar Town, discussing phrases (gerund, participle, infinitive, appositive) and a few pages of Casear’s English. John sits down to work more on his report. Ruth is playing in the bathroom with a water balloon that she found.

1:15– I discover that the bathroom is soaking wet and ask Ruth to clean up. I finish with David and tell him to clean up his room a little bit. Several large boxes of Legos seem to have migrated upstairs from the “Lego Room”. Ruth asks if she can go outside. I say yes even though it is raining. A few minutes later she comes in soaking wet and I I tell her to change her clothes. I have her sit down and do a few pages of Math. I sit beside her at the table and do my logic puzzle. David is downstairs watching a video that teaches card tricks that I got him for his birthday. He comes up periodically to try out a new trick on us.

2:15– John is done with his rough draft. I tell him I’ll look over it tonight and we’ll discuss on Friday. We suddenly realize we need to leave for swimming in about 30 minutes and the boys never really had lunch.They get ready and eat something quickly. John and I sit at the kitchen table and review his Algebra work from earlier today while he munches on hummus and carrots. We go over his notebook for the week and talk about what we’ll do on Friday. Everyone does a quick pick-up of the school stuff, books and Legos scattered around the house.

2:45– We leave for swimming. Both boys swim year-round twice a week. While at the pool, I grade tests from the Human Anatomy class that I teach at our co-op and read a bit of Red: A History of the Redhead. In the car on the way to and from the pool we listen to the last book in the 68 Rooms series, The Secret of the Key.

6:00– We return home from swimming. John goes to practice piano. David and Ruth help set the table and get ready for dinner. I finish making dinner, H. arrives home, and by 6:30 we are sitting down to eat. Chicken, green beans, rice, mushrooms and leftover lentils for David. During dinner we play “The Party Game” and John stumps us all.

7:00– We clean up after dinner. John gets a pass on helping so that he can spend some time doing Alcumus on the computer. I try to have him do 30 minutes a day but we don’t always get to it. After cleaning the kitchen we take Roxy for a quick walk. She’s happy that the rain is gone.

8:00– We all head to the master bedroom for our nightly reading time. I read two chapters of On the Banks of Plum Creek and two chapters of Book Scavenger.

9:00– We send everyone to bed. Tomorrow is a day off of school due to a family birthday so I give the boys permission to stay up and finish “one more chapter” of their own books. David is reading Malcom at Midnight. John is reading something from the stack of library books by his bed.

I sit down at the computer to do some emails, banking and other tasks. While working I watch a bit of the Republican presidential debate but quickly find that pretty boring. H. is working on the computer on our Christmas card for this year.

10:00– We both head to bed. I read a little more of Red: The History of the Redhead before falling asleep.

Previous Days in the Life posts: 
4th grader, 1st grader and 3 1/2 year old 
3rd grader, Kindergartener and 2 year old 


Recently Read

I woke up with a small thrill of anticipation coursing through my veins. It took me a moment to remember why, but then it came to me: I was due to crack open a new Scientific Notebook. I’d jammed my first one chock-full of many Questions, a few Answers and various observations and sketches…..

But now  it was time to bid adieu to the old one and start the cheerful new red one Granddaddy had given me. I opened it and inhaled the smell of fresh leather and paper. Could anything top the promise and potential of a blank page? What could be more satisfying? Never mind that it would soon be crammed with awkward penmanship, that my handwriting inevitably sloped downhill to the right-hand corner, that I blotted my ink, that my drawings never come out the way I saw them in my head. Never mind all that. What counted was possibility. You could live on possibility, at least for a while.

From The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, p 47-48

Newbery Through the Decades Challenge

I’m not big on participating in book or reading challenges online (or in real life). As I’ve gotten older I find that I enjoy reading more serendipitously, following a thread from one book to another. Picking what to read next based on an NPR story or a recommendation from a friend or a cover that looks intriguing.

However, I was excited this year to participate in Amy’s Newbery Through the Decades Challenge. I was attracted to it because it was simple, read one Newbery book month from a particular decade, and because I have an interest in children’s literature and this seemed like a way to push myself to read some of those “I’ll get to it one day” books.

The books I read:
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly (1929 Medal Winner)
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (1936 Medal Winner)
On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1938 Honor Book)
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (1946 Medal Winner)
Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (1958 Honor Book)
The Noonday Friends by Mary Stolz (1966 Honor Book)
Figgs and Phantoms by Ellen Raskin (1975 Honor Book)
A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant (1987 Honor Book)
The Mid-Wife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman (1996 Medal Winner)
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (1995 Honor Book)
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt (2005 Honor Book)
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2010 Medal Winner)
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (2015 Medal Winner)
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2015 Honor Book)

It’s hard to pick because I truly enjoyed so many of these but I think I’d have to say When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. Both authors have become favorites of mine and write what I think is some of the best fiction being published today. Forget labels like “juvenile fiction”, both Stead and Schmidt deal with complex problems and situations and emotions and use intricate puzzles and beautiful language to tell their stories.

I also adore Elizabeth Enright and we’ve spent a long happy summer and fall reading aloud first Gone Away Lake and then Return to Gone Away as our lunchtime book.

Biggest Surprise? 
A Fine White Dust by Cynthia Rylant was one of the more intriguing books I read. It was one of the very few books I’ve ever read that deals with deep religious feeling and belief in a young person. I also really loved Caddie Woodlawn, which for some reason I had an aversion to as a child. I don’t know what I was thinking because I should have loved fiesty Caddie.

Figgs and Phantoms by Ellen Raskin was a bit of a disappointment to me but only because I really love The Westing Game. Figgs and Phantoms is a thousand times weirder than The Westing Game (which is weird enough in it’s own way). I think modern fans of Kate DiCamillo or Kathi Appelt might dig Ellen Raskin.

The Trumpeter of Krakow was probably my least favorite of the books I read and the one book that felt really dated. But I did it as a read aloud and gave my kids the enduring joke of Peter the Button Face as an evil villain. All I have to say now is Button Face and they burst out laughing. So I can’t say it was a total bust.

I’m very thankful to Amy for coming up with this challenge and hope to join again next year. Consider joining us!

Happy Halloween

DSCN9762aHappy Halloween. It’s not my favorite holiday but we had fun. In general, it’s a much bigger holiday in our town and neighborhood than I remember when I was a kid. People go all out decorating. On one hand, I don’t love all the super scary and creepy decorations. On the other hand, it’s probably the one night of the year we talk to the most number of neighbors. One cul-de-sac in our neighborhood even put together a party in the middle of the road with a bonfire and hot dogs and cider. A house was showing an outdoor movie and another house had an optional “Haunted Trail” for the bigger kids. Can’t tell what John is dressed up as in the photo above? Wondering if we adopted a slightly strange fourth child?


Here is John with his second head, later named “Jimmy” (the head). His costume kind of evolved from being the headless horseman to the horseless headman. He had a plan to kind of float the head out in front of him but it didn’t work out so he improvised and stuck it in the hood of his coat. This year’s costume was a bit of a minor ethical dilemma for me. We usually discourage the super scary costumes. His didn’t turn out that scary but it did give his sister nightmares the night after he was painted it in our kitchen. I was appreciative that he wanted to do something creative instead of opting for something manufactured or easy. We talked briefly about making sure it was all in fun and about how there is a line we don’t want to cross. I admitted that I’m not sure exactly where that line is. We do Halloween as a family and we don’t avoid all the references to ghosts and skeletons and monsters. I’m a Christian who believes that Halloween is pretty much about having fun dressing up and getting candy. At the same time, there are some scary things that we won’t do. I want the kids to kind of figure out where that line is for themselves. And I can totally understand why having a floating head or second head is a really funny costume to an 11 year old boy.


Earlier in the day we engaged in a much more terrifying activity. The boys have birthdays close together so this year we combined their main present and got them a trapeze class at The Trapeze School of New York (in Washington).


All kidding aside, they had a fantastic time and weren’t scared at all. I thought it might be at least a little disconcerting to watch our kids flying through the air well above our heads but the school does a great job of making everyone feel safe and comfortable (parents included). I’m sure they want to go back.


Ruth was sad that she didn’t get to do it also. They do allow six year olds but since she had just turned six we weren’t sure if it would be appropriate for her. I guess we will have to go back because we promised her that next time we’d sign her up also.

In general, I find we are moving more and more to giving experiences rather than things for gifts. Part of it is that we have very generous family members who give our kids all they need (and more). There is really nothing they need in terms of stuff. They always want more (they are kids after all) but really, how many Legos can you have? Giving an unusual or special experience has been a good way to limit the amount of clutter a least a tiny bit and also to expose them to a variety of fun and different activities that we might not have done otherwise.


Scenes from the Billy Goat Trail

If you live in the DC Metro Area and have never hiked the Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls, you are missing out. It’s a fantastic trail and been a long time favorite of H’s and mine. Ruth had never done it and requested we go this weekend when we were discussing a possible family outing. It was a perfect day for hiking, cool and somewhat overcast but dry.

I wasn’t sure how Ruth would do, it’s rated as a difficult trail, although I think it’s probably not as difficult as the NPS makes it sound. There are a lot of rock scrambles and climbing. And although there is one mid-trail emergency exit it’s the kind of thing where a tired and grumpy kid could make the whole experience miserable.


She did great. She basically spent the whole outing saying things like, “This can’t stop me.” and “This is so easy.” Or she was saying “Watch yourself here, Mommy, it’s a little slippery.” or “Mommy, why don’t you go that way, I’lll take the hard way.” I wasn’t sure whether to be touched or slightly insulted. We joked that she was basically like Dora in the new Geico commercial, “What took you so long?”


I will say I’m not sure every or even most just-turned-six year olds could do this trail. She is fairly athletic and used to trying to keep up with both big brothers. She is also fairly fearless and amazingly confident. The confidence astonishes me sometimes. I can’t remember if I ever felt that way but I know I doubt myself much more now than she ever seems to. I hope that her confidence is something that stays with her into adulthood even through all the turbulent years of puberty and adolescence. I have to admit I was just as worried about my own abilities to do the trail now as I was about hers. It had been awhile since I had hiked it and my overweight, out of shape, forty-something year old body with arthritic knees isn’t at good as rock scrambles and climbing as when H. and I did this trail together for the first time about 20 years ago.


I did ok. I figure I might not be the most fit Mom. Or the most talented Mom. Or the coolest or prettiest or thinnest. But I would like my kids to see me as the Mom who was willing to try new things (or old things that are new again) and to try things out of my comfort zone. Arthritic knees and all.

Musings on Homeschooling


Six weeks into the school year and I find myself once again reflecting on what is going well and what needs to change. This is now my eighth year homeschooling, which makes me sort of a veteran. But it’s my first year with a seventh grader which makes me sort of a newbie. I think the biggest thing that has changed for me as a homeschooler over the years is that I spend less time reflecting and worrying about particular curriculum and more time musing on the bigger lessons and issues.

This year I have three main lessons I’ve been musing on:

1)Remember why we are homeschooling.
I‘ve written about this before but this year I’m thinking about it more in terms of what homeschooling offers that school elsewhere doesn’t. There are definitely things that my kids miss out on because they are homeschooled. So I’ve been thinking about what is it that we do better than school elsewhere and maximizing those areas. That might mean that we need to take a day off to hang out with friends who are moving overseas for a year. Because we can. Or it means that we get sidetracked when doing a paper chromatography experiment and never get to the next thing. It means taking more field trips. Doing more art and science. It means letting kids who need it have a little extra free time.

2)Remember that it’s HOMEschool.
We live in an area with a lot of homeschoolers. There are co-ops that vary from a few families getting together to do nature study to places that offer full-day drop off options multiple times a week. There are constant emails about park days and field trips. There is a whole city full of museums that offer free classes (not to mention just the option for field trips on our own). And add to that all the many businesses that offer homeschooling classes or options (parkour, swimming, survival skills, painting, orchestra, botany) and we could easily be booked all day every day outside the house. When I see an offering that one of my kids would enjoy part of me wants to sign up right away. I tell myself “hey, this is why we homeschool”. And a little bit of that is true. But it’s also true that if we are so booked that we are never home or never find time to get to Math that we have lost what is essential about this lifestyle we have chosen. It’s all about picking and choosing. As much as field trips and outside opportunities are great, it’s also essential to have the time to just be.

3)Remember that my primary job is teacher.
Homeschooling can be tough because “school hours” creep into all hours of the day. When we’re reading aloud before bed, am I “teacher” or “Mom”? When we’re talking about something we learned in history during dinner is that “school”? The good thing about homeschooling is that it integrates into the rest of our life. The flip side is that the rest of life can start to creep into homeschooling. “Just one quick email” can turn into 20 minutes on the computer. The laundry does need to get folded and the house does need to be vacuumed but school has to happen first. I’ve also really been reminded this year that my kids like me.They like spending time with me. Sometimes this means that I sit with someone who doesn’t really need me while they practice piano. Or I read a history lesson out loud even though the student can read perfectly well on their own. Two of my kids are extroverts and they especially do better when school is done with more discussion and collaboration and just plain company. And even the introverted seventh grader who lately seems to feel too big to snuggle up in bed for nightly read-alouds uses time on the couch reading a Latin lesson together as an excuse for a little closeness.

My final thought is sort of more about why I still blog. I’ve been blogging for about seven years. I don’t have that many followers and my posts have gotten more and more infrequent. Just like I periodically reexamine my reasons for homeschooling, I periodically reexamine my reasons for blogging. The one that seems the most important right now is to provide myself with a record of these kinds of musings. Every now and then I’ll scroll back through my own old posts and find that I was struggling with the same things four years ago. In some ways that is depressing. In others it’s helpful, because of the most part I find my own advice helpful.


It also reminds me of the passage of time. The seventh grader that is now taller than me wasn’t so long ago just getting his training wheels off his first bike and memorizing The End by A. A. Milne. And his sister who wasn’t even born when I started this blog is now memorizing the same poem in celebration of her sixth birthday.


When I posted six years ago about John turning six I said something to the effect of how it would be nice if he could “stay six forever and ever” (to quote the Milne poem). Now, I’m glad he didn’t. As much as I enjoyed him then, I find who is becoming even more exciting. There is something in us as parents that wants to capture moments in time, perhaps that is why we take so many photos. But really, it’s the journey that is the real joy. More than anything, homeschooling for me has been a wonderful way to be on this journey together. And for that I am very grateful.

Thoughts from a Weekend Away


I recently got to go on our church’s women’s retreat. It was a great time of fellowship and prayer and great food and laughter. The planners also gave us a lot of time alone which was fantastic as an introvert. The first morning I took a walk alone through the fields surrounding the retreat center (it was on an old plantation). The phrase that kept coming to me was: “Be still and know that I am God.”


I thought about that phrasing and what it means. The obvious was that it was great to get away alone and have the time to just walk and think and read and reflect. A weekend free from distractions is a rare and beautiful gift and it was truly a time to “Be still” and think on other blessings in my life.


I also thought about what it means to be still in my everyday life. Again the obvious answer would be that it would do me good to reserve some space in my days to be quiet and just spend time with God. However, as I mused on the words I felt that there was a deeper meaning.


I tend to be more than a little bit of a control freak. If you know anything about Myers Briggs tests I am a “J” to about as much as you can be a J. That means I like schedules and checklists and plans. I do not like being late. I do not do well with unexpected interruptions. Some of that is good. I tend to get a fair amount done and I’m good at organization and administration. But this also means I spend a lot of time worrying about what is going to happen if we are off schedule or worrying about things I can’t control (like the weather or sickness or someone else’s behavior).


I don’t want to change who I am. But I do want to be more open to what God brings in a given day. I want to be able to respond with compassion with needed instead of impatience. I want to rest in knowing that I don’t have to be in control of everything. (And that if I was really in control it would be a really bad thing. Really.) I want to Be Still.