Friday, January 10, 2014

Reading in the Seasons of Life

Imagine the refrigerator. The rest is accurate.
When I was a child, it never took me more than a day to read a book. I read straight through, pausing only for school—or chores done quickly, to minimum acceptable standards. And my mind never left the book at all.

I kept my compulsive reading habits right into adulthood. Once I'd started reading a novel, I couldn't concentrate on anything else until it was finished. One day, when my oldest children were toddlers, I found myself reading a novel, sitting in a rocker I'd pulled into the kitchen beside the fridge. When one of the children fussed for my attention, I'd open the fridge door and toss a snack to keep things quiet while I read just a little longer—to the end of the chapter, then a few paragraphs into the next, and with yet another tossed snack, the rest of the new chapter, too.

When I write that I "found myself sitting in a rocker" tossing snacks, that's exactly what I mean. I snapped out of a book fog into reality and didn't like what I saw. I don't know if I gave up reading novels immediately—I'm pretty sure I finished that one, at least—but in this moment of awareness, I knew my reading habits were harming my children.

I stopped reading novels for a while and cut down on all my book reading. For a few years I read mostly magazines articles, essays, or short stories, pieces with natural stopping points—or built-in mind breaks. I still read; I still learned by reading. But I couldn't be the reader I once was without neglecting my young family.

Now my kids are grown and I have more time for reading. I can lose myself in a book and nobody suffers. I'm reading novels again, although not as many as I used to. Sometimes I read for a whole afternoon, or, especially in January, a whole day. The season of my life changed and my reading schedule changed with it.

If you're reading along here this month, or reading any of the many posts on reading that show up this time of year, and you think, "Top ten books? I didn't even read ten books last year," remember that life has its seasons, and we're all different. It's true that reading (including fiction) is one of the best ways to learn, so a wise woman develops a habit of reading, but the way that works out—the reading plan, if you can manage one—changes with your own circumstances and abilities.

This principle applies to Bible reading, too. There was a year when I read psalms and not much else. My circumstances were difficult, and concentrating on larger passages of scripture was impossible. A psalm or two was all I could handle—and exactly what I needed.

When God wanted to tell us about himself and his work, he put it in a book, and reading it is the best way to know him. We can read the whole Bible straight through in one year, do rigorous studies of one book at a time, or read a psalm or two to quiet an anxious heart. Read in a way that suits your season. Just don't ever stop reading the Bible.


  1. There was a time when I could only read the Psalms as well. it was what I needed for that season.

    Your description of reading and tossing snacks made my smile. I've been lost in book fog too.

  2. Great post. Your story made me laugh. Yeah, I have often said in the past few years, "I feel like I took 20 years off from reading" because it gave way to housework and sleep. Now, with time on my hands, I find myself reading more and more.

  3. I love this! A time and a season, indeed. I too have been guilty of tossing snacks to the babies in order to finish a book :)

  4. So true! Such a perfect encouragement for me as I try to remind myself that is perfectly OK to decide not to read all the books in my list this coming year in order to devout myself to some other things that the Lord is placing before me to do.

  5. There was a year for me too when I could only read the Psalms because I was too ill to read anything else. I'm so glad the Lord put that book in there for those difficult seasons of life. You're very blessed to have such good concentration - I've always been a voracious reader too but it takes continual effort to stay focused.

    1. I'm so glad the Lord put that book in there for those difficult seasons of life.

      Me too. They really are the best when life is tough. :)

  6. Such true words. I have gone through those seasons too. God's word is the priority now though.