Thursday, February 10, 2011

#7 "It's me, Father!!"

     I have children who read. I like to think it is because I read to them, but they are all inquisitive in their own right. My son, Thomas, started school a year early in a Montessori public magnet program in Ft. Worth and was reading at 4. Today he devours science fiction and fantasy novels, and he's an articulate and funny writer. I read to Jenny from her infancy.  As a toddler she wanted The Three Bears read every night for awhile. She liked Winnie the Pooh so much that we began calling her "Jenny the Pooh". (We still do.) In grade school she read lots of Ramona books and Hank the Cow Dog stories , then the various Babysitter's Club novels, and then The Chronicles of Narnia herself.  In high school she graduated to Shakespeare and was particularly moved by Potok's The Chosen, a novel about two friends who had conflicts arising out of  their religious differences as they were coming of age. She became quite a literary scholar and competed in Literary Criticism for two years with dogged determination and faithful studying.
      Then came Kate. I read and sang to her at night--Beatrix Potter, A.A. Milne, poetry, Raggedy Ann and Andy, the Narnia books-- and her dad made up puppet shows using Beanie Babies as comic actors on a bedspread stage. She couldn't go to sleep for many years without going through these nighttime rituals of stories and songs.
     Kate told me at three years of age that she wanted to learn to read for herself. Thus, I found a book entitled Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and we started it. She begged every night to get out our  "weeding book" and was reading full pages of text by the end of three months. I came home from work one day to discover Charlotte's Web on the den sofa, propped open about half-way through the book. When I asked aloud, "Who's been reading Charlotte's Web?" my curly-headed four-year-old moppet popped her head through the open door and said, "ME, Mommy!" I was duly impressed--incredulous really--and so proud of her spunk. She's never stopped.
     The clerks at Barnes and Noble know her by her first name. She progressed from Little Golden Books  and Winnie the Pooh to Junie B. Jones stories to Jane Austen to James Joyce and now C.S. Lewis. She just finished Surprised by Joy and did a project on it for school. I love to see my children reading and pray that God will help them to know truth when they see it. He tells us,
     "Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that doesn't need to be ashamed, rightly 
      dividing  the word of truth." II Timothy 2:15
     I had a mother who read to me also. Although we had  tough times after my parents' divorce and sometimes lived in fear of what my father might do to us, I felt loved and secure with my mom. I would get on my pajamas and little pink robe, plop myself  up in the bed with her at bedtime, and then listen to her read to me.  We moved around a lot, living with different relatives, in government housing, and even on the "street most likely to flood" in a little duplex in Odessa, Texas. (Tom Green Street, for those of you who know Odessa.) But, no matter how lowly our living circumstances, I was transported to a special place when Mom snuggled me up close, put her arm around me, and read.
     She read Mother Goose nursery rhymes,  the Better Homes and Gardens Story Book, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and the Bible to me. Later on she read to her grandchildren and always had different voices she used for each character. She was captivating.
     In school I went from fumbling through Tip and Mitten in first grade to inhaling Nancy Drew mysteries in grade school. (I had to read every one and haunted the public library until I did.) I mooned over romance novels in junior high and came alive to C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia in the sixth grade.
      I was transported to Narnia as if to a place of heavenly bliss. Narnia, though other worldly and magical, made sense and clearly spelled out the difference to me between good and evil. It created in me a desire to go to that place and to know Aslan, the majestic and gloriously beautiful king of the animals. It was a longing for the eternal, the spiritual, the supernatural. I think Narnia gave me that pang of joy that Lewis describes in Surprised by Joy. It was indeed sacred and magical territory for me and created a hunger to know more of the same. I went on to read his science fiction trilogy, learned he was friends with J.R.R. Tolkien and read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in college, went on to ferret out works by George McDonald, and finally found Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. For me, one author leads to another and then to another. If C.S. Lewis was inspired by a particular writer, then I sought out that author as well. Currently I can't get enough of John Patrick, M.D., who is much like a modern day C.S. Lewis.
     So, where did all that reading lead me? I remember saying in high school to my English teacher, "I don't know what my major will be in college, but I'm sure it will never be English!" Well, one should never say "never."  I ended  up with a major and master's degree in English and then taught it in secondary and college settings until I completed pre-med courses and started medical school.
     After medical school and residency I got to a point where I didn't do much reading for pleasure. I was busy building my practice and tending to my family. If I had any time for reading, I thought I needed to be using it to study my medical journals. I felt guilty reading anything else.If I couldn't keep up with those, then what business did I have reading for pleasure?
     However, when times got really difficult with my health and marriage, and I couldn't sleep well, I began reading again: my Bible, books on faith, healing, and rebuilding broken relationships, and even fifteen-year old letters written by my grandmother from the years when I was first married. Even after Grandma had been in heaven over ten years, reading her letters brought me comfort, offered Godly wisdom, and gave me direction.The truths she spoke in love brought tears to my eyes years after she had written the words. Even today I find myself wondering what Grandma would say about a particular problem, and I wish I had more of her precious letters to go back to, to pour over, and to cherish.
     Grandma, an avid reader herself, tried to write to all of her children and grandchildren. She had a wish to live long enough to see all her grandchildren come to know the Lord. She prayed for each grandchild specifically (all  23 of us) and then trusted God with that request, believing the truth of the following scripture:
    " I know Whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to   
      Him until that day." II Timothy 1:12
      Her continuing influence on my life is proof of God's faithfulness to tend to the things that concern us even after our earthly lives are spent. He also promises to complete the work that He has started in us:
     "He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." 
      Philippians 1:6
     It gives me pleasure to see that my children are curious and enjoy reading and learning new things. I'm glad that they can discuss ideas, and I am so proud of them. But, my dearest  hope is that my children and their children yet unborn will all come to have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. There is nothing that I desire more for them in this life or the next than that.
     They don't have as many letters from me as I had from my grandmother because a lot of what we communicate is done by texting or e-mails. They do have some letters from my mother, and those will grow more precious through the years if they manage to hold on to them.  But our letters are of no importance compared to reading and believing those their Heavenly Father has left for them and all of His children.
     I wonder what God thinks when He sees his children reading his letters? Like my Grandma, He took the time to see that His thoughts and messages were written down for us through the centuries and preserved His word for us today. When He sees our Bible propped open on the den sofa, does He smile and say, "Who's reading Proverbs?"   I hope that all of us can smile and exclaim,  "It's me, Father!!!"


BerrySimpson said...

Well said. One of the most influential voices in my life, Jim Rohn, gave two pieces of advice that I have followed since the 1980s. He said to keep a list of books you read (be intentional), and he said the most valuable thing to leave your grandchildren is a library full of well-read and marked-up books.

Judy Googins said...

Berry, what good advice!