Monday, April 25, 2016

Je Suis Bilbo

My middle school students are assigned a "Home Reader" each quarter, a book they are supposed to read at home and complete a response form about. I don't choose the books for their Home Readers, and several of them were new to me this year. I've spent a significant amount of my reading time keeping up with my three grades and all of their readers.

The 7th grade class read The Hobbit third quarter. That's one I have read before, a long time ago with my eldest in homeschool, but I didn't really remember any of it. And I only saw the first of the movies, so I figured I'd better go through that one one more time.

And . . . it was alright. I think that, for whatever reason, J.R.R. Tolkien just isn't my cup of tea, which surprises me, because he sounds like something I would be all about. Hubby and I tried to watch the first Lord of the Rings movie and never finished it – which is something we never do. It just didn't grab us. I probably will try reading the books sometime and see if I like them better.

But returning to The Hobbit: as I said, it was . . . alright. Some fun parts, some dull parts, nothing that jumped out and really inspired me, frankly.

Other than Bilbo. I can relate to Bilbo. You know what it is about him that I can relate to? He had absolutely no interest in going on an adventure. He was quite content sitting in his little hovel with a very calm, predictable life for the rest of his days. It was comfortable. He liked comfortable. I like comfortable.

Now, once he got out and experienced some excitement, he enjoyed it. He was proud of what he was able to accomplish on his adventure. But when it was over, he was quite ready to go back home to his calm, predictable, comfortable life.

I can't say that I'm happy about the fact that I'm like Bilbo. That's not the kind of person I want to be. I see these people with all this energy and enthusiasm doing all these exciting things and kinda wish that was me. But not so much. I need a shove. I need a Gandalf to come in and say, "What's wrong with you? We're going to do this. This is what you were made for. Let's go."

Lately, it seems to be my kids that inspire me to get out and do. Too often, it has been the case that if I want something available for my kids -- a homeschool drama program, an English class at their school, a book club, a Bible study -- I have to go out and make it happen myself. I'm much more likely to put myself out there for the sake of my kids than for my own sake.

'Cause I'm Bilbo. The comfortable.

But someday soon (too, too soon!!), my girls will be gone, and I won't have that shove. What will I do then? 

Maybe when I get my sleep problems taken care of (when? if? not holding my breath), I'll have more energy and want more excitement in my life. Right now, I love my home and my sofa. I love them a lot.

"Bother burgling and everything to do with it! I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing!"

Me, too, my hobbit friend. Me, too.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Reading "The Hiding Place"

One of the things about teaching English is that you have to read all of the books you assign to your students. And when I'm in the first year of teaching four different levels of English (6th, 7th, and 8th grade at my school, and my 10th grade daughter and a couple of her friends at home), that means I have to do a lot of reading to keep up.

My daughter and her friends were assigned – by me – the autobiography The Hiding Place to read a couple months ago. If you're not familiar with Corrie ten Boom or her story, you really must read this. She and her Dutch family were sent to a concentration camp (where her father and sister died) because they hid Jews from the Nazis in a secret room in their home, along with a great deal of other dangerous work they did for the Underground in the Netherlands.

I mainly chose this book for the kids because I wanted them to read at least one biography/autobiography this year, and they covered the Holocaust in history that month, so it seemed appropriate. (Yes, my daughter also read Night by Elie Weisel, in case you literature buffs are wondering. She wrote a fascinating essay comparing the two stories: how Elie lost his faith in the camps while Corrie found hers.) And I constantly heard great things about Corrie ten Boom and her book when I was a child.

The hidden room in the ten Boom house.
So, of course, I had to read it first. And now I understand what the fuss was about.

Oh, my gosh, this book.

I would read one chapter and then have to stop and think and pray. So many things God had to teach me through the reading of this book.

For example, I was struck by the character of Betsie, the author's sister. She was almost too good to be true. In fact, my daughter mentioned that she thought it was a good thing Corrie wrote the book and not Betsie because the reader could relate more to Corrie and her struggles and doubts. Betsie's faith was so rock solid. Her compassion, even for her enemies, was unfathomable. Upon hearing the name of the man who betrayed them to the authorities, she said, "I pray for him whenever his name comes to my mind. How dreadfully he must be suffering!"

Oh, Lord, give me Your love like that, to desire the best for others despite what they've done to me.

I will probably never forget the story of Betsie leading Corrie to thank God for the fleas in their new barracks – because scripture told them to give thanks in all things. And of course, not until much later do they find out that the fleas kept the guards from coming into their barracks, which allowed them to hold Bible studies in there, among other things. A valid reason to be thankful for them.

Lord, give me that kind of faith, that everything in my life is ordained by You and deserving of my gratitude.

While I read, I kept thinking, I could never do this. I could never be this strong or this brave. I could never put myself on the line like this. But then I read how, at the end, when she was released from the concentration camp, Corrie tried to go on working for the Underground and couldn't. She was seized with fear on her first "mission." That's when she realized that the only reason she and her family had been able to do what they had done was because God had empowered them with the strength and courage to do it. Now, He had different work for her, and so the power for this particular work was not there anymore.

Lord, help me always remember that I don't have to fear whatever trials my future may hold, because You are already empowering me to face them when the time comes. Fresh manna for each day . . . with none to save for tomorrow.

I really need to read more biographies. I never seem to put them down as the same person I was when I picked them up.