On becoming a “reader”

They say that “children become readers in the laps of their parents.” My poor parents.

  Growing up, the hobby of reading belonged to my mom and to my brother. My brother was guilty of staying up well past his bedtime, reading anything and everything he could get his hands on. He was a fast reader who devoured books. I, on the other hand, strained at a sloth’s pace to get through a book without losing interest. It wasn’t for lack of parental effort! Mom and dad both read to me for countless hours of my young life. Bless them. They REALLY tried. My dearest childhood friend also joined in the valiant quest to make me become a proper reader. That girl was a voracious reader, a fact which no doubt has contributed to her brilliant mind, and she also subjected me to countless hours of read-aloud time. I quite adored it, though. I remember particularly the loveliness of reading together on the massive porch swing during my family’s summer vacations. But while I still thank my dear friend for all of her efforts, it didn’t seem to do much to spur my personal interest in pleasure reading. As for my beloved childhood activities, instead of reading I favored drawing and singing and swimming, and mostly… I liked talking. I’ve always preferred talking with a friend to, well, most other activities. I have an abundance of words. We know this.

   It’s not that I couldn’t read or didn’t know how. I was an excellent student, maintaining honor roll grades and excelling for most of my entire academic career. I read lots of things! Okay, I read the required things. At the high school and college levels, I even managed to enjoy some of the required reading! But as for pleasure reading on my own time, just because? Not so much. I chalked it up to a personality difference,and I hoped that my other strengths (like talking?) would carry me through life.

  Even into adulthood, mom and dad both encouraged me to read. Mom especially would insist that I simply had not yet found my niche. She was convinced that someday I would find a genre that would pique my interest, and on that glorious day I would realize that reading wasn’t so bad after all. Even my dad, who used to be my non-reading-partner-in-crime had begun reading significantly more in recent years. I was happy for him! But for me? Still nothing. Until last fall, most of my adult reading attempts were tied to a specific goal or group or some end result. Primarily I read cookbooks, spiritual living books, and parenting books (blech). There was no reading for reading’s sake. That all changed last October.

   It’s beyond perfect that my recent literary love affair began when I traveled alone to the wedding of that same book-pushing childhood friend. We are all grown up now, and the whole beautiful October weekend was full of joy and laughter and fantastic company and gratitude (and incredible food, I mean, nom nom).  As I wandered the gorgeous little streets of her neighborhood the morning of the wedding, I found myself in a quaint little used book store, where I romantically perused the delicious-smelling pages. I could be a reader if I wanted to, right? And there was this one memoir about a woman who lost her friend to cancer, with a pretty cover and a title that screamed my name: Let’s Take the Long Way Home.

   On my travels home the following day, I devoured that book, sobbing my way through the various airports and layovers. Having just lost a friend to cancer months before, this memoir reached into my heart and put ink to so many emotions I had not yet expressed. Simply put, I found healing and catharsis in that book. But it didn’t stop there. I discovered in the following months that my mom was right, again (as always): I just needed to find my niche. And it’s people. Of course it is. I probably should have known. I cannot get enough of true stories about people– memoirs and the like. There are so many incredible stories in the world, and I feel so thrilled to be discovering some of them. So, mom and dad (and KK!), it took 30 years, but you managed to make a reader out of me!

   And okay, maybe there’s nothing particularly spiritual about reading memoirs.  Everyone can enjoy reading different genres for different reasons. But I have found that reading has been a lifeline for me during a somewhat stressful time this winter. Snuggling up with someone’s story reminds me that I have a story, too. For all its imperfections, I know that God is weaving together my story, full of beauty and absolutely full of His faithfulness.

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written

The days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.”

Psalm 139:16

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