“Take some books and read; that’s an immense help;
and books are always good company if you have the right sort.”
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
What is contentment and where do you find it? Many times, contentment is viewed with a mindset of ‘settled’ or ‘this is good enough.’ But a search through my Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology reveals a far richer definition. Derivations in other languages tie contentment to being welcome, satisfied, gratified and grateful, even denoting praise and grace.
Our hearts desire contentment — a simple and meaningful Christmastide that rises above the commercialism packing the shopping malls and beginning before Halloween! The Thanksgiving holiday that historically began as a time to give thanks for every blessing large and small has been swallowed up. Lacking the commercial prospects of mounds of gifts and extravagant decor, our culture barely acknowledges the goodness and beauty of just being grateful and content.
A few years ago, our family discovered, through a new Christmas tradition, that contentment can feel lavish. Finances were tight and space in our house was too. I thought of shopping for presents that would be quickly unwrapped and soon forgotten. Gift giving became a panicked endeavor with checklists and crowded stores and the meaning of Christmas was exchanged for tinseled melee.
Someone mentioned a wonderful approach to keeping the holiday simple, and the secret was revealed in a simply rhyme — “Something you want, something you need. Something to wear, something to read.” Only four gifts given to each person, but the satisfying and joyful aspect was the consideration and thought given to each choice. What is truly wanted and needed? Of course, my favorite part of this new tradition was “something to read” — the perfect book to linger over while sipping a cup of cocoa on Christmas morning. We discovered that we anticipated each of the four well-considered gifts and loved the personal thought behind each choice.
We find ourselves one year past “the winter of our discontent,” and now is the time of reflection. Through the past several months, living has been pared down to the essentials. What we thought made us truly happy was discovered to be fleeting, a shadow that cannot be grasped and saved, a grey and transient image that slides away. When we take our eyes off of that grey silhouette —and it is always a shade of grey — and move our gaze to the bright light that creates the shade, our perspective changes. We turn our faces away from the shadows to the unchanging light. And during this Christmas season, we should look to the bright stars that point to the hope of heaven.
In this issue of Cultivating, the book selections include what we desire to convey about this holy season. We have included a wide range of Christmas stories just right for reading around the fire: thoughtful poetry, explorations of truth and beauty, magical tales, and new releases for all ages. You will find just the right book to tuck in the Christmas stocking or to choose for the gifting tradition that I shared above. Click on each link to read more about the particular book.
May your Christmastide be full of joy and contentment!
Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness. — Pearl S. Buck
Cultivating Book Recommendations
~ Christmastide 2021
Reflections to Ponder ~
Lifting the Veil – Malcolm Guite
Heaven in Ordinary – Malcolm Guite
C.S. Lewis – Readings for Meditation and Reflection – Edited by Walter Hooper
Letters from the Mountain – Ben Palpant
The Soul of Desire – Curt Thompson
The Circle of Seasons – 10th Anniversary Edition ~ K.C. Ireton
Come, Lord Jesus – Kris Camealy
Where the Light Fell – Philip Yancy
Advent is a Story – (Square Halo Press)
Bandersnatch – Diana Pavlac Glyer
The Man Born to Be King – Dorothy L. Sayers
Stories to Delight in~
A Christmas Carol – Dickens
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
Once Upon a Wardrobe – Patti Callahan Henry
Operation Lionhearted – Maribeth Barber
Fire and Ash – Gillian Bronte Adams
The Wingfeather Saga (Boxed Set) – Andrew Peterson
A Christmas Memory – Truman Capote
The Gift of the Magi – O. Henry
For the Young Cultivator in all of us ~
A Child’s Christmas in Wales – Dylan Thomas
Don’t Forget to Remember – Ellie Holcomb
Saint Nicholas The Gift Giver – Ned Bustard
At the Back of the North Wind – George MacDonald
Finding Narnia: The Story of C.S. Lewis and his brother Warnie – Caroline McAlister
John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R. R. Tolkien – Caroline McAlister
Periwinkle – Jordan Elise Durbin
The Prodigal Fox – Jordan Elise Durbin
Tree Street Kids – Amanda Cleary Eastep
The Polar Express – Chris Van Allsburg
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – Susan Wojciechowski
The Night Before Christmas Board Book – Clement Moore
The O in Hope — Luci Shaw
Jolly Old Santa Claus – George Hinke
Happy reading, one and all!
The featured image titled “Wonders of my library”, is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and used with her permission for Cultivating.
Annie Nardone is a flannel-clad, cowboy boot-shod adventurer who seldom travels with a map! Her passion is the reintegration of the arts and humanities with theology and Christian imagination. Annie holds a Masters Degree in Cultural Apologetics from HBU, is a founding member of The Society for Women of Letters, and is Managing Editor of The Cultivating Reader for Cultivating magazine. She also writes for Literary Life, and An Unexpected Journal. Annie resides in Florida with her Middle Earth-Narnia-Hogwarts-loving family, & her wild assemblage of cats.