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Books as Tonic

How do you care for yourself? How do you cope with the messiness, stress, or busyness of life? Do you have regular habits that bring you joy and peace?
Some of us go for a run or get our hands dirty in the garden when we need to refocus or get some perspective. Some of us cope with wine or chocolate (or both). Some take a nap or a hot bubble bath. Some call a friend. Some bake a cake.
We can tell when we’re not taking care of ourselves—when we’re not eating well or sleeping enough or moving around. We can tell when we’re not praying, reading Scripture, listening or watching for God’s presence in our lives.
We’re all different and we cope with life in many different ways. But we can tell when our lives are out of whack and when we need to make a change. And for me, I can really tell when I haven’t been reading a book.
I read a bunch in the context of my work. In one job, I read interesting articles to post online for women in higher education. In another, I read books about classical education in order to edit them. And in another, I read seminary papers in order to grade them.
But this kind of reading, while valuable and stimulating, doesn’t make me feel like myself. When I’m regularly reading books, I feel alive. I make connections between seemingly disparate ideas, and I feel passionate about life, the world, and the people in it. I am motivated to live well. I have more ideas for writing and speaking. I have resources for friends in need.
When I get too busy and my books lie idle, I can tell. I feel restless and empty. When a writing deadline comes around, I don’t have much to say. I am consumed with little things, more reactive to minor circumstances.
Books revive me and bring me peace. God uses books in my life to remind me of the grand scope of this life and this world and to pull me out of myself. Books are a gift, a tonic to my soul.
Are you feeling frazzled today? Try this: grab a book, curl up on the couch, and feed yourself.
Anna Moseley Gissing

Anna Moseley Gissing is Associate Academic Editor of InterVarsity Press. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and her writing has been published in Let us Keep the Feast and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two kids, and she aspires to more reading, more writing, and more patience.

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