“His beauty doth all things excel”

August 26, 2021 | My Jottings

I used to be able to think deeply. I’m having a little trouble with that lately. I don’t know if it’s my aging brain, or if it’s pandemic-related. Maybe it’s both. These days I think of my brain as a water bug, rapidly skating on the surface from place to place, rather than like the mole it used to be, digging deep and slowly exploring tunnels of thought. I take comfort from the fact that I’ve heard this really is a thing, that many people are experiencing this phenomenon. I don’t feel excessively anxious, as I’ve heard some people relate during these days. But I do want my deep thinking ability to come back. I haven’t exactly helped myself, since I pick up my cell phone countless times a day to check the weather (searching for hope that our unending heat and humidity will indeed come to an end), to look at all the curiosities and also photos of those I love on Instagram, to read teeny bits of the news (because I want to be informed but watching the news is no longer an option because who wants to be assaulted in their own home?), to record my water intake on an app I like (because in case you’re new here I donated a kidney last year and hydration is more important than ever for my remaining kidney-gal Verna), to listen to the Pray As You Go app (because it’s truly beautiful and strengthening), and a handful of other helpful inconsequential things.

So I’ve taken very recently to making myself read for longer periods of time. Never in my life did I ever think I’d speak or type those words. Books have been a main source of delight and comfort for me since I learned to read in first grade, at Workman Avenue Elementary School in West Covina, California. Mrs. Jane Webber was my unique first grade teacher and I did okay in spite of the fact that she mildly mocked me for a few things. A six year-old! But in second grade, Mrs. Sarah Lokken read to us out loud for long periods of time every day and I fell in love with Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series. I read them to my own children and some of my grands. My love affair with books has continued to this, my 64th year.

Anyway, I have never had a period in my life when I haven’t read deeply and widely, had a pile of books to giddily look forward to, talk about with someone, and savor. I still have piles of books everywhere in my house. I went to the library two days ago and picked up a book I reserved. I have three on my nightstand and can’t ever see that changing. But I will read a short chapter, and then it’s like my brain tells me that’s enough for now. Then I go and get some iced tea, let Mildred out to go potty, answer a few texts, floss my teeth, let Mildred back in, whatever. Then a couple of hours later I might come back to my book, and I am finishing books, but deep reading for hours at a time has not been a part of my life for about a year and a half. It’s almost as if I now have a mild case of ADHD, and I hate it.

I know I need to change my focus. I think if I added up the time I’m spending focusing on things of mild consequence, I would be shattered. Our brains are our precious, prime real estate, and I’ve let squatters move in and given them the best places in mine. My squatters aren’t the kind that dump their garbage and build shanties and use the creek for their toilet. Mine are more respectable squatters, with pretty curtains in the windows and savory smells coming from their kitchens, but they are using my cerebral land nonetheless, and I haven’t taken the matter in hand and given them their eviction notices.

So, as unsubstantial as this might sound, I have two plans for my brain today. I am going to read non-stop for one hour. And I am going to memorize the lyrics to a song I have played on repeat and loved for a long time. These are the lyrics to the song:

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit, and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be
of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

(By Rev. Richard Hutchins)

Oh, how I love this song. And here is what plays in my bedroom at least three times each day, this choir, this version of this beautiful, soul-lifting song:

My book is a decent one, and worth finishing. But this song and these lyrics are the kinds of residents I want to build with on the prime real estate that is my brain and mind. I want stained glass windows, an altar, beauty, rest, nourishment, order, freedom, comfy chairs, piles of books, God’s creation, music, friends, and worship to be ever present there.


  1. Nancy A Roney says:

    when i worked i had a 3 hour daily commute on the bus ( 1 1/2 hours each way. That was my reading time and I devoured a lot of different books. Since retiring I have not read much until recently. It has taken me awhile to find a comfortable place which I now have in my living room. I’m starting to pickup on reading. I often wish more people could read what you write. Anyone in your family tech savy who could expand your audience? There is such a richness in what you write and I wish more people would have the opportunity to read your blog.

  2. Just Julie says:

    Yes, having a designated time for reading like that would be so great, Nancy. And I know what you mean by wanting just the right spot in your home to settle in for a good read. Once again your words have lifted my heart — thank you for your faraway friendship. xoxo

  3. Mariah Ford says:

    I’m in the same boat. I think, though, for me, the issue is that I find instant gratification on Instagram or Facebook and the fact that it’s instant is my undoing. I blame my scrolling habits, which include Pinterest as well. I’ve conditioned my brain to take in fleeting images (nothing sketchy or shameful or sinful, by the way, just fast moving images of home decor, what the kids and grands are doing, recipes, etc) and when I have to focus for any period of time it’s become much more of a challenge than I want to admit. But there it is. Now I’ve admitted it. So. I will address this, and re-train my brain and my attention span. I have so many excellent books in the offing, just waiting for me, and I fully intend to actually sit down and pay attention to them. It will take discipline and re-wiring, but yes. It’s time. Starting now. Thank you for the bringing this to the forefront of my thinking!

  4. Just Julie says:

    Yes, the “taking in fleeting images” is exactly what my brain is calling for. Like you Mariah, nothing I scroll is offensive, but it can be too much. I’m not on Facebook, but Instagram is enough for me, and it’s hard to fathom that at this age I actually have to speak to myself like a child and say, “No, you will not be doing this right now.” Sure appreciated your comments, dear Mariah. Praying for you this moment. xoxo

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