The Importance of Story

Jesus was a teacher and storyteller. The book of Matthew records numerous stories. While speaking to a crowd he told the parable of the sower who encountered different types of soil. (Matthew 13) Speaking to his disciples he told the story of the lost sheep (Matthew 18). There are many more parables throughout the gospels. Jesus would sometimes answer a question with a story.

I just finished reading Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan. The fictional characters, George and Megs, are exploring the importance of stories. George has read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and wants to know if Narnia is real. Megs is a student at Oxford and finds an opportunity to meet C.S. Lewis. She plans to ask him George’s question.

Once Upon a Wardrobe

The question is repeated different ways; where do stories come from? What do they mean? Is there a deep truth embedded in stories?

Patti has a well-researched knowledge of C.S. Lewis and includes biographical aspects of his life. At the end of the book C.S. Lewis’ stepson comments on the book. It is a good read. 

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The Hidden Child: Book Review

Whenever I visit the library, I check the display of new books. Recently The Hidden Child by Louise Fein caught my eye.

The Hidden Child

This historical novel, set in the 1920s, tells a story that connects the eugenics movement and the plight of a child with epilepsy. (Eugenics is a theory that the human race can be improved by preventing people with bad genes from giving birth.) Eleanor, Edward and their daughter, Mabel, live near London in England. Mabel is four years old when the story begins and by the time she is five she is having seizures.

The author researched epilepsy colonies in England and the Eugenics Society led by men in the United States and England. The goal of this society was to form a more ideal population and to limit the growth of population. With this in mind colonies of people with epilepsy and those considered “feeble-minded” were organized. If legislation could be passed, these people would be sterilized. 

The book is well written and thought provoking. Louise Fein has personal insight into the treatment of epilepsy because her daughter was treated for it. The author is telling a mother’s story, and as it unfolds, Eleanor’s growing courage and advocacy for Mabel is heartwarming.

While the main characters are fictional, historical characters are included. The case of Carrie Buck is mentioned in passing and I decided to check it out. Buck v. Bell was a Supreme Court case decided in 1927. Virginia had passed a law allowing forced sterilization of the “feeble-minded”. The Supreme Court upheld the law.

On May 2 of that year the court ruled that Virginia’s law was constitutional and that Buck should be sterilized. In the majority opinion Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes enthusiastically declared that the “principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.” In an oft-quoted phrase, he concluded that “three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Consequently, Buck and approximately 8,300 other Virginians, including her younger half sister, were sterilized under the state law between 1927 and 1972. 

It is true that the state of Massachusetts passed a vaccine mandate for small pox that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1905 (Jacobson v. Massachusetts). Persons that refused the vaccine were fined $5.00.

In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court voted seven to two in favor of the state, ruling that although the state could not pass laws requiring vaccination in order to protect an individual, it could do so to protect the public in the case of a dangerous communicable disease.

The underlying belief is collectivism. In order to serve the greater good, individual liberty and health choice is sacrificed.

The discussion of vaccine mandates is back. In this situation the vaccine does not protect the public from the virus. Both the vaccinated and unvaccinated can become infected and transmit the disease.

I recently listened to a discussion of the inadequate safety testing of the Pfizer vaccine and the information that is hidden in the fine print of the vaccine trial documents. I am alarmed. You can hear the discussion of the Canadian Covid Care Alliance on Rumble.

In these trying time we truly need wisdom from God. I find comfort in this scripture verse. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

Join me in praying for the Supreme Court Justices. May they seek wisdom from God.

On my trip to the library today I picked up Louise Fein’s earlier book, Daughter of the Reich.

Updated: 1/10/2022

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Women Establishing Order in a War Zone

In 1917 eighteen Smith College graduates went to France to provide relief measures and establish order in war torn villages. Lauren Willig has written a novel based on the reports about this group. The author read a memoir by one of the members of the Smith College Relief Unit and letters written by the young women. It is an amazing story.

The book mentioned letters being censored and the difficulty in getting accurate information. The women often did not know what was going to happen next. Makes me think of the censoring of information today. Are we in a war?

From a writer’s point of view the story is well written. Conflict, dialogue and inner dialogue are well balanced and keep the story moving forward. It is a good read.

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Immigrant Women and Midwives

A couple of books have stirred my thoughts and emotions. I read a lot—sometimes three books in a week.  I don’t review many. These two books have touched me.

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin is historical fiction based on a real event. In 1888 a blizzard came on suddenly in Nebraska and took the lives of children returning home from school.

The families affected were Swedish immigrants establishing farms. A main character in the story is a wife that resents being isolated on a farm. She was far from sisters, friends and relatives. When she first immigrated, she lived in the city of Minneapolis.

The story brought to mind my grandmother. When she first immigrated at the age of nineteen, she lived in the town of Calumet, close to her brothers. Perhaps 10 years after her marriage my grandfather bought a farm, miles from town. She managed (developed) the farm and took care of the children while my grandfather worked in the mines to pay for the mortgage. My mother was born on the farm. She talked about her mother’s deep depression, due to the hard work and isolation.

My mother and her siblings were affected by the family dynamics. Yet, I am here because of my grandmother’s perseverance through a very difficult time. I have a deep debt of gratitude.

The German Midwife by Mandy Robotham is a historical novel that pursues speculation that Eva Braun, companion and finally wife of Adolf Hitler, gave birth. The story begins in a work camp, Ravensbruck, where a midwife is caring for pregnant women. 

Eventually she is ordered to be the companion/midwife for a pregnant woman in high standing in the Reich. She is taken to Adolf Hitler’s compound high in the mountains.

The author is a midwife and gives an accurate account of typical midwife care that is given to healthy women, giving birth in a home setting. It brought to mind the home births that I have attended. I share the belief that environment and emotional support have an impact on the progress of labor. I did a little research about Ravensbruck—was it really as bad as the story alludes? Click here for an article about the camp.

Linking this post with Tuesdays with a Twist .

Pause to Pray

A small group in our church is reading and discussing the book, How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People by Pete Grieg. Grieg introduces the acronym P.R.A.Y. Pause, Rejoice, Ask, Yield.

Why do we need to pause? Perhaps that is a silly question when we consider our hectic lives and the issues that we are currently confronting. Grieg writes:

The best way to start praying, therefore is actually to stop praying. To pause. To be still. To put down your prayer list and surrender your personal agenda. To stop talking at God long enough to focus on the wonder of who he actually is. To be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.

Our discussion was stimulating. I wondered about the pressure in our society to achieve, to accomplish goals. What if our prayers are about getting to know God? Is it more important to grow our relationship with Him than achieve goals?

The time that we are living in is challenging. I desire to grow my prayer life. Perhaps you do too.

The prayer course that is a supplement to the book is available online: https://prayercourse.org/sessions/

Linking this post to the Five Minute Friday writing community. Kate’s prompt is: QUIET Also sharing this post with Legacy Link-up and with Anita’s Inspire Me Monday .

Enneagram: Understanding Others

All around us there are designs and patterns that are pleasing to look at. I enjoy the vast array of flowers that bloom indoors and outdoors. Lately I have been reading about a different kind of design/pattern.

In the book, The Road Back to You, Ian Morgan Cron describes the enneagram as a map of the human personality. The enneagram describes nine different personality types. Each type sees the world in a slightly different way. The nine types are motivated in unique ways. 

My primary goal in reading a book about the enneagram was to get a tool to help with character development as I worked on my novel, but . . .

As I read each chapter, I was able to see myself and my husband with new understanding. There is value in spending time to see another way of interacting, another way of learning and communicating. 

Concurrently I am reading, Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall, participating in a group study. Chapter 4 in the book is titled, “Playing God”. Our group had a lively discussion about judging others. We compared and contrasted judgement and criticism. 

As I thought about the two books, I realized the importance of spending time communicating with people that are different. What is motivating the behavior that I don’t understand? I might be too quick to judge.

Have you read a book about the enneagram? What did you think?

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: DESIGN

Also linking up with Heart Encouragement .

Historical Fiction: 3 Good Reads

This year my mind has become weary with the news. The amount of time that I spend watching the news on TV is decreasing and the amount of time that I am reading is increasing. I admit that I have been a bit of a political junkie, and it is good to spend more time with books (the Bible being first).

Historical fiction is a favorite genre. Books can take us to another time period, showing us places, events and people. We can learn from books that are carefully researched. 

In the past month I have read three books in this genre. Two of the books are set in the time period of WWI, the Great War.

City of Scoundrels by Victoria Thompson includes the 1918 flu pandemic, along with masks and disagreement about the effectiveness of masks. The main characters are involved in cons and the movement of money to make people rich. So much reminded me of the current time that I had to check the publishing date. Did the author write this after the pandemic began? It was published in 2019.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Web is a WWI story set in Europe. The book has an unusual structure. The story is told completely by letters between the main characters. The reader is invited to see the effects of the war on daily life and decisions through the letters. This perspective allowed a view of internal emotions and hopes. I was drawn into the lives of the characters.

Tessa Afshar writes stories tied to Biblical characters. She has firsthand knowledge of the middle east—I enjoy her descriptions of setting. The Thief of Corinth is set in the time period following Jesus death and resurrection. The apostle Paul makes an appearance in the story. The reader gets a glimpse of wealthy villas in Corinth, the way of life in a rapidly growing commercial center.  Afshar presents Paul consistent with the Bible.

Each of these books does a good job of revealing human nature, the good and the bad that is possible in all of us.

Sharing this post with Inspire Me Monday and Booknificent Thursday .

Year of Disappointment: An Anchor for the Soul

This year, 2020, might be called the year of disappointment. Everyone has been affected by the pandemic whether it be financially, socially or physically. 

The politics in our country has been hard to watch. We have flawed men seeking the presidency. The recent revelations of corruption are disheartening.

The bias in the media and the censoring of some points of view is discouraging. Yet I am reminded that people in previous eras have experienced disruption and jarring circumstances.

Currently I am reading the novel, Last Christmas in Paris, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. The book tells the story of young people during World War I. As I writer I am enjoying the structure the book. The story (historically accurate) is told through letters written by the main characters.

The lives of people in England were disrupted as the men left to fight a war that would last four years. Women’s roles changed to meet the needs of the home front. News that would show England in a bad light was censored. It was hard to get a true sense of what was happening with the war—and with loved ones. And towards the end of the war, the Spanish flu arrived, the pandemic of 1918.

We do live in a broken world. //

When we have a relationship with Jesus, he does not disappoint.

he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge. Psalm 144:2

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end. Lamentations 3:22

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20

In this time we need to encourage each other and pray for each other (and vote). I feel blessed to attend church each Sunday and a Bible study during the week. I hope that you are able to meet with a church and/or Bible study.

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday Writing Community and Heart Encouragement .

Mercy in a Children’s Book

A terrible accident took place in the hills of Switzerland. A child sustained a debilitating injury and one boy, Lucien, had provoked the accident.  This is how the story begins in Patricia St. John’s book, Treasures of the Snow. This book for children was first published in 1948.

As I continued to read, I was startled by the clear themes of sin, anger, and bitterness—and the way sin makes barriers between people. The story was told with gentleness, but was bringing a clear message to children about the human heart.

The grandmother has nuggets of truth for Annette who struggles with bitterness.

Every day of your life, ugly, angry selfish thoughts will knock at the door and try to get in again. Don’t try to push them back yourself. Ask Jesus to help you by filling you with His love. Read about the love of Jesus every day in your Bible. If you keep your heart full of it, there won’t be room for those bad thoughts to stay. [p. 172]

As the story continues Annette and Lucien both realize their own sin. This is the beginning of mercy, compassion and healing. //

Patricia St. John’s story has lingered in my mind because of the deep truths embedded in the words.

In the book of Hebrews we find this guidance.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14 – 16

Linking this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community and Heart Encouragement.

Text edited: Correction made to scripture reference. The scripture text is from the book of Hebrews.

The Cherry Tree and Martin Luther: Life Lessons

My husband has offered to cut the cherry tree down. Several times.

I was thrilled when the tree offered a bountiful harvest of cherries, sweet with a little tartness.

Then came the year of brown rot and mold. We spent a week picking all the rotten fruit and cleaning up the mess. 

Another year a late snowfall came while the tree was in blossom. There were no cherries that year.

Over the past few years Japanese beetles have discovered the tree. They eat the leaves on the tree, weakening it. So I tried picking them off, dropping them in a bucket of soapy water, as some fell down my shirt. Last year I treated the tree with neem oil.

This year is a recovery year, but the robins honed in on the ripening fruit. I have to admire their zealous pursuit of the cherries. I hung a couple of garden shop owls in the tree and also shiny CDs.

The cherries were of such great worth to the robins that they played out a dramatic scene.  I can see the tree—it is just outside my kitchen window. 

The robins showed acrobatic moves, twisting their necks to reach a cheery hanging below a branch. They would fly in with a focus on a cherry, see an owl and flutter like a hummingbird. Then they would seize a cherry and speed away.

I picked a quart of cherries. The robins consumed the rest. I have been thinking about the focus and determination of the robins (and also my determined attempts to save the cherry tree lol). What are the things of great value, deserving my focus? //

During this time at home I have pulled some books off the shelf that had intimidated me by their length. Currently I am reading Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and changed the World by Eric Metaxas. 

Martin Luther was totally focused on understanding the Bible, learning the true meaning. He pursued faith in God with his whole heart. Luther demonstrated in his life the most worthwhile goal—an example for us to follow. The greatest treasure in our lives is a relationship with God through Jesus.

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: WORTH