Family is a gift from God. My husband and I have been blessed with four children—one with the Lord, and three that are adults with their own children. We have nine grandchildren and one more on the way.
As I spend time with the grandchildren, I see their individual strengths and weaknesses. I am reminded of the joy and exhaustion of parenting. Providing the guidance and discipline that prepares children to find faith and truth, to develop skills, to meet the challenges of our world, is work! A good and blessed work.
In the life work of family, we need God’s help. He invites us to come to him in prayer. God is refining us all.
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. Psalm 138:8
The last sentence in the book of Judges points to a time of disarray. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. There was no accountability.
At critical moments in Israel’s history, women’s faithful prayers and actions made an impact on the future. During the period of the judges, the story of a family was recorded. Ruth was a young woman of Moab, who married a man from Israel. After her husband and father-in-law died, she made a commitment to her mother-in-law. She promised: For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Ruth 1:16b
Ruth kept her promise and was blessed to become the mother of Obed and the great-grandmother of King David.
Following the book of Ruth, Hannah is introduced in the first two chapters of 1 Samuel. In sorrow over her barrenness, she made a vow. She asked God for a son and promised to give him to the Lord. After Samuel was born and weaned, she kept her promise and brought him to serve in the temple.
Hannah’s prayer of praise and thanksgiving is recorded. Here is a portion:
My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.
There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none beside you; there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth;For the Lord is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. 1 Samuel 2: 1-4
I am inspired by Ruth and Hannah, also Esther, Elizabeth and Mary. There is blessing in being faithful.
This summer I have had more time in the garden. The flowers and herbs are flourishing. I picked a nosegay including these herbs with their flowers: calendula, echinacea, feverfew, lavender, mint, lemon balm and marjoram.
Some years ago, when I was working as maternity nurse and Lamaze instructor, I came across a book that fueled my interest in herbs. Susun Weed wrote, Herbal for the Childbearing Year. Her introduction alludes to the history of herbal knowledge collected by women and midwives.
Wise women have used herbs—gathered, eaten, tended, loved herbs—and taught their daughters the wisdom of herbs in the childbearing years.
I became familiar with the benefit of nettle as a nourishing herb and found nettle tea in the health found store. I now have a stinging nettle plant in my garden–grown from seed– and add the leaves to soup stock.
The libraries have books about herbs. I discovered calendula flowers, also known as poor man’s saffron. When the flowers are dried the petals become yellow and orange threads. they can be added to rice or muffins. I make a calendula tea with the dried flowers. I am fascinated by the variations in color in this lovely flower.
Sometimes I add mint leaves to fresh ground coffee to brew a mint flavored coffee. The leaves of lemon balm can be used for tea.
When I worked as a home birth nurse, I carried lavender oil to use for a soothing massage. You can read about it here. The scent of lavender has a calming effect.
Herbs are nourishing and flavorful. Some are medicinal. Rosemary and thyme are favorites in my kitchen. I am still learning ways to include more herbs in recipes.
There are many stressful things in our world. It is good to pause in the garden, give thanks for the abundance of God’s creation and pick a little bouquet.
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.
As we look back through history, we come across women who demonstrated faith and courage. Their actions were based on convictions. Some are midwives, and some are nurses.
The first book of Exodus records the confrontation between Pharoah and two midwives. Shiprah and Puah did not carry out the Pharoah’s orders. They saved the lives of Hebrew babies. I wrote about these two midwives in a 2019 blog post (click here).
Raquel Levy served as a midwife for Jewish survivors of WWII that were refused entry into Palestine. She went to the refugee camps to attend the Holocaust survivors. You can read my review of her biography here.
Florence Nightingale supervised a hospital for soldiers during the Crimean War. She made sanitary conditions and nutrition a priority. She led the way for health care standards in hospitals.
Edith Cavell was a director of a nursing school. During WWI she treated soldiers on both sides of the conflict in Brussels. She held fast to her faith, even as she was escorted to her execution. You can read more about these two nurses here.
Monday’s child is fair of face Tuesday’s child is full of grace Wednesday’s child is full of woe Thursday’s child has far to go Friday’s child is loving and giving Saturday’s child works hard for his living And the child that is born on the Sabbath day Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
I remember coming across it when my children were little. I have a child that was born on Monday, on Tuesday and on Wednesday. Yes, Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace, but Wednesday’s child is a joyful blessing—not full of woe.
The rhyme is associated with ancient fortune telling ideas. Children are a gift from God. Every day is a good day for new life. Every season—spring, summer, fall and winter. One of my children was born in the spring, one in summer and one in the fall. I am most blessed by the family God has given.
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.
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/
The cherry tree is in the center of my backyard. The blossoms in April bring hope and the joy of springtime.
The tree draws the robins who march around it possessively and perch on its branches. When it produces red cherries, I pause in wonder, reminded to give thanks for God’s creation, the work of this tree to produce fruit.
The tree has also been a source of frustration. It has had years of little fruit due to a late cold snap, a couple years of brown rot when all the cherries became moldy (and I had to learn how to clean and prune the tree). When the tree has produced good fruit, the birds got there first.
This year the tree looked to have abundant fruit. My husband and I netted some of the branches. It is tricky to net a large tree. We managed to cover several branches on one side of the tree. On the other side of the tree I tied a large, plastic owl to a branch, tied a number of CDs to branches throughout the tree (they spin and cast reflections), tied bells and chimes to other branches.
We were out of town when the cherries began to have an appeal for the birds. My neighbor said there was a great ruckus. She wondered if the birds had devoured the cherries.
To my delight the birds were leaving the cherries to ripen. After that first day they didn’t come near the tree. I thought that birds might go for the upper branches that I left free of any devices. But they didn’t. They waited until I had finished picking the lower branches and took down all my devices.
Nine quarts of cherries are pitted and frozen. We will have cherry pies and cherry crisp in the fall and winter. On Sunday I added cherries to pannukakku [Finnish oven pancake]. I have adapted a family recipe to make it gluten and dairy free. Here is my recipe:
4 Tbsp. butter ( ½ stick)
22 cherries pitted and cut in half
1 Tbsp. arrowroot powder
1 Tbsp brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup brown rice flour
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups almond milk
Preheat the oven at 400 degrees. Place the butter in a 9”x13” baking dish and place in the oven to melt—and take out when completely melted. Combine the arrowroot powder and brown sugar in a small bowl. Add the cherries and mix. In another bowl, beat the eggs and add the sugar. Beat well. Add the flour and salt, and beat well. Stir in the cherries. Add the almond milk and mix well. Pour batter into the hot baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, until edges of pancake are beginning to brown. Serve hot.
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When my daughter was in grade school, she had a class that involved critical thinking. She was encouraged to think through problems. When controversies occur, we need this kind of skill.
As a parent I have tried set an example of working through the issues our family has faced. It is important to be educated, to do a little research and make decisions based on facts. And it is important to pray for wisdom.
There has been disagreement about the vaccine—among medical people, scientists, family and friends. It is experimental.
I like to be educated, finding as much information as possible. What are the risks/benefits of getting the covid vaccine? Is it different for particular age groups? What should a parent do?
Within our extended family the adults have made differing decisions. That is okay. We don’t have all the answers, we are still learning. It is time to respect each person’s decision regarding the way they choose to support their personal health.
Parents know their child’s health history best and should make the decision about their children.
It is human nature to think our opinion is the right one. In the Bible, the disciples had disagreements that they worked through. We can listen to people that disagree with us, respond with respect and gentleness. Ask questions. Pursue truth. Know when to let go. The Bible has good instruction for us.
[Remind them] to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good.