Young America, a wooden doll, and The Loveliest Place

Book review time!

I read only one of these following books (my thrifted copy of Hitty) in tangible form. Because I sure love my audiobooks. Since I can’t be Belle — in a castle with a giant library and dishes that wash themselves — at least I can wash the dishes while someone reads aloud to me. Still a princess-like luxury, if you think about it.

Here are some brief notes on each of these books. I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read any of them, or if you plan to give them a try.

Addy: An American Girl by Connie Porter
I just listened to all 5 of the books in the Addy series (takes about 5 hours). I remember loving them as a young teen, and I still think they are a treasure. I appreciate the glimpse into Civil War era history, the exciting plot and characters, and the emphasis on kindness and forgiveness.
She was always my favorite American girl (but sadly, I never had the Addy doll).

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The first time I read Jane Eyre I didn’t really care for it, and I didn’t like Mr. Rochester even to the end. I still don’t. But this time through, I better understood the thread of redemption and enjoyed the deep emotion and drama of the storyline. Still not my favorite, but I have a feeling I’ll like it even a little bit better next time I read it.

These Happy Golden Years
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I enjoyed the relaxing listen to this book, and it was fun seeing Laura as a young woman. It makes sense — her independence streak! It’s also interesting to see Pa and Ma parent a grown-up daughter. This book renewed my interest in the Ingalls family and inspired me to research their journeys. I used to live on that same prairie, after all!

Persuasion by Jane Austen
I had forgotten about the plot twists in this story and also enjoyed watching the movie after. The ending is just so satisfying! Gotta love Captain Wentworth.

Laddie: A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter
I reaffirmed Laddie as one of my top favorite books (find the one narrated by Laurie Klein). In this book, “Little Sister” commentates all of her large family’s affairs, through her shrewd and wholesome lens of childhood. She sweetly carries her older siblings’ burdens personally, but gets into plenty of mischief of her own. She is a little problem solver and isn’t afraid to tell the truth, even though she hasn’t learned when it’s best to keep quiet and when it’s helpful to speak up. This book is sweet, humorous, romantic, with very lovable characters. I always loved stories about the dynamics of big families and even wished for more details about more of the siblings. But Laddie truly does deserve the center stage and the title, as he’s the best older brother “Little Sister” could ask for.
Bonus observation of the family’s worldview: They are pious and moral people, who work hard, and put a huge emphasis on physical appearance. Both in their affirmation of good looks, and how circumstances will appear to their neighbors. I love the parents’ heart for the least and the lowly; their generosity and care for the outcast is indeed admirable. However, their motivation seems to be a “good work mentality,” trying to earn their salvation.
One of the children, referring to their mother’s constant hospitality, asks:
“‘Mother, have you ever figured out how many hundred sheets you’ve washed?”
Mother said: ‘No, but I just hope it will make a stack high enough for me to climb from into Heaven.” Laddie, Gene Stratton-Porter
This quote illustrates that the outward show of good deeds that Laddie’s family tries to achieve, misses the true heart of God’s grace and gospel. We’re saved for good works, not by them (Titus 3:5).
That being said, I do highly recommend this true, blue early American story as a great family read aloud.

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace
Sometimes children’s books are too simple, no matter their nostalgia, to hold my interest. I often shelf them for later, to read aloud to my future kids someday.
But this one — is truly a timeless delight. Betsy and Tacy, friends from age five, have endearing imaginations, reminiscent of me and my sisters.
Lovelace wrote off her own early 1900s childhood, weaving history and beauty and humor with each chapter.
In fact, I’m savoring my way through the entire series, and I’ll likely write more on these soon. In the meantime, find a copy of Betsy-Tacy to read to your little girl! Or for your own delightful amusement (if you love beautiful, true-to-life, historical, darling fictional adventures!)

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
Hitty is a doll fashioned from mountain-ash wood for a little girl in early America, the state of Maine. Through many daring adventures, Hitty maintains her dignity and charm as she is passed frown owner to owner through uncanny events, seeing the country and century pass by. It’s such a charming and witty story, with a rich vocabulary. I think children and adults alike can enjoy the world travels of a doll who becomes an antique, with a memoir of gold to prove it.

The Loveliest Place by Dustin Benge
We all need a refresher on who the church is and why she exists.
We often forget that the church is the Bride of Christ, and she is beautiful and precious. I love how this author dives to the heart of Scripture to draw out the aspects of the Body of Christ. This book helped renew my appreciation for the church and look forward to the day when we’ll forever be with the King. He always keeps His promises to us, and every word He uses to describe His bride will reign true.


April in Words

sky blue candlesticks

a midwest watercolor

rain, grayness, more rain, some snow

yellow teacups and The Gardner

couch-less life while waiting to find the perfect one

“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

and the rest of I Corinthians 1

coconut banana cake with fudge frosting

hopeful planting

grace upon grace

a flower delivery to a mansion

the peace of contentment

baking German chocolate cake for a golden birthday

windowsills full of blossoms

placing the thousandth piece in a puzzle

using the word “toddler” more and more

moving party

reaffirming a favorite read — Laddie, a True Blue Story

catching a rainbow and fellowship on resurrection morning

pondering how we’re raised to walk in newness of life, a life after our burial with Him

*illustration by David Small

Life after Tomb

“Even the icebent daffodils and crushed violets, the trampled crocuses and the battered hyacinths glittered like jewels in the muddy farmyards. Thomas caught his breath. He had never seen anything so beautiful. He passed the cemetery. The gravestones, too, twinkled in their shining gowns of ice. And the church bell began to ring.”

Lori Walburg

This paragraph from The Legend of the Easter Egg, shows a glimpse of Thomas, a boy who spends the week before Resurrection Sunday at a friend’s home because his sister is very sick. While there, he grasps the beauty of new life — eternal life. He learns death is no final separator for those who belong to Christ.

Our little church in Kansas overlooked the town’s cemetery. I would play with the other children outside after Sunday and Wednesday services, the charming trees towering over the tombstones a familiar sight. I saw the flowers come and go, the beaming American flags posted on Memorial Day, and a list of fallen veterans etched in a memorial stone.

We weren’t allowed to play in the cemetery, but we still knew the shapes and some of the stories of the ornate graves, and could sense the history. It stood a constant reminder of the realness and certainty of death. There were names from the 1800s, little graves for babies, and even fresh graves of a few from our own congregation.

It didn’t really bring fear, just an impression. A respect that it was appointed for man once to die.

Once I asked my dad where he’d like to be buried one day. I personally thought under the shade of a sturdy tree would be nice. He said, “Doesn’t matter where they’ll bury me. I’ll be gone.”

I pondered this, and I agreed. I, too, would be gone, in a place better than anything conjured up on earth.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning 

Than to go to a house of feasting,

Because that is the end of every man,

And the living takes it to heart.”

Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is important to remember death, because in its bitter sting, we know what it is to truly live a born-again life. We know the opposite of death. We taste victory, because we were buried with Him and raised to walk in newness of life.

Over and over Scripture declares to know Him equals life, in the fullest, sweetest, deepest way.

This weekend I’m looking forward to the choir declaring life, my husband’s sermon, my new dress, cinnamon rolls, and hearing the bells ringing, “Hallelujah.” Like little Thomas in the story, I still have questions, but they are resting in the hands of a Risen Savior.

Death is a reality and certainty, but it is no master of the saints. It is the wages of sin for sinners, but it is no victor over God’s people.

He conquered death, and He defined eternal life right in John 17:3.

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

The next time you see a cemetery, be it shining in gowns of ice, stones faded from all the sun, under trees or a forest of flagpoles, remember to acknowledge death in the light of Christ’s own death, burial, resurrection.

Enjoy this poem my friend Madelyn shared with me–

“Gain after loss,
Strength after weakness,
Crown after cross;
Sweet after bitter,
Hope after fears,
Home after wandering,
Praise after tears.

Sheaves after sowing,
Sun after rain,
Sight after mystery,
Peace after pain;
Joy after sorrow,
Calm after blast,
Rest after weariness,
Sweet at last.

Near after distant,
Gleam after gloom,
Love after loneliness,
Life after tomb;
After long agony,
Rapture of bliss—
Right was the pathway leading to this.”

-Frances Havergal

Waiting for Tulips (the March gifts)

driving home for the first time

daffodils saying hello

Indian butter chicken

friends who love us enough to clean the showers and every other inch of our moving mess

. . . and haul all our earthly belongings

quilt spread in the backyard grass

first sunburn at a luncheon

waiting for tulips…wondering their color

my sister’s carrot cake with citrus notes

“is anything too small for a child to talk to his father about?” —Anneliese

small prayers answered, as well as big ones

first package on the doorstep, containing a treasure (The Sugar Mouse Cake by Gene Zion)

dressing our new sturdy bookshelf with picture books

cold-brew and premarital counseling

the first grilled chicken of the year

finding an empty cupboard in the kitchen, days into unpacking

meeting the neighbors while bearing spring monster cookies

singing “Safe Am I” to my little one

brave sunshine and a little stroller

shire songs

These Happy Golden Years

baby’s first steps

marco polo conversations with friends from childhood

thrifting finds

1,000 piece puzzle owning our kitchen table

“Home is everything you can walk to.” –Jerry Spinelli

exploring our new home by walking

more thoughts, On Walking from Bethany’s blog

petitioning the God of the impossible, our Defender

–Who never tires of our requests

“How great is Your goodness which You have stored up for those who fear You.” Psalm 31:19

A Book Held Safely: God’s Sovereignty in Motherhood

In my first few months of motherhood, anxious thoughts simmered. I was even nervous the first time alone with my baby, feeling we needed at least four sets of hands to keep our precious bundle safe!

Every creak sounded like a break in, and during nap time, I constantly zoomed in as close as possible on the monitor to ensure the rise and fall of his breathing.

Certainly, motherhood is a steep learning curve, with hormones and normal concerns. But I hope to share how God’s Word encouraged me and established truths a little tighter in my heart in those newborn days.

Isn’t it amazing how God’s sovereignty envelopes us with sweet confidence?

I find daily courage in these two verses.

His Safety

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” 
Psalm 4:8

Even if I could be a perfect parent, and utilize every earthly precaution, I’m still not in ultimate control. With the psalmist I acknowledge, the Lord ALONE sets us in the safety. It’s a safety we long for (Psalm 12:5).

The Lord gives peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). All the understanding a young mom doesn’t even have time to acquire yet… a river of peace runs much deeper. 

His Book

Secondly, our children are infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than our own. He knew us in the womb, and His care goes to the length of etching each day in His book. 

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.”

Psalm 139:16

Some have a life story filling many pages into old age, chapter after chapter. Others’ lives are brief and also beautiful, but still penned in glorious love and purpose. It’s not for me to know the number of my days, nor the number of my little one’s. He knew before we were fully formed in the womb, and each day is a gift of grace to enjoy. What comfort and courage!

Whenever those fingers of fear and worry start reaching for my heart, I remind myself of these bedrock truths. God is sovereign over motherhood.

What do we believe about God?

As my son grows older, I’ll have more opportunities to fear. It won’t be just his health, but I’ll think about his emotions, his personality, his education, his relationships, everything. I’ll need to reaffirm that it isn’t my job to be in control. I must remember that even at my baby’s most vulnerable state in the womb, I could trust God to sustain his heartbeat in accordance to His will. Can we not continue to cast our cares and anxieties on such a wise Father?

At a baby shower last week, a mom much further down the road than me, shared how she desired to communicate her trust in God to her kids even when it was hard to do so. Because sinful fear shows others what we believe about God — that He isn’t to be trusted.

Instead, we can rejoice in the knowledge of His power and complete control. Safety isn’t a place. Safety isn’t a frame of mind. Safety isn’t perfect health. Safety isn’t a high-dollar security system.

Safety is a gift from God alone. He faithfully walks with us each day, until welcoming us to our forever home. Yes, I can place something even as precious to me as my loved ones in the hollow of His hand.

My sister recently reminded me of this old hymn Safe Am I. Sing this over your baby’s nap time, and give thanks He ordained this very day in His book, before we were born.

“Safe Am I, Safe Am I,
In The Hollow Of His Hand.
Sheltered Over, Sheltered Over
With His Love Forever More.

No Ill Can Harm Me, No Foe Alarm Me;
For He Keeps Both Day And Night.
Safe Am I, Safe Am I
In The Hollow Of His Hand.”