13 Stories of America – Part II

To see the first seven stories of America, visit the previous post. 

8. Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink – Ah, yes, here I am talking about Caddie Woodlawn again! I love this story because I consider it a “living book” and it touches on important players in the American pageant – Native Americans.

9. Defeat of the Ghost Riders (Trailblazer Book #23) by Dave & Neta Jackson – Ingenuity and perseverance could be called two of Americans’ greatest gifts, and Mary McLeod Bethune is a great example of both. Funding a school with homemade sweet potato pies? Oh, yes! Through the eyes of fictional Celeste, readers meet Mrs. Bethune as she is starting her school for girls in Florida. One line that especially struck me was her quoting of Lincoln’s words, “We destroy our enemies when we make them our friends.” 

10. Little Britches by Ralph Moody – America would not be what she is without her cowboys and (so far) Ralph Moody in the Little Britches series is my favorite. The escapades of this hardworking fellow – told by himself –  are sure to bring the gift of laughter to you and your family. 

11. The Adventures of the Northwoods series by Lois Walfrid-Johnson – As America stepped into the 20th century, immigrants from the world over continued to pour through her gates. Readers young and old will come to understand the lives of immigrant families who settled in the Midwest through the eyes of Irish-Swedish Katherine O’Connell, her stepbrother Anders and their friends. Questions like “What was Minneapolis like at the turn of the century?”, “What was it like to go to a one-room school?” and “What dangers did miners in the Upper Peninsula face?” will be answered. Throw in intriguing mysteries and these historical-fiction tales are a mixture of education and excitement – can’t beat that!

12. The Chicago Years by Nancy Rue – It seems that we learn a lot about the War for Independence, the Civil War, the pioneer era, the Great Depression and the World Wars, but somehow we skip the 1920s. This series by Nancy Rue is here to change all that! Rudy Hutchinson and his twin sister move to Chicago to live with their grandmother and are soon up to their earlobes in adventures. Along the way, readers will discover Italian-American culture, German-American culture, Jewish-American culture, the work of Jane Adams at Hull House, the cultural trends of the 20s and, of course, the mob! 

13. The American Adventure series by various authors – The American saga is told from the journey of the Mayflower to the end of WWII in this series that traces a family tree. While the 48 – yes, forty-eight! – books in this series are out-of-print, you can still find many copies available (inexpensively) online. The hunt is worthwhile because this series paints a portrait of America’s history in such a memorable way. Even issues like the internment of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast during WWII are faced. Another benefit of this lengthy series is the opportunity to see how one generation’s choices affect the next. If you are looking for a way to engage children in history or if you want a pleasant way to learn for yourself, I recommend this series.  

There you go! Thirteen stories of America. Do you have a different favorite on your shelf? I’d love to hear about it. Send me a message anytime here

Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen (Revisited)

Ten minutes was all they had. Ten minutes to share a kind word and some home-cooking. Ten minutes to send off the American boys who might never come home.

So out came the sandwiches, out came the angel food cakes, on came the jukebox and on went the coffee. After all, ten minutes was all they had.

Can you picture it? The troop train clangs to a stop and young soldiers pour off. Mothers and daughters hand out plates of food as if serving their own sons and brothers. What would the hospitality and kind words mean to you if you were heading off to war? How would angel food cake taste when you knew it would be the last you would have in a long time or when you’d been eating military food? What would you do with the pen-pal address hidden in your popcorn ball?

This is the story of the North Platte Canteen. During WWII, the North Platte Canteen was a hopping place as troop trains stopped in that small Nebraska town on their way across the country. North Platte’s people saw this as an opportunity. Why not seize those ten-minute stops to encourage those American soldiers?

So the homemakers got together. Soon the husbands and children joined in to whisk egg whites with forks, serve sandwiches, form sticky popcorn balls, and chip in their pocket money. My own Grandpa Dan who grew up in Nebraska remembers that his mother sent money to support the Canteen. I’ve wondered if my Grandpa Ken who served in the Air Force during WWII ever stopped in North Platte.

A special thank-you to my Grandpa Dan and Grandma Ruth for sharing Once Upon a Town with me and for Grandpa's service in the US Navy.

A special thank-you to my Grandpa Dan and Grandma Ruth for sharing Once Upon a Town with me and for Grandpa’s service in the US Navy.

And what was the impact of those ten minutes? Well, within the pages of Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen by journalist Bob Greene, I discovered that North Platte became famous among American soldiers, families pulled together to serve, a little boy sold his shirt to raise money, a lifelong marriage began with a popcorn-ball connection, and decades later many of those involved teared up as they shared their Canteen stories. One soldier even took his children on a post-war road trip to show them the Canteen where they found his name in the guest book. These are the true stories of sacrifice, community, hard work and love that capture life on the homefront and show how mere minutes of kindness can leave a permanent impression and change many lives.

I found myself intrigued by the fact that serving especially scrumptious homemade food out of the Canteen to the soldiers was a private idea. It wasn’t a government project. It didn’t take a bureaucratic committee. It did take a host of volunteering homemakers, farmers and country children. What a great example of charity that is “relational, local and voluntary”!

While I don’t endorse the entire book – please read with discretion/some sections are not suitable for children – particular stories are definitely worthwhile. For me, Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen was a productive read and a challenge. Could we be as dedicated as Mr. Greene to collecting the stories of those who have gone before us but with a focus on God’s glory? Would we be willing to give of our time and resources with such gusto if given an opportunity like the women, children and men at North Platte? Could they have used those ten-minute intervals more fruitfully for Christ’s Kingdom? Are similar opportunities waiting for us today? Hmmm. Food for thought.

May you all have a very blessed Memorial Day weekend. As we take time to relax with family and friends and eat something yummy like angel food cake, may we also take time to remember and be grateful for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and for those who sacrifice in small and big ways on a daily basis to defend liberty for us. 

What is Womanhood? A Conversation with Caddie Woodlawn

Lived by a grandmother and passed down over the years, it’s a story that beats with real life. It’s the story of a redheaded, spirited girl growing up in 1860s Wisconsin where she and her family work and play together and learn what is important to them. It’s the story of Caddie Woodlawn

This story came to life for me via the television screen and later through the pages of the Newbery-Award-winning book by Carol Ryrie Brink. The two are different in some big ways. Overall, I have to say that although the film captured my imagination and I absolutely loved the costumes, the book is, by and large, better, both worldview-wise and for learning about life in 1860s Wisconsin. But, of course, you could check out both versions for yourself! 

Main Characters (in the book):

Caddie – A red-headed explorer who loves spending time with her brothers and learns many lessons.

Tom – Caddie’s older brother, a kind heart

Warren – Caddie’s younger brother, a jolly soul

Hetty – one of Caddie’s sisters, a chatterbox reporter

Mr. Woodlawn – Caddie’s father, a hard-working Brit who loves America

Mrs. Woodlawn – Caddie’s mother, a Bostonian lady who occasionally misses city life but loves her husband more

Annabelle Gray – the Woodlawns’ Bostonian cousin

While the book is full of exciting escapades like a prairie fire and Caddie’s race to protect the Native Americans, one quiet scene stood out to me. It seeks to answer a question every girl (or parent of a girl) faces at some point: What is womanhood all about and is it something a young girl could be excited to claim?

After a particularly miserable experience, Caddie and her father talk. Within that conversation, Mr. Woodlawn shares with his daughter what he thinks womanhood is:

“It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things. They have them just as much as the men who build bridges…A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s. But no man could ever do it so well…I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind. Do you think you would like to be growing into that woman now?” (pg. 244-245) 1

How does Caddie answer? How would you answer? Whether we are girls or we are raising girls, I think we could agree that being “a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind” who also has “nerve and courage and patience” is a worthy goal. 

After you’ve read the book and/or watched the movie, perhaps you’ll be a fan of Caddie Woodlawn and her conviction-driven spunk. Do you know you can still visit her home in Wisconsin? Check out the Dunn County Historical Society website. All you will find in the park  now is the log cabin and the small white house (pictured above), but, as another redheaded heroine of children’s literature says, there’s plenty of “scope for the imagination” in that. 

[1] Carol Ryrie Brink, Caddie Woodlawn (New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1990), 244-245. 

Simply Stepping Stones: What Thanksgiving Is Really About (It’s Not Just the Pilgrims)

All things considered, I think you could forget the Pilgrims and still celebrate Thanksgiving this year. 

But, no, just eating a stuffed bird or watching men chase each other with a funny-shaped ball does not count as celebrating Thanksgiving. If that’s all we do, let’s be honest, please, and call it Turkey Day or even Football Day.

(Note: I don’t actually have anything against turkeys – especially when they’re on my table – or funny-shaped balls; I just would like us to call things what they are, even holidays.)

Back to Thanksgiving. 

It’s not that the Pilgrims would be all fine and jolly with you forgetting them entirely. At least William Bradford would be concerned. And with good reason. 

He understood a particular aspect of humanity: unless you’ve gone through the suffering required to reach a goal yourself, you’re apt to not value the reward nearly as much as those who did suffer. Bradford wanted the Pilgrims’ descendants to treasure what they were given, so he wrote an account of their struggles called Of Plymouth Plantation. (It’s worth cracking the cover. I believe Grandma called it “fascinating”.)

But, as far as Thanksgiving Day itself goes, I think the Pilgrims really wouldn’t mind if we happen to talk about them less. Squanto and Samoset probably wouldn’t be bothered either.

Why? Quite simply, it’s not about them.

Yes, Thanksgiving is a good time to remember our history, but it’s still not about the Pilgrims.

Then what or who is it about?

In Bradford’s own words, this group of sojourners who became known as the Pilgrims saw themselves as potentially “but stepping stones” to something – or you could say Someone – much more important than themselves. 

“Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations or at least of making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.” [1]

Then who is Thanksgiving about?

Thanksgiving is – or is supposed to be – a day when we take time to be thankful not just to each other but really to God, the God Who sustained the Pilgrims, the God Who prepared Samoset and Squanto to help them, the God Who has been directing the stories of our lives ever before and ever since the Mayflower anchored off America’s shore, the God Who makes plants grow and created that turkey on your table. 

God really is the One the Pilgrims would want you to be thinking of and thanking this Thanksgiving, even if you forget them. After all, the Pilgrims may be simply “stepping stones”. 

“Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.  

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

~Psalm 100:3-5, KJV

 

1 William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation: Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement: 1608-1650, pg. 21.

A School of Her Own: Bringing History and Heart Together

I gazed around the room one more time. The teacher’s bell, the hooks for hanging lunch pails, the well-used desks and the well-loved McGuffeys. Even though I was heading toward new adventures, it was hard to say goodbye.

We had shared quite a bit of history, this room and I. Once I was a little girl who sat at a little desk and used a slate pencil. Back then, I thought it would be pretty awesome to be a teacher with a school just like this. Why not? I had read about it in books like the Little House series or the Boxcar Children’s Schoolhouse Mystery. But there was a problem: I was in a century that wasn’t very one-room school friendly.

Then, in a snap and a whirl, I grew up and found myself behind the teacher’s desk of that place of childhood dreams. And a roomful of students gazed back at me!

Yes, I had become the one-room school teacher at the living history museum. Children came by the busload to learn about life in bygone days. You can imagine the fun of ringing the bell as various-sized students propelled themselves in my direction. 

However, there would be no running into my school “like a herd of pigs headed for the trough.”[1] At my instruction, the students lined up with girls on one side and boys on the other. Then they walked in, took their seats,
and we began our lessons. IMG_9295

Looking back, I felt quite a bit like Mabel O’Dell welcoming students in A School of Her Own. At eighteen, Mabel finds herself teaching in a one-room school in Michigan, dodging a vicious goat, grading papers, getting lost in a blizzard, dealing with the challenges that come with a classroom and a small town, and learning about the Lord. Inspired by the life of and stories from the author’s grandmother, this book brings history and heart together.

What is the point of bringing history and heart together? It’s about making history alive with real people who faced real problems and had real stories. It takes the facts (which are important) and goes beyond them to the relationships. I think that sums up what I hoped to share with my students in my one-room school. With the groups, I had only fifteen minutes (or less) to do it. Talk about a challenge! My history manual and older folks who had attended one-room schools or taught in them were my best resources for true stories to put a sparkle on the facts. Sometimes I think I may have shared more of the fun stories – like the skiing to school and the recess games – and given a somewhat sunshiny picture of life back then. However, I know I tried to communicate facts like how school children really had to work hard to help their families. A School of Her Own  balances the fun with the realities that people were still sinners and life definitely had its hard moments in the 19th century just like in the 21st. 

So there I stood in my school, admiring all the familiar details. To think I had come so very close to being a real one-room school teacher! While I hadn’t faced life-changing decisions with surprising answers quite like Mabel, I had learned, as I suppose many teachers do, as much as I had taught in that room. It was now part of my history, and it was definitely part of my heart. I hope sharing the story brings it to others’ hearts as well, maybe even yours. 

 

If you’d like to read all about Mabel O’Dell’s escapades and learn about life for a one-room school teacher, check out A School of Her Own by Arleta Richardson. Perhaps you’ll even decide to visit a one-room school! Whether you read or visit, I’d love to hear your thoughts on bringing history and heart together. Note: As I mentioned, the book does touch on some of the more complicated issues of life. Parents may want to check it over before handing it to young readers. 

Special thanks to my childhood friends Katie and Ann S. who, I think, introduced me to Arleta Richardson’s books. I guess you never know what a book recommendation might bring about! 

1 Arleta Richardson, A School of Her Own, Grandma’s Attic Novels (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications Ministries, 1986), 49. 

Passed-Down Partialities: People, Poems, Pianos & Pies

Not so long ago in a land not too far away, there lived a little girl named Ruthie. She lived on a farm with her father, mother and sisters. They didn’t have much in the way of things, but they were surrounded by generally kind neighbors. Ruthie relished the parties for birthdays and the celebrations for national holidays. She also cared for the neighbors’ children when a helping hand was needed. Along the way, one thing was for sure: Ruthie learned to love people. 

As Ruthie grew up, she discovered another love: music. Finally, she had the opportunity to take a handful of music lessons. That gave her the courage to play both the piano and organ for church!

While she loved people and music, Ruthie also enjoyed time by herself. She didn’t even mind being the one to stay home and clean! (Every family needs a little Dutch-ness, perhaps?) However, she also enjoyed a good story. Her family didn’t have many books, but she read The Best Loved Poems of the American People. Perhaps the rhythm of the words struck a chord with her music-loving heart. At any rate, she kept that book for decades to come.

Even after grown-up Ruth left her small hometown, her partialities perpetuated. People, pianos and poems continued to be parts of her life. She also carried sweet memories with her. Remember those parties with the neighbors? Ruth couldn’t help but share the stories, especially about the pies! Mrs. Cacak always baked such wonderful pies! As Ruth traveled far and wide, maybe pie became like a taste of home.

Lo and behold, one day Ruth found that she had become a grandma! Where had the years gone? Well, whether on purpose or not, Ruth passed down her partialities to the next generation. She showered the new little people in her life with love and showed them how to love other children. Once they started taking piano lessons, she played and sang along, imparting her interest in hymns. She shared her book of poems. And, lastly, she offered the stories of her childhood, including the palate-pleasing pies.

Have you ever wondered over how God weaves our lives together? Isn’t it amazing how He even carries on the work from generation to generation? I think Ruth’s story is a good illustration.

You see, I am one of Ruth’s granddaughters. Her passed-down partialities have had a huge impact on my life. I hope to carry on her love for people, especially children. If she hadn’t played piano in church, I might not have either! It was with her Best Loved Poems of the American People  that I spent happy hours, and now I post about poems on my blog. And if she hadn’t shared sweet memories with me, I may not have been as inspired to bake pies a-plenty.

This is why younger people like me need older people like my grandma. They give us perspective and pass down passions and pastimes. And, from what I’ve seen, older folks need us young chicks to remind them that their decisions affect others and they need to be thoughtful about what they value. Certainly, there are many other things – even beginning with “p” – that Grandma could have invested in and that could have made my life much different. So if you’re an older person, please consider your ways well and seek out someone with whom to share your gifts. And if you’re a younger person, watch for what you can learn from the older people in your life. Won’t it be wonderful to see what God’s masterpiece looks like someday when we get to see His woven work?

Thank you, Grandma, for passing down these things to me. I’m glad you enjoyed the cherry and raspberry pie I was able to make for your birthday! You know the secret ingredient, don’t you? Love.

Grandma's Birthday Pie

Stepping into the Story: The Williamsburg Years

At long last, I stepped through the doorway. Even though the inside of the Colonial Williamsburg apothecary shop didn’t look quite how I’d pictured it, my heart leapt as my eyes swept up the details. Above the counter were the jars of medicinal elements. No wonder Thomas Hutchinson felt overwhelmed in The Rebel on his first day as the apothecary’s apprentice! I felt as if I had spent hours in this place even though I’d never set foot in it until this moment. That’s the beauty of books…and I had just stepped into one of my favorites!

With rich details and fast-paced adventures, Nancy Rue brought Colonial Williamsburg all the way to eleven-year-old me in Guatemala via her series The Williamsburg Years. Of course, literary license and the fact that today’s Colonial Williamsburg bounces around in the Revolutionary-War era meant that not everything was as I wanted it to be when I visited today’s Williamsburg. Wouldn’t it have been fun if old Mr. Pickering really were behind the counter of the apothecary shop? Still, whether I was listening to George Washington, strolling up to the Governor’s Palace, nibbling ginger cookies or riding in a carriage, Thomas Hutchinson’s adventures were spread over my experiences like the chocolate sauce on my peppermint stick ice cream at the King’s Arms Tavern.

Like the young United States, Thomas Hutchinson has a lot of growing up to do in The Williamsburg Years. In fact, you may not like him very much when you first meet. On the other hand, you may understand why he feels like he might as well not even bother trying to live up to his two “perfect” older brothers. No matter how you see him at first, you’ll find that he’s changed by 1783. How could it be otherwise when he’s learned to love learning from Alexander Taylor, spent three years as Mr. Pickering’s apprentice, become like a brother to indentured servants Malcolm and Patsy, trained as the right hand of Dr. Nicholas Quincy, witnessed Tarletan’s raids on the Hutchinson plantation, and watched one brother leave to fight for liberty and the other to become a minister? (Not bad for a thirteen-year-old, right?) Yet, with all the progress he’s made, as the battle of Yorktown fills the Williamsburg air with explosions and the Governor’s Palace with wounded soldiers, Thomas still has plenty of his own battles to fight. There’s the issue of Malcolm wanting to join the army more than anything while Thomas can’t stand the thought of sending off another brother. Then there’s Dr. Quincy, who has risked the ire of hot-headed Patriots to follow his Quaker beliefs and is now risking everything to save lives on the battlefront. And what will the Patriot victory at Yorktown mean for Thomas’s best friend, Caroline Taylor, who has a melon-slice smile and a Loyalist family? Maybe you can join the adventure and find out for yourself!

I think one of the many truths Thomas learns as the new United States gains her freedom is what it means to be really free. After the battle of Yorktown brings the war mostly to a close, Thomas’s father shares a few thoughts with him.

When they reached the end of the Green, the bells in Bruton Parish Church were ringing joyfully and people were rushing back and forth across the Market Square in their best clothes, ready to go to the surrender ceremony. Papa watched them for a moment before he spoke. 

“I feel no need to go to Yorktown today,” he said. “For me, the war has been fought right here.” He put his hand on his chest. “Right inside ourselves.”

Thomas felt his brow puckering. “I don’t understand.”

“You have fought your own battles during this war, Thomas,” Papa said. “Right there in your own soul. I think you’ve come through it all feeling God’s hand.”

I have felt God’s hand, Thomas thought as he looked out over the Duke of Gloucester Street…

Papa touched Thomas’s shoulder. “I am proud to say, son, that you’ve joined God’s side, and you’re winning that war inside yourself. Do you know what that makes you, Thomas?”

Thomas shook his head and looked where his father was pointing. On the roof of the Courthouse, the new flag flapped proudly in the wind, brilliantly red, white and blue against the October sky.

“It makes you free, son,” Papa said. “No matter what you may have to suffer, you will always be free.”[1]

What do you think? What does it really mean to be free? This post brings to a close my miniseries on the War for Independence. However, there’s so much more to learn! While The Williamsburg Years are no longer in print, you can still find copies on eBay and Amazon. Then you can visit Colonial Williamsburg online. If you ever get a chance to visit in person, the peppermint stick ice cream at the King’s Arms Tavern really is the very best! Step into the story today.

 

[1] Nancy Rue, The Battle, The Williamsburg Years, no. 6 (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1997), 187-188.

“The Consoling Voice of a Friend”: A Snail-Mail Saturday Post Featuring Nathaniel Greene and Henry Knox

Have you ever made such a weighty mistake or faced such a heavy disappointment that you needed a friend to share the load?

Nathaniel Greene could relate. As I mentioned in last week’s post, the Patriots felt several defeats during the second half of 1776. One of their losses was Fort Washington. On November 17, 1776, Patriot leader Nathaniel Greene, who was somewhat to blame for the defeat, wrote to his fellow-Patriot Henry Knox,

“I feel mad, vexed, sick, and sorry. Never did I need the consoling voice of a friend more than now. Happy should I be to see you. This is a most terrible event…”[1] 

Sometimes it sure helps to have a friend nearby, doesn’t it? Even just their kind words can make such a difference.

Of course, it’s true that sometimes our friends can’t be right with us when we think we need them or we can’t be right there for them. Since it’s a Snail-Mail Saturday, why not take a few minutes to be the kind of there-when-it-counts friend we’d all like to have and jot a note to a friend who could use some cheering up? In this age of texts, messages, and tweets a snail-mail letter could truly be a sweet surprise! And maybe you could include a reminder of Who is the true Always-There Friend and “God of all comfort” (Psalm 139:7-12, Matthew 28:20, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

1 David McCullough, 1776: The Illustrated Edition (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), pg. 192.  You can see and hold a facsimile (like the one in the featured photo) of Nathaniel Greene’s letter in this book.

Without Hindsight: History in the Present

As I’ve looked at history, I think I’ve sometimes viewed the characters as if they knew their actions’ outcomes. It was all fine and well for the Patriots to be so brave. They must have felt very sure of themselves. Of course they were going to win! How could anyone have wanted to give up?

But they didn’t know the end of their story. They were like I am in 2015, in the middle of the adventure and wondering what might happen next. Are we doing right? Is there any way we’ll win? Or will we be relegated to the failures of history? Is it going to be worth the cost?

And they had reason to wonder. By the winter of 1776, not even six months after the Declaration of Independence was signed, George Washington’s Patriots were underfed, shoeless, unpaid, and suffering sickness and defeats. Since they didn’t know what was coming, 2,000 of them left when their enlistment expired. [1] Even before that show of hopelessness, Washington wrote to his cousin,

“In confidence, I tell you that I never was in such an unhappy, divided state since I was born.” [2]

Yes, these were days to “try men’s souls” as Thomas Paine put it. [3] The realities remind us that the War for Independence wasn’t glamorous. The men who fought in it weren’t given messages from heaven saying that they were going to be famous someday. They struggled with decisions, made mistakes and had to face them, and needed to confide their feelings to friends.

Somehow this knowledge comforts me as I live within my own life’s tale. While it’s true that as a Christian I know I can look forward to a “joyfully ever-after”, I don’t know when that’s coming or what lies between now and then. Somedays I think, I don’t know what tomorrow holds; how can I possibly make life-altering decisions? 

Let’s face it. Life gets complicated and hard sometimes. That sure wouldn’t be news to George Washington! And yet, he and a (comparative) handful of others pressed on. For some reason, God chose to suddenly bless their efforts – with their crossing the Delaware and surprise attack on Trenton on December 25, 1776, for example – and here I am over two-hundred years later with gratitude for that.

Here’s another thought I’ve pondered: If you’re going to be a soldier who sticks with it, you’d hope your cause would be worth it, wouldn’t you? For me, that’s where listening to God comes in. As the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15, ESV), Jesus knows the end of the story. I think that’s a good reason to rely “on the protection of divine Providence” like the signers of the Declaration of Independence said they did. [4]

So I press on – praying, reading, watching, listening, working, waiting for God’s directing hand. What might happen if we’re not “sunshine patriots” or “summer soldiers” [5] who give up when life gets hard? Maybe we won’t have history-shaking victories. But at least generations to come could look back and say, “They didn’t give up. They persevered in something eternally worthwhile. They set an example for us. Let’s live up to it.”

 

1 David McCullough, 1776: The Illustrated Edition, pg. 197.

2 David McCullough, 1776: The Illustrated Edition, pg. 191.

3 Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis” http://www.ushistory.org/paine/crisis/c-01.htm (accessed 9 July 2015).

4 “The Declaration of Independence” http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html (accessed 9 July 2015).

5 Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis” http://www.ushistory.org/paine/crisis/c-01.htm (accessed 9 July 2015).

Transcending Time: A Snail-Mail Saturday Featuring Abigail Adams

Dearest Friend,

The Day: perhaps the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends – my bursting Heart must find vent at my pen…

It is three o’clock on Sunday, June 18, 1775. Thirty-year-old Abigail Adams is penning a letter to her “dearest friend”, her husband John. She must somehow share the news that their friend, young Dr. Samuel Warrren, was killed in the battle that began yesterday morning on Bunker’s Hill. That battle is not over yet. How could her heart not be bursting with emotions and concern for friends and the future of the thirteen colonies?

Fast forward. It is June __, 2015. America won her independence from Britain long ago, but American women (and women everywhere) still face struggles, loss, and uncertainty of both friends and country. These concerns transcend time. Abigail’s words could be shared (albeit perhaps in different phrasing) by any woman of the 21st-century.

And, yet, as we step back to June 18, 1775 to again peek over Abigail’s shoulder, a question comes to mind: how does she respond to the unknown future? [The original spelling and punctuation have been maintained. Remember, Noah Webster’s dictionary came out in 1828.]

The race is not to the Swift, nor the battle to the Strong – but the God of Israel is he who giveth Strength and power unto his people. Trust in him at all times ye people pour out your hearts before him. God is a refuge for us…

The last two sentences quote Psalm 62, a passage I have gone to often like Abigail apparently did centuries before me. Although that psalm was written thousands of years before both of our times, it has lost none of its significance through the ages.

Someday my words will probably not be remembered, and even Abigail’s may vanish from the written record, but I believe these Scripture words will prevail. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away,” Jesus said (Matthew 24:35, ESV). Those are words that truly transcend time.

When everything in life seems unstable, who wouldn’t want something solid like that to hold to? Time will tell if it’s worth the faith.

This post begins a mini-series focused on America’s War for Independence. A favorite resource on this era and my source for the text of Abigail’s letter is 1776: The Illustrated Edition by David McCullough. Within its pages, you can find removable facsimiles of documents significant to America’s founding, including one of Abigail’s June 18th letter (see page 40). 

Perhaps we will pay another visit to Mrs. Adams. If you have thoughts on her or a favorite book or resource, please drop me a note!