Groceries & Gratitude

Over a year later, I still think of it often when I’m grocery shopping. Standing amidst long aisles packed with food items that I can just take off the shelves and pay for myself, I remember them.

Lines of mothers and children waiting to get their one loaf of bread with their ration cards.

This was not a pivotal scene in Liz Tolsma’s novel Snow on the Tulips. The story follows Cornelia, a young widow engulfed in the pains and predicaments of life during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands near the end of WWII and focuses on her struggle for courage as the Resistance movement seeps into her life.

But this one scene stands among my strongest memories.  Like I said, it’s been over a year and I still think of it.

It has changed a little part of my life.

Perhaps it’s guilt, you ask? I mean, there certainly are starving people in the world today while I stand in that grocery store overflowing with such excess. True, I could feel guilty sometimes.

But mostly I just feel…grateful.

I feel grateful for the plenty and the opportunities to share it. I feel grateful for the ability to choose what to place on our table. I feel grateful that, of all the uncertainties in life right now, I don’t have to wonder if we’ll have bread for our next meal.

Yet, maybe someday, I will be wondering if there will be anything to eat for the next meal.

When I think of that, I’m grateful for the stories of the past because they remind me of two truths: 1) people can get by on very little and 2) God provides. Certainly, we prefer variety and plenty in our food, but when push comes to shove, one really can be sustained on bread and broth or like the pioneers on bacon and hardtack. Then the Lord provides. Sometimes He provides by multiplying the 3 fish and 5 loaves. Other times He supplies by taking starving souls to feast with Him in heaven.

This is one of the blessings of history. We can prepare to face struggles courageously if we take time to study the past. And so, I am also grateful for authors like Liz Tolsma who take time to tell the life-like (albeit fictionalized) stories of those who have gone before us through times of plenty and times of poverty and watched God provide in His own ways.

He is, after all, the God Who makes the tulips grow through the snow.

Wooden Shoes and Rescues (in honor of King’s Day)


It’s an invitation to a land where you can watch windmills, trip through tulip fields and patter in painted wooden shoes. It’s an open door to a journey with two friends, Summer and Noelle, as they learn not only new things about each other but also new things about themselves. It’s a beckoning to the realization of the importance of both forgiveness and trust in God for the future. Come! 

Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes by Robin Jones Gunn has stayed on my “favorites” list for a while, and, with the Dutch holiday King’s Day coming up on April 27th, this is the perfect time to share it with you!

In this volume of the Sisterchicks series, Summer is compelled by certain circumstances to leap across the Atlantic Ocean and visit her long-time pen-pal Noelle in that land of windmills, tulips, and wooden shoes: the Netherlands. The two friends meet face to face for the first time. During her visit, Summer experiences various aspects of Dutch culture mixed with her own embarrassing moments and hilarious escapades (like floating down a canal in a giant wooden shoe)! On a more serious note, she visits the home of her heroine, Corrie ten Boom, and is reminded of Psalm 91’s promises and the value of living beyond fear – of living abundantly.

As a letter-loving girl, I was hooked right away by the fact that these two friends formed their sisterly bond with pens, paper and envelopes. However, for the first couple of chapters I still had a hard time getting into the story. Then things started to happen, and I was into it – all the way from my wooden-shoe-longing toes to my Dutch-descendant blue eyes!

One part of the story that especially grabbed me was the visit to Corrie ten Boom’s home. (You can learn more at the Ten Boom Museum website here, if you’d like.) As many of you probably know from the movie The Hiding Place or various books, Corrie ten Boom and her family used this little building as a headquarters for rescuing Jews during the WWII Nazi occupation of Holland. Through their efforts, approximately 800 Jews were spared. Before the war ended, however, the Ten Booms were betrayed and sent to prison camps. Corrie was fifty-three years old when she became a Nazi prisoner. While both her father and sister died in the camps, Corrie, in God’s providence, survived. She spent the rest of her life sharing the Gospel.

Corrie’s story got me thinking in several directions. First of all, I hadn’t known that she was “so old” (in her fifties!) when she was protecting innocent lives while risking her own. That fact is a good reminder that God still uses us when we are “older” and that my usefulness to God or the adventures I could have aren’t going to end just because I hit a certain age. Secondly, I was inspired by this family’s use of their home. The Ten Booms, by God’s grace, used their petite house mightily. It was a secret weapon against the evil of their day. Their home became a haven of hope and a passage to freedom. Even today it is still serving in those ways as people from the world over visit and learn about the healing power of forgiveness and the hope-filled freedom found in Jesus Christ. How am I using the resources God has given me? I wonder. What legacy will I leave? Lastly, I was filled with a simple awe over Corrie’s living-out of Proverbs 24:11 in her own day. (“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” ESV) For me, her example begs the questions, “Who are the people in need of rescuing in my day?”  and “How would God have me help them?”

Today, or sometime this coming week, might you have time to make yourself a good cup of tea or coffee – whichever you prefer – and settle in to pen a snail-mail letter to a friend or read an encouraging book? You may find – like Summer and Noelle – that such an action brings grand adventures your way!

A beautiful painting by Wisconsin artist Nic Lenz

A beautiful painting by Wisconsin artist Nic Lenz