Happy Birthday, Grace

Grace

Yesterday would have been my grandmother’s 127th birthday. She was born in 1889, and my how the world has changed from that time until now. 127 years seems like a long time, but on the timeline of history it is a mere inch. It can seem insignificant when you compare this span of time with all of time, but it isn’t. Every minute of every day we’ve been given is a gift from God. How we spend those minutes matters more than we know.

Francis Chan is a pastor and speaker whom I admire greatly. He has a way of bringing home a point to where you not only get it, but it changes how you see things. This too, is a gift from God. Listen to what he has to say about the timeline of eternity:

Yes, I want to “pass that line well”! How about you?

Christmas Truce of 1914

Image Credit: kevinblogsherenow.blogspot.com

Image Credit: kevinblogsherenow.blogspot.com

I know when I was working on Through The Eyes Of Grace, the research was my favorite part. Uncovering events in history that Grace lived through helped me bring her story to life. I may not have handwritten journals from Grace, but I have news events and the recorded histories of other’s lives that are sure to have impacted her story, and for this I’m grateful.

Writing historical fiction is a lot like working a jigsaw puzzle.

I’ve started with the framework, and the research provides the missing pieces. The Christmas Truce is one such piece for which I’m grateful.

Most of you have probably heard about the Christmas Truce of 1914 (if you haven’t take a moment and read about it), which is believed to have occurred over miles of the western front during World War I. What you may not realize is that this amazing event, which happened 100 years ago this Christmas Eve, took place during the time setting of my next book based on the life of my grandmother–Grace Stella Kirwin.

One can only imagine what happened in the hearts of the soldiers as they ascended from their trenches to embrace soldiers from the enemy line with wishes of good will. What a Christmas memory each of those men carried in their hearts for the rest of their lives.

Following is a video about the Christmas Truce. I pray it will stir your heart to pursue peace with your own enemies, and may it be a peace that will last–not just for 48 hours.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours, and may the peace of God bless you richly!

The Value Of Old Letters

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Once again I was rummaging through some of my Mom’s papers and came upon a real treasure. I want to share it with you in an effort to inspire you to dig for your own undiscovered stories, as well as to encourage you to continue writing hand-written letters to your extended family. It is an art I’m afraid we’re losing.

It all began when I found a letter to my Mom and Dad from his cousin. It’s dated December 13, 1987. She was talking about an enclosed picture of her mom and my dad’s parents.

Dear Stan & Lee,

I have always felt “guilty” about grabbing that picture of Aunt Amy and my mother that day Jewett offered it to us when he was visiting several years ago, so now I’m trying to “make-up” for it!! This is not a copy of that picture, which wasn’t in very good condition anyway, but is one of a picture I thought you’d rather have since it shows both your mother and father. My mother is in it too.

As young people in their early 20’s – they used to help entertain at the hospital since they were all pretty talented. Aunt Amy (my Dad’s mom) always played the piano, Uncle Andy (my Dad’s dad) and my mother sang…Anyway, this is a copy of a group which put on “The Man From Brandon,” on December 7, 1912 – 75 years ago. Uncle Andy, as you can see, is in the front row. You’ll notice everyone is so serious–a characteristic when pictures were taken back in those days, for picture taking was serious business!!

Aunt Amy is to the left in the second row, and my mother is to the right in the top row. It would be interesting to know what the play was about since it appears to include a poodle, but I haven’t been able to locate it!

We know you’ll have a happy, busy Christmas, and we hope 1988 will be a healthy and prosperous one for you both and all your family.

Love,

Betty & Ken Porter

In 1987 the internet wasn’t around, so it was impossible to locate the play mentioned. But imagine my delight when I did a quick Google search and found it! I downloaded a PDF of it and can’t wait to read it. And yes, it does include a poodle! (Click on the picture below to access the script).

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Over a hundred years ago, and I’m uncovering a snippet of my paternal grandparents’ lives about which I knew nothing. It is priceless! And I’ve discovered one reason why I love plays and musicals; It’s in my genes! What’s even more amazing is that I only met my paternal grandparents twice before they died because we lived in Florida, and they lived in Rhode Island. I’ve always regretted missing this part of my family’s story, but this letter is proof that there is much more to be discovered.

You never know where or when another story will surface. But you might miss it if you’re not looking. I’m so glad I didn’t throw this old letter away thinking it was meaningless. I plan to treasure it forever!

What interesting facts have you discovered lately about your family? I’d love to hear!

Where Were You 10 Years Ago?

Lake Dora

It’s a question many of us never consider–looking back ten years to see how much has changed. For some it can be an encouraging endeavor, for others a sad one filled with regret.

Ten years ago my Dad died. But that isn’t the end of his story. It’s just the last part for me in this life. I miss him still, and I guess that’s the highest compliment I can give him. How sad it would be for no one to notice when you’re gone. My grandmother has been gone for nearly 35 years, and I miss her too. But it’s my Mom’s passing that has been the hardest. Maybe it’s because we were so close, and she depended on me for so much during her final years. Maybe it’s because it’s only been a year since we said goodbye. Maybe it’s because she was my Mom–no one cared for me for as long as she did, and I’m so grateful for her love, wisdom and friendship.

In just one year my Mom has missed the births of three more great-grandchildren bringing the total from 10 to 13. Her oldest greats miss her still and talk of her often. In fact, Bristol, my 6 1/2 year old granddaughter was in her first Christmas production this year. Right before it began I went backstage to hug her and tell her how proud I was of her when she said,

“Nana, guess what I’m wearing?”

I had no idea, so I said, “What?”

“The necklace that G.G. gave me.”

My eyes filled with tears as I quickly hugged her and walked away. I didn’t want her to think she had made me sad. It was quite the opposite. What a joy to see the effect my Mom’s life had made on her short life.

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We must never underestimate the influence we have on the coming generations. They are watching and listening and loving us despite our limitations.

Who are the little people growing up behind you? Do you take time to enter into their world? I encourage you to not waste such an opportunity. You never know when you’ll breathe your last and depart this life. Make what they remember about you something they’ll miss and recall fondly as the years pass.

Making Connections On The Timeline Of History

Sorry for my absence. My husband took a bad fall last Monday, and I didn’t have time to post. He is recovering slowly, but we’re grateful to God that he didn’t break any bones. He’s just very sore.

Photo Credit: brighthorizonsacademy.com

Photo Credit: brighthorizonsacademy.com

We homeschooled our three children through most of their primary education years. It was a privilege to do so, but it wasn’t easy. I tend to be a quitter when things get too hard for me. But by the grace of God I haven’t quit my marriage, nor did I quit my goal in being primarily responsible for the education of my children. Doing this allowed me the privilege of teaching my kids history, which is a subject I’m passionate about. Mostly, I loved doing biographies and seeing how God’s hand provided for them in their trouble.

When we began I set up a timeline in our laundry room that covered both B.C. and A.D. centuries. When reading the Bible we were able to place those people on their place in the timeline of history. It was a great visual. When we began studying the Industrial Revolution it was astounding to me. I had never put all the facts I had learned in school together on a timeline to see the progression of this time period. I discovered famous people who were friends and how God used those friendships to facilitate new discoveries.

Photo from Flicker

Photo from Flicker

One of my favorite stories is of a young boy who was born in a little village outside of Paris, France, in 1809. His father was a tanner and made leather goods of all kinds. The boy was a smart three year old and was already starting to read. He had always been curious and even though his father had forbidden him to touch his tools, he couldn’t resist. One day while attempting to punch a hole in a leather strap like he had seen his father do many times, the awl slipped and pierced his eye. Within days his eye became so infected and spread to his other eye, which in turn caused him to go blind.

The boy had loved learning to read. He was saddened when he realized there weren’t many books for the blind. This was due to the fact that they were made up of raised letters in the alphabet. Each page contained only a couple of sentences, making them cumbersome to handle and difficult to read. Each book was so large and expensive to make that there were only a few in existence.

This is the story of Louis Braille. His curiosity and love for reading compelled him to discover a way for the blind to read as easily as those who had sight. What you may not realize is that it was his discovery which enabled Helen Keller, who was born deaf and blind, to lead a normal and productive life. She was invited to honor him a hundred years after his death when his coffin was relocated to Paris during a solemn ceremony to honor his accomplishments for the blind community. This video is live footage of the ceremony.

Another interesting connection is the friendship which developed between Helen Keller and Thomas Edison, who was partially deaf. Seeing how God used both of their disabilities to motivate new inventions that helped those with similar disabilities function independently in life is inspiring. I love making these connections and seeing how trouble and/or weaknesses can end up being used for good.

“Professor Johnston often said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree.”
― Michael CrichtonTimeline

This helps me look for the bigger picture when I’m facing trouble, and I’m hoping it will help you as well. Knowing history helps us make sense of our own story as it’s being written. After all, it’s all His Story and for His glory!

What stories on your timeline have inspired you? Have you made important connections by stepping back and looking at the bigger picture?