Book Review, Wedded to War

Wedded to War, attains to all standards of excellence for an historical fiction novel. Far beyond whetting my appetite, author, Jocelyn Green, left me practically drooling for the sequel. With very few embellishments she relates an already fascinating story.

Charlotte Waverly is the fictional imprint of Georgeanna Woolsey, a nurse serving with the Sanitary Commission, the precursor of the Red Cross, during the Civil War. Her story is the opposite of the overdone “rags to riches” tale, and this is what makes the story so compelling. Against all tradition, expectations and social mores, this brave young woman left her aristocratic heritage and dug her hands deeply into soil of America’s battlefields. With filth and blood clinging to the hem of her skirts, she nursed, cleaned, fed and comforted the wounded and dying soldiers of the Union army.

The truths of suffering, courage and dogged determination are enough to craft a rich story. The truths of honor and right triumphing over prejudice and hate is enough to strengthen our hearts. The truth of history and a longing to learn from past mistakes is enough to deepen our resolve to know such stories as that of Georgeanna Woolsey. The knowledge of generations of women who served their way toward equal rights and equal opportunities, is enough to make us thrill as we read the tales of the valiant women who volunteered in the Sanitary Commission. As we read, our hearts quicken with patriotism and pride.

Wedded to War, would be excellent if it were merely a precise retelling of Georgeanna’s adventures as a Civil War nurse. But, couple that with Green’s rich descriptions, a few additional elements of romance and historically accurate, fictional characters to deepen the overall scope of the book, it becomes an unparalleled read.

On a more technical note, Wedded to War, is appropriately paced. Every chapter leaves the reader piqued but satisfied, as if pleasantly full from an exquisite meal, but hungry for dessert.  Green’s descriptions are vivid and complex but not tedious. All of the characters are fully developed. I felt like Mary Poppins, popping in and out of a sidewalk painting so that I could live realistically within the story as if it were happening this very moment.

Maybe this book had a little more to offer me than it might to every reader. As the spouse of a military officer, Green’s portrayal of heroic men and women and their actions in the midst of war, gave me great insight into my husband’s calling, and subsequently my own. Through this book, I was encouraged to honor my husband more than ever, to be incredibly grateful for all that he has done and is willing to do for me, for this country, for freedom.

This is history that must not be forgotten. And I can think of no better way to remember it and to pay tribute to those who paved the roads to the freedom we enjoy today as a country, as women, as individuals, than to read books such as this one.

Here Comes Crazy

He’s here. Well, almost here. I’ve been saying that for weeks now. It feels like the boogieman sneaking up from behind. Or maybe it’s a three-headed purple monster, the really scary kind. Let’s call him Change.

He’s here.

I’m not so stressed out about this move as some in the past. I’m going through the motions and most of them make sense. The to-do list is crumbling in an orderly fashion, like the elaborate domino mazes I used to build with Granddad. With a tiny catalyst, like the shift of the minute hand, my final days in VA, are collapsing on top of each other… in this case, perfectly.

Patrick is home today. He’s been working with me, pulling stuff together, consolidating, eliminating, planning. It hasn’t always been this way, but I’m so thrilled to notice the buoyancy in my heart – knowing that he’s going with me, that we do this together, that when I wake up after being tackled, and drag myself out from under the heaviness of Change, he’ll still be there.

There is no one else in the world that I really need. He is my partner, he is the piece (and peace) of me that I need and can’t supply. He is the man that God has given me to cling to in the midst of Change’s attack.

My solar powers are weak today. Even in the brilliance of a temperate, delicious May sunshine, I’m feeling weary. A little sad. A lot of hope. A little of wait. A lot of NOW. Today is peace in waiting. Change is on my heels.

One more note of gratitude. They don’t live near. I can’t see them everyday. But I am so blessed, sustained by the truth that my family loves me. Their lives are revolving under the same Creator’s sunshine, on the same planet, serving the same Savior. And He is so good. Thank you, Abba

The Imprint of Virtue

With finite perspective, we usually only see either vice or virtue. Depending on which we angle of a person we first observe, often we form a fast opinion and relegate that person at least generally, or for a time, to a category: Good or bad.

When my husband has spent half of the weekend watching movies and droll TV shows, I feel disgust and a swelling sense of pride for my own productivity. While he is reclining, I can hardly seen any virtue. When we speak, my tone becomes snippy and condescending because I cannot manage to see all of the good things I know and love about him, while still entertaining my irritation at his vice.

Does that make sense?

Recently, I heard a marital counselor interviewed for tips on how to avoid conflict. The suggestion that struck close to home was this: When conflict is brewing, or I’m angry at my husband, I immediately try to think of his Christ-likeness. (paraphrased)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s an abundance of, “happiness everywhere, see the good in everything, pink glasses, rosy walkways, tolerant wimpy-ness,” to go around. I’m not just talking about finding the good in someone, but searching out their Christ-likeness. I promise it’s there, they were created in His image.

Just a thought from Screwtape on this matter:

Are we to aim at cowardice-or at courage, with consequent pride?Well, I’m afraid it is no good trying to make him brave. Our research department has not yet discovered (though success is hourly expected) how to produce any virtue. This is a serious handicap. To be greatly and effectively wicked a man needs some virtue. What would Attila have been without his courage, or Shylock without self-denial as regards the flesh? But as we cannot supply these qualities ourselves, we can only use them as supplied by the Enemy-and this means leaving Him a kind of foothold in those men whom, otherwise, we have made most securely our own.

Hmmm… is finding that Christ-likess the key to broadening the foothold of God in their lives so that the love of Jesus can seep in?

For excellent expansion on this idea, read Kelley’s post here at She Loves Magazine

Not long after the incident at school I remember my son asking from the backseat, “Do those boys have God’s fingerprints on them, mom?” As we pulled into the driveway I assured him, “Yes, they are made in God’s image just like us.” “So, God loves them like he loves me and my sister?” I answered in the affirmative. “So I shouldn’t be mean back? I should forgive them and give them another chance?”

And there it was … acknowledging the image of God in others and letting that truth control how we seen them and respond to them. We don’t return evil for evil. We offer forgiveness and we believe everyone gets second chances (and then some) from a generous God. We try to see the humanity of those boys like our own, and how a loving God embraces us all.

That’s What He Said.

There are few hungrier, predatory lies today than those that prey upon marriages and families. To that end, I recently wrote an article at StartMarriageRight, called, How to Get a Man to Talk.

That article got quite a bit of attention, rousing virtual dialogue among men and women, both those couples starting their marriages and those who have been practicing marriage for many years.

As I have been formulating and praying about a response, I stumbled upon (well, I stumbled upon, God was intentional) an article by Rev. Dan White. White wrote a piece called, What a Man Wants – Help! — Nagging, for HavenJournal, a highly relevant Christian ministry to women.

Rev. White takes a no-nonsense approach that might tempt women to balk. You know you’ve done it ladies, hands on hips, “How dare he,” “You don’t know my husband,” “I’ve tried that.” The trouble with that line of thinking is that this author is a man, so he likely knows the inside of your man better than you do, from experience. Also, he dares because Scripture backs him up. And, you may think you’ve tried what he’s suggesting, but what’s the harm in trying again?

In my article, I confessed that for many years, one of the reasons my husband didn’t talk to me much was because I filled all the extra airspace. Many of those words were perceived as nagging.

Remember Thumper? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Try it. Either shut up, or change up your words and your tone of voice.

And go read Rev. White’s article.

Redemption Birthdays

Monday was my birthday.

I was raised right –  you always write snail mail thank you letters. My morning quiet time didn’t start out to be such, but as I sat cross-legged in my monstrous, blue prayer chair, it just kind of bubbled out of my heart.

I promised this year that I would be naked with you. That includes unveiling private prayers and praise. That includes confession met with kindness which leads to repentance. And it includes the birthdays of redemption stories. So, here is my journal entry on Monday.

Jesus,images

Seventeen years ago, I woke in an angular, gray-blue bedroom, in a treatment center because I was starving myself. I wished away the emotional power of the day and the exacerbated loneliness, the sense of abandonment by my parents and sister asleep in a nearby hotel room. Monday.

Since then, there was my 30th year, crying alone over a rumble of boiling noodles while my husband spent his energy on a computer game.

And so many other March 11th’s. Year 23, at Fort Bragg, at work. Loneliness always tempered by your presence.

How is it that you have never failed me? Never even left me to myself and my upturned, shaky hands crying, “I’m done, completely, all done.”

I do truly love you more every single day. Maybe really, it’s a sharper knowing of how much I need you, that I couldn’t live or breathe without you. The priceless beauty and value you have put into my life, Savior.

My heart would drain out on this page. How you contain and spill your love for me through vessels of a tender husband, his daily deeper understanding the needs of my heart. You warm the morning air and tinge the skies, ochre, amber, slate to clear. As if you hold my shoulders and spin me round to drink that pressed of patience; feast on the produce of your passion.

I am overwhelmed by your love, Savior.
Overcome by your awareness of me.
In you, I have seen my own created beauty, the blossom
and flourish of your skilled heart, touch, breath,
That I live!
That lungs still spread in my chest,
And suck in gifts and glories,
I would have turned away.
It is your mercy.
It is your…nay,
It is you.
Only you.
All of you,
That I live in and for.

First comes love, then comes marriage?

Last weekend Patrick and I participated in a marriage retreat called Strong Bonds. True confession, as this blog is entirely about, it was emotionally difficult for me. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m mulit-lingual in the languages of love and that my hubby hasn’t even learned to sound out words. [That’s my pride talking, a subject I’m am constantly re-submitting to the Lord.]

We are learning, or I should say, I am learning, how to communicate. Wouldn’t you think that the girl who can’t shut-up would have this communication thing figured out?

As you all know from reading here, Patrick and I have been through some major mud, over towering hurdles and through the lowest of valleys. And actually, our sustenance has been, the trick to all of this is, learning to believe in God’s LOVE for us, both corporately and individually. Because when God’s love become progressively more real, we cannot help but see His reflection in each other and personally glow with His radiance.

Wrapping up this month of LOVE, I’ve still hardly scratched the surface of C.S. Lewis’ wisdom in The Screwtape Letters. So, we will carry on in March, looking for modern application of this book and alternately peering into the depths of the One Word: Naked.

After this past weekend, it really comes as no surprise that God brought us to Lewis’ chapter on love, sex and marriage. Consider this nugget:

The humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-colored and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result.

Do you see that? Kinda makes you think for a second, doesn’t it? In a generation that wants legal marriage for all and at the same time argues for no-fault divorce, it’s pretty obvious that humans believe love is the foundation for marriage. But what if that’s not as God intended?

Perhaps, and it seems evident in the Garden of Eden, marriage, oneness – is the foundation, the fertile ground for love.

Thoughts?

Outside the fence

Thank you for being a listening ear when I just have to explode with the goodness and truth about my Savior Jesus Christ. He has more than saved my soul, He has more than removed the dread of death, He has more than rescued me from the pit of hell – Jesus daily saves me from my personal hell.

Everyone has it. A personal hell. A circular thought pattern of anxiety on an endless loop. Like a hamster on a wheel, the cogs churn all night in your mind, working, twisting, writhing to find some answer you missed before.

A personal hell. A habit you hate that nips at your heels like a rabid dog. It’s breath is death. If you’re lucky, for now, you’re one step ahead of it.

A personal hell. A never fading memory. Faces or words that lurk in your quiet moments, feasting on your peace.

A personal hell. Impending possibilities of unemployment, illness, danger, financial collapse. Everyone has a personal hell.

As most of you know, my hell was born in the form of anorexia. But the habit of starving and compulsive exercise fed on my peace and grew into anxious, relentless thoughts of calories and laziness and bulging body parts. Then, anxiety swelled until it infected my mind with fear of poverty, fear of loneliness, fear of change and of course an every growing fear of food. And finally, even when recovery began blinking sporadically on the horizon, and I began plunging toward it in blind, uncoordinated desperation; then my hell bloomed like licking flames behind me. Memories.

Bless the Lord Oh My Soul! Who becomes my vision and my only thought!

Two weeks ago, I learned that I now weigh as much as I did before I ever dueled with anorexia. That in itself is enough of a change to fan the flames of fear. Then, this weekend, my husband and I attended a marriage retreat in Staunton, VA. It was a chaplain’s event called Strong Bonds. 

[Side note, if you have an opportunity to go on one of these retreats – take it! Especially, if for some reason Chaplain Denning is leading it!]

Back to Jesus’ valiant rescue…I always fret over these types of “fun” events. They are anything but fun for me. My regular workouts are threatened by pathetic hotel gyms and no space outside to go running; not to mention early morning obligations. And, nice as everyone seems to think free food is, for an anorexic, the idea of a prepared plate being set in front of you is terrifying.

Who knows how much butter some careless caterer used on the mashed potatoes? What if they serve dessert? How do I say no when everyone is watching and moaning over how sublime the cheesecake is? How am I going to find safe food to eat if these are my only options? On top of all that, a retreat is supposed to be relaxing and fun. For most people that means lingering over good conversation and dark beer. Or, swirling red wine while debating the merits of a restaurant’s barbecue ribs. For me, that means sustained agony in a place of temptation while bound by a bunch of self-woven rules.

The first night there, we went down to dinner. I had told them that I am a vegetarian so the caterer brought me a plate of pasta, drizzled with olive oil and flecked with onions, mushrooms and green pepper. Yikes! Patrick was served chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans.

My darling hubby looked at my plate and asked, “Do you want my potatoes and green beans? I’ll eat your pasta.”

“Okay.”

So we traded partial plates and I ate. I ate every delicious creamy swirl of potato and every green bean dripping with golden butter. And it was good! But the best part is that fear did not rise up in my throat. Anorexia did not loom behind me all night with a tightening grip on my neck. We finished the evening over  beers by the fireplace in the hotel bar.

But Day 2 was even more spectacular! At breakfast, I did not eat the special, safe food I had thrown into my duffle bag “just in case.” Instead, I enjoyed fried potatoes and scrambled eggs! Then, I sat on my derrière for a three hour lecture! After the lecture, lunch was served. I tried to refuse it and Patrick agreed to take me to Subway later.

But when the waitress delivered a veggie wrap the size of a small torpedo, my tummy growled. The thin flour tortilla was crammed with broccoli, mushrooms, sprouts, full-fat cheese… and dressing. Some saucy, delicious, doubtlessly not-light dressing.

OK, OK. I’ll eat half. Oh well, I’ll eat all of it – it’s so good!

I could go on and on about the excitement rumbling against residual fear in my belly. But the tantalizing hope of a different future – holidays not spent skulking in the kitchen to monitor the usage of oil. Date nights not wasted at Subway restaurant so that I can get a  50 calorie salad. What if…. it doesn’t have to be that way forever?

Tiny Staunton is quaint, to be nice it’s historic, but there’s not much to do. So, we found ourselves sitting in a little bar a couple hours later, sampling beers with friends. So much for a low calorie afternoon! Then, of course, dinner time arrived. That merciless hour when every American is supposed to eat…again.

We landed at the Mill Street Grill. (Highly recommended by everyone, if you’re in the area.) Just a salad, I told myself. Just the side salad.

Oh, but I love shrimp. I had lived through Friday night. I had lived through most of Saturday. What if, simply enjoying Saturday night too, isn’t a crime? So I had shrimp and salad. And hot chocolate when we got back to our room.

If you have never argued with yourself about the merits of a certain food, or the innate evil of an extra calorie. If you have never run an extra mile to compensate for a delightful dessert or celebrating your own birthday, then maybe you don’t have any idea the freedom that I enjoyed this weekend.

But, if you have ever skipped a meal so that you could go out to eat later. If you have ever run an extra mile (or two, or three) because you ate four extra crackers. If you have ever stayed awake counting calories instead of sheep – then you know exactly what I mean. You know exactly the type of freedom that we have not danced in for so many years. 

The truth is you may not be there yet. The truth is, I didn’t think I was there. But Jesus knew I was. And Jesus is the one who saved me. And Jesus is the one who surprised me by throwing open the gates I have long hidden behind.

Oh the beauty of the view as I stand here in His arms surveying the landscape of blessing He has in store for me – and you. 

But now, this is what the Lord says, He who created you Oh Jacob, He who formed you Oh Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name and you are mine.’ Is. 43:1

Fear Not: 31 Days to Freedom from Fear

A Beautiful Wilderness

Most of us can be persuaded that there is some purpose in our pain. Trite, but well-meaning people quote Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good, for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.”

However, as I spiraled through loneliness, anorexia and depressions, I often wondered if I loved God enough for Him to plan good things for me. Perhaps, nothing could work out for me until I learned to express a more pure love for God.

In my pain, I kept making the same mistakes over and over and over. I chose other gods, gods of thinness, popularity, attention, perfection, admiration, fear and selfishness. My intentions became black and blue from abuse. Best laid plans of eating well tomorrow or moderating exercise were dashed with feeble strength. Every single day, I lied again, starved again.

Surely, God had banished me to this wilderness. I could see no avenues of hope, no yellow brick road leading out of my valley of the shadow of death. Perhaps it was simply time to follow the winding, ugly trail into faithless abyss and resignation.

However, I clung to a mirage that if I could by some strange means, clean myself up and present to God a hopeful situation, then He might help me.

“He withdrew to desolate places.”

Wait, you mean Jesus is here? Jesus is in a desolate place too? At least I’m in good company. So I sat down beside Jesus to recount my grievances. Maybe, just maybe, I could convince Him, with His good behavior, to plead my case before God. But, why was He here?

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14

Wait, Jesus, you mean you led me here?

Jesus began to show me how many of His loved ones He had escorted into the wilderness so that it in the silence of a desolate place, they could hear His voice and see Him, unblinded by the chaos, glitter and glare of a seductive world. He spoke of Abraham and Joseph, Moses running from Pharaoh and becoming a shepherd, the nation of Israel, John the Baptist growing up in the wilderness, David fleeing from Saul, Elijah hiding from Jezebel, the disciples in Luke 9:12, Hagar as she prepared to watch Ishmael die and Jesus in His temptation. Jesus even taught in desolate places. (Mark 1:45)

“Do you see, Beloved? I brought you to the wilderness. Just like I was tempted in the wilderness, you have been too. And many, many times you have failed. But I did not. I redeemed every single one of  your failures in anorexia and faithlessness. And now, now you call me ‘My Husband.’ No longer do you call me ‘My Baal’ for all those old idols have been smashed. You no longer even remember their names. In the wilderness, I wed you to me. I betrothed you to me in righteousness and in justice and in steadfast love and in mercy and faithfulness. Now you know me!”

It’s true! In no other place could I have been stripped of all distractions. In no other place could I have so clearly heard His voice. In no other place but the wilderness would I have sat still enough to inhale His grandeur. In no other place could I have committed to Him with such abandon.

Oh my Lord! Other gods besides you have ruled over me, but your name alone I bring to remembrance. Is. 26:13

In the wilderness, I have heard you speak tenderly to me. And you have won my heart.

Book Review: Fierce Women

Fierce Women is not unlike a couple books you’ve read before. But then, most lessons aren’t only learned once.  What sets Kimberly Wagner’s book apart is that she isn’t preaching from the sidelines. Wagner’s marriage slogged through the valley of the shadow of death. The scenery’s beauty of the other side of the darkness is what inspires her story.

The first few chapters of the book explain what a fierce woman is. She is determined, faithful, disciplined, courageous and devoted. However, it is said that our greatest strengths can also be our biggest weaknesses. It is so with ferocity. An untamed, fierce woman will become proud, demanding, cold, bossy and controlling.

Men respond to an untamed fierce woman in one of three ways. They numb out with the nearest brainless object like video games, a computer or television. Or, they may be fearful of disappointing their demanding wife and go any length to keep her happy. Finally, an intimidated man may lash back in anger and frustration. The resulting dynamic is never positive. Eventually a marriage in this state will dissolve. Even if the couple remains legally married, they will co-exist as miserable roommates. This is no more pleasing to the God who desires that they represent the unity of Christ and His church.

Within the first two years of her marriage, Wagner found herself miserable and lonely. Under the gentle influence of the Holy Spirit and some not-so-gentle circumstances, she was humbled to learn that she, a fierce woman, was much to blame. That’s where Wagner’s story pivots and begins to lead the reader on a quest to surrender their strength to God for His glory and the good of her marriage.

For me, the most poignant lesson in Wagner’s book is her acronym for the word, APPRECIATION. It reminds me of Dr. Gary Chapman’s recent book The Five Languages of Appreciation, which he admits are the same five languages that love speaks. Within this acronym, the first I stands for “invest”.

“I’ve [also] learned that investing in my husband brings the rich reward of intimately knowing, enjoying, and valuing him. By investing, I mean putting time and effort into getting into his heart and mind.”

I too have learned this lesson with a bit of sweat and tears. However, it is exciting to see my budding knowledge affirmed by a wise, Christian woman.

Wagner’s book is a must read for any woman frustrated by her husband’s emotional distance. She turns the light of God’s word on a woman’s heart and enables her to see her own contribution to a marriage’s troubles. Then, by changing the only thing she truly can, herself, a woman will find hope for her marriage.