A National Debt of Gratitude

This is a phenomenal post by Melinda K. 

Have we become ashamed to show patriotism?

It may depend on where one lives and whether or not one was raised to appreciate our military and our freedom they protect. I wonder, however, if most of the holidays established to celebrate our heroes and our country have not been reduced to nothing more than picnics and parties. Have burgers and hot dogs replaced flags and memorials? Do we now ignore their sacrifices and hold “sacred” the three-day weekend?

While we enjoyed the freedom to gather with family and friends for cookouts, did we soberly consider the sacrifices that were made to give us our freedom?

Please read this whole article at The Bottom Line … 

An Exquisite Melding of History, Imagination and Insight

Life is never linear and subplots are rarely graphed at convenient intervals. Our companions do not play merely supporting roles. No, there are layers and varying degrees of angles in our timelines. Often our loved ones take on the starring role in our stories.

That might have been Morris Sullivan’s perspective. A Life Apart, the excellent new novel by L.Y. Marlow, begins as his story—a young soldier aboard the USS Oklahoma, safely nestled in Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, and ends in a tangle of characters and circumstances with no true north.

In 1941, Morris’s life was moderately complicated. His marriage to Agnes, his high school girlfriend, was insecure. Confused about his lagging love and devotion to her and their baby daughter, Emma, Morris was content to focus exclusively on his work. There he felt safe, affirmed and life was predictable.

Then, all hell broke lose on December 7, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. That event was the catalyst for change in Morris’s personal life too. It’s always the same with life-changing disasters. Nothing returns to “normal”.

In, A Life Apart, the reader empathizes with Morris as the rudder of his life is wrenched from his hands and course is set toward the unimaginable. Here enter the other characters who complicate, and in some ways consume the rest of Morris’s life.

Few authors can weave five strong personalities together so well that, by the end of the book, it’s difficult to decipher who was the central protagonist. Even fewer can harness those characters, explore, follow and endear them to the reader over the course of 45 years.
L.Y. Marlow has done just that and done it superbly.

Marlow leads the reader right past several foreseeable endings. Brazenly, she layers racial conflict upon infidelity, war upon self-sacrifice and redemption, cancer upon recovery, mental illness upon academic success, deception upon brutal honesty and finally, Marlow weaves an ending of peaceful conclusion, if not “happily ever after”. As I closed the book, I felt a gentle sigh of resignation and acceptance escape my lips.

I would read this book again 100 times over, and I’ve already book marked Marlow’s other works on my Kindle. If you like excellent writing, imaginative, historical fiction and prose that inspire and inform a life-well-lived, you must read A Life Apart.

Book Review, Widow of Gettysburg

“I was reading that book.” The lady in the chair next to me at the nail salon peered over my shoulder. “I haven’t finished yet, though. It was really sad and hard to read.”

I bantered with her briefly, telling her I’d just barely cracked the book’s spine. Then with a polite smile, tucked my nose back into the pages of, Widow of Gettysburg. Mentally I pleaded, “Don’t talk to me!” I came less for the foot massage and more for the uninterrupted hour to transform myself into Liberty Holloway.

Widow of Gettysburg is a beautifully done historical fiction novel reviving the all-but-forgotten legacies of the valiant women behind the lines during the Civil War. Liberty Holloway, a fresh bride, was widowed before the story opens. Now, bravely, she muddles through the arduous tasks of maintaining her farm and converting it into an inn.

In the first act, the steps toward conflict are subtle. Liberty has irritating conversations with her mother-in-law.  When she attempts to lay aside her mourning clothes, she receives cold-shoulders from overly-pious community women. A mysterious but attractive stranger shares a meal and disappears. A swelling, lonely, restlessness tone underlies the narrative.

Jocelyn Green is superb at developing conflict, steeping the reader like a well-used tea bag, in the emotions of each character. By the end of the first act, all of the primary characters have been introduced, and the reader can empathize with each one even as they are at odds with each other.

Act II, “The Heavens Collide”, in every sense of the word. Looming rumors of the battles drawing close to Gettysburg are suddenly proved violently true. In the span of seconds, Holloway Farm is seized to serve as a field hospital for Confederate wounded. Though her husband fought and died for the Union’s cause, Liberty finds herself compelled by her faith and compassion to nurse the wounded men spilling over her property.

Here I experienced what my companion at the nail salon had expressed. This book is hard to read. Green holds nothing back in describing bloody, do-or-die amputations. She doesn’t shy away from depicting ravaged bodies strewn across battle fields, or piles of life-less limbs, the blood seeping into kitchen floors, creeks and rivers tainted with corpses or barn doors converted to operating tables.

Neither does Green take sides when revealing the motives behind both the Union and Confederacy’s causes. Fearlessly, she reminds the readers that there was corruption as well as innocence on both sides of the lines. She shows the vulnerability of women as well as their courage and tenacity to rise above their fears and weaknesses.

Woven into the very real conflict of war, Green deploys the requisite romantic conflict. But even that is complicated by the undercurrent of racism, the very fuel that stoked the fire of the Civil War.

Book 2 in the, “Heroines Behind the Lines” series is exquisite. Nothing Green begins is left undone. At the same time, there is no pretentious “happily ever after”, as there never is in real life and certainly didn’t exist in the aftermath of the Civil War.

This book is well researched; an incredibly useful tool for studying American history. Also, the theme of faith is well developed making the book practical for Christian book clubs and deeper discussion.

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.

Memorial Day.

AMemorial DayPrayer
By Rev. Dick Kozelka (ret)
First Congregational Church of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN.

Eternal God,
Creator of years, of centuries,
Lord of whatever is beyond time,
Maker of all species and master of all history —
How shall we speak to you
from our smallness and inconsequence?
Except that you have called us to worship you
in spirit and in truth;
You have dignified us with loves and loyalties;
You have lifted us up with your lovingkindnesses.
Therefore we are bold to come before you without groveling
[though we sometimes feel that low]
and without fear
[though we are often anxious].

We sing with spirit and pray with courage
because you have dignified us;
You have redeemed us from the aimlessness
of things’ going meaninglessly well.
God, lift the hearts of those
for whom this holiday is not just diversion,
but painful memory and continued deprivation.
Bless those whose dear ones have died
needlessly, wastefully [as it seems]
in accident or misadventure.
We remember with compassion those who have died
serving their countries
in the futility of combat.
There is none of us but must come to bereavement and separation,
when all the answers we are offered
fail the question death asks of each of us.
We believe that you will provide for us
as others have been provided with the fulfillment of
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

This poem was taken from U.S. Memorial Day.org, quite a valuable resource that I didn’t know existed. I confess, that even as an Army spouse, I can’t wrap my mind, let alone words, around the significance of Memorial Day. All my life it has simply signaled the beginning of summer, cookouts, water skiing – the good life.

I want to understand it with more clarity. I apologize for cavalier years and flippant “Happy Memorial Days.” Thanks be to God, that Memorial Days can be happy for those who know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, who call on the Lord with a sincere heart, who confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that Jesus is Lord.

Please visit this blog again on Wednesday for a suggestion as to how you can personally help share the gospel with men and women in the military.