at the beginning…

I began writing this blog in April, shortly before I left for Australia. Believe it or not, I’ve been in Emerald for over six months. How the time has flown! Now, I’m storing up some musings for November, as this is like no November I’ve ever seen or felt before.

But actually, in revisiting the past and remembering where and when this blog started, I looked at some of my original posts. And I’d like to draw attention to one of my older posts, which I think deserves some screen time, once more.

You see, true love and civility… was posted after I read a book by a favorite author, Georgette Heyer. I’ve read her books so many times that I’m capable of coming up with a fairly decent review (if I do say so myself). But if you take a glance and think that I’m just telling you about a favorite romance or romantic writer (and judging me for it), you are again committing the sin of judging the book by the genre.

However, as I re-read what I wrote, I remembered that this post was both about the book and about the subject of true love, of which our modern world has very little understanding. In these days when the magazines and internet gossip sites live to tell us every little detail of the divorces of Kardashians and other nobodies. Yes, I say nobodies, because in the long run, who will remember them? They’re only examples of who NOT to follow.

In this same world, where the Duggar family joyfully welcomes their 20th child into their family, because they are Christians who don’t believe in using birth control, and yet, the world mocks them for not acting like the rest. The Kardashians could learn something about real, true love from the Duggars, who know the secret of true joy and love in life, and where that love and joy come from.

I stand by what I said about love, in my previous post (please give it a read). I may be single, but I have some of the greatest examples to observe, in real life, of what true love looks like, and unlike some, I can even learn something from a romance book (go read a Georgette Heyer, you don’t know what you’re missing). I hope that someday, the Lord will bring my true love along, and until then, I intend to learn what I can, so my marriage truly lasts until death do us part.

all’s quiet…

It’s 7am, and all’s well. I haven’t heard a peep from either kids or baby, since I got up an hour ago. And that’s good, as they need their sleep, and I can use all the peace and quiet I can get. But the birds outside are not cooperating, trying to be as noisy as can be. And I’m not even hearing the kookaburras, at the moment, and boy, were they making a racket a little while ago.

The sun has been up for about half an hour. We’ve just started two weeks of school holidays, and there have been days when the kids did get up earlier than this. It’s strange to all moms and nannies, I suppose, that when there’s school, the kids get up only when called, but when there isn’t any school, they get up earlier, as if there are things happening that they don’t want to miss.

I find myself listening for every extra creak of a bed or a door, knowing they’ll be up before long. Probably, when I go downstairs to get myself some cereal, or even start the kettle to make tea, it’ll wake someone. Oh well, ’tis inevitable. And I’m hungry, so I’m going to go see if whether we still have Sultana Buds or Crunchy Nut Flakes in the pantry, still.

Oh, but first, in the temporary stillness of the morning, here’s a verse to start off my day.

“But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.” –Psalms 73:28

a break for the bluestocking…

“The full soul loatheth an honeycomb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” –Proverbs 27:7

I have discovered that it’s possible for me to survive without reading books constantly. Considering that I’m usually working my way through 3-5 books a week, when I’m at home, the fact that I’m reading a book per month (if I’m lucky) is huge. But you know what? It’s okay. I had such plans to read all sorts of books on my Kindle, but I don’t have as much time, and there are more important things to do. Like sleep. And keep up with loved ones, on e-mail and Facebook. I’ve probably read hundreds of books in the last year, so I can probably go without them for quite a while. I’m not even having withdrawal symptoms!

But I’ve made an even more important discovery. While I can survive without all my books on history, politics, and fiction, I cannot survive without the Word of God. And to my shame, I’ve been trying to do so. I had time for every other book under the sun, but no time for my Bible. And my weekend in Yeppoon brought it home to me that I was spiritually starving, or dehydrated, however you want to look at it.

There is nothing wrong with either books or reading, but there’s a line between love and idolatry. When something becomes more important to you than your relationship with Christ, then you need to examine yourself. And while there are other reasons I’ve been screwing up lately, my book habits have not been helping. Why read my Bible when this other book I’m reading is so interesting? I’ll read my Bible later. You get the idea.

So, I say again… it’s a good thing for me to have a break from my normal reading habits. It’s a good time for reading and learning about the most important Person of all… my Savior.

a time to read…

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” –Ecclesiastes 3:1

Well, there may be a time to be born, die, plant, harvest, weep, laugh, mourn, and dance, but if I had been writing this passage, I probably would’ve added “a time to read”. But then again, it would need an opposite, and I’d hate to write that there would ever be a time to NOT read. So, there’s probably a good reason why I wasn’t involved in the writing of the inspired Word of God. Before you think I’m being completely sacrilegious, though, I do love this passage in the Bible. Mind, I don’t understand all of it (who can?) but in those times of tears and heartbreak, isn’t it a blessing to know that there will be times for laughter and song, someday? We were not promised a life with guaranteed ease and riches, no matter what the “prosperity gospel” folk say. But when the hard times hit, we can remember what it says here, that there IS a time for every purpose under God’s heaven.

I do think there should always be a time for reading, though, flippant as it may sound. And if you know me at all, if you see me anywhere, there’s probably a book lying around nearby. Of course, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I bought a Kindle, so I have tons of books at my fingertips. But I still love the feeling of an actual book, in my hand.

So, I’ve discovered that with a long day of taking care of several children, there obviously isn’t any time to read, so I should have plenty of time when the workday is over, right? As any mom will tell you, of course there isn’t. Even if you’re off the hook for watching the children at 5pm, there are still many other things to do. Laundry, correspondence, fixing and/or eating dinner, and many other things. And if you’re getting up at 6:30am, then you’re probably not staying up late. In fact, though I’m generally a night owl, you could say I’m out of practice, at present. I’m usually in bed before 10pm, because I’m wiped out. And since I’m not the actual mom, here, I can get a full night’s sleep, with no babies to look after in the middle of the night.

A week or so ago, I started to read (again) Andrew Breitbart’s new book, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!, which I officially started about a month ago, in the L.A. airport. I’ve been trying to finish it, ever since, but with a few minutes over breakfast and a few minutes in the evening (if I’m not too tired), I wasn’t getting too far. Since I could normally read it in one day, this is unheard of for me.

Then, while putting some toys back on a shelf, in one of the bedrooms, I got a closer look at the eldest daughter’s bookshelf. Several books by L. M. Montgomery were quite familiar to me, and then a new one came to my attention. Well, if you got a glimpse of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, as written on the spine of a book, wouldn’t you pick it up, wondering if you had read that right? Well, I did read it right, and flipped it over to read the blurb on the back, curious about this unknown book.

Written and illustrated by May Gibbs, during the early 1900s, the stories revolve around characters taken straight from the flora and fauna of Australia. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are gumnut “babies”, while their little friend Ragged Blossom is meant to look like a flower from a gum tree. They have adventures both in the bush and under the ocean, with friends like Mr. Lizard, Obelia, and many other characters from Down Under. Kookaburras and native bears (koalas) take a part, with the occasional run-in with humans. The bad Banksia men, apparently based one the cones of a Banksia tree, and are regularly foiled in their dark plots. With their funny little illustrations, I can see how Aussie kids would enjoy growing up with these stories, as both the little people and the animals would all be familiar to their surroundings, in looks and dress.

The blurb on the back of the book says that these books are as important to Australia as The Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland are to everyone, worldwide. I’ll agree with that on Wind in the Willows, as I actually like that story, having read it entirely,if only within the last year. I know, you’re shocked. I know most kids grew up with it, but I grew up with the short Disney-fied version of Mr. Toad’s tale, and I’ve never liked Mr. Toad, particularly. But if you’ve never read the version of this book, as illustrated by Robert Ingpen, then you need to. Actually, any book illustrated by Ingpen, for that matter. But if I’d been reading The Wind in the Willows regularly, as a child, I think I probably would’ve started reading Redwall sooner, too. And then my mom would’ve had an even harder time getting me out of the bookstores or libraries.

But now that I’ve pumped up Robert Ingpen, I probably need to try reading Alice in Wonderland, with Ingpen illustrating, and see if I like it any better. He did illustrate it, I’m not pipe dreaming, here. I’ve always found Alice very weird, almost too weird, and not just because of the original Disney movie. I happen to like the new Tim Burton version, by the way. Personally, I think Lewis Carroll was on something, when he wrote it, which is probably why I think the team of Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham-Carter was so splendid for the new movie. Feel free to differ, I still liked it. But maybe I’ll have to prove my own rule, by trying to read the Robert Ingpen version.

Anyway, Snugglepot and Cuddlepot are amusing little characters, and the illustrations are sweet, so any child could happily have them read aloud, regularly. The bad guys are just bad enough, without scaring the dickens out of the little ones, and the good guys are fun and mischievous. And little things like why bush babies can survive under water… well, these things don’t matter, in a fairytale.

Now that I’ve finished that book, maybe I’ll be able to finish Breitbart’s book. Yes, I can jump from politics to children’s literature with absolutely no trouble. I should be glad that I resisted getting a book at the store, today, called Woe is ‘I’, for grammar freaks, but written in such a fun and interesting manner that I’d have been happy reading my way through it. Dani, I thought of you, while looking at it. I shall try to continue to resist, when I go in the bookstore. If it doesn’t sell, though, I’m betting it’ll be coming home with me from Australia, next May.

a part of me… that’s Seabrook…

I got a lump in my throat, this morning, for the very first time since I arrived in Australia. It arrived with a letter from home. You’ve all heard the saying, home is where the heart is. Well, that’s true, but for me, my heart is attached to several different places. There’s my home in South Carolina, where my family lives, and I love them more than anything. There’s a place or two in Pennsylvania that belong to my heart, as well as a town outside of Baltimore… they contain people that I love and want to be with whenever possible. And then, there’s Seabrook.

My letter from “home” was from a friend who was just at Seabrook Island for our conference, and it finally started to hit me, what I missed by not being there. Maybe it should’ve hit me already, but you have to understand, being in Australia and in the wrong season, it throws off your sense of place and timing. This doesn’t seem like May to me, even when it gets up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, during the day. So, when I talked to my friends on Saturday, as they Skyped me from Seabrook, it didn’t feel quite real. I was seeing them in the dining hall, but they couldn’t really be there, not without me. Could they?

Then, the pictures began to go up on Facebook, with all the little comments about what they did, and where they went on Monday, and what they ate, and what they ate too much of. And then a few short messages let me get a glimpse of the weekend, making me very happy. And then… a nice long letter. The kind that I like to write, because it’s the kind I like to read. It’s been said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Well, I live and write by the idea that you should write unto others as you would have them write unto you. I want to know what people have been doing when they go on this or that adventure, to know what it was like, so when I have an adventure, I tell others about it. I want them to see it like I saw it.

That letter finally let me see what I missed, what I already knew that I would miss, when I agreed to come to Australia. I knew that there would be a weekend in May and November that I would never get back, and that I would not be spending them with my friends at Seabrook Island.

Some of you are probably wondering, what is this Seabrook thing, and what is the big deal? I can try and explain… but will I be able to? Seabrook is an island, but this isn’t just about an island. Seabrook (for us) is a conference, but it’s not just a conference. We stay in dorm-style buildings, the dunes being the only thing separating us from the beach. But it isn’t just a beach. Seabrook is a conference run by a couple who have a true heart for singles, but it isn’t just a singles conference. I believe Seabrook is a gift from God to the singles (and the leaders) who attend it, and it is truly a part of each of us that attend it regularly. It is a part of my life and truly holds a place in my heart. It is home.

To give you some perspective, I have been attending the Seabrook Conference since I was 18, in November of 1998. There are two conferences every year, and until now, I had only missed one of them, in 2000. If I added that up right, that means I’ve attended twenty-four conferences at Camp St. Christopher, Seabrook Island, and I didn’t miss a single one from ’00 to ’10. For almost five years of my life (when I lived up north), I left Pennsylvania at the crack of early on a Friday, in order to drive 11-13 hrs, to be at a certain restaurant at 4pm in the afternoon. That’s when most of us would start our weekend. And after spending most of Monday touring Charleston, every May, I would drive (dead tired from my weekend) back to PA, arriving in the early hours of the morning, and getting back to work on Tuesday morning. It is only by God’s grace that I survived the trip back, without getting into an accident, I was so tired. November was always easier, as I would go home for Thanksgiving week, after the conference.

You may think to yourself, ha, it’s a singles conference, and I know what that means. Actually, you’re wrong, you don’t know. We’ve told people before, if you’re coming to THIS particular Christian singles conference in order to shop for a spouse, you’ve come to the wrong place. We go to Seabrook in order to have fellowship with other Christians, and to hear God’s Word from the amazing speakers that the Elliotts invite to teach us. Our leaders start praying for the next conference as soon as we leave on Monday, and don’t stop praying until the next, and always assure us that if we’re there, it’s by God’s appointment. We’re there… because God wants us there.

We have had many former attendees get married, but that is not the purpose for the conference. But it’s true that many young people have gotten to know their future spouse, there on the beach, in the chapel, or while eating the delicious food that we get at the conference. We have a saying at Seabrook that really isn’t a joke, because it’s as true as true. You know you’ve met the right person, when you’re willing to give up Seabrook in order to be with them. Yes, the alumni can visit on Sundays and for reunion conferences, but the truth is that you have other obligations that often will tie you up. And Seabrook is such a part of our hearts, that you have to love someone beyond anything in order to be willing to give Seabrook up. It’s that simple. You may laugh, but I can give you names of people who will attest to this.

And so, for the year 2011, I will not walk on the beach of Seabrook Island, counting the falling stars, or scuffing my feet along in the sand, trying to see phosphorescent sparks. I won’t rush down the beach, trying to keep up with the dolphins, in order to get a better picture of some of them. My friends will sing the rafters down in the chapel, and do we ever SING, when we’re there! But I won’t be there, in my “assigned seat”, to help raise the roof. Last weekend, they sang our official song, “My Anchor Holds”, without me. And someone else had to hit the high notes on “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”. Don used to have us sing those back to back, occasionally, and I would be shaking and hoarse from helping the group pull it off.

This is what was rushing through my head, this morning, as I got to have some “quiet” time, hanging out laundry. Ok, it wasn’t really quiet, because I had “Glee” blasting in my headphones, but I didn’t have to run after the kids, so I could think about whatever I wanted. And as I said, it finally hit me, what I’m missing, and what the newbies who came this year, are gaining. I can’t get it back, and I’m enjoying myself, where I am. But it’s no joke to me, what I’m missing. How much I love the place and the people. And how much my life has changed, by having been able to go there. Skip and Cathy, thank you. And thank you, Lord, for Seabrook.

seabrook, where are you?

It has been 11 years since I last missed a conference at Seabrook Island, and here I am, on the other side of the world, again. At least I can say that I have an excellent excuse. But with it technically being autumn, here in Australia, I’ve had to keep close track of the time, so that the Seabrook Conference doesn’t slide by, unnoticed. Sacrilege, you say? Well, maybe so. But here I am, missing my second (and in November, my third) conference at Seabrook, since I started going there in 1998.

Oh, yes, you heard me right. I’ve been going to Seabrook Island, twice a year, since I was eighteen years old. That was when I was a teenager. That was when my baby brother was only 7 years old (he’s 20, and in the Air Force, now).  That was when I was unable to drive a stick-shift, and I hadn’t started spending most of my life driving up Interstate 81 and 77 to Greenwood Hills. In fact, I had never even been to Greenwood Hills (I spent five years there, in PA). That was in a pre-9/11 world, when I could still take my pocket knife on an airplane. The guys at the metal detectors would open it, hold it against the palm of their hand, and make sure it wasn’t too long (the blade was at least the length of MY palm). Only once did they make me check it in my luggage, and they wouldn’t dream of taking it away from me.

Seabrook, what will you do without me? It’s May there, so it should be really warm, if not hot, and people will probably spend their Saturday and Sunday afternoons swimming in the ocean. I’ll be going to the beach here, in a month, but it’ll be winter, and cold.

As I write this, it’s 4:30pm on Thursday in South Carolina. By the end of my workday today, it’ll be that time in the morning (over there) when I usually got up, year after year, to drive 10-11 hours, from PA to SC, in order to be at Gilligan’s on time for dinner. Instead, two of my girls are making the trip without me.

On Saturday, people are going to go wandering on the beach, short walks between meetings, and long ones during free time. They’ll get fed right royally by the cooks, as they actually have chefs here. And they’ll get to here the Word from the speaker, probably about seven times over the entire weekend. Then, will they play volleyball or Frisbee (can you actually play Frisbee at Seabrook without me?) or will there be an attendee that subverts them into playing football?

The stars in this hemisphere are in different positions then in the Northern Hemisphere. So, my friends will be seeing the “home stars”, walking the beach at night, and getting dizzy from looking for shooting stars. After an awesome campfire, I hope, and who’ll play guitar for it, this year? Oh, yes, Mike can handle it.

Who’s going to tell me where they went in Charleston on Monday, and what they did, and who did it? What will they do, anyway? Last year, they went to the tea plantation. We’ve been to the aquarium, walked the New Bridge, been to the Market oh so many times… somebody’s going to have to think of something new.   : )

Seabrook, and all my friends, I miss you. Have a blast.

of pumpkins & birthdays…

I came downstairs, this morning, and was thoroughly happy birthday-ed by my family, which was quite fun. A bunch of enthusiastic little girls, and at least one of them flinging themselves at me in her excitement. I did miss the Mother’s Day excitement, as they had given their mum her present a while earlier, and everyone had some of the tea that came in the boxed assortment. Later, I received chocolates and tulips, for my birthday present.

They left for Mass at 8, but I was headed to the Emerald Christian Assembly, so I didn’t have to leave until a little after. I was nervous about the drive, but it wasn’t a difficult route, and there was very little traffic, so nothing crazy happened on the way. I arrived, parked the car, and tried to figure out which part of the fence actually opened. There was a childproof metal gate that completely threw me off, and then a large palm frond fell from the tree, right where I’d been standing a minute or two before. It wouldn’t really have hurt, but it would definitely have startled me, and Russell’s first impression of me might’ve been me shrieking in surprise.

I enjoyed the meeting and breaking of bread with fellow believers, though it was in a slightly different order than I’m used to, and every song was accompanied by piano and guitar. It was nice, just different. Before everything started, a gentleman came over to talk to me, and I found out afterwards that he was the speaker, as he went around introducing himself to the locals. He was a worker with Family Voice Australia (formerly Festival of Light), and traveling around Queensland, I believe. I believe they’re a ministry, similar to Focus on the Family, that’s dedicated to upholding marriage, family, the sanctity of life, and working with the churches in AUS. Also, encouraging their government to pass laws that uphold all these things, as well. It was quite interesting, as he talked about their mission, and went through the Word, using verses on each subject.

A friendly lady named Sheila introduced herself to me, took me into the other room for their tea break, which comes after the other meetings, and invited me over for lunch. She also introduced me to a number of people, and told me about a Bible study that some of the young people my age have on Sunday afternoon.

So, I went back to my house to change, and then followed her to her house. She was nice enough to stick to roads I knew, as I slowly expand my mental map of Emerald. Then, right before lunch, she asked if I’d like pumpkin or potatoes with the stew. Of course, I was happy with either. And the subject of pumpkin had arisen again. You see, the other day, Mrs. B made pumpkin soup, and we’d had a discussion about that. According to her, Australians eat pumpkin as a vegetable, while she found that in the U.S., we eat it for dessert. She thought this very odd, and didn’t really like the idea of eating pumpkin pie.

Well, I attempted to make pumpkin soup once, and my family knows how well that went over. It was too bland, too much like baby food, and a number of other things. And I eventually put too much of a certain spice in it, so I couldn’t finish it. So, I was very interested to see what they did with pumpkin. We discussed how the U.S.’s main use for actual whole pumpkins (besides the companies that put it in cans) was for jack o’lanterns at Halloween.

Now, that day, I wasn’t there when Mrs. B cut up the pumpkin, I just saw it after it was chopped up. So, when I was at Sheila’s, she got it out to cut up, and I had to check and make sure that was her pumpkin. Because it was wide, squat, and green-striped. She told me what kind of pumpkin it was, and picked up another off a shelf, and told me it was a “butternut pumpkin”. The light began to dawn. I told her that we would call that a butternut squash, and maybe this was why Mrs. B thought pumpkin pie sounded weird… because she was thinking we made it with squash.

Sheila described how their pumpkins usually looked, and they’re either like the butternuts, or they’re varying shades of green. It was very good. We had slices of it, with boiled potato, cooked cabbage, stew, and corn on the cob. With fresh pineapple for dessert. And it was a special type of pineapple, that when you get it at the grocery store, it will never have a top. That’s because it’s only grown in a certain area of Australia, and they need a special license to grow them, and if someone got a top on one, they’d try to grow it. So, they cut off the tops, and ship out the extra sweet pineapples without them.

From there, I followed Sheila to the house that would have the Bible Study, and she left me there, after introducing me around. There were just a handful of us, but it was a great time, and an interesting study of the book of Luke. We were actually using the same type of books that I used at my last Bible Study in PA, so we had some jokes about it being an “American book”, and how some of the words, Aussies don’t use. Who knew that Aussies don’t say “sputter”? But I knew what a fortnight was, when they double-checked with me. Americans don’t use that word, but I’m too well-read to be caught out there.

Speaking of words, we played Pictionary, last night, and something was drawn that I had no clue about. And then somebody said “zebra crossing”, except they pronounce it “zeh-bruh”, not “zee-bruh”. They really had me stumped, as I knew they probably had kangaroo crossings and camel crossings here in AUS (I’ve seen pictures of these signs!), but never heard of a zebra crossing. Didn’t think they had zebras over here. They thought I was joking, but I wasn’t. I told one of the girls that zebras have stripes, in her drawing, it had spots. “That’s a car!” Or maybe she said automobile, I forget. Turns out, a zebra crossing is a crosswalk, because of the blacktop with white stripes. Whodathunkit?

After a lovely study, I headed home to help get ready for dinner. There were a group of young people coming over that are involved in the local parish, and some family members, too, because it was Mother’s Day. And there was plenty of dessert and lots of good food. And when we finally sorted out the chaos (14 adults, 8 kids), we had pumpkin with dinner. I’m sure it was loaded with butter, and it was really good. I said something about the pumpkin/squash controversy, and amidst the noise, it took me a minute to realize the guy sitting next to me wasn’t speaking with an Australian accent.

My neighbor was from Canada, come over to work with this special parish team. He told me that it was actually squash, they just call it pumpkin, which finally confirmed my suspicions. And going online, I looked up pumpkin and then squash, and I find that what Aussies refer to as pumpkin is what Americans call winter squash. So, maybe Mrs. B will be a little easier over the idea of trying pumpkin pie, if I ever make it. Mr. B is all for it, as he really liked it when he was in Texas, a number of years ago.

After the regular food, there was plenty of dessert, and I had to sit back and let them all sing Happy Birthday to me. Aussies apparently end the song with a “Hip hip, hurray!”, which was interesting. Then, while we all munched on Belgian chocolates (my birthday present), chocolate cake with chocolate whipped cream icing (with strawberries on top), apple crumble, and vanilla ice cream, we drank either Earl Grey or English Breakfast Tea, and listened to some of the men swap stories. Oh, and I’m going to have to try the different teas while I’m over here, and maybe eventually I’ll be able to tell the difference between them.

And could someone please tell Roma that, yes, they boil their water in a kettle on the stove. I’ve only microwaved my water and tea bag once, since I got over here.  : )

Frances, how could you?

I am the girl that will tell you to read the book, because it’s better than the movie. I am the girl that will stay up all night to see how the book ends. And I am the girl that would always rather read the unabridged version, because I want every last detail, and who knows what the editor may have taken out?

For the first time, I am disappointed with the unabridged version of a book. It’s almost like a slight on my childhood memories, as I try and take in what this “extended version” has to say. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t approve of book censorship, where editors decide that the public shouldn’t see or can’t handle a certain topic.

For example, this editing technique was used a lot with Zane Grey’s books. I’ve read the old copies and then found what I thought was a new copy, with a new title. But no, it was the original manuscript, with the risque bits left in. And when I say risque, I refer to things like… in one story, there’s a suggestion that the wife may have been attacked and raped, while her husband is away. Because of her fear of what he’ll do, she never tells him, and they watch their son grow up slightly different from them.

But she loves her son, anyway, and never treats him differently! They both do. So, the abridged version cuts this out, and you just figure that the son inherited his characteristics from his great-grandfather. And if you want to know which Zane Grey story I’m referring to, I can’t remember. I’ll have to look it up later.

Back to The Lost Prince. I do think there are more background details and descriptions in each chapter that were not put into the abridged version. But the main discovery is from where Loristan seems to get his “help”. As a strong, noble character, he seemed to look to Someone above for his assistance. The character of Stefan Loristan seemed like a Christ-like allegory, sometimes, as The Rat is advised, “When you feel jealous, be still and think of him.” How can The Rat remain jealous, if he’s thinking of someone who is above jealousy?

But Marco begins to tell The Rat a story about how his father was once ill, and went to a Buddhist holy man for help. How he climbed to a ledge, high in the mountains, and the words that the holy man spoke, the two laws that he gave him to live by. And how even tigers and leopards will grovel at the holy man’s feet, because he is above fear, and they see him as one of them.

So, this story that I’ve always seen as having Christ-like leanings, suddenly is brought down to have it’s “light” based on the wisdom of a Buddhist holy man. And this recalls some of the items I always found odd in Burnett’s The Secret Garden. I haven’t read it in a while, but I seem to recall Mary Lennox having some thoughts on Indian teachings, as she was raised there. But I always found those discussions unnecessary and completely out of place.

Looking up a little more on the author, I recalled that at a normal time in her life, she took an interest in Christian Science and Spiritualism, but when her eldest son died, she went off the deep end, and left her Christian faith behind. This is what shows up in her books, now and again.

There’s even a point where The Rat asks Marco if the Bible doesn’t have a quote of a similar flavor, of thinking in order to get what you want? Marco quotes Mark 11:24,

“Therefore I say unto you, whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

But Marco immediately states that many books have this type of phrase in it. As if the Bible were just like any other book. And then he quotes the laws for The Rat, who spends the next chapter trying to get his brain around them. Just like I would. Except in this case, The Rat knows that his idol, Stefan Loristan, believes in these things, so he WANTS to believe them also, even though he doesn’t agree with them yet.

The crowning thought of Law #1 (I have no idea if it’s Buddhist belief or if Burnett made it up) is “That thine own thought… is one That which thought the Worlds.”

And the Law of That which Creates, suggesting that if you think of what you desire and it can’t wrong a man, and it isn’t ignoble, then your thought will take earthly form and come to you.

So, you can imagine my THOUGHTS when I’m reading a favorite book and suddenly they start spouting off the idea that these thoughts in yourself can create things. I am sure I’m not comprehending it completely, but it does sound like a lot of baloney to me.

Well, I have some verses for her.

“All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness overcame it not.”  –John 1:3-5

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.” –Romans 7:18,19

The implication of Burnett’s is that by willing our thoughts in a certain direction, we can do anything. We, ourselves, can do anything. Can create, can bring ourselves above and beyond evil. But it’s not true. In and of ourselves, we are nothing. It is only through Christ that anything can be accomplished, that any good can be achieved. And then, it wasn’t us!

The Lord God created. And He sent His Son to die for me, because I am incapable of doing good, because there is no good in me! And even when I want to do good, I don’t, because I can’t. Without Him, I can’t.

And so, I feel sorry for Frances Hodgson Burnett, that she took such a beautiful story, full of Christ-like figures and those that seemed to want to be like Him… and lowered them to consult strange monks in mountains. Who teach them that their thoughts can create peace, when there is no peace, save in Christ.

I shall continue reading and try to recapture some of my lost joy. It’s only a story, and I can still enjoy it. But I now know what it is to feel extreme disappointment in a favorite author. Frances, how could you?

The Rat

His name was Jem Ratcliffe, but he was known as The Rat. The son of a gentleman drunk, fallen on hard times, he was raised in the slums. A hunchback, he was only able to move around using a wooden platform with wheels or on crutches. A boy with an amazing intellect, who would have been a general of armies, if he’d been able to walk properly. Considered riff-raff by most, he dug out any bits of knowledge he could, whether from torn newspapers or questioning his father, who became loquacious when drunk. He, along with everyone else, considered himself vermin, hence, naming himself The Rat. Until he met the Loristans.

I have been reading The Lost Prince, and I’m trying to put my finger on the reason why this book, of all Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books, seems to be the best. After reading of young girls in A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, and very little boys in Little Lord Fauntleroy, this tale of two boys stands out. They are still boys, but they are about to do the work of men, men who love the country of Samavia, the land of the Lost Prince.

I started off with The Rat, because he seems to embody the most real of characters, unlike some of Burnett’s others. Marco Loristan and his father may be poor, but they have always acted as gentleman, and while not seeming overly goody-goody, they are definitely noble characters. Trained from childhood on that “silence is the order” and that even a child can control himself, learn well, and behave, Marco is all that a young man should be.

And then he meets The Rat. The Rat has never had anyone to love him and tell him how to behave. He seems to be uncaring about his very rat-like behavior. And yet, there is so much more to him.

In a time of great need, The Rat comes to the Loristans home, looking for momentary help, but never believing that he will be helped any further. At first meeting with Stefan Loristan, Marco’s father, he finds the epitome of his dream, a hero that he can worship and die for, if called to do so. And used to being treated like dirt, he is amazed when Loristan is willing that he should stay. That he will be trusted and trained, that he too can help do the work for Samavia.

My Kindle edition of this book is the unabridged edition, and though I’m not completely sure, I believe there are many more details included that bring home what The Rat came from. How poor, lowly, filthy, and unworthy.

The analogy isn’t perfect, but Loristan seems to be a Christ-like figure that sees past The Rat’s dirt and decrepitude. All The Rat wanted to do was follow this man and be able to live and die for him. And when Someone pulls you out of that hole, how can you not want to love Him and follow Him?

I like to consider Burnett’s various characters in her books. Fauntleroy is so very good, almost too much so, but funny and truly child-like. Sara Crewe is very good, but she puts on the best front she can in the face of poverty and tragedy. Mary Lennox begins as crabby, imperious, and spoiled, but true friendship given by others to her, and the joys of trying to save a seemingly dead garden shapes her into a caring child. And the Loristans are truly noble men, giving their all for the love of their country and their Prince, and on the way, lifting a Rat out of his cage, showing him what life and light can truly be.

Some books, even nonfiction, contain characters that seem too good to be true. I have found some missionaries to seem so. They seem to have been born saints, and that I can never be like them at all, so why try? But when you read of someone’s journey from sinner to a saint saved by the light of Christ, then perhaps it’s possible for me, as well.

The Rat makes that journey, from pig pen to palace, and I think we’re all the better for reading about him. And perhaps after reading about Jem Ratcliffe’s journey to better things, we’ll consider the journey the Lord Jesus went on, to bring us to the best that there is, Himself.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

–Philippians 2:5-11

true love and civility…

There’s nothing like sitting down with a book that you’ve read many times before. Hopefully, it’s been just long enough since the last reading, so everything seems fresh and interesting… even if you know exactly what is going to happen. Old books, like old friends, I love them dearly. And the longer you know them, the more you learn about them, and the better you understand them. This applies to both books and friends.

So, I picked up a new copy of an old favorite, by Georgette Heyer. Firstly, if you’re unfamiliar with Heyer, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Her writings followed in the footsteps of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Elizabeth Gaskell, and helped to define the Regency romance. If the term “Regencies” puts you off, please understand that Heyer came before all the rubbishy romances of today. Her books were romantic, hilarious, and clean! Georgette Heyer knew the truth, that a good romance did NOT require any bedroom scenes.

On a side note, she also wrote several historical fiction books about characters such as William the Conqueror, as well as several romances set in the Georgian period, and a bunch of mysteries. A prolific writer, whatever genre she wrote in, she was fantastic.

And so, I picked up my copy of The Civil Contract. A new copy, it had a foreword by a modern-day romance writer, which drew my attention. According to Jo Beverley, a civil contract is when two people enter into a marriage not of their choosing, for other reasons than love, and they only expect kindness and civility from it.

In The Civil Contract, Adam Deveril returns to England upon his father’s death, where he inherits not only his father’s title (Viscount Lynton), but his father’s phenomenal amount of debt. The debt is so great that even should he sell all of his assets, he will barely be able to provide for his mother and sisters. Because of his circumstances, he also has to put aside the love of Julia Oversley, as he can’t even afford to think of marriage.

Enter Jonathan Chawleigh, a rich, vulgar merchant, who wishes his daughter Jenny to marry into the aristocracy. Adam is horrified at the idea of marrying any but the woman he loves, but he is willing to sacrifice himself to save his family and his heritage. He marries Jenny, a quiet, plain, plump young woman, whose only aim is to make him comfortable, for she doesn’t dream of him ever loving her.

After all the trials and tribulations that accompany a marriage between perfect strangers, and plenty of Julia’s dramatics, as well, Adam comes to realize that he loves Jenny, and he is better off with her. And Jenny knows this is true, that he does love her, but she can’t help wonder if he loves her as much as he loved Julia. Finally, she realizes that this love is different. This love will last.

Jo Beverley asks the question of whether theirs is a true love, and states that people have argued over this question for years. Did they have a truly happy ending, if the heroine realizes her dream (that he would love her passionately, like he loved Julia) is an impractical one?

I have always wondered why this question even exists, because what I see in the story is that what Adam felt for Julia was passion, while what he felt for Jenny was love… real, true love.

Why do I think this? To quote what the wise man Greg Boone once said, “Passion will always look like love… it will ALWAYS look like love, but it isn’t. It’s a poor, sorry excuse for REAL love.”

The world believes love is a feeling, when actually, love is an action. Love is what you do, it’s what you show someone. If someone says that they love you, and then their actions don’t back up their words, do you believe them? No, of course not. Because the action IS the expression of their love, while the words… they’re just words. They’re words we like to hear, but not if they’re false.

In Julia Oversley’s world, it’s all about her. When the man she “loves” falls on hard times, does she stand by him? Well, she says she does, but she showers him with guilt over his behavior. However, his behavior is honorable, and her selfishness doesn’t allow her to see it. Then, when he marries Jenny, Miss Oversley is still unable to act in any other way but to cause Adam pain.

In Jenny’s world, she has married a man that she cares for, but knows that he can never love her. She is plain, plump, practical, and everything that the beautiful Julia is not. But what Jenny IS is everything that Adam NEEDS. She cares for him, sees that he is comfortable, takes an interest in what he does, and doesn’t enact any Cheltenham tragedies for his benefit. She ACTS out her love for him, and eventually he comes to love her in return.

What is love?

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)

Julia was always impatient, and often unkind to Adam. She wasn’t seeking his comfort, but her own. Jenny was always patient and kind, and she tried to not be envious of Adam’s first love. She always sought Adam’s comfort over her own, and held nothing against him. She loved, trusted, and believed in her husband, and so, eventually, her husband loved her in return.

I don’t believe in love at first sight. I do believe in attraction at first sight, however. But I’ve seen how love can grow between two people, how it can grow over time, out of friendship. So many people mistake attraction for love, and then marry that person, and regret it. I’m not saying I’d recommend every one go out and get an arranged marriage, but I think we should remember that as love is an action and you can CHOOSE to love someone, whether they’re lovable or not.

Don’t depend on passion to last you through life, when only real love will do that. And when you do find someone to love and marry, on the days when you don’t FEEL like loving them, CHOOSE to do it anyway.

I already believed this, but I think Adam, Jenny, and Julia can be a good example to learn from.