Once again I’m getting to read “Daughter of Jerusalem” to an enthusiastic group of listeners–this time to an interfaith group at a nearby assisted-living complex. I can’t think of a happier way to spend three Monday mornings. I love seeing their faces as they respond to a first hearing of this story that is now so familiar to me. It makes it new again.
I’ve been told authors generally want little or nothing to do with their books once they’ve been published. But somehow I don’t share that feeling. Perhaps it’s because my books have always felt more like a gift that came to me rather than a creative act of my own. I see the Father’s hand on every page. And that never gets old.
9/11–a date that those of us who lived through it will never forget. We recall not only the havoc wreaked by those errant planes, but also precisely what we were doing on that day and how the crisis impacted it.
History has left a number of such tracks on the path of my life. I was a student in Germany at the time the Berlin wall was built. It faced me with the need to decide whether to return home early, as Mom had suggested via long distance telephone, in case we were on the brink of a war. Acute fear was finally faced down through prayer, and I will always be glad that I stayed through that summer.
At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, my beloved Steve was a West Point cadet, and again a war with the Soviet Union seemed a sobering possibility. In fact, there had been talk of graduating his class early so they would be prepared to fight in it. The removal of those missiles was good news to all Americans, but to me it was cause for hallelujahs.
The following year, the principal of the high school where I was teaching announced the somber news of Pres. Kennedy’s assassination. Some of my students were in tears. All I could think of to say to them was how blessed we were to live in a country where this tragedy would be followed by an orderly transfer of power.
On 9/11 I was also in a school, an elementary school this time. As my pupil and I emerged into the library after our lesson, we saw teachers viewing a huge cloud of smoke on the television screen. “It’s the Pentagon,” one of them told me. It took only a moment for the full implication of that to dawn on me. The tennis game scheduled for later that morning ended before it began. All we wanted to do was go home and pray.
When history steps in and leaves these tracks on our lives, it’s still the best response I can think of.
Last month I was invited to read Daughter of Jerusalem aloud to patients and assisted-living residents at Peace Haven. What a joy to see them experience Mara’s story for the very first time! This child of my imagination has become such an old friend to me that it was refreshing and renewing to catch a glimpse of her through the eyes of others.
The experience also gave me further confirmation that the book’s brevity can actually be an asset rather than a liability. Had it been a full-length novel, it would never have been feasible to present it in the allotted four one-hour evening segments, which included question-and-answer time.
During the summer months, St. Louisans do not normally choose to spend much time outdoors–at least not during the day. Heat and humidity add up to a big “No thanks!” But so far this summer has been the exception. Many nights have brought the temperatures down below 60 degrees, and the mornings that follow those nights are to me sheer heaven.
Not only has this enhanced my early morning walks. It’s also lured me out onto the deck for my quiet time. What makes it worth lugging a table out there? What is it about the great outdoors that brings such inspiration? Towering trees, the caress of a cool breeze, cloud puffs floating across a blue sky–somehow these lead us into the presence of One who is both infinitely powerful and boundlessly good. The great outdoors becomes a gentle reminder that we are dearly loved.
Is there anything more joy-inspiring than being with children at play? We’re talking about children in a state of sheer, uninhibited delight in the hi-jinks of the present moment. Well, after a fairly long hiatus, I got to experience it yesterday.
A dear cousin now living abroad arrived at our door with the young family he’d attained since our last visit. Other family members gathered, and our playroom soon came alive! Our grandson, home from college, allowed his inner child free rein, and the next thing we knew the two munchkins were climbing onto his back, performing somersaults with him, and retreating in squealing mock terror from the monster his dramatic talents brought to life.
Did this disrupt our visit with their parents? Far from it. It brought the whole purpose of the visit into lively focus, and when the visit ended (sooner than we’d have liked it to) it left me feeling buoyantly aglow.
Last Thursday I had my first opportunity to share The You-Song in a school setting. I was invited to the Principia to read and discuss it with two small groups of preschoolers. As they clustered around me with eager expressions on their faces, my colorful little book about their uniqueness was coming to life before my very eyes. And its message actually helped them make some steps forward. One little girl at first resisted moving to enable another girl behind her to see the book better, but as we encouraged her to show how she could “blend with other songs” around her, she did the right thing. Later on an unhappy boy was reminded that he didn’t have to let “the world’s jangle” muffle his song, and he brightened up right away. I left there that day showered with hugs and heartwarming memories.
I’m convinced that reading aloud to one another is one of the most satisfying activities a family can engage in. Soon after we were married, Steve and I began sharing the pleasure of books in this way, and after our daughters joined us, we began an enriching journey with them through the works of A. A. Milne, Lloyd Alexander, L. M. Montgomery, J. R. R. Tolkien and countless others. We have even had the joy of reading numerous books aloud with our two grandsons. Meanwhile Steve and I continue to enjoy books as a twosome. Whether it’s history, biography, or insightful and well-written fiction, it remains our treat at the end of the day.