Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Rebekah - A Woman of Service

Another study in the Proverbs 31 series. First published in Keepers at Home magazine Spring 2019.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. Proverbs 31:19

For thousands of years, providing clothing for the family wasn't as easy as walking into the nearest store. You couldn't choose a new robe, tunic, or pair of sandals off a rack. Your next garment was running around the pasture or growing in the field. Women invested hours into preparing wool, cotton, and linen for the clothing needs of their family.

A drop spindle could be carried in a pocket to spin wool into yarn while waiting your turn at the well. Socks could be knitted while chatting with friends. Flax was woven while watching the cooking pot. Out of necessity, women's hands were not idle.

Rebekah, like many young women through the centuries, carried water to her home each day from the village well. This was one of those endless tasks like sewing, laundry, and dish washing.

We don't know if Rebekah wearied of the task of carrying water. Maybe she was in a hurry to get back to her house to prepare the evening meal. When Abraham's servant stopped her and asked for a drink, we know that she willingly offered, not only a drink, but to draw water for ten parched camels.

She had no obligation to this stranger. By his obvious wealth, she could have assumed he could afford to hire help. In fact, he had men servants traveling with him, and maybe he could have ordered them to draw water for the camels. Yet she served in the most basic human way possible; she gave a drink of water.

If people share your house, especially little people, many tasks, such as dish washing and laundry are never completed for more than a few minutes. I often feel unappreciated and grumpy when faced with the monotony of unending, unappreciated tasks. My desire to multitask and use my minutes wisely sometimes drives me to push people and their needs out of my life.

Sometimes I want to choose the way I serve. I desire to do something important with eternal value. Sharing a Bible lesson at the detention center seems like a higher, more godly form of service than making breakfast or mopping the floor. But we will never know the result of our faithful performance of mundane tasks. Watering camels was the step that put Rebekah in Christ's earthly lineage. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” (Colossians 3:23)

Rebekah carried only a water pot. And God used it. God often uses our gifts, interests, and skills to bless others. What is in your hand? A whisk, a dishcloth, a pen, a needle? You might not have the same gifts as your sister but never underestimate the power of a prayer, an encouraging word, a short note, or a simple meal. 

We may think we don't have much to offer, but we all have ways to serve if we are not worried who gets the credit, who could do it better, or whether it is important.

Serving requires joy, or it will feel like slavery. When I drag myself out of bed for the third time in the same night, I don't feel like singing. When I sew a dress for my daughter, and she rips the hem the first time she wears it, I show my displeasure. Rebekah willingly drew many gallons of water for a stranger’s camels, and they didn't smile sweetly and say “thank you.” Service given grudgingly or with expectation of appreciation robs me of the blessing of serving.

The reward for our busy hands does not often show up in valuable jewelry as it did for Rebekah. But God gives recognition for our diligence in His time. 

“Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:24)

Friday, February 14, 2020

Three World War 2 Books

I've read quite a few books that are set in World War 2, but there are always new books being published. This time period has a perennial appeal to many readers.

I don't read a lot of fiction, but occasionally enjoy immersing myself in a well-written story. Each of these gives a different view of World War 2, and I considered the time living in their pages as well-spent.

This post contains affiliate links.

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

Gerta has survived the Holocaust and is now trying to begin a new life. I never considered the courage it took for young people to choose to love, marry, and begin families after having their childhood stolen by the Nazis. The book is lovely in its spare prose and poignant illustrations.

I picked up this book to preread it for my children, but decided it is better read by adults because of the few marriage details. The length of the book makes it perfect for an adult who wants a quick, but unforgettable, read.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Travel with a blind girl from Paris, a priceless diamond, a German orphan with a brilliant mind, and a cancer-stricken German officer until they meet in a small town along the sea. The gorgeous writing in the book makes it obvious why it has won so many awards.

I listened to this book on audio and wished I was reading a physical book so I could slow down and reread favorite lines. When I mentioned this on my blog a few months ago, a reader mailed me my own copy. I loved rereading it, but discovered that the audio had enhanced this book's pleasure, especially all the foreign words.

It took me several years of hearing rave reviews of this book before I finally read it. Now I'm the one recommending it to everyone. I now have two copies of the book, but often they are both lent out.  (The only thing I like better than reading a book is sharing it, so if you live close by, please come raid my shelves.)

Some have said that this book was too sad for them. I get that. But to me a book set during war has to be sad. I don't want books that glorify war and paint an unrealistic picture of the devastation it causes. But I also can't read books that are graphic or too dark. I found this book, though sad, was hopeful and somewhat redemptive. But if you want a happy-ever-after ending, this book might not be for you.

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

The author of this book discovered some women's magazines from World War 2 in England and was fascinated by the help column and the problems that women were facing at that time. She wrote a story about Emmy who wants to be a war corespondent but lands a job at a women's magazine where she secretly answers the letters that the editor considers Unpleasantness.

I laughed and cried following Emmy and her friend Bunty through London where even a date at the nicest restaurant in town might end in a tragic bombing. They try to cheerfully "do their bit" while looking for love and surviving misunderstandings in their friendship. I enjoyed the great English accent on the audio book. There is a small bit of swearing, but the romance doesn't go further than a kiss on the doorstep.

Do you have a favorite book set in World War 2?

Monday, February 10, 2020

Review: Sew Basic Ladies' Pattern

For years I have been asked how to make a cape dress. I wrote a series on sewing cape dresses but continue to be asked where to find a good cape dress pattern.

Sew Basic Patterns designed a line of girls patterns a few years ago. I reviewed both their small girls' and larger girls' sized patterns. I've used these patterns dozens of times in the last couple years, and it is the only patterns I use for my girls.

Right now my oldest daughter and I are on a sewing spree. In the past week I have cut out seven dresses for my girls using three sizes of the girls' Sew Basic pattern. They always live up to their name of being simple to sew.

Ladies' Cape Dress Patterns image 0

I kept hoping that Sew Basic would extend their pattern line to ladies' sizes. And now they did.

I was given an adult size pattern from Sew Basic to try, and now I think I found my new favorite pattern. I made the dress exactly according to the pattern. The only change I made was to extend the sleeve length and add a cuff. I chose the size by my measurements, and it fits perfectly.

The pattern includes directions though some sewing experience would be helpful. The pattern includes several options for sleeve and skirt styles.

Since women come in all shapes, the pattern includes an extra sheet of information on making pattern adjustments for various shapes such as narrow or sloped shoulders.

You can find all the Sew Basic pattern sizes on Etsy. Or email Michelle at sewbasicdresses @ gmail.com for more information.

I received a free pattern to review, but all opinions in this post are my own.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Biographies of People Who Love to Learn

I think that a visit to the library is the perfect cure for the February slump. 

And I love taking a book list to the library to increase my chances of bringing home great books. I hope this list will give you some great books to enjoy with your children.

I love the explosion of wonderful picture-book biographies that have hit the shelves of my library. I have learned about so many little-known people - so don't think these picture books are just for young children. 

Prejudice, disabilities, and discouragement didn’t keep these people from learning about their world. These picture books might help you out of your winter slump.

This post contains affiliate links.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu
Ada loved numbers and wrote about machines which would do jobs that no one else imagined possible. Today we call them computers. Realistic paintings show us Ada’s world.

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Eric Puybaret
Jacques loved the sea and wanted to learn its secrets and share them with the world. Through his inventions, explorations, and photographs, he helped protect the creatures of the sea.

Caroline’s Comets by Emily Arnold McCully
Caroline Herschel joined her brother in the studying the stars and became the first woman to discover a comet. With bold water-colors and excerpts from Caroline’s diary, this book brings her story to life.
Blockhead: the Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese, illustrated by John O’Brien
Leonardo thought about numbers night and day, which got him into trouble. But as an adult, Leonardo traveled the world and discovered what is now known as the Fibonacci Sequence. Whimsical illustrations tell the story of this mostly unknown mathematician.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
A misfit in school, Paul loved to play with numbers, especially prime numbers. He spent his life studying numbers and sharing what he learned with others.

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez, illustrated by Felicita Sala
Lizards, turtles, and even crocodiles were Joan’s friends when she was a girl. Joan’s passion for reptiles took her to the London Zoo, where she designed a new Reptile House.

Nothing Stopped Sophie by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Life was hard for all girls growing up in Paris during the French Revolution, but the challenges increased for a girl who loved numbers. As an adult Sophie would tackle math problems that experts said were impossible to solve. The water-color illustrations show the jubilation of Sophie’s endeavors.

Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Raul Colonial
How would you teach a wild child who could neither hear nor see? This is a lovely picture book depicts the relationship between Helen Keller and her teacher and includes excerpts from Annie’s letters.
Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raul Colonial
Henrietta knew only a few girls were allowed to study astronomy in college but she was determined to learn how to measure the solar system.

Marie Curie, written and illustrated by Demi
Marie's quiet beginning in Poland did not give hint to the great scientist she would become. Sparkling illustrations tell the life story of this amazing woman.

Two brothers from Yorkshire became the first to photograph all the bird nests and eggs of England in their natural habitat.

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Katherine went to San Diego to teach school, but the barren landscape drove her to try something radical—plant trees. A short biography that shows that even one person can make a difference.

Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark by Heather Lang, illustrated by Jordi Solano
The first person to study sharks in their native habitat, Genie helped change what we know about sharks.

ToFly: The Story of the Wright Brothers by Wendie Old, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker
Two brothers, bicycle parts, and a homemade engine – humble beginnings for the first controlled, motorized aircraft. This book gives fun details about the Wright brothers and their first airplanes.

If you want more book lists, check this lists of lists.


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