Friday, August 31, 2012

Better Than Fiction Guest Post: Hillari Delgado, "Trust and Faith"

We could never so have loved, had we not sorrowed together, and together found peace and joy in believing."  ~Honoria Lawrence

When I read that quote from today's real-life heroine, I loved Honoria. How real, how honest, how hopeful in her perspective of the tribulations she and her husband faced in their journey, side-by-side.

My friend Hillari Delgado returns to us today with the story of Honoria and Henry Lawrence. She has encapsulated two remarkable lives in less than 800 words... no small feat. Once you see her knack for short-story telling, you'll want to be sure to visit her facebook page for more information on two great short (fiction) stories you can enjoy online right now.

Here's what Hillari has to say about the Lawrences:

I grew to greatly admire both Honoria and Henry Lawrence.  (My first draft was over 2000 words, there is so much interesting and inspiring material!) They were truly outstanding individuals, and strong evangelical Christians.  Both of them were widely admired in their own lifetimes as being humble, humorous and kind, and their marriage was acknowledged as a love match and the finest example of what marriage could be.
Best of all, they shared a deep faith and trust in their Lord that inspired them to evangelize through their actions, as we would say today, by being Jesus to the world.

Trust and Faith:

Honoria Marshall Lawrence and Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence


Hillari DeSchane Delgado

Honoria Lawrence, Artist Unknown
“My darling wife will support herself and believe that He, Who brought us together, and has kept us midst many dangers and many partings, can and will protect us still. May we both trust in our Saviour and endeavour to show our trust by our conduct."  Letter from Henry Lawrence to his wife Honoria. (1)

The young couple must have been perspiring freely as they repeated their vows in the muggy dimness of the Mission Church.  It was summer in Calcutta, after all.  But on that August day in 1837, Henry Lawrence and Honoria Marshall were burdened by more than the tropical heat and wedding day nerves.  Henry, a rising young administrator for the East India Company, knew this year’s drought was the worst on record; thousands of lives were depending on the decisions he would make in the coming months. (2)  For Honoria, there was the daunting prospect of making a home and raising a family under punishing conditions and a truly terrifying infant and childbirth mortality rate.

            The seventeen-year marriage of Henry Lawrence and Honoria Marshall Lawrence has been called ‘spectacularly successful.’(3)  Henry, later Sir Henry, became one of the most admired and beloved public servants of the Empire.  Peers, family and friends credited Honoria’s unselfish love, unfailing good humor and selfless support as instrumental in Sir Henry’s achievement.   Both Henry and Honoria Lawrence were individuals of the highest caliber.  But the secret to their success lay in something far outside and beyond their personal qualities.  Their bedrock-deep faith in God supported, sustained and inspired both Henry and Honoria Lawrence through experiences that would have, and regularly did, crush individuals, annihilate careers and shatter marriages.

Henry Lawrence, Engraving after
unknown photographer
In Honoria, Henry found the ideal helpmeet.  Biographer Frederick Gibbon called her, “brave and noble…the inspiring genius of her husband's higher life, the glad sharer of his every thought.”(4)  The wife of one of Henry’s protégés wrote of Honoria’s influence on others: “Hers was a mind that loved the wildness, and rejoiced in the unconventionality of the life; and her room was the natural rallying-point of all the wit and talent that was among them."(5)

Their faith was much tested.  After their second child died, Honoria wrote, We could never so have loved, had we not sorrowed together, and together found peace and joy in believing.  How little can we guess the shape in which blessings are to come.  Since we were called on to part with our daughter ... I have now the full knowledge that my own husband is the faithful and humble servant of his God and Saviour.”(6)  During the First Afghan War, Honoria wrote to Henry, “It would be my pride and delight to think that you were even a better soldier since you had a wife and son; and God forbid I should throw any obstacle in your road."(7)  

Both Henry and Honoria Marshall were known for their humility, and their courtesy to all, native and European alike. The Lawrences’ attitude was not common among their peers in the Raj.  Henry “was often unpopular with higher authorities due to his insistence that government should pay most attention to the welfare of the Indian population.” (8)  Honoria saw how easily newly-arrived Englishwomenpersuade themselves that the annoyances, which arise from the fact of ourselves and those around us being only human beings, are exclusively Indian.”(9)   However, Henry’s high standards of personal honesty gained him such great ‘iqbal’ or renown that in later years the mere report that Sir Henry was on his way often convinced provincial rulers to settle their disputes without bloodshed. (10)
At Honoria’s death in 1854, Henry wrote to their sons, “I prayed for the last time by her side…prayed that her pure spirit might be around you and me, to guide us to good and shield us from evil. . . . Remember her with love and show your love by your acts.  Few boys ever had such a mother." (11)

            Sir Henry died in 1857. On his deathbed he asked forgiveness of those "whom he thought he had ever, though unintentionally, injured, or even spoken harshly to.”(12)   At his request, his marker says simply, ‘Here lies Henry Lawrence, who tried to do his duty.’ (13)

            The History of the Church Missionary Society says of Henry Lawrence, his brother John, and by implication, Honoria: ‘The Lawrences…present the one conspicuous instance in Indian history of a body of British rulers and officers going to work definitely as Christian men . . . confessing
Christ before the world."
Hillari DeSchane Delgado serves up historical Romantic Suspense ‘with a side of wry.’ Whether Regency or Victorian, her witty heroines and endearing heroes take murder and romance seriously, but never themselves. Hillari is the author of pending novels When in Rome and The Warlock of Windermere. Her research for work in progress Traitor of the Taj uncovered the story of Annette and Henry Beveridge. She would love to chat on Twitter @HillariDelgado and can be found at her brand new author page on Facebook. View her boards on Pinterest: Traitor of the Taj, Victoriana, and Regency Revealed.

**If you have an idea for a Friday "Better Than Fiction: Real Historical Romance Tales" Feature (historical moments/lives that show God's hand weaving lives and paths together through the ages. Can be the story of a couple, or simply an important historical moment testifying to God's love, perfect plan, and grace.), visit this post for criteria and submission details.**

(1)   Gibbon, Frederick.  The Lawrences of the Punjab. London, J.M. Dent and Co., 1908; online text courtesy The Library of the University of California at Riverside.  


(3)   McMillan, Margaret. Women of the Raj: the Mothers, Wives, and Daughters of the British Empire in India.  Random House Trade Paperbacks 2007.

(4)   The Lawrences of the Punjab.

(5)   Women of the Raj.

(6)   The Lawrences of the Punjab.

(7)   Women of the Raj.

(8)   Ibid.

(9)   Ibid.

(10)           The Lawrences of the Punjab.

(11)           Ibid.

(12)           General Wheeler, ‘The Life of Sir Henry Lawrence,’ quoted in Gibbon, The Lawrences of the Punjab.

(14)           Anon., The History of the Church Missionary Society, quoted in Gibbon, The Lawrences of the Punjab.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Of Molecules and Cathedrals... and Us, Too.

I’m sitting here at 10:30 p.m., dancing around the blog post on my mind.

It’s about molecules. It all began with a song. And it has to do with you.

Side note: you should perhaps be worried. I, who haven’t tampered with molecules since Freshman  year of college, am about to give you a science lesson.

Commence Lesson:

  • Atoms make up molecules
  • Molecules make up material
  • Materials make up things like cathedrals and third-world missions.

Pause lesson.

Let me back up.  It all began in the car today, when Toby Mac’s City on our Knees played on the radio. I was singing along, tumbling out words I didn’t much ponder, when I was caught by this line:

From cathedrals
To third world missions
Love will fall to earth

 OK. Ready for a peek inside my head? Probably not, and perhaps the world shouldn’t be exposed to my jumbled thought process, but here ‘goes.

Hey! Thinks me.

God is working in cathedrals,  third-world missions, and everywhere between and beyond.

Unique works.

The Cathedral looks a lot different from the mission.

But they’re beautiful, both, because of His work.

Both made of building materials, but so different. If one atom was off in those molecules, those materials, it would all be different.

Woah. It’s like us.


*End peek into Amanda’s brain. Not entirely accurate. I polished it up for you; there were in reality a lot more “ummms” and “Aha! I’m a molecule!” moments.*


This is what I’m getting at: God is at work in our lives. He has placed things before you, before me, to do. They're perfect plans, constructed atom by atom to be exactly what’s right for us.

Commence lesson:

Mess with the molecular structure of a diamond, and you’ll get coal. And vice-versa.

Pause lesson.


Sometimes, we look at the work He’s doing in and through the people around us and we panic. “My story doesn’t look anything like theirs! I’m doing it wrong!”  We think they’re diamonds, we’re coal.


Commence lesson:

He designed coal. He designed diamonds. Same atoms, different structure, different purposes.

He designed cathedrals. He designed third-world missions. He designed your story. He designed your friends’ stories. Same Love, different structures and tasks, same goal.

Have you ever panicked, questioned, doubted, when your ministry unfolded differently than you expected, or differently than someone else’s?

What would happen if the third-world mission suddenly decided it needed to look just like the cathedral? All their efforts would be poured into modifying something that needed no modification, while the fields ripe for the harvest before them languished in the flurry of reconstruction.


I encourage you to look at what’s before you- directly before you- today, and see: if He’s put it there, it’s just right. It’s beautiful. It was designed for you, and you for it. Let us not get lost in comparison of stories and ministries, but revel and rejoice in the different structures His purposes have weaved for us!

" also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5


Friday, August 24, 2012

Better Than Fiction Guest Post: Erin MacPherson, "Smudged Ink and Fish Factories"

It's a pure delight to introduce you to today's guest, Erin MacPherson. She was one of the very first to welcome me to the Books and Such family, and since that time I've been grateful for her prayers and writing accountability along the way. A warmer, more giving person you'll not meet, which is why I am particularly thankful for her story today. As she points out early on, without this story, we'd have no Erin! ...Let's not think about that.

Erin and I swapped guest posts this week, and I have no doubt you'll find yourself smiling and laughing as you dive into her tale below. Thank you, Erin, for your tale of...

Smudged Ink and Fish Factories

I'm not normally one to applaud slow-moving government bureaucracy—but every once in awhile, it can be a good thing.

Because a slow government envelope is the sole reason that I exist.  And that my grandparents fell in love more than 60 years ago.

It all started in war-torn post WWII Finland.  My great-aunt Vera had applied for a Visa to go to the United States.  She dreamed—get this—of moving to a tiny town in Oregon and getting a job in the fish packing factory where her cousin had landed a job.  The American Dream at it's best. 

An Oregon factory, 1939, by Dorothea Lange
So, Vera filled out her visa application and got letters of reference from her sponsors in the United States and submitted her papers with every t crossed and every i dotted.  But apparently a lot of people had crossed those t's and dotted those i's in Finland that year.  Because weeks turned into months, and months turned into years.  And by the time those slow moving bureaucrats stamped "approved" on Vera's visa paperwork, she had decided that her love of fish-packing paled in comparison to her love of the farmer's son down the lane.   So Vera got married.  And those coveted papers sat unused.


Of course, the story doesn't end with a festive wedding in Finland.  (Which you probably guessed that since I'm sitting here writing in almost perfect English.)  Because you see, my great-aunt Vera had a little sister.  A little sister who happened to be pretty darn skilled with q-tips and typewriter ink if you know what I mean. 


Now before I go any further, let me be clear:  that little sister—passionate, brave and savvy—had no intention of working in the fish-packing factory. 
En route to fish packing plant, 1942. By Howard Liberman.

 Or any other factory to be exact.  Her plans were simple:  First thing she was going to do when she landed in Oregon was going to be to find a Finnish-speaking lawyer who understood immigration law well enough to help her file papers so that her childhood crush of a boyfriend in Finland could join her.  Upon his arrival, well, he could get a job in the fish-packing factory or whatnot after they got married.  Either way, she was going to grab that American dream by the horns.  Or the q-tips, as it were.


Using q-tips to smudge the typed-print on her sister's visa, my grandmother Kerttu suavely erased Vera's name and added her own.  I've seen the papers—and I’m not sure if anyone post mad-men could've gotten by with such a hack job—but apparently back then, immigration officers weren't concerned with little black smudges.  Or clearly erased names.  Details, details.


Hacked up papers and all, my grandmother arrived in Oregon in 1950.  And true to her plan, the first thing she did was look up a Finnish speaking lawyer to help her bring her fiancé to the states. 


But that's where her plan got a little off-track. 


Because—in an ironic twist of fate—Kerttu fell hopelessly in love-at-first-sight with the Finnish-speaking lawyer.


My grandpa—small-town lawyer, first-generation American, World War II Hero and dual Finnish and American citizen—fell in love, too.  In fact, he tore up those papers without sending them.  And marched down to the house where my grandma was staying and proposed.  


They were married within three months.


Had a baby within a year.


And I still wish I knew how long that poor guy in Finland waited for word from my Grandma before he finally realized that it just wasn't coming.


Anyway, in 2010, we celebrated 60 years since my grandma arrived in the United States.  Sadly, my Grandpa, the lawyer, passed away and wasn't there to see the festivities.  But the rest of us were.  Their 5 children.  Their 9 grandchildren.  And their 13 great-grandchildren.  A big, loud bunch, screaming in a mix of English and Finnish and Texan. 


All because the government bureaucrats took forever to stamp "approved" on a piece of paper.


Erin MacPherson is a third-generation American who still loves to hear her mom speak to her siblings in her native Finnish and to hear stories of Finland during the wars.  She is the author of "The Christian Mama's Guide" series as well as a contributing author to countless other books and magazines.  She blogs at

**Note from Amanda: I am looking for more guest-bloggers for this series. If you have an idea for a Friday "Better Than Fiction: Real Historical Romance Tales" Feature, visit this post for criteria and submission details**


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When the Words Are Choked Away, It’s Good.

What kind of crier are you?

Do you sob? Snivel? Weep?

Me—I’d like to think I’m a *solitary tear down the cheek, graceful sniffles* sort.

But… I’m not.

When I cry, there is lip-biting/trembling. Followed by voice-wavering. Which unleashes the waterworks that I’m still trying to hold back so they come out in a tug-o-war, and land in snot smudges on my sleeve.  Contorted muscles in my face try but fail to hold it back, setting my being to muted writhing.
...Yep. That's about right. Contorted facial muscles and all.

It’s a little bit horrific.

And the other thing? I (usually) don’t cry easily, so they always sneak up on me, these attacks of blithering would-be sobs.

So why is all of this on my mind? Oh, probably something to do with what happened at a recent Bible study.

After the study, we all gathered to pray over someone who is setting off on a new adventure, a new chapter in their lives. It’s wonderful! And, as departures are with people so close they’re family, it’s sad, too.

I decided to pipe up and pray. There were lots of things to be thankful for, and I wanted to voice them. But then? When I opened my mouth, that wavering voice came out. Brink-of-tears voice. Oh-no-here-we-go-there’s-no-stopping-it-now voice. So the sequence of tear-wars described above ensued, my throat closed, and I ended up stammering something eloquent like “Thank you for—that!” Instead of the long list I had in mind.

You know what, though? I cried because it was family, family-in-Christ, we were gathered for. People I love. People I’m blessed with. So blessed they choked the words right out of a girl who could swim in sentences for hours trying out structures and synonyms and literary devices until it’s just-so.

When the words are choked right out of a word nerd, that is a blessing indeed. His people, these cherished friendships, family in Christ, shared growing in Him, witnessing Him working and growing and using someone for His glory over the years—what an honor. What a gift.

One beyond words.

 This song isn’t QUITE fitting, since I wasn’t at a “loss” for words, per se.  I had them in spades, but they got squished in the thankfulness. Still, the sentiment fits.

What about you? I’d love to hear about a time when your thankfulness exceeded—or closed off—the words.

I'm guest-posting at Christian Mama's Guide today. Come visit with me over at my friend Erin MacPherson's blog, where I'm sharing "Off the Wall Tips for New (or New Again) Moms"

Better yet, come back here this Friday to read Erin's "Better Than Fiction: Real Historical Romance Tales" guest post! It's a gem, and one that'll have you smiling at the gumption of her own ancestors.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Better Than Fiction Guest Post: Keli Gwyn, "A Shotgun Wedding"

Four months ago, this conversation happened:
That was my first encounter with the wonderful Keli Gwyn. Who knows what angsty thing I tweeted (let's hope not too angsty) to curry such compassion, but I do remember that Keli's generous encouragement in my Twitter inbox was such an unexpected blessing. To have someone on the brink of their novel debut reach out to me as I waded through my first major re-write was inspiring.

Fast forward to the present: I have now had the pleasure of discovering that Keli has impeccable taste in bookstores (we have a favorite little shop in common), she can write a delightful love story (which I'm in the middle of right now), and- best of all? I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at her book launch last month! As you may suppose, she's every bit as encouraging, gracious, and lovely in person as she is online.

When I launched this series, Keli offered this story -- in her words-- "about my in-law's courtship and marriage during the days shortly before WWII. They had an honest-to-goodness shotgun wedding, one that led to a marriage of over 50 years in which the Lord was an integral part. Since I blog about my romantic husband, their son (aka "Gwynly"), I think it would be fun to share the story about his parents' courtship and marriage."

It's an honor and joy to host Keli today, and what a story she has to share! May it bless you.

A Shotgun Wedding
by Keli Gwyn
 A young man from Texas arrived in California in the late 1930s with five dollars in his pocket and a dream of working in the aircraft industry. He met a young woman at a church event and was smitten from the very beginning. They married and lived a good life, but their start was a bit rocky.
Mother and Dad's wedding picture
Dad, the youngest of five boys, grew up in West Texas. The son of a dirt farmer, he wanted to escape his humble beginnings and make his fortune. He used to boast that he arrived in California one morning and was employed by nightfall. While he was working in the aircraft industry, his position at that point was janitor.

Mother, an only child, was raised by her maternal grandparents in Illinois. Their daughter died due to complications following the delivery. Since a man couldn’t very well raise a child alone in the 1920s, they took on the job. Mother’s father, who lived in California, only managed to get back to see her once every year or two for an all-too-brief visit. He wrote her only a handful of letters during her entire childhood, and she treasured each one.

 When Mother graduated from high school as valedictorian, her absentee father decided he wanted her to move to California and attend U.C.L.A. Mother had received a full scholarship to a teaching college in Illinois, but she left the only life she’d known and moved to Los Angeles, taking her dream of being a math teacher with her. Although she wanted to believe the reason her father had sent for her was that he wanted her to be a part of his life at long last, she said the real reason was that he wanted to boast to his friends that he had a daughter at the prestigious school.

 Things didn’t go according to plan. Her father turned out to be an alcoholic and lived with a woman who didn’t care for Mother and didn’t try to hide the fact. She had to leave college after just one year and took a job as a bookkeeper in a major department store.

 Church was a bright spot in Mother’s life, and she enjoyed attending services and youth fellowship events. She met a tall young man at one of them. She wasn’t interested in him at that point, but he was very interested in her.

 Dad had a car, so he volunteered to drive many of the young people home after their fellowship times. He would arrange his route so Mother’s stop was one of the very last. Eventually he asked her out, and she said yes. Each week he would spend fifty cents on a gardenia blossom, which he gave her when he picked her up for their date, a tradition he kept up throughout their entire courtship.

 Although Dad was eager to marry her after just a few months, Mother kept him waiting two years. Things back home weren’t good. Her father couldn’t stand Dad and did everything he could to make things difficult for Mother.

Things finally got so bad in April of 1942 that Mother sent Dad a message, asking him if he could arrange a marriage within the week. He was glad to do so, but there was a major complication: her father had threatened to kill Dad if she married him. One of the arrangements Dad made was to have a sheriff outside the church with a shotgun.
Mother and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary

Despite the rather dramatic beginning, Mother and Dad had a happy marriage. Like many of the Greatest Generation, they weathered WWII. Since Dad worked in the aircraft industry, he had a defense waver. However, he decided to enlist after all. He went into the Navy, but a bad heart kept him from his dream of being a pilot. Instead he served in the heart of our country, training pilots in Norman, Oklahoma. Their oldest son was born during the war, and Gwynly was born five years later.

Mother and Dad were married almost 54 years, until cancer took her from him. He lived five more years, but he never got over the loss of his beloved wife. Their real-life love story inspires me. I’m blessed to have a husband, their son, who loves me as deeply as they loved one another.


       Keli Gwyn writes stories that transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. A California native, she lives in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, set in the heart of the Gold Country where she lives is currently available.
       When Keli’s fingers aren’t hovering over the keyboard of her newfangled laptop, she enjoys strolling past stately Victorian houses in her historic town, burying her nose in reference books as she unearths interesting facts to include in her stories, and interacting with other romance readers. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, the Coach factory outlet store, and Taco Bell.
       Connect with Keli on Twitter or Facebook.

**Note from Amanda: I am looking for more guest-bloggers for this series. If you have an idea for a Friday "Better Than Fiction: Real Historical Romance Tales" Feature, visit this post for criteria and submission details**

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Me in a Time-Less Symphony

“Time-less”-- Not in the classic, “never-goes-out-of-style” sense of the word. More like the “completely-lacking-a-timekeeping-device” sense of the word.

That was me, and because I had no watch, I have a memory etched in time. Would you like to hear it? Oh, do, come along and see what transpired in my time-less snippet of time whatever.

Once upon a time, I set out on a walk. To think, to pray, really. The high summer clouds tumbled over one another until they cloaked the sky and released their thunder. It rumbled, and then…

Tiny umbrella-like seeds alighted on the wind, twirling away like a million Mary Poppinses, minus the nanny.

The promise of rain filled my lungs.

I scrambled to pull out my—no, silly. Not my umbrella. My hat? No, not that, either. My notebook. One must scribble when the heavens open, you know.

Moments, released from their endless march around the clock (which I didn’t have, remember), whooshed through the cattails and set them dancing, bobbing.

I savored.

I single-tasked.

I didn’t “task” at all.

And I suddenly stood in the middle of a symphony:

Pen scratched
Wind whisked
Aspens clapped

Grasses kept time:

                a l l e g r o



An unseen Creator signaled crescendo, and the cicadas sounded.

Stillness, thunder, and—


I was caught, joy-filled,  loving Marianne Dashwood for giving me the words-- “is there any felicity in the world superior to this?”  The soft drops baptized me from a grey sky that set the summer green all around afire in emerald and jade. Green vibrant against grey-- life unexpected, like precious“streams in the desert.”

A few eager leaves spun to the ground, teasing of Autumn…

And it was perfect.


Like the Creator. Oh, His glory was declared.

Psalm 19:1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Yes, wordless speech poured forth into all the earth- and straight into my heart.

Timeless, He is. Mighty. Gentle. Cleansing. Restoring. …Faithful.

All of this—for you.


"He will be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth."  Psalm 72:6

Friday, August 10, 2012

Better Than Fiction Guest Post: Olivia Newport, Love Sneaks Up

I was privileged to get to know our guest today when her debut novel, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, was the featured title of the month in June over at the online book club I co-host. Not only does Olivia have a beautiful way of telling a story, but she weaves flawless research into her historical romance in a way that wraps you up in days gone by completely while you take the journey with her memorable characters.

I was so pleased when Olivia sent me this story of her own parents. It's my pleasure to introduce to you...

Love Sneaks Up
by Olivia Newport

My parents met in Washington, DC. She was a girl from Arkansas, barely not a teenager, and he was a young man from Brazil who arrived with the classic immigrant’s lack of English. My mother’s sister—even younger—had met my dad earlier and firmly warned Mom not to have anything to do with him. (Why? That piece of the story I’ve never heard.) The story goes that Dad used to visit the apartment Mom shared with a couple of other women to use the telephone. If he couldn’t find a date, he’d take the roommates bowling. Gradually it was just the two of them and he wasn’t interested in the telephone.

But they gave each other up, because they were too different. His course was set to go back to Brazil and she was not quite sure about that. They broke up, and she was miserable without him. Finally she took her miserable self and parked it in the lobby of his office building and waited, elevator after elevator, for him to come down. And at last he did. And they picked up again.

Hearing this story was one of the most tender moments I had with my mother after Dad died. I picture her, around the age my kids are now, choosing not be miserable.

Mom was a Southern Baptist churchgoer. Dad was nothing, when it came to faith. He used to drive her to church and use the hour she spent worshiping to polish his car. One Sunday morning he decided to go in with her. This being 1950-ish and the church being Baptist, of course there was an altar call. I’ve never been much of an altar call kind of person, but this story from my own spiritual heritage keeps my heart open to what can happen. Dad heard the gospel explained (by now his English was just fine but I don’t suppose the Holy Spirit needs English) and responded.

Even though Mom signed on for living in Brazil and had a baby there, Dad was the one to decide they should return to the U.S. He landed an engineering job in Chicago that was the financial pillar of my childhood—and his entire career. Six more kids were born in a hospital in Oak Park, Illinois.

If the church was open, we were there. My parents taught Sunday school, my mom sang in the choir, and my dad was a deacon. When I was six and learning to read, my dad patiently taught me the discipline of Bible reading by listening to me read five verses in the King James every night. (I once asked if I could read ten on one night and then skip a night. He said it didn’t work that way.)

What would my heritage be if my Mom had not gone to that office building that day? (Well, I guess I wouldn’t be me, to start with.) And what would my spiritual heritage be if Dad hadn’t decided not to polish his car that Sunday?

Seven children grew into reasonably well-adjusted adults and produced 19 grandchildren and—so far—15 great-grandchildren.

During a family reunion at a church camp in the 1980s, when most of my siblings and I were still only dreaming of the children we might someday have, we uncharacteristically latched onto a Bill Gaither song, “Find Us Faithful.” (Dating myself, I know.) Maybe we found the music lying on the piano in the lodge.  Maybe we were feeling spiritual because we were at a church camp. I don’t remember. But I do remember that the song turned into a tribute to our parents. The chorus goes,

Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.

I’m grateful every day that my parents found each other, that God’s grace found my dad, and that my family showed me the richness that comes from love.

Olivia Newport is the author of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning (May 2012) and the forthcoming Accidentally Amish (October 2012) and The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow (January 2013). Find more information at
Olivia will visit Simple Revelations again on Friday, September 14th, 2012 to share with us the inspiration story for her next release, Accidentally Amish. 

Next Friday, be sure to stop by for a "Better Than Fiction" story by author Keli Gwyn that has changed her own life in innumerable ways.

**If you have an idea for a Friday "Better Than Fiction: Real Historical Romance Tales" Feature, visit this post for criteria and submission details**


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