Musings: Hello, 2019!

At the beginning of a new year and the winding down of the old, I love to look back on where I’ve been. With a brand new coating of frosty white on the surface of my garden, it’s hard to imagine that just three months ago I was harvesting cucumbers and green beans by the basket full and treating my grandson to brim full cups of tiny orange tomatoes that went “squirt” between his teeth. Nevertheless, here we are. A few of the things I thought I’d accomplish are completely untouched, but this is no surprise to God, and there have been plenty of surprises this year, unforeseen at the outset.

For instance, a box arrived in the mail just days before Christmas containing five beautiful (to me!) cookbooks that include family pictures and every recipe I could think of that our family has enjoyed together.  Here’s a line from the dedication page:

This book is dedicated to the Morin family, past, present, and future:
To the original six who sat around a dining room table and loved food and each other; to the much-loved Morins who have married into the chaos; and to Morins who will gather around future tables in places and times we can only imagine.

The time spent in 2018 typing recipes, driving a lawn mower, vacuuming up dog fur, canning green beans, and sweeping up the grandgirl’s cheerios from the dining room floor may just have been the most important things I accomplished in 2018.

2018 By the Numbers

In the Garden

Growing vegetables in the garden and then canning the overflow has been a constant in my life for nearly thirty years.  Even with an empty-ing nest, there are still plenty of reasons to keep preserving the harvest and remembering to be thankful for the work and for the gift of it all. My basement shelves are full of glistening jars to enjoy and to share:

Green Beans . . . 41 quarts
Salsa . . . 15 pints
Pickles . . . 15 quarts
Relish . . . 14 pints
Spaghetti Sauce . . . 36 quarts
Tomatoes . . . 21 quarts

On the Blog

This is the first time I’ve ever looked at “Top Posts” at year end, but having finally figured out how to do that in 2018, I am surprised by what I see. The most-read blog posts here in these parts weren’t the ones I shared with big sites for the eyes of another more skilled editor. They were all book reviews.  Furthermore, each one was based on the story of a woman and her calling, an unexpected and sometimes gritty story of God’s grace and a woman’s availability. Here’s the list in reverse order:

 Number 5 — Birthing Hope by Rachel Marie StoneBirthing Hope, Motherhood, Incarnation

Motherhood has been the single most influential event in my own story, and Rachel Marie Stone suggests a physiological reason for the alterations that come with motherhood. Apparently, a woman’s body acquires cells from every pregnancy. Each baby she carries leaves behind a few cells that join with hers, so when we take the plunge into motherhood, we do not surface unchanged. Birth is the metaphor that runs throughout Birthing Hope: Giving Fear to the Light as it binds memoir to meditation and bears witness to the journey that has left its mark on the author. When Stone and her husband packed up baggage and boys and relocated to Malawi, they had not an inkling of what it would cost them to serve university students in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Number 4–Holy in the Moment by Ginger Harrington

Love God. Embrace Truth. Enjoy Life.Holy in the Moment: Simple Ways to Love God and Enjoy Your Life, part memoir and part manifesto, is Ginger’s record of God’s faithfulness and a gift to readers in search of homely wisdom for living in sync with the promises of God. Fear and weakness forced Ginger to open her heart to the strength that comes only through prayer and to make one holy choice:

 

“Not every moment is good, but [she would] believe God is good in every moment.”

Number 3–Mrs Oswald Chambers by Michelle Ule

Biddy Chambers: A Sacramental Life

Published in 1927, My Utmost for His Highest has sold more than 13 million copies and has never been out of print. Over the course of its 90+ year history, it has been translated into 40 different languages, and Oswald Chambers’s unique and timeless wisdom is quoted far and wide.

However, until recently, little thought has been given to the fact that My Utmost was not published until ten years after Chambers’s death, and that it was his wife, Gertrude “Biddy” Hobbs Chambers who took on the mammoth task of compiling and editing nearly twenty years’ worth of sermons and lessons. Michelle Ule has traced this process in telling the story of the woman behind the great man:  Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional

Number 2–Blessed Are the Unsatisfied by Amy Simpson

8 Blessings of the Unsatisfied LifeAmy Simpson noticed early on that the tidy claims of Christianity were not lining up with the reality she was living at home. Suffering from the impact of her mother’s serious and debilitating mental illness, her family was certainly not strolling toward heaven with all their needs met and a smile on their faces. At this point, standard issue story-telling practices beg for an ending tied with a bow:  college, marriage, a successful career, and a loving family of her own–all a straight arrow toward deep satisfaction. However, in Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World, the reader is caught up in paradox, for even though many of Amy’s personal and professional goals have been met, she confesses that she still lives “with a kind of unsatisfaction that will not be lifted in this life.”

Number 1–A Leopard Tamed by Eleanor Vandevoort

A Leopard Tamed, Eleanor Vandevort, Missionary BiographyOver fifty years ago, Eleanor Vandevort came home from South Sudan in the wake of political unrest. Her thirteen years of language acquisition, Bible translation, literacy work, and relationship building were cut short with no certainty as to their effect or ultimate impact. When she set down the account of her struggle and her achievements in A Leopard Tamed, she was a woman ahead of her time, asking questions few in the golden age of U.S. missions were asking and even fewer wanted to entertain.

 

At this point, I want to draw all kinds of conclusions and ask all kinds of questions about this data:

  • What does it say about readers and about our world that two of my top blog posts featured women for whom we have only black and white photos?
  • What can we learn about ministry in general from this evidence that the stories of other women are such compelling reading?

At the very least, this is a call to share YOUR story whenever and wherever God give you the opportunity!
It’s a reminder to me that my most compelling words in 2019 will likely be centered around the record of what God is doing right now in my life to put His glory on display.

So, at the end of a year that has seen its share of great moments:  a fruitful garden, a new kitchen, a growing pair of grandkids that get cuter every day, I want to thank you for your interest in reading about the things the I’ve been reading about.

December at Living Our Days

December always seems to get short changed with all the year end musings, and with so many glorious things to write about in December, I managed to share only three book reviews.

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At the beginning of Advent, I can never resist opening my Bible to the page between the Testaments for a time of remembering the faithful men and women who waited for God to fulfill His promise of a Deliverer.

This year, that pondering time overflowed into a blog post devoted to Simeon’s story. Then, those few verses devoted to Herod’s jealous response to news of a newborn King have always bothered me, like a pebble in the shoe, so I spent some time giving them the attention they deserve and the results landed at Desiring God and Red Letter Christians.

What a unique opportunity Christmas gives us to minister to grieving parents in memory of those babies who fell prey to Herod’s sword. Too, the event reminds us that even Jesus’ entry into this world was tinged with blood, a foreshadowing of His divinely orchestrated purpose in coming to earth in the first place.

 

The new year will begin my fifth year blogging here at Living Our Days. This little writing home has been the gateway to some wonderful friendships and some exciting opportunities to teach and to write in places I would never have expected. Thank you for your faithfulness here in reading and sharing posts you’ve loved with your friends via word of mouth and social media.

And thanks be to God! Let’s join the psalmist in our thanksgiving as 2018 comes to a close:

“You crown the year with your bounty.”  Psalm 65:11

Blessings and Love to You,

Michele Morin


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned within this post, simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Oswald Chambers’s Message of Hope in the Midst of War

One hundred years ago, the war to end all wars ended, leaving the world a very different place, and, ironically, setting the stage for the next world war. Geographic boundaries would shift and entire countries would be swallowed up or renamed, but even more seismic changes were at work in the spiritual realm as hearts were softened and minds were startled awake by the devastation and loss of life.

Oswald Chambers is best known for the classic devotional work My Utmost for His Highest, but some of his most important pastoral work happened against the backdrop of World War I as he ministered to troops stationed in Egypt. In A Poppy in Remembrance, Michelle Ule, author of the biography covering the life of Chambers’s wife Biddy, has applied her sanctified imagination to a subject she knows well–the lives of Oswald and Biddy Chambers–and has created a cast of realistic and relatable characters who were impacted by the Chambers’s ministry.

A Story and a Message

Claire Meacham grew up to the staccato of typewriters and the echoing excitement of whatever was in the news as she traveled the world with her father Jock, collecting stories for the Boston Newspaper Syndicate. Radcliffe-educated and American-born, Claire ached to see her own byline in newsprint, but, stationed in a conservative London newsroom, found herself perpetually thwarted by cultural bias and her parents; insistence that she devote herself to more “appropriate” womanly pursuits. Given the task of transcribing notes from her father’s war reporting, Claire was haunted by the appalling numbers of casualties and the descriptions of war on a colossal scale, and, after hearing biblical truth through Chambers’ ministry, she turned to Christ, first as a coping mechanism to survive the war, but ultimately as a Savior and reliable Guide for her future.

Ule anchors her characters in early 20th century England and France with vivid multi-sensory descriptions of honking taxis and rumbling horse drawn transports that combined for nose-assaulting bedlam — this along with an affluent socialite aunt who played bridge with “Clemmie” Churchill and a worship service in which Robert E. Lee’s disenfranchised daughter turns up veiled in black and wandering Europe.

Relevant Counsel from Chambers

Chambers’s counsel to Claire in her spiritual pilgrimage comes directly from the pages of his sermon notes, so not only does it ring true, but it applies to present day believers as well:

“I find it helps to brood on the unknown and let it sit in your soul.” (33)

“Sanctification means intense concentration on God’s point of view. Every power of body, soul, and spirit are chained and kept for God’s purpose.” (121)

Through Claire’s eyes, the reader experiences the heat, the lice, and the drills of soldiers deployed in Egypt and also the heartache and terror of the European front that hit close to home and left grief in its wake. With nearly 17 million deaths all tolled, many emerged from their experience of World War I without hope. Even the poppies that sprouted from soil churned by tanks and soldiers’ boots were taken as a symbol of the war and a sign that beauty can, indeed, survive ugliness, but lasting hope comes only through submitting one’s entire life to the God who already owns it.

Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the irreparable past in His hands, and step out into the irresistible future with Him.”        ~Oswald Chambers   (397)


Many thinks to the author for providing this book to facilitate my review which is, of course, offered freely and with complete honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase A Poppy in Remembrance or Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional, simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo of poppies by Monica Galentino on Unsplash

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Biddy Chambers: A Sacramental Life

Published in 1927, My Utmost for His Highest has sold more than 13 million copies and has never been out of print. Over the course of its 90+ year history, it has been translated into 40 different languages, and Oswald Chambers’s unique and timeless wisdom is quoted far and wide.

However, until recently, little thought has been given to the fact that My Utmost was not published until ten years after Chambers’s death, and that it was his wife, Gertrude “Biddy” Hobbs Chambers who took on the mammoth task of compiling and editing nearly twenty years’ worth of sermons and lessons. Michelle Ule has traced this process in telling the story of the woman behind the great man:  Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional

“It Is God Who Engineers Circumstances”

Trained as a stenographer, Biddy learned to type as well with the goal of financial stability and the lofty hope of one day becoming the first female secretary to England’s prime minister. While she remained very private about her spiritual life, it’s clear that her spiritual journey began under the ministry of Oswald Chambers’s brother Arthur. At some point after she was baptized, Oswald led a week-long mission at his big brother’s church, representing an early interdenominational para-church organization, the League of Prayer.

To riff on Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a [budding ministry], must be in want of a wife,” and although Chambers did not come seeking, he found, and to frame it with his own words:

“Love is not premeditated, it is spontaneous, i.e., it bursts up in extraordinary ways.”

The “bursting up” was followed by a long distance courtship which evolved into an on-the-road marriage in which Oswald and Biddy crossed the Atlantic and covered the Eastern U.S. as far south as Maryland, as far north as Maine (!), and as far west as Ohio, with Oswald speaking at camp meetings and Biddy faithfully taking shorthand at every venue.

When the newlyweds returned to England, they soon took up residence and took on leadership roles in a Bible Training College started by the League of Prayer.  While Oswald lectured, Biddy served as the school’s superintendent and together they grew into the kind of wisdom that taught them the folly of playing the role of “amateur providence” in other lives and the deep faith that comes with depending upon God for every need to be met.

A man of “perpetual motion” (55), Chambers became a bit of a celebrity in his small circle with everyone wanting a piece of his day. In quietly cherishing his words and in unraveling the administrative nightmares of life together in an educational setting, Biddy began to live her way into a calling of her own in an era when a Christian woman was largely seen as an adornment for the arm of her more influential husband. After the birth of their daughter Kathleen in 1913, summer traveling and school-year activities resumed in full force with a small, blonde curly-haired addition to the ministry team.

“God’s Purpose Is Never Man’s Purpose”

When England entered World War I, the Bible Training College era come to an end, and the Chambers family traveled together to Egypt where Oswald served as a YMCA chaplain. Early in their parenting life, they committed themselves to raising Kathleen themselves and keeping her with them, rather then sending her off to boarding school as was the custom of that day.

Life in Egypt was characterized by a “ministry of interruptions” in which Biddy Biddy Chambers: A Sacramental Lifeand Oswald made themselves available to anyone who needed to hear the Truth. “Washing the disciples’ feet” often meant feeding hordes of service men under challenging circumstances, and, for Biddy, it always meant patiently recording every word of her husband’s many sermons and devotionals. With amazing prescience for this time, Oswald referred to Biddy’s great contribution to their ministry in his letters:

“As for Biddy I love her and I am her husband, but I do not believe it is possible to exaggerate what she has been in the way of a Sacrament out here — God conveying His presence through the common elements of an ordinary life.”

When Oswald passed away in Egypt on November 15, 1917, from complications following a ruptured appendix, God’s Word to Joshua became a comfort to Biddy:

“As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee. I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee . . .Only be strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:5)

Amidst the fires of sorrow, Biddy continued what Oswald had begun and was comforted by the understanding and appreciation of the servicemen she and her husband had served together. One by one, she began producing books and pamphlets taken from her careful notes and publishing them at her own expense, and this became the scaffolding of her life in England when she returned home to a “home” that did not feel like home with a young daughter who had no memory of the family there and who was used to living amidst the bustle of an Army camp.

“Faith is Deliberate Commitment to a Person Where I See No Way.”

Because Chambers had not been employed by the military, Biddy had no pension, and times were lean for her and Kathleen as they moved from one situation to another, always typing, always publishing, and always just short of enough resources to make ends meet. The notion of publishing a daily devotional work that compiled Oswald’s teaching followed on the heels of the enthusiastic response to a devotional calendar Biddy had produced. Thus, it was in October 1927, in the days when Lewis and Tolkien were lunching at the Eagle and Child pub, when Winnie the Pooh was holding court at the London Zoo, in the year that Amy Carmichael’s Dohnavur Fellowship came into being in India, and that someone made the first transatlantic phone call to North America that My Utmost for His Highest was first published in England.

Biddy went on to run a boutique publishing house, editing and launching Oswald’s writings to an enthusiastic readership that still profits from his words — and from her skill and determination. Personally, my appreciation for Chambers’s work has been heightened by this introduction to his wife’s story. Because I learned that Biddy carefully chose the meditations for Oswald’s birthday, their wedding day, and the anniversary of his death, I want to make a notation in my copy to remind me that the message for that day is specifically assigned.  As a single mum who persevered through two world wars and lived all her days under challenging circumstances, Biddy Chambers lived out the title of her husband’s book, offering her utmost in faithfulness and focus for His highest purposes in her own life and in the lives of her readers every day.


This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I have begun to experiment with including an Amazon affiliate link here in my book reviews. If you should decide to purchase Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional click on the title here, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Headings have been quoted from My Utmost for His Highest.

Images are shared from the Michelle Ule’s Pinterest account.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.