Author Archives: Coralie

About Coralie

After 11 years of infertility, I am now a mother to three, a wife of a Presbyterian (ARP) preacher and a struggling homemaker. Welcome to my little corner of the net. Kick off your shoes, put your feet up and join the conversation.

Book Review: Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodeward

It isn’t every day that I get an email asking me to review a book and I say “Hey! I know her!” about the author. I know some people live that sort of life, but I don’t. So imagine my delight when asked by a third party to review a book written by another minister’s wife within my small Presbytery. That isn’t, however, what made me jump at the chance to read this. My summer time reading has all been on a theme of faithful women serving the church biblically, so a chance to read another book on the theme, set during the Reformation, was an easy yes.

Reformation Women is a collection of biographies. Each chapter focuses on the complete life of a woman who served the protestant Church during the period of history known as the Reformation. While the lives of some over lap, each woman is covered in her own right. In the preface, VanDoodeward expresses the methodology with which she selected the women in the book. Each woman was chosen in the hopes of introducing Christian women of today to Christian women of the past with whom we are not as familiar. In that vein some of the most famous names of Reformation women are absent from this work, because of the excellent works already available on their lives. Instead, the author chose lesser known, but not less deserving, women to highlight.

The collection is fascinating. Other than a connection to the Reformation, these women have very little in common. Some are married, some widowed, one remained single. Some had many children, some few children, one grieved having no surviving children. Many were born into some form of nobility, but not all, and several of those who were found themselves in poverty because of their protestant views. Some were quiet, some outspoken. Some served primarily within their home, while others served in different spheres. What interested me the most, however, was that several of these women were published authors, and only a few of them were married to ministers. A reader coming to this book with a view that all “biblical women” fit into a narrow criteria will be shocked at how diverse in gifting, calling, and life experience these women are, while all remaining faithful to the word of God, and devoted to the Church.

This is not an academic work. I intend to read these chapters to my children this school year, and I have no doubt they will be able to follow and understand the content. The chapters are relatively short, and easily read, but that is not to say it is a simplistic or shallow work. Every chapter is meticulously footnoted, with not only bibliographical citations (a fascinating list of works in themselves) but also additional historical and research information. The attached timeline at the end of the book is also helpful, and each chapter is capable of standing alone without a deeper understanding of the larger events in Reformation history. Still, there is an assumption of broad Reformation knowledge here that the average reader may not have. I hope that this will be an introduction for many – an appetizer of sorts – into a fascinating time in church and world history.

I found Reformation Women to be a personally encouraging, and intellectually satisfying book. More than that, I think it is a necessary book. The ongoing and diverse conversations regarding what makes a “biblical woman” need the historic grounding that this sort of book provides. I hope Rebecca, or another author, also offers us similar biographies of women from other times and places in church history.


Of Cuddles and Babies and Leaving the Dishes.

After the initial shock has worn off, I find that I am anticipating a brief return to the life of floppy newborn snuggles and baby delights. While knowing that I will have a teenager and a threenager at the same time is daunting, I also know how very, very quickly those intense, tiny years fly by. Soon I will blink and this bonus doodle will also be potty trained and beginning to read and able to buckle his/her own car seat. I know how quickly the years pass because I have already flown through them once. As a seasoned traveler, I am less anxious this time around (please remind me of this when I re-enter the potty training years.)

There is a temptation, I think, for those of us through those years, especially those who look on those years through the tinted lenses of nostalgia or regret, to try to encourage new mothers by reminding them of how short the years are. Sometimes those encouragements come in the form of “reminders,” in many and varied poetic form, that babies won’t stay babies, along with an admonition that everything else will still be there when the baby grows up. The result, unfortunately, is that when you’re washing dishes, so the rest of your family doesn’t get food poisoning and die, you hear this poem in your head and feel guilty for not rocking that baby who will be grown so quickly, but when you’re rocking and feeding and walking and bouncing that baby so many times you’re feeling guilty for not cherishing it all in your heart. Not so encouraging in those fragile months of limited sleep and hormonal unrest.

Here is what I know going into the baby years again, that I wish I had known the first time around. Maybe this will help someone walking those sleepless floors, wearing exhaustion and spit up.

The baby years are short, but these aren’t the only snuggles you will have. This completely dependent little one will grow up so quickly you will wonder where it went, but my nine year old mackerdoodle still holds my hand crossing the grocery store parking lot. The cheesedoodle will turn eight in two weeks, and he still wants to start his morning with a mama snuggle before breakfast. I haven’t walked a floor to calm a child in years, but every time I sit down at least one child wants to sit beside me, and rest a head on my shoulder, or a hand on my arm. Yes, the baby years have a sweetness to them unlike any other, but so do all the other stages. This is not the only shot at sweetness.

Yes these years pass quickly, but the beauty of parenting doesn’t pass with them. They won’t always need your hand, but they may still choose to hold it. Soon you won’t be able to carry them to bed at night, or sling them up on your shoulders, but you will continue to carry them in ways too numerous to count. They won’t always call out for you in the middle of the night, but they will still want to tell you about their dreams (real and imagined) in the morning. They won’t always need food at inconvenient times and places, but that bonding over a meal isn’t going away soon. It’s true that “babies don’t keep,” but the love and the beauty and uniqueness of motherhood grows with them. Even those tasks you may feel are sucking away precious memory time will become side by side moments of learning, and chatting, and “soul snuggling.”

Hold the baby, rock the baby, and wash a dish or some clothes, or wipe some dust along the way. This adventure is a marathon, not a sprint.


This Wasn’t How I Thought This Life Would Go

Jonathan and I married 22 years ago this month, and like all newly weds we had big plans for our life. Among the certainties we presented to God, were the following:

  1. Jonathan would be a youth pastor forever, because youth ministry wasn’t just a stepping stone to “something bigger and better.”
  2. We would be young parents. Our four children would be born before we hit our 30’s so we could be grandparents in our 40’s.
  3. We were never leaving Canada.
  4. We would never renovate a house, or farm sheep.

In case you’re new here, I’ll remind you that we have, thus far, managed to not farm sheep. We hit our tenth anniversary, still childless, and Jonathan leaving his youth pastorate at the beginning of what would be a five year theological overhaul. One would think I would have learned not to give God absolutes. Still, I continued to be surprised when my plans were not His. Here I sit, approaching 43, expecting my own bonus doodle, instead of the granddoodle of my initial plans, and I find myself thinking “but this wasn’t my plan. This wasn’t how life was supposed to go.”

Almost nothing about the life I have now is the life I pictured then. I “should” be published. I “should” have teenagers in an excellent Christian school on whose PTA I would gladly serve. I “should” . . . does it even matter? The point is, I’m not.

And still, as I look back over 22 years of “shoulds,” I am struck also by the things I never saw coming. Would anyone who knew me even ten years ago have anticipated that I would own three separate rolling pins for three separate baking tasks, and use every one regularly? Would the naive almost 21 year old who walked that aisle have anticipated the day she/I could gut, skin, and process both large game and small animals and birds for our family’s consumption?  Hardly. My political shift from liberal to angry conservative to undefinable was probably not as surprising to others as it was to me. However, I know that no one could have foreseen the day in which I found joy and peace within the bounds called “confessional.”

I didn’t set out to be a confessional Presbyterian, any more than I set out to spend ten years of life infertile, but the journeys are not separate. This isn’t the life I set out to live. This isn’t the road map I unfurled at the dawning of my early adulthood. It doesn’t even look like the same country, some days. Still, I wouldn’t trade it. Some of the greatest beauties of my life and things that stir my soul today couldn’t even be found on that first path. The things in which I delight today are things I didn’t even know I wanted then.

So six months ago it wasn’t my plan to have a baby in my 40s. What joy and delights are to come that I cannot anticipate? This bonus doodle follows in a long line of things I receive from the Lord that I didn’t know I wanted. Some of those things have been terribly painful, and the heavy hand of providence may lay on this too. Even so, all things considered, He has continued to make my boundaries lie in pleasant places. This isn’t the way I thought my life would go, 22 years ago, 10 years ago, 6 months ago. This wasn’t my plan. What a comforting place to rest.


Seasons

TrueTone colors give way

to technicolor and neon

that fades past time bleached

into sepia tones

and finally black and white
with occasional wan water color tint

A lilac sunset the only reminder

of the pencil green shading to come


Book Review of Simonetta Carr’s Martin Luther

luthercoverIt’s been years since I have reviewed a book, but for Simonetta Carr I will break my blogging silence. There are two factors that have changed in my life since I posted my review of Carr’s biography of Knox. First, I have been homeschooling for three years, and secondly, I now have two avid readers, instead of three non-readers.

The first has informed how truly rare these books are. Trying to find a church history curriculum for elementary students has not been difficult. It has been impossible. Carr’s biographies are hands down the best elementary church biography resource available. I appreciated her work two years ago. I treasure it now.

Secondly, I now have two more avid readers living in my house. It is one thing to love a book as a read aloud to children. It is entirely another to have one’s nine year old announce at supper, “Did you know the doors to the Wittenberg cathedral burned in a big fire?” Both the nine year old mackerdoodle and seven year old cheesedoodle were able to read and comprehend the material, while the text is engaging enough for adults to study and enjoy. One can suspect the readability of material, but only real world reading by real world children can prove it.

Now, the story of Martin Luther is a tricky one to tell, especially to children. There is so much more than nailing theses, and much of the things we think we know about Luther aren’t true. Carr’s biography is faithful to the true story of Martin Luther. She includes the well known elements of his life, like the thunderstorm commitment to monasticism, and his nailing 95 theses to a door, and his statement to the Diet of Worms (excluding the oft quoted, but historically inaccurate “here I am, I can do no other.”). She also includes the peasant’s revolt,  the death of two of his children, and his treatise against the Jews later in his life. These elements of Martin Luther’s life are all presented in a gentle way, appropriate for children, while still being faithful to the subject.

Like in her biography of Knox, Carr humanizes Martin Luther. With Knox she made sympathetic an often vilified man. With Luther she makes ordinary a man who has been made so much larger than life. This is, interestingly, more difficult. Luther was a larger than life character. He used large and dramatic language. He had large and dramatic emotions. His life was a large and dramatic one. It is easy to forget that in the midst of that he was a father, husband, and teacher. Simonetta Carr brings that Luther to life. Carr’s other biographies serve as a sort of introduction to faithful men and women in church history that have been forgotten or misrepresented in our modern time. Her biography of Luther serves, instead, as an anchor amidst the hype that surrounds the name “Luther.”

However, to truly appreciate what drove Martin Luther, and some of the events in his life, I think some of that bigness needs to find a place in the story. As I mentioned in my review of Luther on the Christian Life, one of the driving forces in Luther’s theology was the idea of Anfechtungen, or emotional distress that pushes us always to our need for Christ. Luther’s struggle to direct and master his emotions in biblical ways is instructional, even for children. However, no biographer can include the details that every reader believes to be most important. The lack of that aspect of Luther’s life does not diminish this work.

Finally, in reviewing past biographies, I have been remiss not to mention the excellent illustrations contained in each of the books of the series. There is joy in a beautiful book, and this entire series is beautiful, from binding, to font choice, to illustrations. Troy Howell’s work is truly excellent.

 

I received no compensation for this post. I was provided an hard-cover edition for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one. I keep a disclosure statement here.


Some Thoughts on Silence and the First Commandment

Despite my promise almost a year ago to blog more, I clearly haven’t done that. I have a lot of thoughts – more questions than answers, more re-examining ideas than firm convictions these days. I have been asking the question “why do I believe that?” and seeking the answers in the scriptures and the writings of old dead men who knew far more than I do. In all of this, I have maintained an ambivalence to documenting even the common elements of my life, without really knowing why I couldn’t put fingers to keys.

Recently, however, I have found some clarification in the Westminster Larger Catechism. Like the Shorter, the Larger Catechism studies the Ten Commandments in depth, as a guide for holy living. In question 105 What sins are forbidden in the First commandment, I was struck by two points in a litany of ways in which we place other gods before our True God. The answer includes: “using unlawful means, and trusting in lawful means;” and “ . . . corrupt, blind, and indiscreet zeal;“.

I have been guilty of corrupt, blind, and indiscreet zeal in my life. I once described myself on this very blog as having a theology of mustard. I wasn’t really exaggerating. There have been a lot of things in my life that weren’t necessarily idols, until I began to pursue them with the zeal for which I should pursue the things of God. I have approached everything from mustard and coffee to literature and politics with corrupt, blind, indiscreet zeal, while too often approaching my Creator with lukewarm indifference. That corrupted zeal was also applied, far too often, to blogging and writing. That corrupted zeal would be the definition of false worship was convicting in a particular way, because the reason I had originally been reading the Larger catechism was not to learn more about how I could serve my God. Instead, I had turned to it in a corrupted zeal to prove someone else wrong. My heart was reflected back to me, even as it steeped in violation of the law of God.

Within that realization, however, came another. The things that define my life at the moment – being a homeschooling pastor’s wife – are the subject of much blind and indiscreet zeal themselves, and the subject of much “trusting in lawful means.” I am silent on those points, both in person and online, largely because I don’t want two issues of circumstance to define who I am. I am casting about for a larger definition of myself, and coming up with things that don’t fit so neatly into a blog post. I am weary of corrupted zeal both in myself and in the cyber culture of  blogs and bloggers, and that weariness has led to silence.

I have decided to spend some more time with the Larger catechism, seeking truth, not vindication. In the mean time I am dwelling on Ecclesiastes 5:2

“Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”


A Needed Adjustment in Perspective

On Friday we had a speech evaluation for the Cheesedoodle. Getting help for school aged children is more difficult here, but the therapist who has been seeing the Snickerdoodle had agreed to evaluate Cheesedoodle in order to give me tools to help him continue with his speech development. Her words to me at the end of it were an amazing answer to prayer.

She said, “If I didn’t know his history, I would have told you he has no speech issues. He is in the normal spectrum for speech development for a 6 year old.”

“But people still don’t always understand him!” I said.

She leaned across the table, and looked into my mothering soul and said, “He is small for his age, and he is six. People are expecting him to tell them about baseball, or hockey, or his pet dog. They are not expecting him to explain static electricity to them. He is just fine. Keep doing what you are doing. He is an amazing boy.”

So I can hear the chorus of praises from across the continent as people who have prayed for and loved my little boy. This is such a great thing to hear, after all the work and the struggles. It was also exactly what I need to hear at the end of this second full year of home schooling. “He’s fine. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

The truth is, I have spent the last two years feeling ill equipped and unprepared for these uncharted educational waters. I spent three years freaking out about Moriah’s birthday and cut-off dates for school and getting her in the right place. Now we’re homeschooling, where the grades don’t matter. Half of her friends don’t even know what grade they’re in, and no one cares. She’s fine. We’re going to keep  doing what we’re doing.

On the way home, the snickerdoodle was in the back seat singing, “2+2 is 4, 3+3 is 6, 4+4 is 8, 5+5 is ten, 6+6 is Idon’tknow, 7+7 is Idon’tknow, . . . ” She just turned five. I can’t freak out about the “I don’t know”s, when the sane realization is She’s fine. Just keep doing what we’re doing.

In the midst of the weight and lack of definition of homeschooling, it was really nice to have a neutral, non-homeschooling party reassure me that my kids are doing fine, and we should keep doing what we are doing.