The Lady’s Fingerprints—A Tribute to Elisabeth Elliot

Famed author and great resilient woman Elisabeth Elliot died this week at 88 years. I got to meet her years ago. Photo courtesy of YBW Mag.

Famed author and great resilient woman Elisabeth Elliot died this week at 88 years old. I got to meet her years ago when she spoke at Baylor University. Photo courtesy of YBW Mag.

If you scratch beneath those early years, you’ll find the words of Elisabeth Elliot. Her message of relentless hope has carried so many through adversity to the other side of deeper healing.

I spent part of this week looking at skeletons and footprints from Dinosaurs in a museum. It’s fascinating to realize that these animals have left an impression that’s lasted countless years. I also heard sad news of a tremendous author passing away and it made me think—what kind of fingerprint do I want to leave when I’m gone?

That sea foam-green carpeting

When Elisabeth Elliot came to speak at Baylor when I was an undergrad, the news spread quickly and the large white building with high white walls and stained glass was filled to the brim. Somehow, I was lucky enough to sit in the front row. She was a tall, gracefully gray-haired woman with a kind but firm expression and gentle, metered voice.

Her words seemed to cost her dearly, each one measured carefully like ingredients in an intricate recipe. She described waiting to marry her love, and one night when they took a walk in a cemetery and sat down, the moon rose behind them, casting the shadow of a cross between them. He had to go abroad for a while, so she had to learn to wait patiently, she related to the hushed audience. I could almost feel the moonbeams and easily picture the rise and fall of disappointment in her fluttering heart back in the day.

Her mastery of description made me feel like I’d just tuned into a Hallmark show, where the loved ones would be separated. I greatly respected the choices that she made in her youth to strike forward in service and count the cost of her decisions carefully. I’d never heard anything like this before and it had me riveted to the hard wooden seats. Her discussion of her first husband, Jim Elliot, and his tragic death, speared by natives, followed with stories of forgiveness and new beginnings.

As she drew to a close, I remember the feeling of my shoes sinking into the deep carpet as I rose to shake her hand in thanks, never knowing that her words would make a deep mark in my outlook, like my shoe print did in that plush carpeting. If you look carefully, I hope you can still see it today.

“There is a deeper meaning far more and far reaching to God’s protection.” – Elisabeth Elliot

Not so safe, but secure

The thing that spoke to my core was her message of a faith that surpassed circumstances and could survive the worst things in life’s despairing moments. That outlook has been so integral to planting firm roots that weather the storms. For example, this week I found out my father’s having heart surgery, and a dear friend has had a terrible illness that put her in the hospital very unexpectedly.

It’s that watchtower of hope that propels you forward or enables you to really pitch in and help when others may need to see a word-picture of resilience amidst uncertain times.

Elisabeth Elliot has faced so many difficulties, her purity of resolve and source of inspiration speaks whispers of encouragement to me still after so long, like smelling honeysuckle on the evening breeze. I long to sit and be filled with those breezes again, and feel afresh and anew in my outlook. The winds of change haven’t removed this original thought but have shaped it into my own direction.

Living fingerprints

As a gemologist, I’ve studied inclusions, some called fingerprints, inside of beautiful gems. They provide clues to the makeup of the gem and can heighten or detract from their beauty and value. So when I see the beautiful geodes and amethysts as tall as I am, I keep thinking of how to leave a lasting fingerprint that won’t scrub off with Windex.

For me, its writing, making sure I connect with loved ones, playing with my kids, being there for others in difficult moments, and looking for the good in life that I hope will be my fingerprint on those in my circle of readers and friends and family.

What are your fingerprints you hope to leave behind? Who would you give them to and how? What ones do you cherish the most in your life?

_____________________

For more information about Elisabeth Elliot, and to hear an audio lecture very much like the one she gave years ago at Baylor, check out this link here. Be sure to scroll past the intro to her picture to hear the heart of the message.

http://article.wn.com/view/2015/06/16/Iconic_Christian_author_Elisabeth_Elliot_passes_away_June_15/

Here’s also a great article with detailed overview of her life and books by Renee Ann Smith:

http://reneeannsmith.com/a/the-most-remarkable-woman-ive-never-met-or-a-love-story-a-video-and-a-giveaway/

Advertisements

Resilient Summer Reading

Recently I was in Barnes and Noble looking for some inspiring summer reading for myself and my kids. I naturally found myself thinking of authors that I’ve loved in the past. Thought I’d share a few favorites to inspire your reading with deeper significance, as well as examples of resilience that have kept me going through dark years.

Someone asked me recently what the first books I bought after the fires were, and here’s some of my favorites.

For adults:

Francine Rivers' series The Mark of the Lion has helped me through many difficult times.

Francine Rivers’ series The Mark of the Lion has helped me through many difficult times.

The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers

I discovered these incredibly inspiring stories, historical fiction, when I was pregnant with my first son. I’ve re-read them at key moments and found it especially inspirational to think of these characters that endured so much persecution when I needed a new outlook on our challenges after the fires.

If you need an inspiring whisk-you-away story with girlfriends that helps you slow down and appreciate life, these are super.

If you need an inspiring whisk-you-away story with girlfriends that helps you slow down and appreciate life, these are super.

Sisterchicks series by Robin Jones Gunn

These sweet books, where friends over the miles meet up in foreign lands for a meaningful experience have carried me through multiple moves and losses. Her touch with wit and humor are like a rose-scented breeze in summer. She has such a skill with the “beat” or moment a character embraces a hard lesson in life. I’d love to finish collecting these for my library but have several on hand just in case.

What Jan Karon captures in Mitford is as special as apple pie and ice cream. Simply wonderful!

What Jan Karon captures in Mitford is as special as apple pie and ice cream. Simply wonderful!

The Mitford Series by Jan Karon

This small town is so endearing and I feel I know each of her characters. I love how they learn great lessons and continue to grow throughout her whole series. It’s dear to me because my grandmother loved them too and we shared nice talks about these books. A gentle summer read with uplifting points.

For tweens and teens:

When I studied C.S. Lewis in Europe, these were my favorite stories I couldn't put down and helped with understanding much of life.

When I studied C.S. Lewis in Europe, these were my favorite stories I couldn’t put down and helped with understanding much of life.

The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis

It’s that lion Aslan, I can feel his fur and never cease to learn from the Pevensie family’s adventures here. On days when I need a boost, even with my writing, I just read a few pages and remember why I’m doing this. It helps with so many examples for positive parenting, too. We use Eustace’s lessons as a dragon over and again in our home.

There are other favorites, but these were the first in our collection of fiction with deeper meaning and uplifting hope. What authors have helped you in different times of need?

Hope your thoughts are beginning slow down a bit with summer’s arrival and you enjoy the glass being half-full, even if some water has splashed out lately.

Unexpected Hero—Gilbert Blythe, actor Jonathan Crombie

Actor Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert Blythe

Actor Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables.

In our modern society, I hear parents that encourage their kids to read books about vampires and edgy topics to help their daughters learn how to be treated by a man. “I know the blood is terrible, but the relationship is so wonderful. That’s what she needs.” Is this really the best we can do as parents?

This week a wonderful actor, Jonathan Crombie, passed away suddenly. In his younger years he played Gilbery Blythe on the Anne of Green Gables series. His character was so memorable for his pursuit of the red-headed smart girl, and quiet courage, and funny anctics as he grew into a loving man worthy to pursue and marry her.

The way Gilbert loved Anne says a lot to today's girls about how to be treated.

The way Gilbert loved Anne teaches girls about how to be treated.

Here are three things we can learn from his resilient character.

He was her true, “kindred spirit” friend.

Gil competed against her academically and in his younger years tried to captivate her attention this way. Over time, their competition turned to true friendship. He helped her family and brought out the best in her. If you know the series, you may remember he would give her honest feedback, but never tried to crush her spirit with his words.

He was selfless in his giving.

Gilbert showed his unfettered giving when he gave up the teaching post so Anne could care for her aging relatives and be close to Avonlea. His sacrificial giving, in turn, helped Anne to realize her foolishness and see the depths of love and character he had grown into. She was more connected with his giving, and could love him through tough times and illness with this in mind.

Gilbert Blythe: You know, every day I would pick a different memory of you and play it over and over and over again in my mind, until every hair, every freckle, every part of you was exactly as I remembered.

He didn’t try to change her; he just wanted to encourage her to fly.

When Anne showed giftedness in teaching and public speaking, he never tried to discourage this. Instead, he was in the audience or driving her to the event. He appreciated every part of her giftedness. He forgave her impulsiveness. He loved her and wanted to come alongside as partners in life.

Gilbert Blythe: All pioneers are considered to be afflicted with moonstruck madness.

That’s the best kind of love.

It doesn’t take zombies or blood-sucking to look for a great example of selflessness in today’s world. I think Gilbert’s character is so heartwarming because we all want that kind of love and friendship. Unexploited, forgiving, and encouraging in its tireless optimism.

I am blessed to be with my husband, John, who exhibits all these characteristics and more. He always believed in my dreams to reach today’s kids with encouraging stories. He’s only ever given from a place of hope and love. In times of great loss, he’s the first one to have faith and keep us on track with how and why we live.

Teach your daughters to keep looking if their hopes are stirred up to find Mr. Right and they’ve encountered other types of giving. Teach them most of all to find God’s love to fill the void and help them be their own person first before they go looking to be with someone else.

Gilbert Blythe: It’ll be three years before I finish medical school. Even then there won’t be any diamond sunbursts or marble halls.
Anne Shirley: I don’t want diamond sunbursts, or marble halls. I just want you.

Thank you Jonathan Crombie, for embodying in your resilient, gallant character the way girls should be loved. That kind of giving never gets old and encourages us all to be our best.

Be encouraged today.

How did Anne of Green Gables affect you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

All images courtesy of Sullivan Entertainment.

#GilbertBlythe

Goodbye, Mr. Leonard Nimoy

Spock and Captain Kirk, pioneers of fiction and storytelling.

Spock and Captain Kirk, pioneers of fiction and storytelling.

When I found out about Mr. Leonard Nimoy’s passing this week, I had to pause our series to say goodbye. Although we never met, his iconic scenes in the original Star Trek, and especially the recent Star Trek films, have left such a warm and lasting impression on me. I appreciate his contribution to pushing the boundaries of fiction and creating new avenues for expressing ideas.

Soon after I heard the news, I reached out to my father, a serious Trekkie, and had a nice conversation. It might not have seemed like anything earth-shattering, but somehow the Vulcan has always helped Dad and I to connect. You see, I grew up in an area where it rained for months every winter. And my father traveled extensively for work. So when I was in high school, I remember my dad grabbing my hand and saying, “Hey, let’s catch a movie.” And I recall many discussions about what was possible in life and the universe prompted by what we saw in these movies.

I’m grateful for those memories of bonding, since my father was gone so much and it gave us something fun to chat about. Those memories have helped me at key times, like I discussed recently in a Seekerville post (reference at bottom). And perhaps the attitude of an explorer has been helpful not only in facing danger and emergencies, but also in crafting new worlds of my own for my tween novels.

So Thank You, Mr. Nimoy, for your contribution to people’s dreams and sense of hope. For that I am truly grateful. You were a mentor and creator of new possibilities for many.

Our family got to visit the original set of Star Trek soon after the fires.

Our family got to visit the original set of Star Trek soon after the fires.

I posted this on a recent Seekerville blog about taking right turns when difficult times come, and finding ways to bond as a family. You can read the posting here: http://seekerville.blogspot.com/search/label/Elizabeth%20Van%20Tassel.

Photo: courtesy of Star Trek.

Anne’s Green Gable Hope

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

“When I left Queen’s my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.”
– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Maybe it’s my Scottish and English heritage that stressed keeping emotions buckled in, but it really has taken some soul searching to find the right balance of understanding others and listening to God’s still, quiet voice in my life. Often it could be hard to see the potential in new situations or relationships.

I learned so much about accepting my heart-worn-on-my-sleeve outlook from watching Anne of Green Gables. I keep thinking of her “e” on the end of her name and distinctive way of approaching things that may first have seemed jumbled up, but often turned out to be very resilient. My favorite scenes are when she accidentally dyes her hair green, confronts the rude but later wonderful Gilbert, walks the ridgepole and sprains her ankle, saves the baby next door bravely, and so many others it’s hard to count. She would usually bounce back stronger from each roadblock. She faced into each challenge rather than running away from them.

Living through her character’s debacles and successes, Ms. Montgomery gave me a small corner of Green Gables in my heart. I have tried to teach my boys this “best is yet to be” philosophy not as a trite saying, but as a working philosophy in building a new life out of difficulty.

Anne and Diana in the mud

Anne and Diana in the mud

“I’m not a bit changed–not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out. The real ME–back here–is just the same.”
– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

I’m often asked how we have taught our kids to accept change and be resilient. When we’re facing a challenge, I’ll find Bible quotes and books to help us. Regular prayer and keeping “short accounts” really does help spiritually. Our families provide strong role models, too. But sometimes a show like this reminds us to be open to change, rather than fighting it, whether it’s trying a new exotic food or dealing with a difficult person in our lives. It sparks conversations about accepting a limitation, releasing fears, or keeping hope despite the circumstances.

“They keep coming up new all the time – things to perplex you, you know. You settle one question and there’s another right after. There are so many things to be thought over and decided when you’re beginning to grow up. It keeps me busy all the time thinking them over and deciding what’s right. It’s a serious thing to grow up, isn’t it, Marilla?”
– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Anne and Marilla

Anne and Marilla

I am grateful for the “scope of imagination” that this character has lent to my real life and inspired in my imaginary ones for tweens in my upcoming novels. I’m also rather fond of red heads, since we have three in our family and more in the family trees, too.

Wishing you much joy in your holidays, time to sit and brew some tea, perhaps watching a show like this one and remembering to savor the moments ahead.

All images courtesy of Sullivan Entertainment.

 


C.S. Lewis, A Great Mentor

C.S. Lewis talking at home

C.S. Lewis talking at home

 Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it.

It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides;

and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become. -C.S. Lewis

When I was in college, I spent one wonder-filled summer chasing after C.S. Lewis’ inspirations on a study abroad program in London and the outlying areas of England. Little did I know that the Lord was planting many seeds of inspiration for writing my own novels to encourage and entertain today’s youth.

That summer, my grandfather had suddenly passed away, two weeks before I was to travel abroad. It was a very sad time, with much change on the doorstep of my life. I vacillated about whether to remain home or leave for an adventure. Studying abroad was the last gift my Grandfather Scott gave me, and writing the check one of the last things he did. I’ve never taken that lightly.

For three months, I read Lewis’ children’s fiction, adult fiction, and a selection of his nonfiction about grief, miracles, the basics of Christianity. You can’t confront his ideas and not be changed in some fashion. There I was, fresh from the despair of loss, thrust into Lewis’ world, seeing potential in simple things, confronting the big questions and deciding what I really thought about life, death, afterlife, and having more meaning in my life.

Seeing the lion carved in a wall that inspired Aslan; walking around the pond where he dreamed up his lakeside creatures; sitting in his pew at church; visiting where he taught at Oxford and Cambridge Universities; hiking on mountains in Wales where he read Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey by Wordsworth; hearing how he raised two children after his late-in-life wife died of cancer—well all of these things changed me at my core.

He’s one of my great heroes and I wanted to share him with you today as you face your struggles and joys. His writing and calling have reminded me at key junctures to strive for a meaningful life, not anchored in past challenges. I hope he will inspire you too.

Do you have a special C.S. Lewis memory to share? I’d love to hear from you.

C.S. Lewis taught at Oxford and Cambridge.

C.S. Lewis taught at Oxford and Cambridge.

His home, the Kilns

His home, the Kilns

Photos courtesy or C.S. Lewis Institute.