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7 Stories that Helped Me Relate to the Poor

EP 7 Stories

I am a very privileged person. Growing up, we may not have had everything we could’ve wanted, but we were never hungry or in need. Poverty was just something I read about in my many, many books. I recently had a conversation with my eleven-year-old sister about why certain people act the way they do. We talked about how much we have to be thankful for and how “hurting people hurt people.” We wound up referencing “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes, a wonderful book about a little girl who wears the same dress to school every day, but claims quite brazenly that she has a hundred dresses at home. This gave me the idea for the post you’re reading. Which stories have helped me relate to and understand the poor? I’m sharing seven that come to mind.

1. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

This winner of the 1945 Newberry Honor is a timeless short chapter book for kids. It is one of those stories which perhaps couldn’t be written for adults, but is easily taken in by children. The story revolves around Polish immigrant, Wanda Petronski, who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress to school every day. To avoid bullying, Wanda claims she has a hundred dresses at home. This story doesn’t not necessarily have a happy ending, but an important lesson is learned by the other girls in Wanda’s class and by generations of readers.

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

After falling in love with the 2005 BBC miniseries, I read this novel during a road trip. Several years later, I still think back on it often. I never expected to find such themes of generosity, fair trading practices and social justice in a book written in 1855. The book itself is fascinating, romantic and well written, but the plight of the factory workers during England’s industrial revolution will stick with me forever.

3. A Christmas Carol (or anything by Charles Dickens!)

While Austen was writing about ballrooms and bustles, Dickens was writing about the grim and grimy lives of those below the poverty line. You’ll see yourself reflecting in the amazing characters in his novels and your heart will go out to every orphan, widow, drifter and pickpocket he concocts.

4. The Rich Family in Church a true story by Eddie Ogan

This story has had a great impact on me personally, ever since I read Eddie’s real-life account online. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but this short tale will touch your heart. What happens when a widow and her teenage daughters try to raise money for a poor family in their church during The Great Depression? You’ll never forget it.

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Well, the reason this book taught me about poverty is probably that this book taught me about everything. I consider this to be my favorite fictional book of all time. The March family is struggling to make ends meet while Mr. March is serving in the Civil War, and yet they are remarkably and realistically generous. I just love it. It will make you want to give your butter away on Christmas. (The movie is also excellent.)

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Though I haven’t read the assumably wonderful book, I adore both the 1998 and 2012 film adaptations. In what I consider to be one of the most incredible stories ever written, you’ll follow the plights of the pure-hearted prostitute, the honest thief who has broken parole, the innocent daughter of swindlers, the once-rich rebel fighter who is willing to lose everything in the name of liberty and an orphan who, against all odds, becomes an heiress. Just. So. Good.

7. George Muller the true biography

A missionary to Bristol’s orphans, George Muller has taught me more about trusting God for financial provision than any other hero I’ve read about. I loved his biography by Janet and Geoff Benge, but I know his autobiography is said to be great as well. Don’t believe in miracles? Read this account.

What stories have impacted how you think about poverty?

12 Book-Inspired Movies for Girls

12 Book-Inspired Movies for Girls

Any day now, my littlest sister should get her travel dates to come home permanently! I’m super excited to have four younger sisters at last. Having little girls in the house (the youngest being nine and eleven) gives me a very heightened sense when it comes to books and movies. I always have my eye out for a good book to read to or recommend to them and the same goes for movies. Not only do I look for good, clean entertainment, but I also try to read the message of the story before tossing it in their direction. Almost every book and movie has some sort of agenda, good or bad, and I want to know what that agenda is before introducing them to a new philosophy!

Though Meggie is only just learning to read English, Jubilee has become quite the bookworm and, consequently, some of their favorite movies are based on books. I’ve composed a list of twelve book-inspired movies for courageous, kind-hearted, young ladies.

1. Nancy Drew (2007)

Though this may come as quite a blow for diehard Nancy Drew fans, this modernized version of her character and new spin on an old story is cute, funny and inspiring. My sister (now nineteen) definitely “channeled Nancy” for a while after this came out, complete with the super blunt haircut! Nancy is fearless, polite, tenderhearted and definitely true to herself. Of course, she completely disobeys her father, but it kind of turns out to be in the name of the greater good? Don’t think too hard on that.

2. Madeline (1998)

This is a classic in my family! When this came out, we recorded it on a tape and kept it at my grandparents’ house next door. I think it was the only movie we watched there for a couple of years and we still love it! Madeline is closely based on the picture books by Ludwig Behelmans and follows the tale of a young, French orphan (with a British accent) who laughs at the face of danger, makes friends, and goes on a thrilling adventure. Madeline really shows some strong character traits, especially in regard to a dying elderly woman and her bitter husband. This movie is both light and sweet with a good message. Leaves you feeling happy. “I see trees of green, red roses too…”

3. A Little Princess (1995)

Based on the classic Frances Hodgson Burnett book, A Little Princess follows young Sara Crewe who is left in at an upstanding boarding school while her single father fights for the Queen. Though she starts off very wealthy and naive, she learns that there is more to life than pretty things when her father is reported MIA and her funds run out. Sara exhibits a wonderful imagination, a strong sense of friendship and above all else, hope.

4. Ramona and Beezus (2010)

I was very pleasantly surprised by this movie! John Corbett as Mr. Quimby has to be one of my favorite TV/Movie-dads ever. I enjoyed watching this right along with my little siblings. Ramona’s antics are hilarious, horrible and completely well-intended. She deals with feeling left out, trying to get along with an almost-grown up Beezus, “losing” her dear aunt to romance and loving her enemies. Great flick.

5. Kit Kitteredge (2008)

Again-I was surprised by how good this one is. Based on the American Girl series, Kit Kitteredge follows the story of a young, depression-era heroine who wants to be a journalist. The cast of character is marvelous, along with the big names chosen to play them (including Joan Cusack, Julia Ormond, Stanely Tucci, Willow Smith, Colin Mochrie, Wallace Shawn and more!) When times get tough, Mr. Kitteredge goes to Chicago to look for work and Kit and her mom open up their home to boarders. The adventure, mystery and comedy that ensue is worth watching! So adorable.

6. Anne of Green Gables (1985)  (and “The Sequel” 1987)

You saw this coming, didn’t you? The first two movies are sublime. Cheesy? Yes. Sentimental? For sure. Required? Oh yeah. I love the classic series by L. M. Montgomery and the movies do not disappoint. These are great for adolescents (may lose the attention of wee ones) and deal gently with “coming of age” issues. These are so funny and always make me choke up. I want to be Anne.

7. Ella Enchanted (2004)

Anne Hathaway rocks the princess thing, yes? This is a retelling of Cinderella…with a big twist. And a touch of 70’s flair too! Ella is cursed with the inability to disobey, even when she’s told, for example, to “hop along”! I love this movie because it’s still funny now that I’m an adult and ends in a dance party. Not to spoil anything, but Ella bravely breaks her own curse and saves the kingdom. It rocks.

8. National Velvet (1944)

This may be slightly lesser known to today’s young movie watchers, but it’s a classic here. Elizabeth Taylor debuts alongside Mickey Rooney in this adaptation of the classic book. Young Velvet is obsessed with horses and dreams of having one of her own. When, by chance, she wins the frisky troublemaker dubbed “Pie” in a raffle, she is determined to have it race. Rooney plays a tramp with a mysterious past who reluctantly helps Velvet train Pie for the races while her English Channel-swimming mother inspires her to pursue her biggest dreams. You’ll be rooting for Velvet and Pie all the way through!

9. Little Women (1994)

Based on my all-time favorite novel, this movie attempts to tell the story of Louisa May Alcott’s famous March sisters…and does a pretty good job of it! My sisters and I traditionally watch this every winter (AFTER it gets cold) and laugh and cry along with Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Nothing beats this real-life-inspired story of family, courage, growing up, poverty, dreams, romance, disappointment and perseverance. Enough said.

10. Pollyanna (1960)

First of all, if you haven’t read the book, it was much better than I expected it to be. Well-written and interesting. Of course, the Hayley Mills adaptation is a classic in it’s own right. I haven’t seen this in a long time because we only have it on VHS (or, as Jubilee would say, “fat movie”,) but I’ve always loved it. Pollyanna hasn’t had an easy life, but she has a cheerful disposition that cannot be snuffed out! She goes to show that our attitudes change everything, including the people around us.

11. Felicity (2005)

Another movie based on an American Girl series (and my favorite one, at that,) Felicity is the story of a Revolutionary War-era young patriot. Felicity has an awesome adventure (you will have an urge to sneak out in britches to care for an abused horse after you watch it) and learns so much about friendship, loyalty, selflessness and courage. This film isn’t made in the same quality as Kit Kitteredge, but you’ll get to see a young Shailene Woodley show of her budding acting skills and, if you’re like me, feel your heart burst a little as the credits roll.

12. The Secret Garden (1993)

Another movie based on a Burnett novel, this is a strange and wonderful movie. Maggie Smith plays the uptight head of housekeeping at the gloomy mansion where the recently orphaned Mary is sent to stay in the care of her distant uncle. The unique thing about this story is that Mary does not start of charming and delightful…at all. She is spoiled and lonely and angry and dull. But the transformation of the neglected garden she discovers is reflected in her very heart, and the unusual friendships she develops along the way are magnificent. The feeling of the movie is somewhat reminiscent of Jane Eyre for children. Very English and suspicious. The story itself is wonderful for anyone who will take the time to really listen to it.

That’s 12 Book-Inspired Movies for Girls! What would add to the list?


what the transfiguration taught me about blogging

smart phone photo

One day, Jesus and I walked to the top of the mountain and Jesus was transfigured, showing me all of His glory. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared and they started chatting it up like old times. And I said, “Jesus, it is a good thing I’m here, because I have an iphone and this totally needs to be on Instagram!”

Besides the fact that it was actually Peter and not me, this story is pretty much a retelling of the true transfiguration story in Matthew 17. The actual scripture sounds just as ridiculous.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

It may sound like a stretch, but this is what the transfiguration taught me about blogging. Peter has just seen Jesus Christ transfigured and Moses and Elijah, both long-dead, standing and speaking, and yet it isn’t until God Himself speaks from a cloud in heaven that Peter falls on his face. First, as my Bible says in the notes, he desires to set up an appropriate memorial for this moment.

I love that it says that God interrupted him. Memorials are all fine and dandy, but Peter was, as is the often the case with myself, missing the point. God commands Peter and the other present apostles to listen to His son. They fall on their faces and, when they look up, see nothing but Jesus. This is exactly as it should be. We hear from God and fall down and worship, seeing only Him. And yet, I think we have a tendency to go with Peter’s first inclination.

Something amazing happens: a mountain top moment. I hear from God! I witness a miracle, receive a message, see a vision. The next thing I want to do is blog about it, tweet about it, instagram it. I want to share with the world immediately! What great blog fodder that was, God! Now I’ll help you out by spreading that message to the world via social media! It’s a good thing I was there, because this needs to be documented!

Here God, let me tag you in this picture so all the world may glorify you! Let me hashtag #thewondersofyourname that we might worship you! Let me get the SEO just right on this post so we might share your good news! And then God knocks me on my face and says, “This is my son we’re talking about. Listen to him.”

And I lie there panting in the dust for a moment before Jesus touches me and says, “Rise and have no fear.” And for a beautiful moment, I’m actually focused on Him.

Not focused on being a Christian, but on being in the presence of Christ. 

It is so much easier to talk about God and tweet about God and use God as a marketing tool than to actually see Him. It is so much easier to “live the Christian life” than to fall down in his presence and listen to him.

As they walked down the mountain that day, Jesus and James and John and that guy Peter with whom I often relate, Jesus tells them not to tell this story until later.  It was not the time or the place to whip out the smart phones. It was not their story to tell. He would be glorified later, He assured them. And after seeing him “transfigured before them,” his face shining like the sun and his clothes white as light, you’d think they’d trust him on that one. You’d think I would too.

We serve an unseen God who listens to the prayers of unseen people in unseen places and works unseen miracles. Everything that happens on this earth is preparing us for an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Just wait for that weight of glory, beyond all comparison. I don’t think social media will even cross our minds when that day comes.

P.S. I understand the irony of this blog post about something God taught me. That’s really not the point either. We are told to share the things God teaches us, but more importantly, we should worship God. He put this on my heart many months ago, perhaps this was the right time to share? 

an announcement:

My little sister has, in the recent years, become quite the movie geek. Our family rule is that if she hasn’t heard of it, it doesn’t exist. She even tells us when trailers are scheduled to be released. It’s a little crazy. But now she has a new blog, “Moving Picture” where she talks about all things movies and even gives her personal, much-coveted opinion on a few flicks.

Check it out!



This post contains confessions about Chicken Helper, Chocolate Chip Waffles and ABC’s “Once Upon A Time”. Be prepared to judge.

During my week of being “Marmee” I’ve learned to take things day-by-day. Things have really gone quite smoothly this week, though we do miss our parents very much and I can’t say that there haven’t been a few moments in which I’ve looked for them and thought “What am I supposed to do?”

I think one of my best choices this week was to read Willin and Jubilee Aunt Nancy and Old Man Trouble before they went to bed one of the first nights. This is a story about how to stay positive when things go wrong. I love it-clever and cute. Old Man Trouble definitely tries to sneak into Eyrie Park whenever my parents leave, but I think we’ve kept him away pretty well through prayer, positive attitudes and preparation. 

Another choice that I’m very glad I made was to cook every day this week. Actually, today I made curry chicken salad sandwiches for lunch, so that can’t really count as cooking. But on the other hand, I plan to cook dinner on Monday, which will mean that I’ll cook seven times before my parents get home. Not to mention those chocolate chip waffles…

I have really enjoyed planning meals, gathering ingredients, grocery shopping, posting the menu, cooking, serving (and eating!) this week. It’s been fun and made me feel productive. It’s something that is necessary yet can be enjoyable when well organized and the whole family gets to enjoy the results. The best thing about this week has been that I’ve known exactly what my priorities were to be-taking care of the family. I didn’t have to wonder if I should schedule in writing or reading or anything else that I normally try to do for myself because I knew that that wasn’t my priority. And I (as you can see) have found spare time to write anyway. 

{Above: Marmee prepares to leave her daughters in charge of Orchard House while she visits Mr. March in the hospital. I may or may not pretend to be one of the March girls while I take care of Eyrie Park…}

So here’s the Day-By-Day of my week, for anyone who is interested:

My parents left in the afternoon, flying out of our local airport. That day I took all of the Christmas decorations down, did a lot of cleaning and rearranging and washed all of the sheets. This is also the day that the rabid raccoon met his fate on our deck. I made the Boredom Solution Jars that night.

Baked potatoes, bacon, fixings and salad

Joey, Sabrina, Donavan, Birdie and Sam all read the instructions for “Diplomacy” while I worked, played, ate, slept and thanked the Lord that I didn’t get involved. The game is still not over. Meanwhile, I taught Willin and Jubilee how to play “Battleship.” This is a war game that I approve of. 

Tortilla Soup with the help of Birdie. Of course, it isn’t really tortilla soup at all (we’ve changed it so much) so we should call it Spicy Vegetable Soup. Plus chicken, in this case. Served with chips and cheese. Yummy!
Donavan also brought two rotten bananas which were married to our one rotten banana in a delicious bread.

I went to the grocery store twice (forgot to get extra sour cream after some of it was used on left-over potatoes) and cooked, did laundry and probably played games or watched a movie (don’t recall.)

Sour Cream Enchiladas, salad, chips. Then Marie Calendar provided us with an apple pie. Blue Bell ice cream tagged along as well…

My parents celebrated 27 years of marriage!
My friend M. came over and helped me cook dinner. She also introduced me to Deanna Durbin movies (which I now love.) I couldn’t remember the name all evening and kept calling her Debbie Durrant. Then we ate dinner, talked about life, made no-bake cookies and promised to see each other again before she has to be whisked off to college. It was very nice “taking an evening off.” The diplomats focused on the war and I again praised God that I didn’t get tied into that days before…

Fettucini Alfredo, spinach and dinner rolls. I’m not going to lie…I had a “helper” with this one. “Chicken Helper.” Actually, I was nervous about this because it was my first time to use “Chicken Helper.”
But, no shame…no shame!
Also: Birdie made no-bake cookies. Yum!

Deanna Durbin (middle) in “Three Smart Girls”

My sisters and I watched “Little Women” which is tradition to be watched with sisters during the Winter. Of course, it was in the 60’s outside, but we imagined that it was bleak out. We all got choked up at the right parts and then ranted and raved afterward. Then Jubilee put on a long, plaid nightgown and asked to carry a candle to bed. We, of course, accommodated her. 
Also, my wonderful brother-in-law took my younger brothers to the park to rollerblade. This was a huge help!

Baked parmesan tilapia, steamed broccoli and yellow squash and rice. This meal was so easy and successful! And at dinner time, I ruined the healthfulness of this day by giving into my craving for chocolate chip waffles.

Sabrina and Donavan were so kind as to take Jubilee off of my hands for a while. She had a blast getting a banana shake from Sonic, flying a kite in the park, rolling down hills (her hair tells the story) and coloring at their awesome apartment. 
I, meanwhile, got to sneak out and meet M. for coffee. Only, neither of us really drink coffee. Smoothie, java shake and conversation were all excellent. 

Well, nothing really. But I did whip up some delicious Curry Chicken Salad which we ate on crescent bread. We paired this with dill pickles and lemon iced tea and picnicked on the deck until it got too hot and we came inside. Yes, January 6th and I was sweaty.

Happenings Plans:
Church, Beth over to watch at least part of “Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel” (we’re on a girl movie kick with Jubilee…she says that “Pride and Prejudice” has to be next!) Then dinner and “Once Upon A Time.” Because yes, we watch a show on ABC. It’s true. I’m sorry. We know it’s dumb but still look forward to it all week. Judge away. 

Cooked: Supposedly Cooking:
Stir fry with chicken, rice and sauce. Yummy, easy, healthy and did I mention yummy?
This meal is my childhood enemy turned lover. 

Monday Again:
Chores, babysitting, grocery shopping, cooking, welcoming my parents back at last!

Supposedly Cooking:
Yet to be decided. Any suggestions?


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