Category Archives: Memoirs

Nana Time and Time Outs

I know that all grandparents thinks their grandchildren are the sweetest, most clever and most fun children in existence, proving their undying devotion by carrying around photos (mostly on their cell phones these days), and making smart remarks like, “If I’d known how much fun grandchildren were going to be, I’d have skipped being a parent the first time and just gone straight to being a grandparent.”  I assume that means that it’s much easier to “love ’em and leave ’em,” or—when a grandchild pitches a fit or needs a diaper change, you can hand them off to their parents…enjoying all the benefits without any of the responsibilities.  I’d been enjoying the luxury of such easy relationships with my grandchildren until the day after Baby Marius was born. That night, Grace spiked a fever, and the next day Michael took her to the hospital, where she remained for three days. Because the baby wasn’t born at the hospital, Grace didn’t end up in the Ob/Gen unit, so in order for Marius to be with Grace, Michael had to stay at the hospital with them to care for the baby.  This left me actually responsible—HOME ALONE— with the four older grandchildren. I hadn’t been completely responsible for four youngsters since my first four were kids, which was 35 years ago. (Well, even if I think about the youngest four of my seven, that was still 27 years ago.)  Here they are:  Eowyn is an angel. If it hadn’t been for Eowyn, life would have been very trying! She’s only 10, but she’s a tireless helper, knows where everything is and how all the family routines go.  She would read to the smaller kids and has such a gentle, kind spirit. Eowyn used to write me almost every day, but she’s started writing more serious stories, so she passed the baton (cell phone) to Nycteris, who has become my Foreign Correspondent, sends me notes and pictures, and helps me feel like Michael’s family isn’t so far away…even though they are! (For instance, she recently gave me a walking tour of their new home in Belgium!) Nycteris is also an able helper and was especially good with Paladin when I wasn’t sure how to handle him.  Judah is very sensitive and sweet. He’s a builder/engineer type, plays peacefully by himself for hours if left to his own devices (as did his father), and takes a lot of abuse from his little brother with way more patience than I would have, had I ever been an older brother!  Paladin will be wonderful, I am sure, but at age three, he was not at all with the program. Having a new baby, losing both his mother and father to the hospital, inheriting a Nana whom he’s only met a few times, having the house in a bit of an uproar as they were packing to move, trying to survive 98°heat every day and about the same in humidity… It was a big challenge for all of us, but for Paladin, it was almost more than he could handle. So, instead of tucking under my wing and enjoying his doting Nana, he decided to act out by throwing rocks at his sibs or attempting to beat them with sticks…or whatever.  Now, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to discipline, but I was afraid he was actually going to hurt the kids, so when he’d fly into a fit, I’d grab him and hold him on my lap until he settled down. I would say (as cheerfully as possible), “You must need a Nana Time Out!”  At first he would struggle and try to bite me to get away, but thankfully, he was small enough that I could hold him on my lap and avoid his teeth. In a few minutes, he’d settle right down, and after a hug and a kiss, we’d be friends, and he’d be calm.  After about the third tantrum, he stopped picking fights with the kids, and we all got along very well the rest of our time until Mike and Grace returned with Baby Marius…all fine and well!  Whew! It was just great to have them back and relax into chief helper and side kick rather than needing to parent the kids. It reminded me again just how exhausting and challenging it is to be a parent. God bless all you parents out there! Thank you for hanging in there 24/7 to love and guide your children!  Also, it made me appreciate what a good parent my heavenly Father is, who also holds me in his mighty arms. When I was young, he often had to hold me tight when I’d pitch a fit, although more often nowadays, I just curl up on his lap for comfort!

“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

No More Sixteen Going on Seventeen: Meet Number Seventeen!

Last Thursday I left off my tale at the point where my over-due daughter-in-law and I had just spent a marvelous day at Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (Padova, Italy) but had no clear memory of how to retrace our steps to find our car, wherever it had been parked on some side street with a name we couldn’t recall.

Truly, I attempt to practice the advice to “pray without ceasing,”  but normally there are many lapses. Not so this late afternoon! “Which way, Lord? Ah, I remember that shop. Now what? Which way did you say? Down there? Oh, yes, that patch of grass looks familiar. Thank you. Oooo… I don’t remember anything here…” About then Grace would remember something, and together the three of us (Grace and I, led by the Holy Spirit) slowly made our way back to the car.  Thank you, Father! Grace was super tired but still not having contractions, so we drove through quite a thunderstorm the forty miles back to Vincenza, where we were greeted by our family and this rain-drenched rose. We stopped briefly on our way home to buy some herbal teas and other homeopathic medicines the midwife suggested to stimulate contractions, and I picked up a tiramisu to thank the home team for letting us be gone all day. The night passed quietly, but just as we were getting ready to leave for church Sunday morning, Grace’s water broke, and eventually (with the help of two midwives and a lot of hard labor), their new baby was born at home. So, welcome to the family, Baby Marius Rive! His first name is in honor of the character, Marius Pontmercy, who is saved by Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and later marries Valjean’s daughter. Grace had just finished reading the book and felt that Marius was going to carry on his father-in-law’s legacy of grace and forgiveness. “Rive” is an ancient french word that means “river bank,” and Michael and Grace put the two names together as a blessing and prayer that Marius Rive will be like a river bank to channel God’s grace and forgiveness to others. Isn’t that beautiful?

Channels Only
(Mary E. Maxwell, 1900, Public Domain;
This song is a great favorite of our family)

  1. How I praise Thee, precious Savior,
    That Thy love laid hold of me;
    Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me
    That I might Thy channel be.

    • Refrain:
      Channels only, blessed Master,
      But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
      Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
      Every day and every hour.
  2. Just a channel full of blessing,
    To the thirsty hearts around,
    To tell out Thy full salvation,
    All Thy loving message sound.
  3. Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
    A clean vessel in Thy hand;
    With no pow’r but as Thou givest
    Graciously with each command.
  4. Witnessing Thy pow’r to save me,
    Setting free from self and sin;
    Thou who bought me to possess me,
    In Thy fullness, Lord, come in.
  5. Jesus, fill now with Thy Spirit
    Hearts that full surrender know,
    That the streams of living water
    From our inner man may flow.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” (Isaiah 41:17-19)

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
(John 7:37-38).

I Have Sixteen Going on Seventeen…It’s Time to Think Babies!

If you love The Sound of Music as much as I do, then there are probably times when some of the musical’s lyrics pop into your head, and that’s what’s been playing in my brain for the past nine months, ever since my daughter-in-law Grace told me that she was pregnant. “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” is the song, but with slightly altered lyrics, because Alan and I have sixteen beautiful grandchildren and are now looking forward to a seventeenth very soon! Mike and Grace are expecting their fifth baby at the end of July. Grace’s mom graduated to glory when Grace was a young teenager, so I’ve had the special privilege of being first on call when they have a new baby. This means I will have been to Philadelphia, Germany, Hawaii, South Korea, and now Italy in the last 11 years! I am overjoyed, but as you might guess, this also means I won’t have time to write much for awhile. If I don’t post, or if I just post a photo and a few lines, know that I’m in my glory enjoying some of life’s best moments and may not have much to say until after Labor Day. I mean, not only Grace’s day of labor, but America’s Labor Day, which is September 3. Meanwhile, God bless you! May you continue with joy on your pilgrimage through this world. I will be trying to follow Jesus. I hope that is your aspiration as well!

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;  To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them”(Psalm 103:17-18).

(P.S.—My son, “Major Michael Armstrong” is not the one with bells ringing over his head. This photo was taken by the wife of the guy with the smooch! My son is really the man on the extreme right side of the photo, and it was taken at a recent graduation from yet another training program which will qualify him for possible promotion.)

Happy Tenth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

Summer has now been setting in my life for many years, and yesterday marked my tenth anniversary of writing “all about it!” With over half a million views and 2,222+ followers, I’m still incentivized to write my heart out when and while I can! Beyond that, people from 215 nations and territories have stopped by at some time or another, which is approaching most of the countries in existence, except for the heart of Africa and Turkmenistan. (This is the beginning of the “Global Map”of visitors to Summer Setting; the complete list of nations is at the end of this post.)

As I prayed about what to write for this personally special occasion, it occurred to me to look back and remember all that God has done for me as I’ve attempted to glorify Him, enjoy Him forever, and share His love with you:

From seven years ago: This is my 365th post since starting to blog three years ago, and I discovered with astonishment and joy that this site  has been visited almost 30,000 times! “Summer Setting” was intended to have a double meaning, expressing both the sentiment that the setting of my life is still sunny and warm—like  summer sunshine—but that I am aging and this wonderful “Indian Summer” season will transition into fall soon.  Like the shimmering sun disappearing behind a vast expanse of ocean, the summer of my life is setting.

I want to thank each person who has cared enough to look in on my life and  walk the pilgrim road with me a little. Thank you for this wonderful privilege! It’s my earnest desire to bring joy to you as I share what I’m learning about the life and love that God has granted me.

Because of my husband’s prostate cancer, I’ve been reading a lot about life and death issues lately. I found this touching quote from Walt Wangerin’s Letters from the Land of Cancer (written as he was preparing to meet his Maker): “Good night, good friends. The nice thing about these letters is that you can quit reading them at any paragraph. No guilt to you, no fear in me that I might have burdened or bored you.”

And so it is with me too! I will begin my “second” year’s worth of letters—casting them into cyberspace like crumbs upon the waters—with the hope of encouraging whomever God sends my way…and very eager to hear anything you’d like to share with me. May the Lord bless you!

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

Fifth Anniversary: Today is the fifth anniversary of my blog. I’ve been blessed by more than 128,000 visits (nearly half of them during this past year) from 168 countries and now have 193 “followers”. . .

It’s a “dream come true” to be able to share God and all He’s done for me with people around the world. When my sister and I were in our early 20’s, we started a trek around the world to share the good news of Jesus, but our mother almost died in a car accident, and so we came home. Probably for the best. She was not a believer at the time (although she did become a Christian before she died, praise God! 🙂  ), and my naive sister and my naive self might have gotten ourselves killed on such a mission. However, the Lord knew our hearts were in it…and still are! So, now, at the tender age of 62, after having reared our brood of seven darlings, my husband has granted me the freedom to write a blog rather than get a full-time job somewhere.

I look at it as being allowed to be a self-supporting missionary of sorts, trying to reach out with the gospel of hope from my desk at home. I don’t suppose my sister Annie and I would have really made it to 168 countries in our trek or have met 128,213 people on our way. Isn’t God amazing? He hears the cries of our hearts and delights to answer. Granted, the answer has come some forty+ years later, and in a way I could never have dreamed, but God is full of surprises and has an infinite number of ways to answer our prayers and fill our hearts with joy! Bless you for being a part. I am so grateful for you and your ministry in my life, too! Thank you for being fellow pilgrims with me through this awesome life!

Eighth Anniversary: On Submitting our Passions to God   Today marks the eighth anniversary of Summer Setting, and I’ve been thinking about how much I enjoy photo journalism. Actually, I love it with a passion. It’s “work” so satisfying that I look forward to it. It’s therapeutic; it energizes me; it makes me feel happy! Reminds me of my son Michael, who got totally splattered with fresh concrete once while helping build a house down in Mexico. Instead of expressing dismay (which was my reaction), he just grinned: “I never knew this mission trip was going to be so much fun!” What can I say? When you feel really passionate about what you’re doing, what’s a little mud on your face?

Ninth Anniversary: April 8 marked the ninth anniversary of my blog, Summer Setting, and it’s still one of the highlights of my daily life! Although my primary goal in writing is an attempt to be faithful to the calling I feel like God has given me, it’s been super rewarding and motivating to check in on my “Stats” page every once in a while. For instance, this past week people from over 60 countries looked at blog posts, and in the last 3 days Summer Setting was accessed over 1,300 times. That sounds like a lot to me, but given that I now have close to 2,000 followers, it also seemed like a curiously small number until I learned from WordPress’s “Happiness Engineers” that their statistics don’t include any of the followers who have asked to have my posts sent directly to their email accounts every day, since they don’t have a tracking system to know who has opened those emails.

 

And, those reminiscences now bring me back to the present! I’ve been struck by several verses from the Gospel of John lately. In all we do—whether it’s writing a blog, studying and trying to grow up, working at a job, taking care of children, sitting in a retirement center or trying to survive in a  refugee camp— may everything we do be to the glory of God and to lift up the name of Jesus! May we seek the honor that comes from God alone, testifying to His Word and His truth, so that others too may know the joy of His salvation and eternal life.

Jesus said, “I receive not testimony from man; but these things I say, that ye might be saved.” (John 5:34) “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44).

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).

 

United States

333438

United Kingdom

20172

Germany

17946

Canada

17192

France

11776

Australia

8483

Taiwan

8263

India

7658

Philippines

4728

South Africa

4030

Italy

3815

Brazil

3385

Netherlands

3069

Ireland

2661

European Union

2632

South Korea

2519

Spain

2518

Russia

2348

Thailand

2345

Japan

2268

Indonesia

2217

Turkey

2071

Singapore

1945

Norway

1827

Poland

1690

Romania

1579

Mexico

1493

Malaysia

1467

New Zealand

1442

Belgium

1425

Sweden

1326

Greece

1204

Switzerland

1202

Hungary

1176

Israel

1075

Hong Kong SAR China

1019

Colombia

959

Ukraine

946

Czech Republic

910

Vietnam

885

Pakistan

854

Austria

828

Argentina

823

Denmark

823

United Arab Emirates

814

Finland

765

Portugal

713

Saudi Arabia

649

Croatia

632

Serbia

600

Bulgaria

596

Slovakia

478

Egypt

463

Trinidad & Tobago

414

Kenya

410

Chile

366

Nigeria

363

Slovenia

351

Tunisia

318

Bangladesh

315

Lebanon

313

Sri Lanka

304

Peru

293

Puerto Rico

284

Lithuania

275

Estonia

260

Jamaica

249

Latvia

249

Kuwait

240

Morocco

211

Georgia

197

Iraq

193

Tanzania

193

Ghana

183

Macedonia

181

Algeria

175

Qatar

173

Malta

164

Jordan

162

China

161

Cyprus

156

Bosnia & Herzegovina

155

Costa Rica

150

Cambodia

148

Ecuador

143

Albania

140

Venezuela

137

Belarus

134

Iceland

115

Nepal

115

Armenia

101

Uruguay

97

Azerbaijan

96

Guatemala

93

Oman

90

Dominican Republic

87

Bahrain

87

Palestinian Territories

85

Myanmar (Burma)

85

Bahamas

83

Luxembourg

81

Honduras

80

Mauritius

77

Uganda

77

Panama

76

Moldova

74

Kazakhstan

67

Bolivia

65

Mongolia

64

Zimbabwe

59

El Salvador

58

Paraguay

57

Botswana

57

Montenegro

56

Barbados

56

Namibia

47

Ethiopia

45

Zambia

44

Brunei

42

Guam

39

Aruba

35

Laos

33

Libya

32

Belize

31

Nicaragua

31

Sudan

30

Maldives

29

Guyana

28

Monaco

28

Syria

28

Madagascar

28

Afghanistan

23

Bhutan

22

Cameroon

21

French Guiana

21

Fiji

21

Curaçao

20

U.S. Virgin Islands

20

Martinique

19

Antigua & Barbuda

18

Guernsey

18

Isle of Man

18

Jersey

18

Cayman Islands

18

Bermuda

17

Mozambique

17

Côte d’Ivoire

16

St. Kitts & Nevis

16

Réunion

15

French Polynesia

15

Uzbekistan

14

St. Lucia

14

Kyrgyzstan

13

Djibouti

13

Guadeloupe

13

Papua New Guinea

13

Macau SAR China

13

Angola

13

Sint Maarten

13

Haiti

12

New Caledonia

12

Suriname

12

Andorra

12

Faroe Islands

10

Yemen

10

Seychelles

9

Benin

9

Rwanda

8

Senegal

8

Lesotho

8

Micronesia

7

Vatican City

7

Turks & Caicos Islands

6

Burkina Faso

6

Solomon Islands

6

Gibraltar

5

Northern Mariana Islands

5

Somalia

5

Liberia

5

Grenada

5

Tajikistan

5

Congo – Kinshasa

5

Gabon

4

Guinea-Bissau

4

Vanuatu

4

Cuba

4

Malawi

4

Swaziland

4

Åland Islands

4

British Virgin Islands

3

Iran

3

Cape Verde

3

Liechtenstein

3

Samoa

2

Greenland

2

Togo

2

Falkland Islands

2

Cook Islands

2

Dominica

1

American Samoa

1

Caribbean Netherlands

1

Tonga

1

Congo – Brazzaville

1

St. Pierre & Miquelon

1

Sierra Leone

1

Gambia

1

Palau

1

Netherlands Antilles

1

North Korea

1

Burundi

1

South Sudan

1

St. Vincent & Grenadines

1

Timor-Leste

1

Marshall Islands

1

Mauritania

1

Prithivi Highway: The Longest (and Most Memorable)110-Mile Bus Trip I’ve Ever Taken

Most of the time we flew between destinations on our tour of India and Nepal, but on one occasion we took a scenic bus trip  along the Prithivi Highway through the rugged terrainbetween Chitwan and Pokhara in Nepal.  It was “only” 110 miles, and according to the literature,  we were supposed to enjoy the ride during the morning,  then arrive at our hotel in time for lunch and spend the afternoon touring. NOT!  It took us 8.5 hours to travel the 110 miles with only two brief bathroom breaks. The temperature was approximately a million degrees out,  and between the heavy traffic,  aftermath of the devastating earthquake in 2015  and intensive road construction,  the air was so full of dust that trying to make out what was happening outside the windows  took considerable concentration and creative imagination… which was particularly taxing considering the state of our bladders on such a rocky road!   (My friend Deb said the bus ride was so bumpy that her Fitbit recorded her as walking 10,000 steps although she didn’t think she’d really walked even 500!) In fact, Alan had to sit in the front seat and also concentrate on not throwing up, since the 600 hairpin turns we’d traveled on Hawaii’s Heavenly Hana Highway had been but scant practice  for surviving this rollicking ride balancing on the edge of the steep gorge overlooking the Narayani River Basin through the foothills of the Himalayan and Annapurna Mountain Ranges,  which are home to eight of the world’s fourteen highest peaks!  However, this trip was not only memorable for the twists and turns as we progressed at a blistering twelve miles an hour  through unbelievable clouds of dust and dirt,  it was also remarkable for a never-ending stream of gorgeous views  that would have taken our breath away  had we had any (which we didn’t, due to elevation and air pollution).  Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the most dangerous road trip I’ve ever taken  —although it possibly was! (Well, maybe my all-time scariest bus ride was in China back in 1995
when our bus’s transmission gave out in high gear)! 😦  And, it might not have been the dustiest ride I’ve ever been on  …although I really can’t think of anything to compete!   On the bright side, we had great air-conditioning, and we were definitely in the mountains much of the time (like, most of the time), which was cooler.  Our driver was amazing, and although he drove as furiously as Jehu, he allowed emergency roadside stops once or twice (but what’s that between friends?). We were also granted two real stops during the 8.5 hours (but what’s that between friends with post-60-year-old bladders full of breakfast coffee?).  Well, we all survived, and as far as I know, nobody threw up or wet their pants. It was also a ride I’ll bet nobody ever, ever forgets  (unless they develop Alzheimer’s).  Would I do it again?  Yes, although with my eyes open and an entirely empty bladder.  Would I recommend it for others? Absolutely!
(Possibly not for those who get motion sick
or have breathing, heart, G.I. or bladder issues.)
Did I learn anything? Yes!  And, if you’re willing, let me share a few of the meditations of my heart  while we bounced along:  Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
(Matthew 5:8, it’s hard to see when the windows of our hearts are dirty.)   “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,
and our bodies washed with pure water
” (Hebrews 10:22). I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom  concerning all things that are done under heaven:  this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13)Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness
unto them which are exercised thereby
” (Hebrews 12:11).  (The Prithivi Highway is going to be one of the world’s most beautiful
when it’s finished!)   “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,
proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb
” (Revelation 22:1). Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst;
but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water
springing up into everlasting life
” (John 4:14).  What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” “I have seen the travail,
which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. 
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time:  “also he hath set the world in their heart,  “so that no man can find out the work that God maketh “from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11).

Dedicating Babies

Yesterday we had the privilege of participating in the dedication of our youngest grand daughter. I know many Christian traditions baptize infants, but we practice “believer’s” baptism instead, which means a person is baptized only after they make a personal commitment to Christ as their Lord and Savior. (The closest thing I can think of—although it’s actually different—is “confirmation” in churches that do practice infant baptism.) In many countries (not only through the centuries but still today), people are not considered true believers (or persecuted as such in hostile countries) until they are baptized, but that is not why we defer baptism. We believe that baptism (and communion) do not have saving value in themselves (“sacraments” which confer saving grace on a person). We believe people are saved by faith alone—their own faith, not their parents—and that baptism is an outward witness to an inner conversion experience that happened instantaneously when the person believed in Christ and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior.However, we do strongly believe in committing ourselves to bringing up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (teaching them about God and his ways), and to this much-prayed-and-hoped-for end—that our children will believe in God and choose Christ for themselves—we dedicate our children to the Lord, committing ourselves as a spiritual community to praying for and participating in the love and training of our children. So, yesterday several babies were dedicated, and among them, not only our grand daughter, but our daughter-in-law’s sister’s baby too! What a very special day of solemnities and joy! Brianna comes from such a big family that we ended up celebrating in two homes afterward, so Elanor got her own cake. Being just six months old, she’d never had cake before but was bound and determined she wanted to try it…and…why not? It met with complete approval, and I hope and pray that as she learns more about the ineffable mysteries and goodness of God, she will be even more delighted and pleased!

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him
(Psalm 34:8).

In Honor of Veterans Day: Out of the Depths

Do you, like me, hate war? Are you looking for something to give you a little hope in the midst of the insanities we’re experiencing around the world? Today I want to join with everyone in our country in honoring those brave men and women who serve in our military, and because it’s Veterans Day, I also want to commend Out of the Depths as one book about war that will leave you with a sense of peace and hope instead of despair. As the author observes at one point, “A man can endure just about anything as long as he has hope. But take away his hope, and all that is left is despair and the relief of suicide.”

Author Edgar Harrell was one of the marines aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis when she was sunk in the middle of the Pacific Ocean by two Japanese torpedoes during World War 2. The ship was sailing through shark-infested waters above the Mariana Trench, and her loss is today considered the greatest single disaster in American naval history.

Harrell’s harrowing account of the lives and deaths of hundreds of men taught me many things. Heroes aren’t just brave, they are “people who overcome evil by doing good at great personal risk.” It taught me more about “Semper Fidelis” (the Marine motto: always faithful). Harrell points out from his own experiences as a young man that the best way to be prepared for war is to be prepared for eternity. He learned that there are not only “no atheists in foxholes” (which we’ve heard since World War 1), but there are also no atheists fighting for their life in the midst of the sea, either.

Out of the Depths is an amazing story of agony, loss, miracles, mercy, grace, peace, hope, and learning to forgive. Does Harrell still have PTSD? Yes. But, he’s learned the secret of how to overcome evil with good…even down to embracing the great granddaughter of the the Japanese captain who sank his ship.

As a girl, I could never read or watch stories about war. They were too terrible. It was like reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (which I could never do either). Instead, it seemed reasonable to simply trust that—like Corrie Ten Boom’s father explained to her—God will give you the “ticket” (strength and grace to endure suffering) when you need it, but not before.

However, once one of my sons joined the military as an army dentist, all that changed, and now I have a deep need to find some hope in the midst of this darkest aspect of history. Out of the Depths helped me, and maybe you’d find it helpful too.One last Veterans Day thought, and then I’ll quit. Like the majority of Americans, I have enough to eat every day and get to sleep in a warm, snug bed every night with a reasonable hope of not being attacked, and that’s a huge blessing… probably more security and freedom than 75% of the world enjoys. As Captain Eddie Rickenbacker said when reflecting on the 21 days he spent floating on a life raft in the Pacific Ocean during World War II:  “The biggest lesson I learned from that experience was that if you have all the fresh water you want to drink and all the food you want to eat, you ought never to complain over anything.” I’ve had nothing to complain about my entire life. Thank you, brave military personnel. I pray for your safety, and for the safety of every godly person in this world, no matter where you live. May goodness and peace triumph over evil and greed.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:9-10).