Struggle is just one part of the story

Did you ever read “The Girl of the Limberlost” by Gene Stratton-Porter when you were growing up?  The blurb on the back of the book boils it down to a tale about a girl with a harsh mother creatively providing for herself to obtain an education, but it is a tale of grief, pain, selfishness, and ultimately, healing.  I’m going to spend the next few posts considering the arcs of Elnora (the main character), her mother Kate, and Miss Edith Carr and how each woman struggles and grows through the story. 

Elnora Comstock falls in line with many quintessential “American” hero stories.  She comes from a difficult life and through creative thinking and hard work is able to be successful in the world, much to the surprise of her mother.  She is kind and always open to helping others, which quickly gains her the love of those who know her–her mother being the one exception.  She would be welcomed by modern women for her self-reliance and determination to find her way in the world on her own, but she then surprises the modern reader though in her eventual reconciliation with her Mother.  Our culture is often so greatly focused on leaving unhealthy relationships that we forget that there is the possibility for healing in certain circumstances.  The modern reader may also be surprised by Elnora’s personal faith and how this sustains her in difficult times.  We see her reaching out in prayer during times of need and being surprised at how God responds.

So what do we learn from this?

1)  Pain is a double-edged sword that can make people both stronger and weaker.  Elnora did not give up in the face of her pain and found strength.

2)  A little love and caring can go a long way in a hurting person’s life.  Elnora did not receive the emotional care she needed from her mother as she was growing up, but others in the community took the time to provide emotional comfort and to help her care for her other needs.  Though she may not have known it, this helped shape her into a loving person.

3)  Focus on goals rather than limitations.  This led to many opportunities for Elnora.  Certainly she mourned and occasionally despaired over how to achieve her goals, but she never fully gave up hope and (again) she engaged with those around her who were able to offer advice and assistance to help her keep moving forward.

4)  Keep your eyes open to see how God may be working, even in difficult times.  Elnora puts her faith in the Christian God and is surprised by how her simple faith is rewarded via answered prayers.  I realize not all my readers will believe there is truth to this, but I encourage you to be open and look for the influence of God’s providence in your life.

5)  Always remain open to relationships being healed.  Elnora’s mother eventually realized her misguided grief and anger and sought to reconcile with Elnora.  Because Elnora accepted this change in her mother they were both rewarded with healing and reunion.  (Note: this does not mean that all individuals who have been harmful must be accepted with open arms.  Elnora had come to an understanding of her mother’s personal pain and how it drove their separateness, therefore she was prepared to accept the change.)

Take these as points to ponder to see how they might apply to your life.  Is there a child you can give some extra care and support?  Is it time for you to allow healing to melt the resentment in a relationship?  Do you need to focus on hope to help you keep your eyes open for good opportunities?  Elnora’s world had many idyllic outcomes, but we can  aspire to emulate the hope and healing demonstrated in the book.

Take-out version:  Keep your eyes open for hope and healing as you walk through the pain, you may be surprised what you find.

A new story for St. Valentine’s Day

It seems like Valentine’s Day elicits strong emotions all around whether they are happy, angry, or sad.  I’ll admit to not being sure what the origin of its celebration is in U.S. history, but it has become a holiday focused on romantic love, particularly its sexual expression.  We are trained to ignore the other loving relationships in our lives and to feel sad and mopey if we don’t have a date (I’ll admit it, I’ve been there!).  I encourage all who are reading this to take a moment and consider the many individuals in your life who care for and love you–friends, parents, nieces, nephews, co-workers, and beyond.  How would today be different if you focused on the varied ways that you are loved outside of a romantic relationship and expressed your care in return?  If you are in a romantic relationship, what if you focused less on having the “perfect valentines” and more on giving a great valentines?

My main point is not that its bad to be sad or mopey if you don’t have a date or didn’t get a valentine, but that you have the ability to write your own story for today.  We know very little about the actual St. Valentine, so be free to write your own “love story” and let it include the breadth of love and care in your life.  Invite a friend for dinner, fix your pets a special treat, send a valentine to your grandmother, create your own V-day tradition–you might be surprised how much love you have around you!

Take-out Version: Love comes in many forms beyond the romantic–what will your Valentine’s love story be?