Pro-Life Stories

After my November post about Fiction & The Sanctity of Life, we all agreed that we like stories that embrace a message of hope and faith. Today I want to share a few pro-life stories that I’ve enjoyed. These books didn’t necessarily set out to promote a pro-life message, but they show what it looks like to value life and fight for hope.

Pro-Life

(more…)

Fiction & The Sanctity of Life: Thoughts After Reading About “Me Before You”

Several months ago, I was scrolling through Facebook when a movie trailer caught my attention. The actor who played Finnick in Mockingjay sat in a wheelchair and smiled at a pretty girl. Even without turning the volume on, it was clear the man in the wheelchair and the girl were falling in love. I smiled a little and moved on.

When I mentioned the trailer to a friend, she told me the movie was sparking a lot of controversy. The story (which I haven’t read or watched) depicts a newly wheelchair bound man and his female caregiver falling in love, but the ending has a big twist. The man decides to end his own live via doctor assisted suicide.

fiction-the-sanctity-of-life

 

(more…)

Words of Radiance: When Right Makes Might … Literally

What would happen if concepts could take near-tangible form and bond with people to lend chosen individuals extra strength and skill? That is exactly what happens in the fantasy world Sanderson weaves for The Stormlight Archives. Spren are the visible representations of concepts like fear, pain, and glory. (In Narnia, Dryads and Naiads are the spirits of trees and water that can take physical form. Spren are similar, but represent intangibles instead of elements of nature.)

words-of-radiance_blog

(more…)

Abigail: There is a God

On October 26, 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before a group of students in Philadelphia and gave a speech that became known as “The Street Sweeper Speech.” He encouraged the young people to tackle their life’s work with gusto.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. —What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?

In Lois T. Henderson’s novel Abigail, the young heroine takes MLK’s message a step further. Faced with an inescapable betrothal to drunken Nabal, Abigail resolves to be a good wife but not with the goal of earning respect for herself. Instead she tells herself,

“I will be a good wife that all the earth will know there is a God in Israel.”

abigail-1

(more…)

Brandi: A Light in the Darkness

Thirteen year old Brandiline Faythe bubbles a zest for life, and–according to her older sister–is the only person capable of making drooling and snoring adorable. She’s a rare type of person in both fiction and real real life–irrepressible, compassionate, and seemingly fearless even when she’s afraid.

Light in the Dark

(more…)

How to Help the Hurting (Lessons from Samara’s Peril)

The Hurting Hero

It’s no secret that I’m a complete pushover when it comes to mistreated people (real and fictional). My brother read Resistance before me. When I started it, he told me he already knew who my favorite character would be–Jace. He was right.

Help the Hurting

The sympathy that fictional characters stir in me has played a large role in shaping my passions. As a twelve-year-old who spent the majority of the summer with her nose in a book, my thoughts and pretend games often revolved around how I would help the characters in my latest story–the lonely orphan, the bullied school kid, the frightened immigrant, the ill-treated slave.

Imagination Grows Up

People often think their imaginations dry up as they transition to adulthood, but maybe they just mature with us. Obviously my brain hasn’t stopped fantasizing over helping fictional people (it’s an author thing). However, I can now use abstract thinking to move that inspiration into the real world.

Jace spends much of Samara’s Peril hurting. He sinks into depression. He battles loneliness. His past haunts him. Jace is fictional, but his struggles are not.

Fictional Spark. Real Action.

I love how persistent Kyrin and Rayad are in loving Jace. Even when he pushes them away and causes them pain, they refuse to let him struggle alone. I love them as characters because of the way they care for others.

What can we do when we close the last page, return to our bedroom from a land of fantasy, and think with a happy sigh, “I want to hug Jace. I want to be like Kyrin and Rayad.”? Just ask yourself, “Who do I know who is depressed, anxious, lonely, scared? How can I love that person?

A Few Ideas

Kyrin nodded and wiped her cheeks as she rose. “Come on. I know it’s hard, but you must eat. You need the strength.” She held out her hand.

Jace gazed at it a moment, and then took it, the warmth and connection like a lifeline to his battered heart. She helped him up and did not let go for a long moment before turning and leading the way downstairs.

Loving doesn’t have to be extravagant or difficult. It doesn’t have to achieve want we want it to (more on that in a moment). It’s all about being aware, attentive, and genuine. Love tells people, “You are not invisible. You are not just part of the crowd. I see you as a unique individual–made in the image of God–and it is my joy to invest moments of my life into yours.”

If you’re at a loss for how to reach out, here are some quick ideas.

  • Send a note. Handwritten letters are always special (especially to older people), but if penmanship is not your forte or your schedule barely allows you to breathe, don’t despair. A quick email to say, “I’m thinking of you” or to ask, “How can I pray for you?” is sure to brighten anyone’s day.
  • Listen. At a missionary conference I recently attended, one missionary lady said that missionary kids and their families crave for people to listen to them. She said that the lack of shared commonality makes many people uncomfortable with simply listening, but their quickness to interrupt can make missionary families keenly aware of their own struggle to fit in. The art of listening is a wonderful way to show you care.
  • Spend Time Together. Nothing reinforces loneliness like watching other people rush around with “things to do and people to see,” while not having anyone to rush with or to. Sometimes the best gift is a phone call, an invitation to come over to play board games, or an hour spent hovering over two cups of coffee that would have been cheaper to make at home.
  • Send a Package. This is one of my favorite things (both to send and receive). There’s something about receiving a random package full of goodies that creates a sense of wonder. Several friends and I once figured out how many love languages a letter or packages speaks to. A package obviously touches a person who feels loved through receiving gifts. The time put into into preparing it speaks to a person who is loved through quality time. The servant’s heart behind (and perhaps practical items in) the package can warm the heart of a person who is loved through acts of service. The words in a note and the personalization of the package shows affection to the person loved through words of affirmation. If you want to stretch it to include all five love languages, you could even say that the tangible nature of a letter and package is the closest thing you can get to physical touch without being there in person.

Only God Can

One of Kyrin’s deepest pains is that she can’t get through to Jace. She doesn’t want him to hurt, but her love can’t penetrate his despair. In the same way, we may not be able to help our hurting friends to the extent we want to. One of my friends wrote the following quote into a book she’s working on…

As I mentioned above, love doesn’t have to achieve what we want it to. Results shouldn’t determine our behavior. Our role is to be obedient to God‘s calling–which includes courageously loving those around us. He is the only one with the power to heal souls, and He is mighty to save. Which brings me to a final way to help.

  • Pray.  God is the only one who can give true healing, so bring the lonely, depressed, and anxious to Him in prayer.

Can you think of anyone you know who has needs similar to those of a fictional character you wish you could help? Can you add more practical ways to show love to my list?

P.S. The graphic for this post has subtle relevance for readers very familiar with Jace’s story. Any idea what it is?

3 Lessons from A Little Princess

Once on a dark winter’s day, when the yellow fog hung so think and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.

This paragraph snatches readers into the whimsical London of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s imagination. As long-time readers of my blog know, this story world of contrasts is one of my favorite fictional landing places and has captivated me for almost a decade. Since we’ve been exploring the impact of fiction lately, it seemed fitting to do a post on the lessons in A Little Princess.

Lessons from ALP

A Good Name Is Rather To Be Chosen Than Great Riches

“It’s true,” she said. “Sometimes I do pretend I am a princess. I pretend I am a princess so that I can try and behave like one.”

When I first read A Little Princess, the luxury surrounding Sara Crewe fascinated me. When I thought about the fabrics, I could almost feel them. When I read about the shoes that Lavinia claimed were designed to make Sara’s feet look small, I wondered if my shoes made my feet look small. However, when all that was stripped from her, my sense of fascination with Sara didn’t lessen.

Sara’s richness doesn’t revolve around the things she owns. Her toys and dresses are interesting, but her personality and imagination make her surroundings breathtaking regardless of their material worth.

A Little Princess is a Cinderella story. Sara’s desire to behave like a princess could just as easily translate into Cinderella’s mantra, “Have courage and be kind.” Sara shows readers that cultivating an attitude rich in charity is a sort of wealth that can’t be stolen away like physical possessions.

Sara made me want a princess-like heart just as much as princess-worthy belongings.

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You

“Why,” she said, “we are just the same–I am only a little girl like you.”

Sara does not make a habit of judging people by their social class, intellect, or appearance. When she needs someone in need of friendship, she eagerly seeks an opportunity to show kindness to that person. Her lack of superiority allows her to make genuine friends who love her as much when she is a pauper as when she was an heiress.

“She is hungrier than I am,” she said to herself. ” She’s starving.” But her hand trembled when she put down the fourth bun. “I’m not starving,” she said–and she put down the fifth.

This quote comes from one of the most vivid scenes in A Little Princess. Sara has reached an all time low, and Miss Minchin cold-heartedness is unrelenting. Deprived of meals, Sara happens across an abandoned coin. She uses the coin to get buns from a bakery, then gives away most of her purchase in order to help a girl worse off than herself. Part of being a princess, she tells herself, is feeding the populace.

Sara made me want to have an abundance mentality before I even knew the term.

The Trying of Your Faith Worketh Patience

“Yes,” answered Sara, nodding. “Adversity tries people, and mine has tried you and proved how nice you are.”

This sort of goes along with the first point. If Sara’s kindness had evaporated with her money, A Little Princess would be a very different story. Instead she is transformed from a spoiled child that has managed to remain level-headed to a girl who has proven her mettle and her character. When her riches are restored to her at the end of the story, they seem better than ever before because she has been tried by adversity and proved to be “nice.”

We are children of the King of Kings, heirs to unimaginable riches, yet we are to live in a world that we are not part of (John 17:13-19). Does our behavior evidence who we are in Christ?

Sara made me want to endure hardness while maintaining a good testimony.

Conclusion

Obviously I didn’t have such philosophical thoughts the the first time I read A Little Princess. To be honest, I only recently realized how many lessons stories have tucked into my heart. It’s really neat to look back and put words to the practical inspiration generated by stories like this one.

If you’ve read A Little Princess, do any of these lessons ring true for you? What is one positive, practical inspiration you’ve drawn from a story?

The Legacy of Fiction

A hymn I enjoy begins with the words, “It only takes a spark, to get a fire going, And soon all those around, can warm up in it’s glowing.” The song refers to God’s love, which is obviously more important and more powerful than fictional stories. However, I’ve been reminded recently of the lasting impact a story can have.

Legacy of Fiction

Returning to books I enjoyed as a young reader often shows me how various stories shaped who I am today (stay tuned for a post about ways A Little Princess inspired me). For example, a few months ago I re-read The Hundred Dresses. As I read, I realized it was this story that sparked my determination to introduce myself to each new person at my homeschool group. I never wanted anyone to feel the way the Polish girl in the story did, and I never wanted to regret not being friendly to someone the way the narrator did.

While the phrase “show, don’t tell” can be a writer’s bane, it is the essence of impactful fiction. Stories are amazing because a well crafted tale allows readers to absorb important lessons without anyone telling them what they’re supposed to learn. The Hundred Dresses didn’t tell me, “Don’t let peer pressure cause you to be unkind.” Instead, it made me feel sympathetic. It pulled me into the loneliness of a girl who didn’t fit in, and the struggle of a girl afraid to share her fate. After reading it, no one had to tell me, “Befriend new people, lonely people, people of different cultures, and outcasts.” Instead, I spent hours daydreaming ways I would have made friends with the girl in the story. I imagined what I would say to her and mentally acted out our conversations. I crafted the words I would use to tell the mean girls how wrong they were.

India_45_FToday, there are few things I enjoy more than making friends with people of different cultures. My existing friends laugh at how predictable I am when I meet someone who speaks Spanish as their first language, because it rarely takes long for me to strike the bargain, “I’ll help you with English if you help me improve my Spanish!” I love listening to my Indian friends tell me of love found through arranged marriage. Trying the food and clothing of different cultures is a special excitement. When a new “girl” (or woman) shows up at church, I do my best to introduce myself and make her feel welcome.

Some of these traits are part of my personality and upbringing. However, I know that reading The Hundred Dresses many years ago triggered a lot of these habits that shape who I am as adult. What I didn’t realize was that the affect of the story reached beyond myself.

Last week, my family went to a special annual event done by our old homeschool group. We enjoyed catching up with old friends and seeing how much the “little kids” have grown up. After the performances, one of the moms and I were talking, and she took a moment to introduce me to a newcomer . Her introduction was, “This is Leah. She was the first person to introduce herself to me and the kids when we started coming here.” When the other person left, the mom turned back to me and said, “Your introduction made such an impact on me. Now, when there are new families, I have my children go and introduce themselves.”

You never know how your actions will impact other people, or how long lasting the impact will be.

I think it is incredible to look back and pinpoint the small things that sparked bigger things and follow how those things have grown over the years. As a lover of books, it’s especially neat to see how often stories are responsible for inspiring practical things in real life. Fiction–good fiction–is not a waste of time. It inspires and challenges us.

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder…
The Call, from Prince Caspian

What legacy has fiction left in your life? What practical actions have stories inspired you to take? How have books shaped the person you are today?