Book Review, and The Real Test of Faith

I recently finished reading The Smolder by Kathryn Judson, who blogs at Suitable for Mixed Company. I loved it, btw, and think it may be the best of all the free recently published books I’ve ever shared (it’s not free anymore, sorry you missed it, but it is still very reasonably priced).

It’s dystopian fiction but with optimism and a touch of humour, all seasoned with grace. It’s not dramatic and heart-stopping, like The Hunger Games Trilogy , and it’s not quite so graphically dark as The Giver when it addresses the very similar horrors of this particular dsytopian government. I see it as for an older audience than The Giver, but younger than the audience suitable for, say, Brave New World .

There’s something about her writing and the people she creates that reminds me very much of Zenna Henderson’s Ingathering: The Complete People Stories of Zenna Henderson sci-fi series, and that’s a strong endorsement.  These are good people, very human, people of faith, people I’d like to know (most of them- I’m not a good enough person myself to stomach much contact with the Sister Ignatius’ of the world).

I suggest you give this one a try.  It’s squeaky clean, has plenty of good fodder for discussion on growing up, on being a man, on the right wayt to treat each other, on loving others, on faith, on liberty, on what it means to be a person, about the government and its proper role, and so much more.

Good stuff.


This will seem like a bit of a tangent, and it kind of is, but it’s also related:

My parents started it.

30 years ago I was pregnant and we were living in an apartment complex with other poor people- our next door neighbors were a large a group of migrant workers who spoke no English, and whose snoring sometimes woke us up at night, but they also occasionally gave a box of produce to us.  One morning our preacher, who was also my father, called me and said, basically, “Pull your curtains and lock your doors, but watch for ______ (a woman from church who lived in the same complex), who will be running down the stairs and needs to hide in your apartment until somebody can come get her.”  Her mentally unstable husband had threatened to kill her and he had left the apartment, but she thought he was coming back any minute.  She waited, breathless and afraid, in my apartment until a family member could come for her.

28 years ago we lived in a pretty rough neighborhood. We had just assured my visiting mother that it was safe and nothing bad had ever happened to us, and it was okay that the doors didn’t lock, when we went to bed and were awakened by a man outside yelling, screaming, throwing things, and some of the things he threw hit our house. We called the police. The next morning that young man came to the door (we recognized his voice, though we’d never seen him before) to apologize.  The HM sat with him outside on the porch drinking coffee and talking about his problems. We later would babysit his son for him.

24 years ago or so we were living in base housing in Okinawa.  A young man of our acquaintance was awaiting some administrative action and his turn to testify in court before his discharge from the military.  He had had a parting of the ways with his fellow homosexuals in the military, they had threatened his life, he had turned them in, there was a big ruckus- and he needed a safe place to stay, as he wasn’t safe from his former ‘friends’ in the dorms.  He came to our house and stayed with us.


I’ve mentioned before the homeless family who stayed with us a couple of months and were so troubled that we all felt like we had something like PTSD after they finally left.

Some of you may remember our girls’ experience with the UBO.

So…. a few days ago Shasta lost his job.  Providentially, this occurred during his summer break from school and  just a day before they got a phone call that his grandmother in Texas (for whom he is guardian), is not doing well and further arrangements have to be made for her care.  Thanks to their Dave Ramsey emergency fund, they were able to leave for Texas, although things will still be tight and hard for a while.  They could use prayers- and clicks through their Amazon link over on the side-bar.

On the way there, the van started smoking.  They ended up at a mechanic’s shop for two hours, and he only charged them fifteen dollars.

They also picked up a hitch-hiking couple- initially, they were just going to give them bottles of water, but upon hearing they were trying to get to Texas, they just brought them on board.  I know.  I’m the mom, so I am thinking all sorts of horrors which weren’t the sorts of things I thought of when it was their father and I pulling over to help somebody on the side of the road or bringing somebody home who needed a helping hand.

They put the couple up at a hotel, got them dinner, and then bought them bus tickets to where they are going.  They have reason to suspect that most of the male told them is so much hokum, but they are more concerned about the well being of the female of the pair, who has probably been told even more hokum by her husband over the last two years they’ve been married.  Shasta was looking for the opportunity to say something to her- he’s really, really, good at stuff like that.

He and the Equuschick will be packing up his grandmother’s apartment, as she cannot return home. She doesn’t want to come here, either, and Shasta is torn about which way his duty lies- to bring her here against her quite strong and emphatic will, or to set her up in assisted care there in Texas.

Meanwhile, on almost the same day and hour, back here our other son-in-law met up with another couple in need. They were from India and struggling to get from the East Coast, where he’d abruptly lost his job, to the West, where they have family.  He filled up their gas tank, bought them fruit and water, and offered to put them up in a hotel for the night, but they declined the hotel, wanting to drive further before they stopped for the night.

A few hours after that, after Strider went home and the HG left to go to the grocery store, the HG met an elderly lady with a cane at the grocery store, and the elderly woman- a complete stranger- asked her if she could give her a ride to the other side of town.  The HG did.  My family is mostly amused by my suggestion that possibly the elderly woman’s cane was a sword stick (though one or two of them though I might have a point).

I shared my concerns with a sister at church who laughed at me and said, “Who raised these children?” Okay, so tecnically we did not raise our sons-in-law, although they do fit in well with the family, and we did have a hand in influencing Shasta in his youth.

Last night is when I came across this passage in The Smoldering:

The Kostow children were delighted to find that Mother and Father had taken in another visitor during the night.  Mother and Father had a reputation for being good at handling emergencies and contingencies, and therefore were routinely  handed the most interesting situations and people to take care of.  (Father sometimes advised them to never acquire a reputation for being good at this sort of thing, but obviously he was joking….)

I laughed. But then I stopped.

Maybe Father wasn’t really joking after all, you know?

I kid, I kid.  But where I do not kid is this- it’s one thing to be out of the mainstream, oddball, and a little bit of a radical when you’re the adults in charge and your kids are little, or not even born yet.

The real test of faith, for me at least, has come when my children become adults and take these things and run with them.

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  1. Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    In re assisted living in the state where Shasta now resides vs. Texas, if I may give a bit of advice. I’ve worked in an assisted living facility for six years, and I’ve seen that residents whose families live nearby and pop in regularly tend to get better and faster care, simply because a family member is 15 minutes away. The facility where I work is on the whole an excellent one, and management does not tolerate any actual abuse or mistreatment of residents, but sometimes, when the staff is busy or if one of the lazier people is working during a given shift, the residents who can’t/don’t stick up for themselves and have no one to stand up for them tend to get more hurried care or always shuffled to the bottom of the to do list.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen what it means to residents to be able to stay in the community in which they’ve lived their entire lives instead of having to move to another state to be closer to their children. It’s a hard decision to make, and I will pray that God will guide Shasta to make the best one for everyone involved.

    • Cindy Watson
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      In working hospice and being in and out of situations like this…it is better to be close, much better but so hard to move people from where there roots are. Will be praying.

  2. Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I know that we are ‘strangers’, and I know Texas is a huge place, but if they happen to be in the Waco area and need something, I’m happy to see what I can do. Not sure I could offer a place to stay, but I can provide groceries or a ride. You can find me at the.china.lady @ gmail (spaces for a bit of non-spam protection…)

    I find myself paralyzed by fear for helping those I don’t know. If its hubby and I together, its a bit different. I’ve have thoughts about putting together simple bags with granola bar, a bottle of water, and a business card of a local mission.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think prudence is a bad idea. Things I did alone were very different from things we did together. Had Shasta not been with the Equuschick, she wouldn’t have stopped. Had it been two men and not a couple, they would not have offered a ride.

      And thanks for the offer. They are in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, and as it happens, have several close friends and some others of Shsta’s family in the area, so they are good.

      • Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        Those are good thoughts. Context. (its amazing how important context is!)

        Glad to hear they are well taken care of. We are far from any family here, but have found a wonderful community via school and church.

  3. Amy
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    What a blessing that your children are following in your footsteps and practicing hospitality! I hope that I can say the same kinds of things about my children some day.

    It’s funny that I read this post just now. Just before reading it, my husband called me to tell me that a family friend is going to be moving in with us in 2 weeks. We just moved from out of state (from Texas, actually) and haven’t unpacked half the boxes yet, but I’m delighted that we’re going to be able to share our home. I was kind of feeling sorry for myself because we don’t know enough people in our new location to have many opportunities for fellowship and hospitality, but I should have known that God will always provide a way for us to do what He tells us to.

  4. Cindy Watson
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I too have raised my kids to do that, to reach out, to share and give. Two have incorporated it into their lives. Two others, well I see God working on their hearts. It’s funny, the two that don’t are the most fearful of random murder/ or awfulness. They see potential for that everywhere. They are also the two that have not really admitted nor processed what their father has done in their lives.

  5. Posted June 25, 2013 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    This is very good! I have the same issues when my mother has “couch surfers” staying. The majority are lovely, but there are always a few that give cause for concern!

  6. Posted June 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    And this is a big reason why we love you and your family so very much. I need this kind of example.

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