Thursday, April 22, 2010
Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss
Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss
This is my absolute favorite novel of all time. No, I'm not exaggerating...I've read it 6 times now, and have underline more than a dozen passages, hoping to print some of them and use them to decorate my home!
Stepping Heavenward is a book written in a diary or journal format. The young girl, Katherine (Kate or Katy, depending on her moods) starts the journal with this entry..."How dreadfully old I am getting! Sixteen!" She sets out to chronicle her spiritual journey, and grows from a willful, selfish young woman, to a mature, enduring, graceful woman after many trials and losses.
What I love about this novel, is that it seems so real, so genuine, and I see much of myself in the fits and spurts of spiritual growth, intermixed with times of spiritual despondency and seeming lack of growth.
During the course of this journal, Katy losses her father suddenly, endures a broken engagement, gets married, has her father-in-law and sister-in-law move in with them and they are both sour old gloomy people, has at least 6 children, but suffers the loss of one of them and frail health of another, cares for some of her husbands (he is a doctor) clients who are home-bound, losses her only beloved brother suddenly, and suffers from poor health herself (spending 7 years bedridden at one point).
This book is so genuine because in many ways it mirrors the life of the auther, Elizabeth Prentiss...I found this in Wikipedia:
"In 1845, she married George Lewis Prentiss, a brother of her dear friend Anna Prentiss Stearns, ... After a happy time of transitioning into the duties of a pastor's wife and a housewife, within a period of three months she lost her second and third children – one as a newborn, one at age four. She wrote this poem in that year, 1852, on the occasion of the baby's death:
I thought that prattling boys and girls
Would fill this empty room;
That my rich heart would gather flowers
From childhood's opening bloom.
One child and two green graves are mine,
This is God's gift to me;
A bleeding, fainting, broken heart—
This is my gift to Thee."
So her heart wrenching loss shows up in Stepping Heavenward, but also the comfort she found in Christ and God's severe mercies, and how He carried her through those dark days.
There's also many wonderful insights into married life, motherhood, and godliness...and this is what I loved about this book...so much godly wisdom in one place, yet it's a fun read at the same time!
Here are some of my favorite passages:
"Duty looks more repelling at a distance than when fairly faced and met"
"God does nothing arbitrarily. If He takes away your health, for instance, it is because He has some reason for doing so; and this is true of everything you value; and if you have real faith in Him, you will not insist on knowing the reason. If you find, in the course of daily events, that your self-consecration was not perfect - that is, that your will revolts at His will - do not be discouraged but fly to your Savior and stay in His presence till you obtain the spirit in which He cried in His hour of anguish "Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42). Every time you do this it will be easier to do it; every such consent to suffer will bring you nearer and nearer to Him and in this nearness to Him you will find such peace, such blessed, sweet peace and will make your life infinitely happy, no matter what may be its mere outside conditions." (a letter to Katy from her pastor)
"And there are my children! My darling, precious children! For their sakes I am continually constrained to seek after an amended, a sanctified life; what I want them to become I must become myself"
In a conversation with her other sister-in-law, Helen, the following was said:
"I think I may way of my happiness that is rests on something higher and deeper then ever Earnest (her husband) and my children....The will of God, the sweet will of God. If He should take them all away, I might still possess a peace which would flow on forever."
Helen suddenly asked. "Do you always submit to God's will thus"
"In great things I do," I (Katy) said, "What grieves me is that I am constantly forgetting to recognize God's hand in the little, everyday trials of life, and instead of receiving them as from Him, find fault with the instruments by which He sends them."
Oh, if only I could recognize God's hand in the little trials of each day and seek His wisdom and peace...and not become irritated with my children or husband or friend!
"There is no wilderness so dreary but that His love can illuminate it, no desolation so desolate but that He can sweeten it....I believe that the highest, purest happiness is known only to those who have learned Christ in sickrooms, in poverty, in racking suspense and anxiety, amid hardships and at the open grave."
"I want to see little children adorning every home as flowers adorn every meadow and every wayside. I want to see them welcomed to the homes they enter, to see their parents grow less and less selfish and more and more loving because they have come. I want to see God's precious gifts accepted, not frowned upon and refused."
Here's my 2nd most favorite quote:
"And now I am waiting for my Father's next gift and the new cares and labors it will bring with it. I am glad it is not left to me to decide my own lot. I am afraid I should never see precisely the right moment for welcoming a new bird into my nest, dearly as I love the rustle of their wings and the sound of their voices when they do come."
And here is my absolute favorite quote...
this is her response to her sister-in-law who, after hearing that Katy is expecting yet another baby, says she will "now have one mouth the more to fill and two feet the more to shoe, more disturbed nights, more laborious days, and less leisure for visiting, reading, music, and drawing"
"Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery, Here is a soul to train for God. and the body in which it dwells is worth all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly tenant. I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ's name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother's heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!"
Can you see that I love this book...it is second only to God's Word for me...there's even more in the book to learn from than what I've quoted here...so get yourself a copy and see what gems you find in there!
I have read one other book by this author, "Aunt Jane's Hero" and enjoyed it as well...I plan to read that one again soon and review it for you as well!
Let me know if you have read this book, or if my review has inspired you to read it for the first time (or read it again!)