Wildflowers Magazine - Fanny Crosby

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Growing up, our family went to church services twice on Sunday. One on Sunday morning and once in the evening. The evening service started at 6:30pm and often included either a hymn sing, a missionary presentation, short sermon, or perhaps a visiting choir performance. My grandparents came from a culture and time when music was woven into the fabric of their daily lives and worship. Almost everyone could sing and harmonize. Everyone knew all 8 stanzas to every hymn and the voices blended upward into a unified chorus of passionate proclamation. I remember hearing one story of a group of Mennonites who were fleeing Eastern Europe in the early twentieth century. The group was waiting on a train platform. Fearful and tired, they began to sing the hymns of the faith. These hymns gave great depth of comfort as men, women, and children sang songs that spurred on their faith and gave them hope. We are called to speak and sing truth to one another, at all times and in all ways, giving glory to our Father in Heaven.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
-Colossians 3:16

I would sit in church on Sundays in the second or third row, on the right hand side of the sanctuary. I clearly remember holding my hymnal and flipping through the pages, studying the words, the names of authors, and finding hymns based on certain topics. It all intrigued me very much. Songs like Be Thou My Vision, Fairest Lord Jesus and The Old Rugged Cross became oases of living water.

Countless hymns settled into my heart, and laid a foundation of sacred music that shaped and formed me. One of the names that appeared frequently was the name of Fanny Crosby. Others were Isaac Watts, William Kirkpatrick, Frances Havergal, Augustus Toplady, Robert Lowry, Charles Wesley, and John Newton.

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When praying about who to write about for the summer issue of Wildflowers Magazine, I decided to read about and research Frances Jane Crosby, otherwise known as Fanny Crosby. There are many things that stand out to me from her life.

The first is that she had a loving mother who had to raise her on her own as her father died shortly after she was born. With a supportive family, her mother received help from Fanny’s grandmother in raising her. There were many people who helped to educate her, especially since she was blind and at that time, there weren’t many educational opportunities for the blind. Her mother and grandmother, and others who came into her life nurtured her in God’s Word and in a warm and loving home. From Fanny’s mother’s example, I see a commitment to training her child to follow God. Fanny’s story wouldn’t be the same without her mother, Mercy, and grandmother, Eunice, teaching her diligently to know God in His Word.

The second thing that stands out from her life is that she was eager to serve the Lord. As a child, she asked the Lord if there was some work that he had for her to do. It seemed she always had faith like a child. Surely, God used her weakness as her greatest strength, and through it Fanny depended on the Lord. Although she was well known as the Blind Poetess throughout evangelical Christianity at that time, she regularly went to prisons and shelters to tell small audiences about Jesus, the Son of God. One could walk into a gathering of the “undesirables” of life and see a little, old woman, wearing a black dress and holding a black book, speaking about God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. She quietly served, taught and loved those who were not lovable, and she showed them the depths of God’s love for each of them.

It will be amazing to see one day, the masses of people who were brought to Jesus through her humble hymns.

My husband and I are part of a collaborative music group called Gateway Hymns. While reading and researching about Fanny Crosby, I thought how wonderful it would be to record some of her hymns as part of this written biography. So with some friends, we recorded this short album, The Songs of Fanny Crosby. (There are only three on the album, but she probably wrote over 9,000 throughout her lifetime!) You can download this collection at www.gatewayhymns.bandcamp.com, The Songs of Fanny Crosby.

To read a little about Fanny’s life, you can check out the summer issue of Wildflowers Magazine!

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Summer & Stories

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It is summer time in the Pacific Northwest! The unofficial Harris family bucket list is under way and we are thrilled to already have swim lessons, lake swimming, visits to the beach, kayaking, popsicles, slurpees, and naps in the hammock checked off our list! Among other fun summer adventures on the docket, we love to read! In fact, this Mama needs an hour or so of quiet time every day after lunch. While we have somewhat of a schedule in place, it varies from day to day. Sometimes the kids grab a book and take off to a quiet couch, hammock, or their rooms to rest and read. Sometimes we just all cuddle up in the living room and I read aloud. Here are some summer reading ideas that may inspire your own reading adventures:

Biographical Picture Books

We love to read about real life people in history and learn about their lives, which people and places they were connected with, and what world events shaped their lives and stories. With my daughter and sons, we read about ordinary men and women and the unique part they played in history. Some of the ones we are checking out this summer are:

On a Beam of Light: The Story of Albert Einstein

Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women

Joan of Arc

Young Thomas Edison

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story of Six Novels, Three Notebooks, a Writing Box, and One Clever Girl

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Andersen

Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World

Adventure Fiction

There are some stories that settle all around our hearts. Classics that become dear to both parents and children. They are stories that become part of our story and the memories created around the reading of them are cherished stories in and of themselves. One day, some friends came over to our house to drop off a series of books called The Wingfeather Saga written by Andrew Peterson. We had heard of these books but hadn’t gotten around to reading them yet. Our friends were determined that we begin this reading adventure. We are currently on Book 2 in the series and it is a family favorite! So much so, that when we go hiking, I warn the kids to watch out for the Fangs of Dang!

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

North! Or Be Eaten

The Monster in the Hollows

The Warden of the Wolf King

Early Readers

Among the plethora of early reader books, there is a treasure trove of enjoyable books to practice reading aloud together. These books bring laughter and fun as my 2nd grader and I work through several books in the series!

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Stories to Read Together

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Fables to Read Together

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Mother Goose Tales to Read Together

Chapter Books

My older readers are diving into captivating chapter books, and this stage is delightfully fun too! I love picking out books for my kids to read that I loved as a kid! There are many great book lists to choose from. We are using one from our children’s classical school. Here are just a few treasures we have picked so far this summer!

My Side of the Mountain

The Cricket in Times Square

Five Children and It

A Wrinkle in Time (and the other books in the Time series)

Henry Huggins

Henry and Ribsy

Heidi

The Cat of Bubastes

The Family Under the Bridge

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Winnie the Pooh

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Books About the Moon & Stars

On the cusp of the 50th anniversary of the Lunar Landing, we are reading and learning more about the moon, the events of the Apollo mission, and how the moon affects tidal waves. There are so many fun books to check from the library to get kids excited about this milestone anniversary in the history of the world.

Moon: A Peak Through Picture Book

The Moon’s Almost Here

Destination Moon

The Moon

Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Night Sky: Find Adventure! Go Outside! Have Fun! Be a Backyard Stargazer! 

Constellations: A Glow-in-the-Dark Guide to the Night Sky

Starry Skies


Christian Classics & Church History

Reading with our kids about the history of the Church, its strengths, its flaws, its joys, its failures, is important for us. Growing up in a Christian home and with grandparents who fled their country due to persecution for their faith and civil unrest, I learned about my people group, the Anabaptists (aka The Radicals), throughout my growing up years. I was proud to hear the story of my great-great-grandmother who sacrificed her life for the life of her daughter. I wouldn’t be alive today if she had not laid down her life in her place. I learned more about church history in public school as we studied Western Civilization. When I was sixteen years old, our youth group girls had a sleepover and watched the movie, Lady Jane, which further piqued my curiosity about the history of the church. My search for understanding continued through the years. Eventually, I delved further into the study of Church History, trying to understand how we got from Acts 28 to the present day. I want my children to grow up learning about the history of our faith, where it comes from, and help to anchor them in truth.

Dangerous Journey

The Faithful Spy

The Radical Book for Kids


The Bible

I can’t stress enough how important it is to read the Bible with your children. We follow a simple reading plan, Community Bible Reading, that takes the reader through the entire Bible in three years. It is something my husband and I have started this past year and now are implementing with our kids this summer.

The assumption of CBR and The CBR Journal has always been that believers do not have to read the Bible to earn or keep God’s love, but that believers get to read the Bible to enjoy and become more aware of God’s Love.

CBR Reading Plan - Community Bible Reading

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One Final Tip

Many of these books can be found at your local library. If the library doesn’t have them, oftentimes, you can request that they purchase it for the library. Many of these classic chapter books can be found at thrift stores for $2-3 or less. Good times to check out thrift stores are after holidays, at the beginning of summer break and right before school begins. Many schools and families are purging their books at that time.

Happy Summer Reading!

Getting to Know the Lewis's

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This past year has been what I have named, “The Year of CS Lewis”. I will explain further on, how I came to commit myself to reading the works of CS lewis throughout this past year. For now, I will share my journey of coming to this point of getting to know the Lewis’s.

I don’t remember the first time I heard of CS Lewis. I’m sure it was when I was a child. Perhaps it was when I was in my elementary school years and I’d go hang out in my dad’s church office. We had free reign in his office! Paper, pens, playing with the phone and all the buttons, hiding under his desk, using the stapler, and flipping through his rolodex to find phone numbers! Ha! And sometimes, there would be mint Tic Tacs! At some point in my younger years, I began to be curious what all the books on his shelves were about. There were whole volumes dedicated to single books in the Bible called “commentaries”, and books on all sorts of topics. That was when I realized there was so much to learn and so much to know about the Bible. It intrigued me. Perhaps it was then that I noticed a book by CS Lewis, or heard one of his quotes in a sermon. There were three moments in time that were pivotal in my introduction to CS Lewis.

The first time I remember hearing about The Chronicles of Narnia was when I was in 6th grade. My public school class was given three options of books to read and we had to choose one. I can’t remember exactly what choices were given, except for one. When I saw the title, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I most emphatically chose to avoid that one. A witch? No thank you. I’m not reading that one. I didn’t know what this story was about and my parents probably didn’t either. I am second-generation Canadian. My grandparents were from Russia, and when their families moved to Canada, the goal was survival, making a new life in a time when there was much uncertainty due to war, immigration, making ends meet, and starting families. Their language was German and their culture was Mennonite. (My parents grew up with a mixture of German and English spoken in their homes.) Learning the best of English literature was not a priority, and the furthest thing from their minds. Most of my relatives at that time probably didn’t even know English until the younger children began going to public schools where they could easily learn and assimilate to their new country and culture.

My elementary years carried on and into junior high school, and then onto senior high. In all those years, I never heard of Narnia again, until I went to Bible College several years later. I remember the exact night I heard of this enchanted place, the passion in the words being spoken about this great story of a great Lion, Aslan. I had a wonderful group of Christian friends, brothers and sisters that I would hang out with. One night, several of these friends were talking about their love of and passion for Narnia. Their eyes lit up and these young men couldn’t stop talking about Narnia. I was inspired. Perhaps, I thought, I should read the Chronicles of Narnia! And so, eventually, I bought a cheap paperback edition and began reading through the series, slowly progressing through the years and enjoying every bit of every story with all my heart. It was after I was married that I decided I needed to finish this children’s series before our baby was born. So I spent the last month before she arrived reading and devouring the final couple books!

The third introduction I had to CS Lewis was when we had three children and my husband and I decided to start reading the Chronicles to our children. It was hilarious to see our oldest two children open the closet door and hesitate, thinking that if they walked through the coats, would they end up in Narnia? We did start reading, but it was short lived and the children weren’t ready quite yet. So we waited. When we got to seminary, we began again, but this time from the chronological beginning, The Magician’s Nephew. The kids were ready and I spent the next year reading aloud to them the entire series. It was a joy to share with my kids these stories I had grown to love.

And so, there you have it. I read the Chronicles of Narnia through twice, and love them!

It was last summer. I was talking with one of the teachers at our kids’ new school and she was telling me about one of the books her older class would be reading that year. It was another CS Lewis book. I realized then that, besides the Chronicles of Narnia, I had not read any of his other books. Such an influential Christian author of the twentieth century, a man whom I had heard quoted all my life, through Bible college, etc, and I hadn’t read any of his other works? How did I even make it through Bible college without having read any of his works? I decided then and there that I would take a year to become more acquainted with the works of Lewis. I began with the suggestion from this friend, his final novel ever written, Till We Have Faces.

I would love to give a book review/reflection on each of the works I have read of his this year, but that may have to wait for another time. For now, I would like to share which of his books I have indeed read this year. I began with his fiction and am now discovering the person of CS Lewis as well as a biography of his dear wife, Joy. Here is a brief list of the Lewis books I have read thus far… a year later:

Till We Have Faces

Out of the Silent Planet

Perelandra

That Hideous Strength

The Four Loves

Mere Christianity

Surprised by Joy, the Shape of my Early Life

And God Came In (biography of Joy Davidman) by Lyle W. Dorsett

There are many more of his works that I hope to read in this ongoing effort to dive into the wisdom, personality, and testimony of CS Lewis. I am fascinated by the way God brought both “Jack” and Joy to Himself, as well as to each other in marriage and love, and the ways their lives influenced each other and complimented each other. This is one reason why I love to read and write biographies… to see the work of God in and through a person’s life and how its influence reaches into the lives of tens, hundreds, thousands throughout the years and generations.

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Were You There When God Raised Him from the Tomb?

{This photo is one I took in 2007 when my husband and I traveled to Scotland. On the Isle of Iona, I climbed this hill, passing sheep along the way, and alone with the Lord, sat and watched the sunset one evening during Holy Week.}

{This photo is one I took in 2007 when my husband and I traveled to Scotland. On the Isle of Iona, I climbed this hill, passing sheep along the way, and alone with the Lord, sat and watched the sunset one evening during Holy Week.}

Today is Holy Saturday. Its the day between Good Friday, when Jesus Christ was crucified, and Easter Sunday, when God raised Jesus, His Son, from the dead. I’m entering into “the tomb” this weekend, to sit in the silence, to feel the weight of it all, to experience the senses and imagine what it might have been like as God raised Jesus from the dead. With my human limitations, and incomplete knowledge, I am imagining something that we will finally know in all its more glorious detail when we enter into eternity. This is a simple piece of writing that is a tool to help one delve deeper into the reality of Christ’s resurrected, physical, and eternally present body that was given for you and for me, and for the life of the world.

{On the Isle of Iona stands a 1,000 year old cross.}

{On the Isle of Iona stands a 1,000 year old cross.}

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

-African American Spiritual

A wind blew through the garden under the cover of a tormented night sky. It would soon be morning. Dewdrops quivered on the pure white lilies growing in the garden outside of the tomb. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had laid his lifeless body there, wrapped in linen and adorned with spices. Torn flesh and spilled blood, poured out for the life of the world. His body drained of life, now dead, cold, and empty. A body with no spirit is a vacant body, beginning the process of a slow decay back to dust from which humanity was formed.

“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.” Psalm 16:10

The air was still. The fragrance of spices were present. Death was having its way, and the curse was doing its work of destruction on the Son of God, the Son of Man. The body of Jesus lay on a stone table. A cloth lay across the face of one whose eyes had looked into the faces of sinners as he declared them forgiven and loved, as he healed their wounds and forgave their debts they could not pay.

“He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5

Silence.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

The Breath of Life that hovered over the waters at Creation, entered the tomb, entered the Body, filling His lungs with oxygen. The Breath of Life that breathed life into Adam and Eve’s created bodies, brought what was lifeless to life and quickened every cell in His body. Decay did not have a fighting chance to reduce the Creator to dust.

In front of the Iona Abbey, is a sunken garden surrounded by a stone wall and every spring, new life returns to the garden.

In front of the Iona Abbey, is a sunken garden surrounded by a stone wall and every spring, new life returns to the garden.

The linens dropped from Jesus’ body. He folded the cloth that covered his face and gently placed it off to the side. He looked down at his hands and at the eternal wounds that would forever be a witness of His sacrifice. He breathed deeply. The stone in front of the tomb moved away from the entrance. The air from the tomb mingled with the fragrances of the garden. Our Lord breathed in his creation and emerged from the tomb. Each step of his feet pressing into the moist earth, moving amongst the olive trees, feeling the tender leaves between his fingers, listening to the wind, and gazing up into the sky as slivers of light pierced the darkness and gave way to a new morning. And all the host of Heaven beheld His glory.

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:5-14 ESV

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

My Unmoving Mansion of Rest

Growing up, we often moved as my dad enjoyed building and selling homes. It was thrilling for my sisters and I to participate in all the details. Everything from looking at the architectural plans, painting the wooden staircase spindles, picking rocks from the dirt, and painting our parents bedroom, the latter of which was halted after we turned their wall into a canvas of creativity! Smells of hardware stores and lumber yards still bring me back to happy summer days on the building site. As I poured through home and garden magazines as a little girl, a longing for my own future home began to grow. Would it be a cozy log cabin in the woods or a sprawling homestead atop an evergreen mountain? Daydreams are longings within our heart that are enjoyed and expressed through imagination. I daydreamed often.

Fast forward many years, my husband and I and our little family have moved to four different cities and now have returned to one of them, and nine homes in twelve years! At the flower shop the other day, a clerk asked, “Are you in military service?” Paying for my lavender and aloe plants, I smiled, “No, we are in church service!”

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We have been called to a life of many ministry moves. Each one, intentionally placed within the framework of our story for God’s purposes. Moving a lot was never our intention, but it was always God’s. With another impending move in two years, after further training in church planting, I am coming to a calm contentment that my times are in His hands (Psalm 31).

In Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon writes:

“The Israelites in the wilderness were continually exposed to change. Whenever the pillar stayed its motion, the tents were pitched; but tomorrow, ere the morning sun had risen… and the fiery, cloudy pillar was leading the way through the narrow defiles of the mountain… They had scarcely time to rest a little before they heard the sound of “Away! this is not your rest; you must still be onward journeying towards Canaan!” They were never long in one place... Yet they had an abiding home in their God, his cloudy pillar was their roof-tree, and its flame by night their household fire. They must go onward from place to place, continually changing, never having time to settle, and to say, “Now we are secure; in this place we shall dwell.” “Yet,” says Moses, “though we are always changing, Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place throughout all generations.”… My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord.”
— Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, February 27th

My heart still aches every time I think about leaving family and friends again. A knot still forms in my stomach as we talk about another transition. When these feelings come, I am comforted by those who have felt a similar call. Missionary to Burma, Ann Judson wrote often of her inward struggle in leaving all she knew to pursue a call to Burma with husband, Adoniram Judson. She wrote,

“It seems as if there was no resting place for me on earth. O when will my wanderings terminate? When shall I find some little spot, that I can call my home while in this world? Yet, I rejoice in all Thy dealings, O my heavenly Father; for Thou dost support me under every trial, and enable me to lean on thee…” 
— Ann Judson: A Missionary Life for Burma, Sharon James, pg. 68

In the New Testament, Paul writes of God now dwelling in the hearts of believers in Christ. The dwelling place of God is now in human hearts through faith in Christ. He has become our home. I am rooted and grounded in love.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
— Ephesians 3:14-19


When the enemy tempts me to despair in the midst of so many moves, I look to my Savior, the One who chose me, rescued me from sin, and gave me a purpose on this Earth. God is the one who gives us the desires of our hearts and he has given us a passion for the calling and work he has prepared for us to do. It is in surrender to God’s will, that the morning of joy dawns and a peaceful contentment arises. Being firmly planted into union with Christ, I am “at home in my God”, and can confidently wander this Earth to serve the One who did not have a home. 

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
— Luke 9:58

As we settle into our new temporary home, with the fresh smell of the woods behind our house, pine needles and little acorns to be swept off the patio, we are grateful. The Lord has been kind to give us a place to welcome friend and stranger, to know and be known, to love and be loved. We continue to daydream of a home and a church and of many people coming to know Jesus. And our greatest dream is that all who enter here become rooted and grounded in Love.

Let prospects be blighted; let hopes be blasted; let joy be withered; let mildews destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in God… I am a pilgrim in the world, but at home in my God. In the earth I wander, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.
— Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, February 27th