V-E DAY SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS

For four years, my dad wore this Army Air Corps patch on his uniform, along with thousands of other young men drafted into military service. The only son of an Iowa farmer, he left behind a lot of work for my grandfather.

Times had been tough. They’d lost a farm during the Depression and earned it back through diligence and perseverance. Dad went from driving a team of draft horses through the fields to training in Washington, D.C. And then to North Africa and beyond.

But during World War II, you went when you were called. And you served as long as you were needed. It’s difficult to imagine how much the victory won in Europe meant to these soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

Small Things


It’s hard to avoid feeling our yard has very little to offer in the way of beauty right now, but here in Northern Iowa, beauty comes in small doses, it seems. 


My husband found an early butterfly, for one thing. These usually don’t show up for a few more weeks,and with the forecast predicting frost and temps in the lower thirties next week, I don’t know how long this beautiful winged creature will last. But right now, we get to marvel at the intricate artwork of these wings. 


And I never can get enough of daffodils. Late last fall, I ran out and planted some miniature daffodil bulbs minutes before the first winter storm blew in. Now, we’re feasting our eyes on their cheery blossoms as some purple tulips join in. 

Then, we look over at the bluebells we transplanted from our friends’ creekside pasture a few years ago. What a shade of blue to regale us! 

The trees may be just leafing out, but there’s nothing quite like that early spring green against the sky.

And from a high branch, we hear a cardinal’s call. Takes me back to reading The Secret Garden with our daughter when she was young. Such a lovely story, where simple springtime delights mean so much.

Maybe this season would be a good time to re-read that one. It’s never too late to enjoy a good book all over again.

Sometimes we can start feeling as though we don’t have much to offer, like our garden. But when we take a closer look, we find our gifts can meet needs in ways we might not have realized.

I would love to hear how this concept has proven true for you during this shelter-in-place time.

History Note

This generation had been born during and after the Spanish Flu Epidemic.

Now, the world had come through the Great War and the Great Depression. Hitler had taken control of the Sudetenland and Austria. When he invaded Poland, France and England declared war on Germany.

In May 1940, King George VI declared Winston Churchill England’s new Prime Minister. On May 10, Mr. Churchill addressed his new government.

“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.
“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival… But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, “come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”

August 5–transatlantic flights from London are suspended for September.

August 15- Government Quote and Cypher School personnel move to Bletchley Park

August 23 – most National Gallery paintings are evacuated to Wales

August 24 – Parliament recalled, Army Reservists called up, Civil Defense workers alerted

August 30 – the Royal Navy proceeds to war stations

In retrospect, the markers are clear, but many thought, surely the world will not engage in another horror like the Great War–surely humankind has learned its lesson!

Too late to turn back, the British people went forward. Soon afterward, the Blitzkrieg began, with tens of thousands of bombs dropped on their homeland. As with the Great War and the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, there was but one way to go–through.

Pansies…for pondering

We associate flowers with spring, including the traditional Easter lily for this Sunday when our thoughts turn to resurrection. But in this blustery wintry storm in Northern Iowa, we need some cheery pansies.

The word pansy comes from mid 15th century French from the word penser, and  pensee is the feminine form, meaning to think or ponder over something. The French word pensee derives from the Latin word pensare which means to consider or pendare which means to take measure of a situation, to take everything into consideration.

I can’t help but think of those who went before us, who spent their holidays…often several years’ worth of Easters far from loved ones, on battle fields, in field hospitals or other dangerous situations. They must have thought again and again, “this will one day be over.”

So taking into consideration all this day stands for–Hope instead of despair, light to replace darkness, life triumphing over death–a joyful Easter to you in spite of a nasty virus and in the midst of a snowstorm.

HOPE

This quality underlies all of our best efforts. Embracing hope means turning our backs on the doubt that so easily arises and doing what we can, right now.

The white hair in the background on this photo shows that I didn’t realize my reflection would show up. But maybe that’s not a bad thing, as our hope reflects how we face whatever comes our way.

Albert Einstein, a Greatest Generation member, said: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Hope means finding OPPORTUNITIES in the midst of life’s quandaries and challenges. May this be our determination in April 2020, even as it was for our parents and grandparents seventy-five years ago. Here’s a photo of HOPE snapped back then.

See the black arrow on the right? It points to Dorothy Woebbeking, R.N., a surgical nurse during one of WWII’s gruesome battles. Doing what you can with what you’ve got…this gave Dorothy great satisfaction. For more about her incredible HOPEFUL attitude: https://www.amazon.com/Until-Then-Women-Heartland-Book-ebook/dp/B07SZ4BD5D

Watching for Sunrise

Welcome April! Even though you bring us frightening news, we’re glad for the warmer weather. This morning in Butler County, Iowa, on the way to work, my sister captured the sunrise, and had graciously allowed me to share her photos.

I’m so glad she took the time to pause on the roadway and snap these shots, in a season when we all need reminders of beauty and hope. And what signifies hope better than a gorgeous sunrise?

Maybe this can remind us, too, to PAUSE in the midst of bad news. To take the time to do what we can during this period. A ninety-four year-old said the other day, “This makes me think of the polio scare back in the late forties early fifties.”

What a recollection–the polio epidemic struck fear into the hearts of Americans everywhere. This woman’s sister developed partial paralysis from the disease–she experienced the effects of this disease firsthand.

It’s almost always a good thing to PAUSE and consider history–realizing how we worked together to survive other scary times infuses courage. and courage has a lot to do with that wonderful four-letter word H O P E.

May you sense hope right now, even in the shadow fear casts over us.

Emergency Post

I just heard about a great opportunity for those of us who know how to sew–it’s a way to contribute to the mask shortage right now. A friend of mine in Payson, AZ sent me this photograph of the fabric masks she is making.

If you’d like more information about how to do this, go to:

https://www.daysforgirls.org/single-post/Masks4Millions

This reminds me of my. mother-in-law making socks and sweaters for the troops when she was a teenager during World War I. Go for it!

In Times Like These

Learning from history–and advice about preventing the coronavirus!

Why this title for the first Women of the Heartland series, taken from a childhood hymn our congregation sang in tiny Aredale, Iowa? Because the sentiment seems perfect for what Addie, my heroine faced duringWorld War II.

When I researched the hymn, which I assumed was an “Oldie” a surprise awaited me. A troubled Pennsylvania housewife penned the words in 1943, when Addie was struggling with her home front battles!

The daily Pittsburgh newspaper troubled Ruth Caye Jones, a pastor’s wife and the mother of five. World War II causality lists and the Allies’ slow progress up the boot of Italy made distressing news for the whole nation. With loved ones in harm’s way, worker shortages and rationing at home, everyone longed for normalcy.

One day, a passage in 2 Timothy chapter three, caught Ruth’s attention: But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. Inspiration took over as she jotted some lyrics on a small notepad. Then the Westminster Chimes playing on her old mantle clock supplied the tune.

The rest is history: a common housewife penned one of the most beloved Gospel songs of the 1940s and 1950s, “In Times Like These.”

In times like these we need a Savior;
In times like these we need an anchor.
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, yes, He’s the One.
This Rock is Jesus, the only One!
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

Now we have our own trying times and can learn from those difficult World War II years when people constantly feared for loved ones fighting overseas. They also dealt with rationing and shortages, yet somehow navigated the ever-increasing tension that gripped our nation.

Centuriues earlier, when another era faced a daunting health challenge, one concerned citizen wrote,

You ought to think this way: “Very well… the enemy has sent [a pestilence]… I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall… administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others… If people in a city were to show themselves bold in faith when a neighbor’s need so demands, and cautious when no emergency exists, and if everyone would help ward off contagion as best he can, then the death toll would indeed be moderate. But if some are too panicky and desert their neighbors in their plight, and if some are so foolish as to not take precautions but aggravate the contagion, then the devil has a heyday and many will die.”—Martin Luther on “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague”(c.1527)

Isn’t it amazing how appropriate these reflections seem for our day?

During our self-quarantine, we hear lots of advice. One online friend from the U.K. sent us some helpful tips:

  • Clean metal surfaces often and carefully, as viruses can live on them for days.
  • Drink lots of warm liquids–coffee, tea, soups, and gargle with antiseptics like vinegar, lemon, and salt
  • Elevate your body’s zinc level
  • Wash hands every twenty minutes, and if you go out, take a shower when you return
  • Avoid eating and drinking cold things
  • Sip warm water every twenty minutes

I’m grateful for these practical suggestions, (It doesn’t hurt that I love hot tea, and so does Addie!)

May you and your family stay safe during this time. And may you read a lot!

Courage in Tense Times

The wife of our President during World War II encouraged people worried about the terrible state of the word and their loved ones fighting overseas. She said, take courage.

How do we “take courage”? First, we must still our overwrought hearts. Sometimes historical facts aid in this effort.

Every era has its challenges, but consider this: sixteen million Americans served overseas in WWII. Two million of these served in Europe in order to stop the murderous surge of Naziism. In 1945, of a population of 140 million, roughly 11% of all Americans fought on foreign soil. (In Iraq, only about 1% of all Americans served.) 

Our nation is experiencing lots of tension now, but what if our husbands, sons, and brothers were in harm’s way? Or our daughters, as nurses, jjoined the troops in their invasions? 

Knowing our history helps us keep PERSPECTIVE…and in times like this, we need all the perspective we can get. So why not spend some time reviewing the incredible World War II era, when Americans rose up en masse to serve each other and our nation?

Stilling our hearts…taking courage…a great idea for our time!

Life and WW II Research…

Don’t we love it when things flow harmoniously? These moments remind us to be grateful, but our situations can also get complicated. Then, nothing seems right.

This week, our relative faced cancer surgery, which went well. But a few hours later, his blood pressure dropped due to internal bleeding. Things worsened, and two surgeries later, he was on the mend, but you can imagine those tense hours.

Recently the son of a real-life WWII heroine, Dorothy Woebbeking, sent me this photo of the gun turret where his mother fell asleep in the Invasion of Sicily in 1943. She and the other nurses were sent in on the first wave, a huge error by their commander. During incoming fire, a gunner rudely awakened our heroine and sent her below.

What a terrifying period that must have been! Those of you who have read UNTIL THEN

know what happened next, so I won’t spoil it for others, but the war overflowed with situations like this. Dorothy’s son also sent this note printed on the back of the photo.

Even those who’ve never experienced war know that nurses shouldn’t go into battle ahead of the infantry. This frightening circumstance must have caused terror in the heart of every person aboard that LST. ( Read how all of this turned out in UNTIL THEN.)

But in the midst of all the chaos life throws at us, we still discover synchronicity. The other day, I met a man whose accent intrigued me. We chatted, and it turns out he was a child if France during World War II, with vivid memories of that period. We arranged to meet yesterday, and I learned that Jean Jacques still recalls the Allied forces moving north through the French Alps in 1943-44.

His father had sent his family from Marseilles, a center of Nazi and Resistance activity, to a little mountain town for safety. Jean Jacques recalls pleasant childhood times there, but also the American and Canadian troops passing through the Alps.

What’s interesting is that the Eleventh Evacuation Hospital, which included our heroine Dorothy, followed the troops through these mountains to set up their triage and surgery. Wow–it’s entirely possible that Jean Jacques witnessed the truck carrying Dorothy and her thirty-nine-nurse comrades!

Today I’m meeting again with this child of the war, now in his eighties. This time, I get to see some of his photos. And who knows what may result?

Who would have thought that in the tiny mountain town of Pine, Arizona, someone like this would cross my path? But that’s the joy of research–our sources lie all around us!