Mrs White, a woman I absolutely love and adore, has recently written a piece giving us wives and mothers guidance during this time of quarantine and national economic crisis.
I think I first found her online back in 2015, when I promptly read through her entire website, and ordered the book she attributed so much if her wisdom in being a wife and mother from, “Stepping Heavenward.” It’s still one of my favorite books to reread!
In her most recent advice, she shares the letters from Elizabeth Prentiss, the author of the aforementioned book, when she had to go through a quarantine and national crisis.
It’s amazing to know our letters and diaries may someday become someone else’s guide for their own spiritual growth, or provide history of what happened from a first person point of view. We encourage our kids to have their own, too, and I know they’ll probably read through our journals when they’re adults. 😍 It’s a great way to pass down a family legacy.
From Mrs. White—
There have been incredibly difficult times throughout the generations. We have endured wars, plagues, The Great Depression, storms, and many great losses. Through it all, those who have courage and bravery have endured with a steady calm of patience and faith in the Lord.
This morning I was reading from the writings of beloved author, Elizabeth Prentiss. I read some from her life and letters, “More Love to Thee” and her book “Urbane and His Friends,” which has some of her letters in the back of the book. I was intrigued by some similarities of what she lived through compared to our current crisis with the virus pandemic. Her daily life and the care of her home and family, through painful events, is what inspired me. She continued to be a good wife, mother, and homemaker regardless of the suffering she endured.
In 1853, she was shocked by the sudden death of her cousin, Louise Shipman. Miss Shipman had been staying with the family and had become ill. Elizabeth had been taking care of her, with the help of the doctor who made visits to the home. The illness had been sudden and shocking. She described how very dear and blessed she felt to have had Louise there in their midst. She was a sweet and kind girl. Elizabeth described her thus: “Her patience was very remarkable and touching. I never saw a sick person so gentle, so considerate, so little disposed to think of self.”
Shortly after this, another member of the house, one of her children, became ill. Then her brother, who had been visiting, became ill. On page 140 of her Life and Letters, it is said that Mrs. Prentiss “became a nurse to them both, and passed the next two months quarantined within her own walls.”
Mrs. Prentiss wrote letters and took care of the home each day. She wrote to a friend: “I was very sorry not to see Dr. S., who called with your letter, but I am in quarantine, and cut off from the world.” I imagine the friend had “called” by coming to the house and brought the mail, but was not able to see anyone in the house.
Later, in her letters, around 1864 she talks of the national struggle, which is now called (from what I gather) The Civil War. She wrote to a friend: “My spunk has got a backbone of its own and that is deep-seated conviction, that this is a holy war, and that God himself sanctions it. He spares nothing precious when He has a work to do.” Yet, news was slow to reach her. She mentioned that she had not had any news for a week. On page 220 of her letters she says, “I know next to nothing about what is going on in the world.” Her husband kept up to date with the news and shared his thoughts with her.
I am sure the national crisis kept her praying.
But she kept on with the care of her family and home.
She took long walks with her children, laughing with them, enjoying each day, and took great care of them.
They were her life and her focus.
In her letters, around this time, she mentioned hearing the dreadful noise of coughing from a soldier, in the neighborhood, who had consumption. Such sadness! In April of 1865 she was shocked to hear of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. These were perilous and frightening times in which she lived!
Nearly her entire life she suffered from physical weakness and sickness. She had a frail constitution. Despite this, she strove to live all of her life for the Lord. She is the author of the beloved book, “Stepping Heavenward” and has blessed many wives and mothers since it’s publication in 1869.
I was greatly encouraged from my readings this morning. It was especially meaningful because of the dreadful time of uncertainty we are living through today. But I will say that the constant bombardment of news and reports from the media might overtake our every thought and keep us in a state of terror and anxiety. Yes, there is a dreadful “plague” hovering around and overtaking many. But this cannot consume our lives. We are aware of our duties to do our part in stopping the spread of this virus. We can do this. But perhaps we should not be spending too much time being updated on the dreadful news going on in our communities and throughout the world. In my Mother’s day, she and Dad would watch the evening news at 6 o’clock. It was a once a day recap from their local state telling its residents what they needed to know. Then they went back to doing their part of taking care of their family and home. This is what life is all about – the quiet dignity of caring for those in one’s own home.
No matter what is going on around us, we would do well to give our cares and worries and fears to the Lord in prayer. We must trust Him who loves us dearly. Then let us get back to the business at hand – of nursing and ministering to those in our own homes, protecting them, cheering them on, with great patience and courage as we wait out this storm.