Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Passion Redeemed

Take a trip with me down memory lane, if you will. In the fall of 1981, Mrs. Eileen Ehlers was assigned to be my third grade teacher. I was extremely nervous about the placement. Mrs. Ehlers seemed ancient, and she looked very much like Aunt Hilda from Sabrina the Teenage Witch (the comic book, not the TV series). Playground whispers gave her a strict personality to match. All twenty or so of us 8-year-olds entered her classroom with a combination of dismay and fear. Mrs. Ehlers dressed very neatly in two piece suits with blouses that had big bows at the collar, and her voice was an unusual gravelly quaver that brooked no argument or foolishness. We all sat a little straighter in our chairs and lived every day in fear of when her temper would strike.

Everything changed one day over a spelling exercise. Mrs. Ehlers sat at the front of the classroom behind a C-shaped desk and corrected papers from there. On this day, she called each of us to the front of the class to correct our papers individually as we stood next to her. She didn't announce our grade to the class, but the expression on her face made it clear that no one was doing well. As she worked her way through the papers, her face grew redder with anger. No one had gotten 100%, and she was extremely disappointed in us. We went up in alphabetical order. As Christina Trever, I was at the tail end of the list. I glanced around the classroom, looking at my friends faces, red with shame and staring down at their desks. Those who had yet to be called squirmed in fear and twitched their papers back and forth. I looked down at my paper searching for any mistakes, even though it was too late to correct them. Somewhere around the Ns, Mrs. Ehlers announced that if anyone got 100% she would dance a jig with them. A few nervous twitters died quickly. Finally, she called my name, and my classmates looked up at me in hope. I was known for my spelling ability, but I could hardly swallow, I was so nervous.

What happened next only comes back to me in brief, bright images. A bright red 100% written across my paper, whirling around the room with my very proper teacher while she smiled and the whole room exploded into laughter. After a few turns around the front of the classroom, she smoothed out her skirt and returned to her desk, and I returned to mine. My ears so flaming red with embarrassment that the laughter continued. Poor Renae Westenberger's 100% didn't merit equal celebration, but something had been irrevocably changed in our classroom that day. Mrs. Ehlers was still strict and demanding, but we had seen that she also laughed and danced! She was human, and we (most of us anyway) came to love her. The same students who had lived in fear of Mrs. Ehlers defended her hotly in the playground to attacks from other kids.

She passed away when we were in high school, and we sent flowers to the funeral in honor of a woman who had taught us that appearances can be deceiving. It was my first lesson in don't judge a book by its cover. Proverbs 31:30 teaches: Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.

A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman is the second book in the Daughters of Boston series. Charity O'Connor is still living in Ireland with her grandmother and great-grandmother, despite the rest of her family's return to Boston at the end of the previous book. She has set her sights on Mitch, her older sister's former fiance, but he wants nothing to do with the woman who destroyed his engagement and lied to him. Charity's not going to let a little thing like Mitch's feelings get in the way of what she wants, and she's willing to do anything to make him hers. Lessman had a bit of a challenge when writing this sequel that revolves around Charity, Faith's younger sister. Charity abused Faith horribly in the first book and did so without any compunctions whatsoever, so I had no sympathy for Charity, and honestly, I didn't like her at all. Charity lies and manipulates those who love her, without ever considering the consequences. I wanted to smack her more than once. It is to Lessman's credit that by the end of the book, I empathized with Charity and was glad to see her get her happy ending. Lessman writes deep drama and romance without being melodramatic, but her greatest strength is in her victory in reclaiming sex as a gift from God. Sex has gotten a bad rap, and society tends to think that Christians don't like it or approve of it. But sex, within marriage, is a wonderful gift from the Lord, and the passion between the elder O'Connors, as well as Faith and her husband, is fiery and absolutely wonderful. I can't wait to see what will happen in the next book!

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