“The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom

Last night I stayed up reading a novel till unmentionable small hours of the morning. I couldn’t put it down. I tried but couldn’t sleep. I had to know how things would turn out for these ordinary yet heroic Hollanders who hid Jewish people in their Haarlem home in World War Two. The fact that this story is true and autobiographical added a bittersweet poignancy which really captivated me.

I can’t recommend this heroic story enough. But be sure to buy Kleenex, and some strong coffee (preferably Dutch) for the mornings after you stay up way too late reading it on the edge of your seat. The sacrifice of sleep will be worth it to renew your faith in the amazing ability of humanity to survive in the most horrific circumstances…and not only to survive, but to thrive, at least interiorly. The women in this story suffer deeply, but instead of becoming darkened by hate, they become luminous…in the midst of evil, they glow. Love does this. Faith does this. Unshakable determination to do what is right does this.

I was extremely inspired by the ten Boom family, whose loving description reminded me a bit of the family in Little Women. It made me feel that my struggles are very small indeed, and that I want to pray for greater heroism in overcoming the bitterness and self-pity that can creep in through the cracks of exhaustion. Corrie, who is a watchmaker in her 50’s when she joins the Dutch underground movement, makes it very clear that any good she did came not from her own virtue or strength, but from the faith and love infused into her soul. God’s providence runs through the story like a shining golden thread.

What is amazing, besides all she did to save her fellow human beings, especially Jews, during the war, is what she does after the war, having been through harsh prisons and concentration camps. She opens homes for victims of war, where they can live in a loving home, grow flowers and vegetables and find hope again. Beyond that, she travels the world sharing her story of the power of love to overcome evil, and that God’s loving forgiveness that exists for all, no matter how dark their past. She does not neglect Germany, the land of her wartime fears and captivity, when sharing her message of peace.

The Hiding Place resonates with me in a very personal level because I have Dutch family who hid Jews in their home during the war, and my Opa himself, who worked for the Dutch radio, hid from the Nazis when they wanted him to spew propaganda. When soldiers knocked on the door, Opa Koenig would quickly open the floorboards in the attic and lower himself into a little hiding place. My cute blonde, blue-eyed Dutch stepdad and his sister would then throw a blanket over the area and sit on it playing with their toys. Thankfully, the soldiers would simply look around the room, pat their little heads, and leave. I can’t imagine the stress of this on kids, but Opa survived the war and was never caught, unlike so many others.

If you’re looking for a book to read this November as we approach Remembrance Day, try “The Hiding Place.” It’s the kind of book that touches your soul and leaves you forever grateful for the goodness of the ordinary heroes among us.

A Quiet Remebrance Day


This year we had a quiet day at home and missed the parade as our newest recruit is only 9 days old, and I wasn’t up to marching anywhere yet. Instead we read some articles about Remembrance Day, such a the D-day memories of a 90 year old veteran, who joined up at age 15. We also read the fictional journal entries of a young British WW1 soldier as he joined up and experienced his first months in the trenches, followed by losing his leg and his close friend, Private Harry, and travelling back home to share the news to Harry’s mother. 

In both things we read, there was the contrast between the young idealistic hopes of a short, heroic experience of war, and the reality of a long, painful and ugly struggle.  The kids felt sad for these young soldiers, and my five year old declared quite a few times that she did not want to go to war, and that we would never let our new baby boy do so!


We talked about the generosity of these men who were willing to give up their lives to protect others, and how grateful we should be to them. In the past we have visited the war monuments in the graveyard, and taken time to discuss the sadness of war and to pray for the soldiers and their families. I remember being very moved by the tombstone of a very young soldier who died serving in the bicycle brigade. Imagine…so vulnerable! 


366 days ago I wrote a draft of a post entitled “We Lost the Littlest Soldier.” Remebrance Day last year was only 42 days after I lost Josephine in labour, so my pain was very raw, and I was still bumping into neighbourhood acquaintances who innocently asked me that horrible question, “Where’s the new baby?” Tears came easily at the Remebrance Day Ceremonies that year.  


No matter how old our children are when we lose them, they are still our babies. My heart goes out to all parents who have lost their children to war. My you be strengthened by the memory of their courage, and by the sure hope of seeing them again, in the land beyond pain, beyond suffering, beyond anything but peace and the knowledge that we are all, no matter where we come from, precious children of God.  


The Girl on Fire Finally Gets Burned

The coals of the firey Hunger Games trilogy are still smouldering on my iPad, several weeks after finishing it. Reading it was an intense experience, and one that made me think a lot. One of the most fascinating aspects was witnessing the slow, sad, mental breakdown of the heroin of the story, Katniss Everdeen. A passionate, intense teenager in a violent, unjust world, she struggles to fight against the repression of her state, and becomes increasingly embroiled in the plans of the rebels to take over from the sadistic President Snow.

For a long time Katniss is increasingly consumed by anger. It takes getting literally burned for her to realize it. That the fire of hatred burns not only the one hated, but the one who hates.

That being willing to do anything to destroy your enemy in fact destroys yourself, because it transforms you into them. That the greatest danger is perhaps not death after all, but losing yourself–what is essential to being you, your best part. It’s like Peeta said before the Hunger Games in book 1, that he wanted to die himself, instead of being corrupted by the Games. He didn’t want to be turned into a killer, a monster, someone willing to do whatever it took to achieve their goal, like the career tributes. At first Katniss can’t understand this way of thinking. All she can focus on is survival, for the sake of her little sister, and unwell mother, for whom she feels responsible.

Later she realizes to her horror, that the deeper into war you get, the more the line between ally and enemy blurs, the more the distinction between right and wrong fades, the more the shining idea of peace gets stained by so many splatters of blood.

In the end, so often betrayed and haunted by so many dead, Katniss trusts no one, and the only peace she can imagine is to join them in the grave, but this idea too gives her nightmares. I’m no expert, but I’m sure she has a bad case of PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-disorder).

Violence consumes her and spits her out broken; she is used as a symbol of rebellion, the Mockingjay, thinking that she is furthering the cause of freedom, when in fact she is helping the advancement if a new dictator, just as willing to kill as the last. When her usefulness expires, and her influence becomes a threat, she becomes expendable, and measures are taken.

The Hunger Games Trilogy beings and ends tragically: with the death of children. The abuse of precious and innocent human life as political bait, as hostages, as gory entertainment, as propaganda, as sacrifice for power, as a means to an end. The end is ugly.

But the books do not end in despair, but return to that small, precious hope of a quiet family life, faithful love, and children, made wiser by our experiences, with a future better than our past.

It reminds me of the return to the Shire at the end of The Lord of the Rings, after all the war and trauma of the journey to destroy the one ring, the ring of power, that nearly consumed Frodo. This ring likely would have killed or totally destroyed him without the faithful friendship of Samwise Gamgee, the kind, generous and brave friend who never abandoned him. After it is all done, and they have succeeded, the most beautiful thing is to see Sam return home to Rosie, to love, a hearth and home, to have a family. This is what makes all the sacrifice and heroism worth it.

Sam and Peeta both show us that what really matters, in worlds that can be so twisted and complex, is to remain true to our essential core, which is unswerving fidelity to those we love, and the realization that love is stronger than death, and is the force which has far more power to save our world than violence.

So what does this mean for us?

That when we are angry, we should seek peace.
That when we are disgusted by someone’s actions, we should still treat them with respect because they are a human being, and we, too, are capable of making many mistakes.
That when we are despised or mocked, we should not spit back nasty words, because returning evil for evil is a sure way to let our enemies win, by turning us into the kind of people whose actions were hurting us in the first place.
That we should never put people in simplistic boxes of good or evil, especially if labelling them the latter dehumanizes them. When we stop treating other people like human beings, we become monsters.

There is an expression worth pondering, that we must drown evil in an abundance of good. Often the best way to make the world a brighter place, instead of lashing out against the darkness, is to let the light of goodness shine by doing many simple, kind, and generous things, and trusting that all these little actions do add up to something important. If we teach this to our children, they can bear little torches of hope out into the world, and touch many lives for the better.

I don’t mean that we shouldn’t fight against injustice, and rally around the oppressed, but when we are in any kind of struggle, let’s remember what the rebels in the Hunger Games forgot: that not only the cause matters, but the way of fighting it, because fighting for a just cause by evil means poisons the whole thing.

And if the idea of violence against children rightly horrifies us, let’s remember that all people, of every background, were once children, too.