I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Some relatives belong in books, and may produce headaches

Delores E. Topliff  -  February 4, 2014

            How do we find story characters? From imagination? Or observing friends and family? We love relatives, but probably have a few who belong in books. My dad’s mother was hardworking, intelligent, and after surviving Depression-era hardships, appreciated money’s value. My grandfather, her husband, was resourceful, inventive, but quiet-spoken. He only got involved when problems escalated. His widowed mother lived at the other side of their farm in a redeemed chicken coop bordered by bright flowerbeds. A jaunty Welcome sign crowned the bridge crossing the little creek.

Since utilities aren’t free, Grandma charged Great-grandma $.03 actual cost for every tub of washing machine water used. When I turned 12, Great Grandma got sick. The choice was the expensive town hospital. Or the county hospital free for low-income folks with 12 patients in each ward. When I hiked there after school, Great-Grandma had me read favorite Bible chapters, ending with I Cor. 15. She resurrected before my eyes.

Around Mother ’s Day, she was hospitalized again. I had no gift. But two blocks away a gas station’s grand opening offered free baby orchids with fill-ups. I approached the owner, hemming, hawing, and shuffling feet, describing my wonderful great-grandma. “Could I please have one baby orchid for her?”

“Here, kid. Take a dozen.” He handed me a box, one for each worn woman in the ward. Great-grandma beamed.

Years later I was in college five hours away when a letter announced she was in the county hospital in her final illness. Fuming, I soon experienced a raging headache. Storming, I walked outside, The more I fumed, the worse my head pounded. But when I prayed. And added tears. The headache subsided. When I fumed again, the headache returned. After re-committing Great-grandma to God, I felt better. That headache came and went, came and went, staying away when I surrendered her care to God. I couldn’t rush to her side, and she wouldn’t want me to. My role was to pray.

I try to remember that principle, and not let emotions dictate actions--or reactions.

Meanwhile, Dad’s mom worked hard and accomplished lots, but worried much and died young. Can emotions affect us that much? Maybe. But God also can help us understand and gain wisdom. While learning to let Him carry the load.
            What about you? Do any relatives belong in books? Do some family situations produce headaches? Let them teach us wisdom.


  1. My grandmother, the wife of a southern baptist preacher, make a wonderful cake that everyone LOVED. She kept the recipe a secret of years. When my mom found it and made it, it didn't taste quite the same. It was later learned the secret ingredient this God fearing woman didn't want anyone to know about was--whiskey!

    It's one of those things I'd like to put on one of my stories one day. Great post,Dee. Thanks for sharing some of your family history.

  2. There's always a little bit of the people I love in the characters I love to write about. My own dear mother was an angel, but a spunky one. She loved us like no other, but boy did she have a spark of mischief! She loved to play tricks on the other teachers at the school where she taught. A generous portion of her fun was passed on to my brother, Gary. He now teaches 7th grade science and uses science tricks to get his students interested in the lesson. He does it so well that he has to tell his students NOT to tell the next class what they did. You know it's a great science class when you have to tell them not to talk about it in the hallway!

  3. Absolutely, glad for both of your comments. Jennie, that was a spirited cake. Teri, I still love making teaching as exciting as possible--and sometimes play tricks on the students, to keep them interested & keep them guessing.

  4. Love that, Jennie. My mom was a one of those who belong in a book. At 93 she texted and had a Facebook page. If her computer froze, she took the battery out and rebooted. :-)

    1. So glad for your fun memories. Have a safe drive home, and HAPPY BOOK RELEASE DAY.

  5. Many of my characters have bits and pieces of my family in them...hopefully my family can't see themselves in my characters though. :) My mom spent decades going down the wrong path, but God's redemption has her eyes drawn to Him. She's a living testimony of His abundant grace. I'm using her as an example for my current novel.