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  • Leanne W. Smith

Up and Down Goes the Heart

Updated: Jun 8, 2018

Last week I flew to Chicago for a conference. April is a busy month for educators, and this annual conference took place during the highest peak of my work season. I was tired when I left, and tired when I came home.  

Down goes the heart.

Still…perhaps due to the difference in routine tasks—an opportunity to step off the normal hamster wheel of my world—I returned refreshed, with a heart fuller of thought than normal.

And up again.

I flew Southwest on Wednesday. The day before, a woman got on a routine flight like mine and didn’t live to reach her destination. I may never sit peaceably in a window seat again.

Down. 

After Ubering to the hotel, I realized Hamilton was playing down the street. So on Thursday morning between academic sessions I bought a prized remaining ticket. 

I had not seen Hamilton; perhaps you have. It is heralded as a great musical for a reason. The writer in me was moved and thrilled by the story, the lighting, the music, the acting. 

I walked away wanting to be a braver writer; believing once again in the power of words and stories well told. 

And up.

Friday, on the flight home, I finished reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Another kind of story—heart-breaking and beautiful. 

And down.

While I grieved the atrocities of her first-hand account of war and its wide swath of horror, I marveled at the faith and obedience of her family…the ways they loved, and the shafts of light God sent them.

And up again.

I returned to my own house more appreciative of the comfort and sanctity of home, to find my gloriously uneventful life as I had left it—to French-press coffee on Saturday morning in my easy chair, Stan reading the Wall Street Journal beside me, its front page filled with another story of abuse. 

Down.

A familiar walk through the neighborhood. The azaleas in bloom and my hostas peaking through the soil. Worship on Sunday with people I love. 

Up.

Then learning of another shooting in a public place. 

Some weeks the heart volleys up and down more than others. In seeking to at least begin this Admiration Monday on an upswing, here’s a short snippet from The Hiding Place, in case your heart benefits from the power of words and story as much as mine does.


Once—I must have been ten or eleven—I asked Father about a poem we had read at school the winter before. One line had described “a young man whose face was not shadowed by sexsin.” I had been far too shy to ask the teacher what it meant, and Mama had blushed scarlet when I consulted her. In those days just after the turn of the century, sex was never discussed, even at home.

So the line had stuck in my head. “Sex,” I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a girl or boy, and “sin” made Tante Jans very angry, but what the two together meant I could not imagine. 

And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sexsin?"

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.

“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

“It's too heavy," I said.

“Yes," he said. "And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

And I was satisfied. More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions—for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.

From The Hiding Place: The triumphant True Story of Corrie ten Boom 

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