5 February 1876 Questions Answered

 

Lady Ezra 1My dear friend,

Oh my friend, what a lovely letter you have sent to me! I was beginning to worry that perhaps I had offended you, as I had not heard from you in quite some time. I am so thankful to know it was nothing egregious on my part. I certainly do understand how “the cares of this world” can get in our way and suddenly, the days and weeks have flown by.

You asked me many questions in your missive about our life in these times, so I will do my best to respond. It pleases me greatly that you wish to know about me, and yet I am more pleased that it has taken us these many months before asking about such things. We have become friends first, and what a kindness it is!

It does strike me a wee bit unusual that both of us would say our lives are filled with activity and, at times, we are overwhelmed. We both have husbands, children, extended family, homes we care for, church responsibilities and friends who matter greatly to us. You have told me you work at an office. There are women here who, to help out their family circumstances must also manage their husband’s office in addition to their home tasks as well. Some ladies here take in students to tutor them in academics, or for music lessons, or they teach young girls to sew. I also have told you about Mrs. Baxter, who opened Adelaide’s Tea Room after her husband passed. You can see that many women in Finchingfield and the surrounding areas might consider themselves as more than “homemakers.” Women are certainly resourceful, are they not?

I suppose what strikes me in all of this is I had assumed by the 21st century (if such a day did indeed come!), was that women would have would have discovered a way to satisfactorily manage the many aspects of their lives. I think with progress and invention and new ideas and all of that, someone somewhere would have resolved these issues. It simply baffles me that this is not so.

You asked about HM Queen Victoria, and while you said that her current lineage is filled with people she would be proud of, you will not say any more on the topic. I think that is best. I will tell you that we are fond of our Queen. She has been in mourning since her beloved Prince Albert died. The Queen always wears black; it is quite sad. They have several children who are of course adults now. I am sure you know Prince Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, is next in line for the throne, but of course we pray for HM to live a long and fruitful life.

You also asked for more details regarding our life with the Lord, Church and so on. I will save those questions for my next letter, as the children are waking from their naps and I must tend to them. I so enjoy our times writing back and forth to one another. Do always remember “it is the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance,” and that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Our Lord is so kind and gentle with us. Let us rejoice always!

 

Your loving,

Lady Ezra

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12 January 1876 Elixir for Life

 

 

Lady Ezra 1My dear friend,

Thank you my dearest friend, for writing to me so quickly. From your letter, it sounds as though your days in December were full of activity as well. I do not understand how it is we become so occupied with trivialities other than those which draw us nearer to the miracle of our Lord’s birth. Perhaps the upcoming season of Lent is one in which we can spend our times of prayer and sacrifice recollecting ourselves more fully to our Lord and King? It seems our days become easily filled with events that pull us away from Him.

For example, a young man came by our home yesterday, as he was selling an elixir. He called it “Thompson’s Elixir for Life.” He then went on to explain that this particular elixir was made from a mixture of the highest quality of fruit, water, a bit of honey from the best bees, and a few other “secret” ingredients all mixed together. He guaranteed me that if I just took a spoonful of Thompson’s every morning, and also gave some to my family members—even my little Emma—why, we all would be full of energy, health, happiness and joy each and every day.

Then he told me his aging mother had been feeling poorly due to rheumatism, but once she started taking a spoonful of Thompson’s, why, she was feeling so much better she was up and around and feeling 20 years younger. He also said several others in Finchingfield had been using it with tremendous results. Some ladies were even starting to look and act as if they were well, as if they were new brides all over again.

At first I was intrigued by this elixir, yet when he commented on these ladies and how they might be acting, I became suspicious. How would a man, going from house to house in the village, know whether a married lady of some years was acting like a new bride? I cannot imagine any woman making such a comment in mixed company, and certainly not to a stranger. That would be most unbecoming!

I remembered that our Lord told us in the Gospel of Matthew, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” It seemed as though a wolf was right at my door, and I was not about to let him take any more of my time, and certainly not any of my husband’s money. So I responded to him that when the Lord created the earth, He gave “us every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed” for food. Therefore, all the fruits, vegetables, water and honey are from the earth and are ours already; I don’t need to buy them in a bottle labeled Thompson’s Elixir. Whatever other so-called secret ingredients might be mixed in cannot improve on what the Lord has already provided us free of charge. I told him he was a liar who preyed on weak people, and such a person was not welcome in Finchingfield. I asked him to not waste my time nor the time of my friends in the village, to take his fake potion and leave us alone. Then I closed my door.

I shared with my husband what had happened when he came home for dinner. He was pleased that I had wisdom to recognize the man’s foolishness, and hequoted from Proverbs, “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.” It is a blessing to know the Lord our King, who keeps us from stumbling in even the slightest of ways.

Your loving,

Lady Ezra

6 January 1876 Feast of Epiphany

Lady Ezra 1My dear friend,

I can hardly imagine but that Advent and Christmastide have come and gone! Here it is Twelfth Night, and I realized that I have not written to you in several weeks. Oh please, will you forgive me? So much has happened here in Finchingfield, I simply lost track of time.

When I last sent you a letter, Mrs. Antonia Ratcliffe and our Vicar, Rev. Samuel (he has told us we could call him that now when he was not in his robes), had recently become engaged to be married. As it certainly was not fitting for a Vicar to marry during the prepatory and fasting season of Advent, the Bishop came to town on the Eve of Christmas and married them that afternoon in the Rectory.

The wedding itself of course was rather small, due to it being Antonia’s second marriage and the Rev. Samuel not wanting any sort of unseemly show. However, the Ladies’ Guild wanted to welcome Antonia as the Vicar’s Wife, so we offered to host a Reception Tea for the newlyweds in the Guildhall immediately following their vows. As I am on the Guild, we spent weeks preparing for the event, making decorations, gathering china and tea services etc.

It turned out to be a lovely occasion. The Guildhall was decorated festively with evergreen and red bows, as well as candles and lanterns since it was nearing the Vesper hour. Naturally, many people attended, as they wanted to greet the couple, which meant we had guests from both the parish and also the village at large. We offered tea, wassail, and a variety of Christmas cookies and savories. It was a joyous time, as we welcomed not only the marriage, but began the celebration of the Birth of our Saviour. Our hard work was well worth it.

Afterwards, the Vicar assisted the Bishop with the Christmas Eve service. Antonia was radiant as she watched her new husband in his Christmas stole helping with the proceedings. The Sanctuary was aglow with even more candles and evergreen. The smell of pine, balsam and cedar filled the air as we sang carols to our Newborn King.

Rev. Samuel and Antonia have now returned from their honeymoon in London. Today we had a mid-day service for Epiphany so as not to interfere with the village bonfire tonight. We have taken down our evergreens and Mr. Shedd had the boys take them to the pile in the village Centre where everyone else has gathered their boughs. We shall have a fun time this evening lighting the fire and drinking one last cup of wassail, wishing one another a good and happy new year. I will bundle Emma up well so the cold air will not affect her lungs too much.

I do wish a happy and good new year for you and yours. Perhaps you will send me a letter with news of your family. I certainly hope you were not busy over Christmas, as I was. I don’t believe busyness ought to be the norm at Christmastide, but as we had a wedding I trust the Lord Jesus understood. He who was born in the quiet of a cattle stall bids us to be quiet with Him, do you not agree?

Your loving,

Lady Ezra

 

30 November 1875 Feast of St. Andrew

Lady Ezra 2My dear friend,

Once again, the year has come round to St. Andrew’s Day. There is a sure chill in the air, the children’s cheeks are bright pink when they come in from chores, and I cannot let the fire go out even at noontime. While Emma continues with her cough, Mrs. Baxter, who owns the Tea Room, has mixed up some herbs that have loosened Emma’s breathing. I am grateful to her. Perhaps this winter will be easier on my little one than in the past.

My sister sent word that not only has Edward’s walking and gait improved over the last month, but she had opportunity to share with a woman how our times of prayer for him had more impact than any of the medicines or poultices the good doctor had to offer. Amelia’s neighbor saw Edward walking alone near their home (albeit with difficulty), and she told my sister she was rather surprised, as she had heard Edward had become a cripple. My dear sister answered her stiffly, informing her the Lord had accomplished so many miracles in their family, she wasn’t able to keep the neighborhood apprised of all of them. The lady was taken aback for a moment, then recovered herself and understood that Edward is alive, walking and continuing to heal, all because of prayer. She apologized for her ill-mannered comment, blessed the Lord and went on about her day.

These small instances—Mrs. Baxter providing an herb mixture for Emma, Amelia explaining how prayer made a difference in Edward’s life—strike me by their similarity to that of St. Andrew’s with his brother in the Scripture reading for today: And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him. And going on from thence, He saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him. I do not imagine that these men, at the time of their calling, had any idea what the Lord Jesus meant when He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Surely, our Lord’s call was intriguing to them, else why would they leave everything to follow Him? Nevertheless, there is nothing in His words, nothing around Him, nothing in His manner according to Scripture, to indicate what was to come. It was simply a common invitation to follow Him. In John’s Gospel, we read that it was Andrew who first met Jesus, and then Andrew went and found his brother Peter and, as is common and proper, he introduced him to the Lord.

I find that we often mistake common, everyday moments for just that; common, everyday moments. We do not remember that the Lord is with us in all things, for He promised us, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Therefore, nothing we do is common or ordinary. All that we do is infused with the Lord’s presence. Moments as small as a greeting, an invitation, a visit with a neighbor, or a suggestion for healing a sick child…all of these seemingly unremarkable occasions are also intersections with eternity and Christ. This is what St. Andrew teaches me, and I smile. 

Your loving,

Lady Ezra

24 November 1875 An Engagement

Lady Ezra 2My dear friend,

You will be happy to know that, after much deliberation and waiting, our Vicar announced at church that he and the widow Mrs. Ratcliffe are to be married next month! Oh, blessed be the Lord! We are all so very excited here in Finchingfield, to say the least.

Antonia came over yesterday and shared with me how this all came about. It seems a fortnight ago the couple was on a walkabout with young Nicholas. The lad has been quite taken with our Rev. March for a while now, which has pleased Antonia so much. As they all were walking on a Sunday afternoon near the pond, feeding the ducks and enjoying the late autumn warmth, the Reverend stopped walking and asked Antonia to sit on a nearby bench. Nicholas was a short distance away, so it was only the two of them. Samuel (I am not accustomed to using his Christian name, but Antonia said it was alright to do so privately), took her hand and told her he thought it was time to share his intentions.

Apparently, he had vowed to the Lord at the time of his holy orders that he would not marry unless the Lord Himself brought a woman to him. He intended to live his life for the Lord and His Church, and did not want to have a divided heart. At this point, Antonia was afraid Samuel was turning her away, but he continued with his thought. He went on and remarked that the Lord must have heard him, for no other single woman of marriageable age had come into any of his parishes …until he met Antonia over the summer. He said he was immediately taken with her, although he fought in prayer for quite some time, afraid this was not the Lord’s will for him. Finally, unsure of what to do, he went to the Bishop in great anguish. The Bishop smiled and said Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.” The Bishop had no other words for him, but did give Samuel his blessing.

At that point, Samuel got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. He whispered he loved her with all his heart and would do all he could to make their home happy and joyful. He promised to be a kind, faithful and hard-working husband, promising to always provide for her, Nicholas and any other children the Lord would give them. She replied that she loved him and her heart’s desire was to be his wife! They then called Nicholas over and told him what was to come about. Antonia told me her son was so happy he jumped up and down for several minutes. “I have a daddy! I have daddy!” He exclaimed over and over.

The two of them then went to her grandparents. As she is a widow, Samuel said he didn’t feel obligated to “ask” for her hand in the way a gentleman would if Antonia had never been married before. He simply told Mr. and Mrs. Allen the union has been prayed over and also had the Bishop’s blessing. At that, they could only add their blessing as well.

They are planning on a wedding near Christmas day if it can be managed. Between all of us ladies of Finchingfield, I don’t think that will be a problem at all. What a Happy Christmas this will be!

 Your loving,

Lady Ezra

18 November 1875 A Time to be Brave

Lady Ezra 2My dear friend,

I thought you might like to hear about Rev. March’s message on Sunday. As you may recall, I told you about Mr. and Mrs. Kingston who have been praying about going to the mission field. A great deal of the funding has already been raised on their behalf, so, after some correspondence with Mr. Mueller, they have agreed to take a post for one year in Bristol working with the orphans there. After that, they will set sail for India assuming they discern this is still God’s will for them at that time.

Consequently, Rev. March determined Sunday to be a Service of Consecration for the Kingstons, to set them apart as servants of God in this new work. After praying over them, he gave an extraordinary sermon which gave us all pause.

He said that all of us are called to follow Christ. Therefore, we will at times be called to go to places and into situations that are frightening. However, just because something is frightening or dangerous does not mean we are not to go. The Lord Himself was called to the Cross. The namesake of our Church, St. John the Baptist, was called to a dungeon and then to death. St. Paul was called to all sorts of difficulties before being beheaded. Other saints were called to the Arena and mauled by wild animals. Some were burnt at the stake for Christ. Every one of these men and women were called by Christ and called to danger. None of them were called to safety.

Our Vicar said he could not promise that the Kingstons would arrive safely in India, live long or prosperous lives on the mission field. That their hearts were right before the Lord was not a guarantee of anything. The ship could sink, one or both could become ill etc. Once they arrive in India, a host of problems could occur that could alter their work, send them home, or cause them to die. A desire to honor the Lord, loving Him, seeking His face… none of these deep longings of the heart guaranteed immediate fruit on this earth.

He then read from Psalm 46: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.  There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early… The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge… He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Rev. March concluded with this: we must, at all times trust in the Lord, no matter what befalls us. This is where courage and grace and faith come from. Our Lord is a Mighty God, and He holds all things in the palms of His hands. So if indeed the mountains be carried into the sea, or the earth be removed, or the waters roar and be troubled…we will not fear. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

 Your loving,

Lady Ezra

9 November 1875

Lady Ezra 1My dear friend,

I appreciate so much your correspondence with me. It helps me to understand how life continues on in the 21st century. You seem quite busy to me, and your presence is required at many events. You have told me about the things you do at your work, the people you talk with, the multiple projects you must complete, clients and co-workers you contend with on a daily basis, as well as the many meetings you attend. You have tried to explain other parts of your life which I simply do not understand: the many types of communication and transportation, for example. I truly have learned so much from you.

Still, as I read your letters it concerns me about how fast you and your people seem to move through your days. You mentioned you went shopping and then to your son’s soccer tournament on Sunday and weren’t able to be at church. You said you knew that was very different from how we live, but that’s just how things are now. Can you not choose differently?

Let me tell you about our Sunday. It was an overcast day, as is becoming the norm now that it is November. The wind was coming from the north, so there was a bite to it. The clouds were thick and there would be rain before too long. We of course went to church and afterwards, Mr. Shedd suggested to the boys that they go ahead and get the animals cared for before the rain came in full force. He, Henry, Charles and Robert all went to the barn to milk the cows, tend the horses and pigs while the girls and I made our dinner. By the time the men came in, the downpour had started. They were chilled to the bone. I had the fire stirred up, so the house was warm and they were happy to be inside, away from the wet cold.

We had the rabbit stew piping hot, filled with vegetables and thick gravy ready for everyone to eat, along with warm bread with butter. Everyone gathered at the table and Mr. Shedd gave the blessing. Everyone had enough to fill their stomachs and their souls. Afterwards, we gathered at the fire. Emma had been croupy most of the day, so as soon as I was in my chair by the hearth, she climbed up in my lap and was asleep. Lenora and Mary sat nearby with their blankets as did the boys. As is his custom on Sundays, my husband read from the Scriptures, and then would ask the children to comment on each portion: “O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works. Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Remember his marvelous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth.” After this portion of Psalm 105, he asked them, “How can we seek the Lord and His strength? What marvelous works has He done?”

We would then talk about that for a while. Then he read more Scripture, about St. Paul’s journeys and asked the children to find those places on our globe. We talked about why the Lord had St. Paul go to those places and so on. We spoke of St. Paul’s work in establishing churches, and his labor and suffering, and how there are many who carry on such work today. After that, my husband called us to prayer. So on Sunday afternoon there before the firelight, as the rain beat down on our roof, our little family gathered as one to pray for those who are working to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

Your loving,

Lady Ezra