by Sarah Sundin
Most parents have experienced this, no matter how loving and vigilant they are. At the store or the park, you turn around and your child is…gone. Your heart is carved out of your chest. As you frantically search, every worst-case scenario flashes through your mind.
When Germany invaded France and the Low Countries in World War II, over a million people fled on foot and by car and by farm wagon. German planes strafed the crowded roads, and parents panicked. Some thrust their little children through the windows of passing cars, believing they stood a better chance.
But after the German conquest was complete and the refugees returned to their homes, ads flooded the newspapers from parents searching for their children.
When I read about this, my heart broke. Then I asked the novelist’s eternal question, “What would it be like…?”
In my new novel, Embers in the London Sky, this happens to my heroine, Aleida Martens. She and her abusive husband flee the Netherlands with their three-year-old son, Theo. While she’s sleeping in their parked car, her husband takes Theo from her arms and thrusts him into the car of a British couple bound for London. He refuses to give Aleida the couple’s name or address, and when he’s killed, Aleida is left with nothing but a suitcase of tiny clothes and Theo’s stuffed elephant.
As I was writing about Aleida’s search for her son in London—during the Blitz!—I was also welcoming our first grandchild into the world. The day my son and his wife brought their baby boy home from the hospital, my mild-mannered, logical, level-headed son looked me in the eye and said, “I understand now. I would kill for him.”
Although my own children are grown up, I still feel that deep aching love for them and a fierce protectiveness—which has now been extended to our grandson. What would I do for my children or grandchild? How far would I go?
Aleida refers to her son as “her very heart.” She confronts those questions in her search, and she comes face-to-face with a conundrum. Am I still acting in the interests of my child? Or am I now only acting for my own interests?
A parent’s identity becomes intertwined with the child’s. In many circles, I am not “Sarah Sundin.” I am “Stephen’s mom,” an identity I relish. But in our achievement-oriented culture, we believe the child reflects on the parents. How the child looks and dresses and acts, the grades he gets, the home runs and goals and prizes he wins, the accolades he earns—all reflect on us.
And because our identity depends on the child’s achievement, if we aren’t careful, we can push our children too hard and teach them by our actions and attitudes—even if not by our words—that we only love them for what they do. Not for who they are.
We are no longer acting in our child’s interest, but in our own.
As a mother, I made many mistakes in this area, which I regret. As a grandmother, I’m hoping to help guide my son and his wife not to make those same mistakes.
In Embers in the London Sky, Aleida reaches a heart-wrenching moment when she has to decide just how far she’ll go. She has to decide whether she’s doing something for Theo—or for herself. She has to make a decision no parent should ever have to face.
What do you do when your very heart goes missing?
About the Author
Sarah Sundin is an ECPA-bestselling author of World War II novels, including Embers in the London Sky. Her novels have received the Christy Award and the Carol Award. Sarah lives in Southern California and serves as co-director of the West Coast Christian Writers Conference. www.sarahsundin.com.
About the Book
As the German army invades the Netherlands in 1940, widow Aleida van der Zee Martens desperately searches for her little boy even as she works for an agency responsible for evacuating children to the countryside. When she enlists the help of BBC radio correspondent Hugh Collingwood, they grow closer and closer, both to each other and the answers they seek.
Did You Know?
We all will pray differently. Some journal their prayers. Others keep a notebook list. And some enjoy prayerwalking or utilizing a labyrinth or prayer closet. God gave each of us a unique personality, and we can find our natural praying style by studying the following.
Biblical praying people. As we read God’s Word, we can observe the prayers and praying practices of the biblical people. Some were more cerebral, some were more emotional, and still others exercised certain disciplines or expressed prayer with their physical posture.
Reflections on personality differences. Rather than taking personality quizzes, we can learn more about ourselves by answering open-ended questions. How do I present myself to the world? How do I view the world around me? How do I approach work, relationships, and my spiritual life? Do interactions with people drain me or give me energy? Do I make decisions by having all the details or using my instincts? Which do I value greater: logic or feelings? Do I prefer schedules or spontaneity?
Other influences. There’s even more that makes up how we approach prayer. The generation into which we were born and praying practices of our family influence how we view prayer. Learning styles help us understand how we best receive and even convey information. And spiritual gifts will influence how we pray.
The grace of God allowed biblical people to argue, question, lament, and negotiate with Him in prayer. We too can find our natural praying style.
-Janet Holm McHenry, Praying Personalities: Finding Your Natural Prayer Style
Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore
“There's a warm, cozy feeling being surrounded by books—touching, flipping through pages, deciding the book(s) I want to carry home with me.”
-Sandra Kay Chambers, Fingerprint Devotions