Sweet contentment, even with illnesses in the family

This winter seems to have brought more than the usual amount of illness. We haven't been hit as hard as some of our church families with younger children, but we've seen plenty. Currently I have two down with strep, including our youngest, Benjamin, who has also had three separate bouts of that nasty stomach virus.

No mama likes to see her children wiped out from a high fevers or dealing with a rummy tummy, but while caring for my sick ones I so often think how much more difficult this job was for women in previous ages. Last night when Jon's temp spiked to 104, we were able to help it decline, albeit slowly, by alternately giving him both acetaminophen and ibuprofen. And today, after a positive strep test, both sick boys are on antibiotics, which should wipe out that streptococcal bacteria in no time.

Compare that to what strep meant in the past. Scarlet fever is a rash that sometimes accompanies a strep infection, but when it was noticed in days gone by, children (and tending mamas) were often quarantined for 40 days. For good reason, too. Untreated, strep infections can lead to extremely serious issues.

I've just finished reading a biography of Elizabeth Prentiss, author of Stepping Heavenward and composer of that great hymn, "More Love to Thee." Like other women of past generations, Mrs. Prentiss spent much time in the sick room, nursing ill children. (Often she herself was the patient, too, as she experienced poor health throughout her life, some of which, according to the author of the bio I read, might have been due to mercury poisoning. It seems that a common remedy given to children in the first half of the 1800s was a "little blue pill" which was actually a mercury compound that led to headaches, dizziness, mental cloudiness, and tremors.)

The defining period in Mrs. Prentiss's life occurred when she lost two of her (ultimately) six children within a few months. One was a boy of three and the other a month old baby girl. This suffering served to draw her more deeply to her Lord and to prepare her for heaven. She then used the comfort the Lord had given her to comfort other bereaved women throughout her life.

I hope to post some excerpts from Elizabeth Prentiss's letters in future posts, but here I want to leave you with just one. After nursing her 10 year old son, Henry, back from a serious illness, Mrs. Prentiss wrote this to a friend:

I have had some really sweet days, shut up with my dear little boy. He is better, and I am comparatively at leisure again, and so happy in meditating on the character of my Saviour... I wish I could put into words all the blessed thoughts I had last week about God's dear will: it was a week of such sweet content with the work He gave me to do; naturally I hate nursing, and losing the air makes me feel unwell; but what can't God do with us? I love, dearly, to have a Master. I fancy that those who have strong wills are the ones to enjoy God's sovereignty most.   

And to think that I sometimes complain about having to miss church two weeks running! May I exhibit this sweet  contentment with the work God has given me.


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