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So, How Do “Heartsease” And “Johnny Jump Up” Matter Ultimately?

Naturally, it pleased me that so many readers appreciated the “Babeli” story that introduced us to Viola Tricolor, the wild pansy that had also emigrated to America. God authors no dull scripts, so He is fine if I briefly tinker with the “flora” theme to add a “fauna” twist. Strangely, the Steinbeck novella Of Mice and Men kept popping up in my head, leading me to imagine a typical female reaction to the mice explosion in Babeli’s parlor. That was no heart-stopper for me. In my late teens I boarded a street car in winter and witnessed “an unbelievable ruckus” that ensued when a woman opened her knitting bag and out jumped a mouse. Frozen in terror, it was quite catchable and surely grateful that it wound up inside the woolen mitten on my warm hand, shielded from hysterical shrieking. It was only after I released it that I wondered why it did not bite or sicken me. If there is such a thing as the “gift of mice,” Paul failed to mention it.


How does a kid catch PTSD? Perhaps when an Austrian woman is brought to your house at night, her bloodied hands torn from clawing through barbed wire. She was moved into my brother’s bedroom and he and I discussed in mine how we would like to see Hitler killed. Our solution? Throw him into a cesspool and use a pitchfork to keep him submerged. Or perhaps when my parents took in two French boys evacuated from badly shelled Belfort, and seeing photos of rows of caskets of their less fortunate school mates. For sure because of blood-red skies and ominous thuds when bombs rained on Lindau situated on nearby Lake Constance. What about lying beside my mother at night and anxiously checking if she was breathing? Or hoping later that she would die because the uncertain outcome of her protracted illness was killing me? At five one morning we were driven to the hospital to say our good-byes. Her hair had turned gray and I hated the pink ribbon tied in it. We were ushered out of the room when informed that a piece of medical equipment from America had just arrived. Suffice it to say it saved her life, but I have no knowledge of what it was or why she was near death.


One evening in 1947 I was on a pleasant walk with our new next-door neighbors, when suddenly I struggled for breath and needed a doctor. Worse was to come. At 16 I entered a school in French Switzerland and excelled in all academic studies and housekeeping courses. I was particularly good at entertaining my friends on kitchen duty, not at all disheartened when left behind to scrub pots and pans for one hundred people. One day, without warning, I woke up with a frightening heaviness on my chest, that came to feel like being pinned down by funeral wreaths. Visiting class mates were relieved to find me still good for giggling, rather than a scary basket case. Worsening physical symptoms had me sent home for three weeks and see the heart specialist.


As it turned out in my later adult life, panic attacks occurred at times of uncertainty, but knowing that my heart and mind were sound, I could not be derailed from normal life. In fact, the Lord graciously gave me a rewarding ministry for women with all kinds of fears, but desiring above all an overcoming faith to honor their faithful Savior. I collected all kinds of fun visuals with “pansy” motifs to drive home that the name comes from the French for “thoughts.” We related these “pensées” to the marvelous truth of God’s intimate knowledge of us as celebrated in Psalm 139, especially verse 7, “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!” The reality of His sovereignty and redeeming mercies constituted enough Heartsease for anybody’s lifetime. Viola Tricolor was also linked to the Trinity. The practical application for Johnny Jump Up became delightfully clear when we looked at Mary’s visit to Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-56. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the soon-to-be mother of John the Baptist exclaims, “For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.” As Spirit-indwelled children of our heavenly Father, and fellow-heirs with Christ, we learned to imitate Aha moments of the “Johnny Jump Up” kind by incarnating the nearness and dearness of Jesus in word and deed, thus dignifying our struggles and de-escalating their crippling hold on us. If that sounds crazy, go back to the Babeli story and see how God used her to bless me and quite possibly you. Shall we call it “crazy wonderful”?

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