I went ahead & updated the schedule with new and improved dates that reflect the reality of busy lives! I think we're actually doing pretty well, just lost our momentum for a little while, but now we should pick up some more steam again. There's not a lot left to the first part; we're nearly halfway. So here goes my contribution to the steam building!
Chapter 16: Marme sets off for Washington to nurse Father through pneumonia. The girls write a number of letters, as well as Hannah, Laurie, and Mr. Lawrence. The chapter's theme seems to be "keep busy and it will keep your mind off things." Not a bad motto at all.
Chapter 17: The girls relax a bit upon hearing that Father is doing much better, except for Beth who picks up the slack a bit. Including visiting & nursing the Hummel family, whose baby dies of scarlet fever. Beth also comes down with the fever. Amy, who hasn't had it yet, is sent away to Aunt March.
Chapter 18: Beth becomes extremely ill with scarlet fever. Ill enough that they send for Mother. Fortunately, by this time Father is better and Mother is able to leave him. Beth passes the worst of it just as Mother arrives.
Insensibly - 1. Imperceptible; inappreciable: an insensible change in temperature.
2. Very small or gradual: insensible movement.
"Relieved of their first anxiety about their father, the girls insensibly relaxed their praiseworthy efforts a little, and began to fall back into the old ways." -Page 174, Chapter 17.
I really enjoyed the first of the three chapters this week. The idea of work as a kindness from the Lord, of work as a balm for the wounded spirit is an interesting one, one which I am beginning to learn the truth of. Mother said it so well:
"Go on with your work as usual, for work is a blessed solace. Hope and keep busy, and whatever happens, remember that you never can be Fatherless." - Page 166, Chapter 16.
And the girls began well - don't we all! But as they got good news they got comfortable and complacent, and let things slip. The word she used was "insensibly." They weren't even aware it was happening. This is SO true to life! In this case it had disastrous, nearly fatal, consequences. The girls become aware of their faults, but unfortunately not until it's too late, and Beth has become ill, and continued to work right through the early stages of the illness.
It seems to be a very similar pattern to the Nephite cycle: they get faithful, they get comfortable, they slip a bit, then something happens to "stir them up to remembrance" and they are careful again. We see the same thing in our efforts to loose weight: a little progress, a little backsliding, then struggle for progress again. It seems to be a truism about people: we only work hard when there's problems right on top of us. I always used to think that folks who were grateful for their trials were a bit off in the head, but the more I learn about it the more I think that they are often times a "tender mercy" from the Lord. How much more the girls learn from this experience than they would have from an uneventful couple of weeks! And the things they are learning are things that will bring them closer to the Lord; closer to the potential that He wants them to reach.
One other interesting bit is the reappearance of the "little books." I think I'm going to stick with my thought that it's the Bible, rather than "Pilgrim's Progress" that they are reading, as they draw a great deal of comfort from the book in these difficult times. Also, there is the fact that they seem to have a chapter-a-day habit of being in those little books, and that is a very typical way to read scriptures. It seems to me that if it was Pilgrim's Progress they would have reached the end of the book and then slacked off, rather than turning around and starting over. And given the months that have passed by they should have reached the end of Pilgrim's Progress by this point.