Permission Slips for the Resistance

My Opa (Dutch for grandfather) worked in an underground/resistance group in German-occupied Netherlands during World War II. I’ve known this all my life, but I am still learning new stories and seeing new evidence as my uncles dig through their papers and unearth some gems.

At this year’s family reunion, my Uncle Henk pulled out some war-era papers that left me awed. He laid out this dark history on a peeling picnic table on a warm and sunny day. I am now even more grateful that Opa undermined the occupying Nazis any way he could–and that he survived. Here is the story in brief, told by my uncle:

The leader was our family doctor, Oostenbrink. This work was already beginning when our family arrived in Velp in September of 1941 and Rev. Klaas Hart joined in soon after arriving. As a result at some time he also became a wanted person and had to find a safe place to live. In July of 1944 the Germans entered Oostenbrink’s and our home to search for evidence of illegal activity, which resulted in the dismantling of the resistance group and that, in turn, led to our flight by horse and wagon to the safer home of the Holtrusts in Ermelo in September of 1944. His work was utterly dangerous and a number of his group’s co-workers were arrested and either executed or sent to a concentration camp where they died.

And here is the story of a resistance worker, told in a series of permissions, notes, and newspapers.

May 30, 1942 letter to Rev. Klaas Hart, telling him to be careful because of his anti-occupation preaching.
A letter from a fellow Dutchman in the Press and Propaganda department of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands, telling Rev. Hart that there were ministers who were preaching dangerous sermons and they should be careful. My uncles characterized this is a funny letter, because Opa was the minister in question and this was a very roundabout way of warning him. May 30, 1942. Dutch.
Permission for K. Hart to keep his bicycle. August 27, 1942, Velp. Dutch.
Permission to keep his bicycle–technically “exempt from the obligation to surrender bicycle.” August 27, 1942, Velp. Dutch.
Permission to travel from Velp in Gelderland to Groningen between August 21-24, 1943. German.
Permission to travel from Velp in Gelderland to Groningen between August 21-24, 1943. German. The uncles remember that he said this was to provide pastoral care for his previous congregation.
Note from the mayor informing them that the Germans want their house, so they have to move. December 4, 1943
Note from the mayor informing them that the Germans want their house, so they have to move. “In connection with the claim of your home, I inform you that as soon as your home has been vacated, you must notify the Ommerschofschelaan office as soon as possible. You will be notified when the house is taken over by the German opposition from you. An inventory list of the goods left behind will then be drawn up. The keys will then have to be handed over to the German authorities.” December 4, 1943. Dutch.
Permission to take Henrik Hart (the oldest child, 9 years old) and Peter Hart (my father, 8 months old) somewhere because they were sick. October 8, 1944
Sickness transport. Permission to take Henrik Hart (the oldest child, 9 years old) and Peter Hart (my father, 20 months old) somewhere because they were sick. The thing is, nobody remembered them ever being this ill, so the assumption is that this was a ruse to move someone/something else. October 8, 1944. Dutch.
Handwritten note from Red Cross for this mysterious illness of Hendrik and Peter Hart. October, 1944. Dutch.
Handwritten note from Red Cross for this mysterious illness of Hendrik and Peter Hart. October, 1944. Dutch.
Permission from the Red Cross to go out after air raids to help anyone who needed help. October 21, 1944. German.
Permission from the Red Cross to go out after air raids to help anyone who needed help. October 21, 1944. This is after they moved to Ermelo, in the province of Gelderland. German.
Appointment from the Red Cross to "provide spiritual assistance to evacuees in these areas." October 21, 1944. Dutch.
Appointment from the Red Cross to “provide spiritual assistance to evacuees in these areas.” Because of this, he was able to wear a Red Cross armband while he went around doing his underground work. October 21, 1944. Dutch.
A note in code from a courier in his resistance group. Dutch.
A note in code from a courier in his resistance group. Dutch.
Permission from the Interior Military Forces of the Netherlands to travel between Ermelo and Velp on April 21, 1945.
Permission from the Interior Military Forces of the Netherlands to travel between Ermelo and Velp on April 21, 1945. (The Netherlands was liberated on May 5.) Dutch.
Permission to travel on all the roads in Velp. May 3, 1945. Dutch.
Permission to travel on all the roads in Velp. May 3, 1945. Dutch.
A very early edition of Trouw, the newspaper of the resistance.
A very early edition of Trouw, the newspaper of the resistance. Trouw means faithful.

A Google translation: “Our country sits, let’s just confess it, at the moment heavy in the stuffy hero. The whole life of every day bears witness to it. Also many articles in this issue of our magazine talk about it. We are overwhelmed, we are heavily enslaved and we can not resist it. Such is the conclusion of many. And others think and share their opinions in the misery of this during the striking hand of God. However, it is not good to stand by. Nothing is more dangerous than Lydelykhied. Lydelyke people, they are just the kind that the [Germans] can use.” (In Africaans, Lyde means suffering and lyke means corpses, but beyond that, Google translate cannot go.) 

A later edition of Trouw, the underground newspaper. December 1944.
A later edition of Trouw, the underground newspaper. December 1944.
A different resistance/underground newspaper: Je Maintiendrai.
A different resistance/underground newspaper: Je Maintiendrai.

Seeing these tiny permission slips really brought home how restricted any movement was during occupation: being on the road, owning a bicycle, and trying to help people were all grounds for arrest. They needed permission for every little thing, and often double permission: once from a Dutch authority, once from the Germans. Their home could be taken. From other family stories, we know their food and livestock were confiscated by the German soldiers, and they were left with fish heads and oats to turn into a barely edible gruel that final winter of the war.

With all of these permissions, he would have travelled as himself: Rev. Klaas Hart. At least one of the permissions said it only counted if the person also had their ID on them. However, he also traveled under a different identification card, that my father has (my only image of it is on a CD and my computer has no CD drive). When they moved from Velp to a relative’s house in Ermelo, it meant a two-day walk for the family of 7, including a newborn. They had to beg a farmer for a place to sleep–everyone slept on fresh hay in the barn except for my Oma and the baby, who were welcomed into the house.

Yes, this was dangerous work. My Opa used his status as a minister to enable his wartime activities. He left the Netherlands for Canada after the war because there was no work for him, and no prospects for his six sons and one daughter.

I am the daughter of an immigrant, and granddaughter of a resistance worker. I descended from people who had to flee for their lives. The pull of the family legacy of working for justice and against injustice is strong and I answer it as best I can by writing letters and emails and calling my elected representatives, writing blog posts for myself and for the Grand Rapids Association of Pastors, and attending prayer vigils. It doesn’t feel like much when compared to what my family went through in the 1940s, but it’s something. #Resist

Resistance is not a sign of Failure

I’m going to be a great artist here (as in Picasso’s, “Good artists copy, great artists steal). I’m going to steal from Steven Pressfield:

“Resistance is the shadow cast by [the Dream].

Resistance is the equal-and-opposite-reaction of nature to the New Thing that you and I are called to bring forth out of nothing.

There would be no Resistance without the Dream. The Dream comes first. Resistance follows.”


In particular, “Resistance is the shadow cast by the Dream.”

In Jungian theory (which I’m mostly familiar with through the novels of Robertson Davies), we all have a shadow-side; it’s part of being human. My shadow is all those aspects of my personality that I prefer not to consciously acknowledge, either because they’re negative, or they frighten me, or they conflict with ideas I have about how I should be. For Jung, your shadow can be negative and/or positive, all mixed-up. The goal is not to push down or deny the shadow, but to acknowledge it, and even to assimilate it. This means facing the negative aspects of yourself, and accepting that you have negative aspects, without allowing them to take over. You embrace all sides of yourself, thereby giving the negative less power to overtake you, and enabling you to better relate to the people around you (because you’re not denying or threatened by their shadows, either).

So having a shadow isn’t bad. It doesn’t mean you’re bad. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you’re human.

Resistance as the shadow of the Dream is revolutionary to me. On his Writing Wednesdays, Pressfield often writes about Resistance (that something inside us that will fight us when we pursue our creative dreams, taking the form of fear, insecurity, distraction, perfectionism, despair, whatever it takes to block us), and I’ve certainly felt it and succumbed to it and fought it.

That should be in present tense: I feel it, I succumb to it, I fight it.

Even though Pressfield and other writers about creativity, such as Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way), write about the omnipresence of Resistance, in a little corner of my mind, I thought that Resistance meant that I was a failure as a writer. That if I was only a better writer or had more of a professional attitude or a deeper vision for my work or more discipline or more creative freedom or a higher self-image, I wouldn’t be so plagued by Resistance at times.

But if Resistance is the Jungian-style shadow of the Dream, I cannot be rid of it and I shouldn’t want to be rid of it. It is part of having a Dream, of pursuing a vision. Instead of seeing the shadow as a sign of my failure, I can investigate the shadow, converse with it, see whether it has anything of value to tell me about myself or my Dream.

Even if I think of the Dream-shadow as being like a physical shadow, then it’s always there — except maybe during those high noon moments of the Dream, when I’m flush with inspiration and fully in the flow. Otherwise, as long as there’s sun (i.e. the Dream), I will cast a shadow.

Maybe acknowledging this will give Resistance less power over me. Over you, too.

Resistance doesn’t mean we’ve failed. It means that we have a Dream and that we’re pursuing it.

That makes me grin. And look forward to greeting my shadow with a, “Good morning. Nice to see you. I’m going to work now.”

How are you beating Resistance? Or succumbing to it?




I Got and I Don’t Got Rhythm

As a dancer married to a drummer, I notice rhythm everywhere, like when my windshield wipers beat in time to the song on the radio. I pride myself on being able to pick up difficult and diverse rhythms — Latin, African, waltz, jitterbug, Creole. I clap on the two and the four (the key is to take a step to the side on one, clap when you bring your feet together on two). One of my sweetest delusions when pregnant with my first child was that I thought for awhile that he was moving rhythmically in relation to my heartbeat; he was hicupping.

My household is run on rhythms: certain days the kids empty and fill the dishwasher, certain days are laundry days (with each part portioned out to different people), others grocery shopping days. Some days have a slow and gentle waltz rhythm, others are like frenetic tap dancing. I try to embrace each one.

So why do I resist establishing rhythms just for myself? I obsess about the family rhythms, constantly tweaking them to find what is working best at this stage in life, adjusting myself to changes in rhythm as the kids get older and my husband busier at work.

But a regular writing time? A regular devotional time? A disciplined approach to media consumption? Just for me.


Why is my rhythm the least steady? The first one to be broken into and taken over? I wouldn’t stand for that as a choreographer. Why am I standing for it in my life?

It isn’t just the family; it’s me; it’s my old friend Resistance; it’s my fear and overthinking.

But it’s just rhythm. A step on one before I clap on two that will ground me.

So maybe I stop thinking in terms of habit — a much more punitive word, and one I have a very mixed track record of success with. And starting thinking in terms of rhythm, something I can groove with, settle into the pocket of, something I can even choose to dance double-time or half-time if need be. I can mark it or dance full out, as necessary. Rhythm. Step on one.

[this post is my first participation in Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Fridays.]

High Hopes, Low Expectations

Parenting Edition

Those couple of years when my kids were 3 & 1 and 4 & 2, my biggest parenting epiphany was this: have no or low expectations for how the day would go. When I had no expectations — i.e. we could go to the grocery store or not, go to the park or not, the children would play nicely on their own while I got things done or the things weren’t that necessary so I could drop them if need be — the day went well and we were all happy but tired at the end. I had hope that things could get done and small people would nap when I wanted them to, but low expectations of it actually happening.

This mostly had to do with time pressure: if I let go of the idea that certain things had to happen at certain times, and let the day flow, everything went smoother. But it also had to do with the level of the hopes: the more time I spent daydreaming about how well a certain thing was going to go, the more out of control I’d feel when it didn’t go as I’d imagined. And then that out-of-control feeling would compound itself into a really bad day.

I was mostly unsuccessful at this, but it was my goal.

Publishing Edition

But this post isn’t about parenting; it’s about publishing. Every time I send out a query to a new potential agent, I play the same game of high hopes but low expectations.

I love to imagine the agent requesting a full manuscript and loving it and offering representation and they’re the right agent and we do some revisions (because I’m not crazy enough to think the manuscript is perfect) and the agent sends it to the right publisher who buys it and everything goes awesomely and the book finds lots and lots of readers and I’m able to sell my subsequent books and even get interviewed on Fresh Air or any other NPR show that will have me. I even imagine hostile interviews with people who might be upset that I’m making stuff up about biblical characters. Seriously, this is what I do while I’m driving. And I do a fair bit of driving.

At the same time, I’m a realist. I send each packet off, either by snail- or email, knowing it will most likely garner me another rejection. High hopes, low expectations.

There is no external time pressure: the world doesn’t (yet) know it’s clamoring for my stories. But I create the pressure, the wanting it to happen now. Which sucks. Especially the more I let my imagination go on the “high hopes” side.

High Hopes = Vainglory?

At Breathe, the Christian writer’s conference I attended a couple of weeks ago, the final speaker, Sharon Brown, talked about sins that can be traps for writers. One of them was vainglory, which she defined as the “need to maintain an image with a high approval rating … compulsively desiring recognition.” This is different from pride. Pride is being all impressed with yourself because of what you have done. Vainglory is the need for others to be impressed with you.

It’s particularly brutal for the unpublished writer, because you can know that you’ve written a good and satisfying story, but if you want to publish traditionally, you need that approval of others — agents, publishers, reviewers, readers. Even if you self-publish, you need readers to approve enough to buy your book, and your next one, etc.

These needs and compulsive desires supplant the sense of self we are to receive from God. We’re ambitious for our own glory, not for God’s. Which is where I’m all tangled up, because the David and Saul novel is telling a story from the Bible, it was written with loads of prayer, and I’d love for it to drive people back to the original stories. But I need that external approval to make it happen on the scale I think it could happen.

Oh. Did you catch that? I’m making my own problem again. Not only do I want it to happen SOON, I want it to happen BIG. I can almost taste how big it could get.

Hello, vainglory. I am Natalie.

The antidote?

A friend who is a poet has an admirable goal in the next year: she wants to get 100 rejections. Because putting her work out there often enough to collect that many “no’s” means that she’s working every angle she can, and not letting herself get stuck when all those no’s come, which makes it more likely that some yeses will come her way.

I’ve gotten fewer than a dozen rejections in six months on It Is You. I’m not putting it out there enough.

Is repeated rejection the antidote for vainglory? I don’t think so. I think it can make the need for that approval more desperate: the longer it takes, the worse it gets. Somehow, I need to move from high hopes, low expectations, to some hopes, low expectations.

Because the thing about vainglory is that it’s feeding my Resistance to working on the next book. After all, how can I work on the next thing if I don’t know the status of the first thing? And all that picturing my future glory supplants the imagining I used to do about my works in progress.

So what can I do about it, other than pinching myself when I go into that vainglorious daydream place?

1. In November, instead of doing the normal NaNoWriMo novel, I’m going to write 15 pieces of short biblical fiction and post them here. I’m going to take a scene, a moment from the Bible and imaginatively retell it. That should keep my brain way too busy to have time for vainglory. (Also, I’m looking for suggestions — let me know if there’s a story you want me to delve into.)

2. Try the prayer Sharon Brown recommended: “Deliver me from the impulse to impress and make me ambitious for Your glory.”

Amen. May it be so.


Revisiting the “I Wonders”

I’ve had the writing blahs. More accurately, the revision blahs. The first book in my planned trilogy (imaginative retelling of the biblical story of David and Saul in young adult novels) is finished. It’s been read by close to a dozen people and is in the hands of a publisher that will hopefully look at it some time this year. That means I move on to the second novel, which is complete in messy draft 1 form.

In late spring, I dutifully read the draft and noted where I needed to “show not tell,” where I needed more information, where I’d gotten the emotional tenor wrong. To the left are 3 of the 8 pages of notes I have — two lines of teeny chicken-scratches per line on the page, not to mention the stuff scribbled in margins, added in post-its, and written on the manuscript pages.

It hasn’t been as bad as pulling teeth. I had 11 of those pulled as a child, one of which had to be broken apart in my mouth and taken out in chunks, at a time when pain management wasn’t as good as it is now (or Australian dentists just thought we needed to be tougher). So revising this ms. hasn’t gone to that level.

But close.

In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes about what he calls Resistance (and, yes, it’s always capitalized): whatever it is within you that blocks you from living your fullest life, from doing whatever creative thing you feel the pull to do. The following is from the excerpt that appears on the book’s page on his website:

“Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. It is experienced as a force field emanating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its intention is to shove the creator away, distract him, sap his energy, incapacitate him.

If Resistance wins, the work doesn’t get written.”

I’ve got Resistance bad, in a way I never did for the first book. I called it any number of things over the summer.

1. My usual summer ADD when the kids are home and extra kids are here and I’m ferrying people about to have their fun.
2. The heat. The first half of the summer was so hot it sapped all my drive.
3. Anxiety over the fate of book 1 (aka It Is You) at the publisher, because the submission did not come about in a normal way and they didn’t get it in the format their website says they prefer, but when the president of the company asks for it in his own way, that’s how you send it, and isn’t it good that the president asked for it and apparently read it and apparently sent it along to the young readers section, but I didn’t get the postcard that they typically send saying that they’ve received the manuscript, and does that mean they don’t have it, do I dare be obnoxious enough to send them a letter asking to confirm whether they have it and whether it contains what they need from me, or should I just trust the wheels that have already been set it motion….
4. Health issues, none of which are lastingly serious, but two of which did interrupt my life for a bit (pleurisy and some kind of neck something that had me moving like a robot).

But now the kids are in school, it’s not so hot, and my neck is mostly okay. The anxiety over It Is You is still there, but I’m working on trusting the process, and on recognizing that, publishing being what it is, when a publisher says I’ll hear from them, “very soon,” two months is well within that timeframe. And so I’ve been beating myself into the chair and choking my way through a few notes, which might cover one page. Ninety minutes of work a day, tops. This is the mark of an amateur, not a pro.

Giving myself serious talking-tos helps a bit. Bible reading and prayer helps. Reading inspiring, butt-kicking words from other writers, such as Justine Musk, Steven Pressfield, and Robin LeFever helps, too.

But none of that took hold until today. You know what it was? What got me into this project in the first place: the “I wonders.” The questions about all those details the Bible doesn’t think are interesting enough to include.

Where did David get water from before he settled in the caves at Adullam? Could he devise a dew catcher out of materials available to him? If he passed by Jebus, could he access the Gihon Spring? Would the Jebusites let a random traveler get water there? What is the landscape like from Gibeah to Nob? What kind of vegetation is around there? Would there be any shade for him? Any caves? What would the evening and day temperatures be?

So I’m obsessing again, one question leading to another leading to another leading my to visiting the Calvin College library again. And browsing through the stacks leads me to finds I didn’t search for. Which will lead me to more specificity in the world I write about, which will hopefully lead to a richer reader experience.

This is good. This is beating back Resistance. For now.

If you have any techniques for beating back your Resistance, I’d love to hear about it.