Dobsons 411

Hanging on for the ultimate ride--God's great adventure.
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Location: Oregon

The author of fourteen contemporary and historical novels, Melanie Dobson lives with her family in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Her latest novels are Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor and Chateau of Secrets. More info at

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fighting the Devil with Ink

Built almost a thousand years ago, Wartburg Castle stands perched on a mountaintop in Germany’s Thuringian Forest. Today the castle welcomes daily tours through its Romanesque chambers, but five hundred years ago this citadel housed dukes and counts and Martin Luther who lived undercover in a small wooden room as enemies outside this refuge tried to destroy his reputation and his life.

The main palace of Wartburg was built in the 1100s—a mixture of sandstone, timber, and plaster to withstand battle and the brutal winds and storms. The view from the top is majestic—miles of rolling hills ablaze with autumn orange, yellow, and red.

No war ever touched this castle—at least not a war between countries or medieval states.

A very real battle ensued there in 1521 after the pope excommunicated Luther for speaking against indulgences the Catholic Church sold to cover sin. Luther was declared “Vogelfrei” which meant he’d been stripped of all human rights.

On the run for his life, a friend kidnapped Luther and secretly took him to the castle for protection. For the next ten months, he considered Wartburg his “island of Patmos.” His prison. His wasteland.

Luther was plagued by physical ailments, depression, and temptation during these ten months. His famous quote from 1521 was: “I fought the devil with ink,” and artists captured this phrase by painting Luther throwing his well at the devil, splattering ink across the castle wall.

But those of us who love writing know the devil was probably not after his inkwell. He was trying to suffocate Luther’s creativity. Question his abilities. Drain his energy. Stifle his words.

In spite of his suffering, Luther learned Hebrew and Greek during his castle stay. He wrote thirteen essays on Catholicism and Christianity. And he translated the complete New Testament into German—the translation still used in Germany today.

Five hundred years ago, Wartburg witnessed a battle stronger than a hundred armies charging its stone wall. Martin Luther fought against the vicious spirits of darkness who determined they didn’t want Germans to read God’s Word.

Even as the world forgets the German victories and defeats during other medieval wars, the Wartburg victory has lasted through the centuries. In his tiny castle room, Martin Luther fought the devil with his inkwell. And the ink won.

Friday, October 21, 2005

How much??

I dreaded going to the doctor today, but I needed a prescription for medicine I buy over-the-counter at home.

Armed with the name and address of a doctor who speaks English, I hired a babysitter to watch the girls and off I went to test out Europe’s system of socialized medicine. Foreigners don’t have the luxury of free medical service so without German health insurance, I didn’t know how much I’d have to pay.

I found the Doctor’s office downtown, hidden over a pizzeria. The receptionist didn’t speak much English, but she valiantly attempted to understand my very broken Deutsch. I showed her my medicine bottle, and we communicated in one-word sentences until she realized what I needed. Then she helped me fill out the paperwork to see the doctor (all in German, of course).

After an hour wait in the lobby, I was in.

The doctor was very gracious and after a short consultation, gave me a prescription that will probably last a year. He said I would pay thirty euro at the front desk (not bad! A consultation would probably cost $100 at home.) and then buy the drug at the Apotheke (pharmacy).

Got it.

When I went back to the front, the receptionist asked: “How much Doctor say you pay?”

“I think he said thirty euro.” I held out a fifty-dollar bill.

She gave me a funny look and headed back to the doctor’s office.

Great—he probably meant $130.

When she came back out, she printed out a receipt for $3.15.


She looked at my fifty and said, “Kleine?” (smaller?)

You bet.

I pulled out my purse and handed her a five coins. That’s right—I paid a doctor with change!

I can’t comment on the entire socialized medicine system. I don’t know what would happen if I needed surgery or had a life-threatening emergency. But for a simple medical need, I’m all for the three buck deal.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


This morning I almost fed my baby a worm.

The spoon was halfway to her mouth when I saw something squirm, and I pulled back an instant before Kinzel devoured it with her typical breakfast vigor.

There it was on the silver, a yellow inchworm crusted with oatmeal, scrunching and wiggling like it sensed its impending doom. Fortunately, the trip it took was down the sink instead of Kiki’s throat.

Haferflocken is the German version of packaged oatmeal—at least, that’s all I’ve been told. Hearty, unprocessed oat flakes that are apparently straight from the fields.

Our breakfast drama led to a day full of burning questions such as:

• Shouldn’t an inchworm die when it’s boiled?
• How many worms have we eaten since July?
• Why am I trying to cook haferflocken?
• And what in the world am I doing in Berlin??

Days like today I’m overwhelmed by homesickness, wishing for a simple can of Quaker oatmeal. Quick oats minus the worms.

At our church this weekend, the pastor spoke about being in God’s will. He said God sometimes takes us places where don’t want to go—or keeps us in places we don’t necessarily want to be.

Today I REALLY want to be in Colorado or Ohio or North Carolina or Tennessee. There are fifty really great options on that side of the Atlantic for us to live.

Even more than what I want though, I’m learning to be open to what God wants, no matter where He leads. It’s an agonizing process. I have my lists of things I think I need. Places I think He should move us toward.

But that’s not how God works. He knows much better than I do where He needs our family to go.

I don’t know where God will take us next in this journey.

I do know that tomorrow morning, I’m ditching the oatmeal for something worm-free. Scrambled eggs, anyone?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Together for Good

Thank you to Dee Stewart, Pat Loomis, and the Celebration of New Christian Fiction crew for highlighting fiction excerpts this month. Here is the prologue from my upcoming novel Together for Good that will be published this March (Kregel Publications).

May 11, 1986

“No!” the girl screamed as she collapsed against the glass.

But no one helped her. They were stealing her baby, and no one cared.

She pounded her fists against the hospital window, but they couldn’t hear her cry. Would they tell him how much she loved him? That she never wanted to let him go?

Her stomach cramped, and she bowed over with pain. Losing him hurt worse than the contractions. Worse than the labor. Worse than her parents slamming the front door. Worse than her boyfriend never coming back.

It was more than she could bear.

Her hands pressed against her belly, but the baby was gone. Two days ago, she’d felt him growing and rolling and dancing inside her. Just hours ago, she’d snuggled him close to her chest; playing with his tiny fingers, stroking his golden crown of hair.

The nurses took him away and never brought him back. One kiss, and her boy disappeared.

She scraped her fingernails across the glass, squinting to see his crinkled lips and soft blue eyes as they carried him across the parking lot below.

No one believed her, but she would’ve taken good care of him. She would’ve loved him more than anyone else could ever love him. She would have been a good mom.

The man who’d taken him tucked a blanket around his legs; the wife kissed his cheek. How dare that woman kiss her baby!

She was his mom! She’d taken care of him for nine months and anguished through twelve hours of labor to deliver him into the world. She’d born this child, so much a part of her even after he was gone.

Would she ever see her boy again? Not for a minute did she want to let him go. Surely, they’d tell him she hadn’t wanted to give him away. That she’d love him for the rest of her life. That she’d done this for his own good.

If only she could run down the hospital stairs and rip her baby from their hands. If only she could take care of him by herself.

“Stop!” she yelled at the glass.

Stop those thieves.

As the woman opened the car door, the girl’s fingers trembled; her nose pressed against the cold glass for one last look before the couple stole away her son.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Time to 'Nuggle

Last night Karly crawled up on my bed, stretched out her arms, and said, “Mommy, nuggle?” It wasn’t even nine o’clock yet; I’d planned to spend my evening writing and e-mailing and finishing the dishes. But how could I resist that sweet, simple invitation?

My very active two-year-old rarely has time to snuggle. Even at night, Karly would rather play alone in her crib, singing and talking and feeding her baby doll until she falls asleep. So at nine last night, I went to bed. We read her favorite book, talked about Daddy’s office, thanked God for our day, and finally slept, Karly wrapped tight in my arms.

One thing I’ve appreciated about our life in Berlin is that it’s distraction free. My magazine subscriptions don’t travel here. I don’t have an English library to collect my weekly stash of books. TV shows are in German (though my girls have developed an appreciation for “SpongeBob Schwammkopf”). The telephone rarely rings. Cooking is a challenge in our tiny stove—not to mention, trying to pick food out at the store. There’s no yard work, house maintenance, car repairs, or even much to clean. Besides our small Bible study group, there are no social events for us to attend.

Most days I miss a few of these distractions. I like reading Newsweek and watching reruns of The King of Queens and blending smoothies in my VitaMix. I dream about having a big yard again for the kids to play in and a house with some space. I’d love to have friends over for dinner or go catch a movie on a Friday night. Things that used to seem so normal are now the exception in our lives.

So what do we do with our time? Every day I sweep the floors of our small apartment, visit the market, wash a load of laundry, and hang our clothes up to dry. The girls and I wander the cobblestone sidewalks and stop to watch construction crews in action, manning the giant cranes. I visit with new friends from around the world, read my Bible, play at the park with my daughters, and write every afternoon.

We have very few things in Berlin, but we have a little extra time—guilt-free minutes for me to stop working and nuggle.