Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Gentle Whispers and Great Expectations

Dear Darling,

It’s cooler than any July evening I can recall as I arrive home tonight. I’m just off another marathon week at work. I do it to myself; I always think I can make it, and always push myself to the breaking point. Then I look up, dripping sweat and expect someone to take pity on me for the exile I decreed. To sleep would be best, but this soul is far too swollen with thought to put to rest.

At least the furrows are back; the questions and cares from seventy-something hours’ labor heavily alight again, furrowing the forehead. As armor droops with fatigue, memory and languor pierce the chinks. Memory, of this time last year; languor, the conflicting desire to pursue my own happiness, knowing that for those trained to work emergencies, few things suitably get the blood racing any more.

The other night, a conversation turned to standards, and when the question was asked, what’s wrong with high standards, another responded “you’re disappointed more often.” I think perhaps that’s wiser than she intended. Once upon a time, a woman saw that as her primary obligation, just as I see tending your needs and providing for you and our family as mine. I know I have great expectations for you my dear. I want them to remain realistic. But recall, if you will, that in my world of sickness and healing, great measures of compassion are transacted daily. In short, it takes a great compassion indeed to impress a nurse. Yet as I’ve thought about it, for all the lonely women I see out there, and for the ones who took a shine to me, I can’t recall any of them showing me they were capable of taking care of me in the way a woman tends her man. I can’t recall her showing me how she could help someone be a better man, to see that his needs are met and that he’s looked-after. To reign him in when he gets out of hand trying to work. To make sure he’s not got off to work without his lunch, that he doesn’t need his aching feet massaged, that he doesn’t need a sympathetic kiss of understanding and gratitude.

Emma Darwin once wrote to her (in)famous husband Charles:

 I cannot tell you the compassion I have felt for all your sufferings for these weeks past that you have had so many drawbacks. Nor the gratitude I have felt for the cheerful & affectionate looks you have given me when I know you have been miserably uncomfortable.

My heart has often been too full to speak or take any notice I am sure you know I love you well enough to believe that I mind your sufferings nearly as much as I should my own & I find the only relief to my own mind is to take it as from God’s hand, & to try to believe that all suffering & illness is meant to help us to exalt our minds & to look forward with hope to a future state. When I see your patience, deep compassion for others self command & above all gratitude for the smallest thing done to help you I cannot help longing that these precious feelings should be offered to Heaven for the sake of your daily happiness. But I find it difficult enough in my own case. I often think of the words “Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” It is feeling & not reasoning that drives one to prayer. I feel presumptuous in writing thus to you.

I feel in my inmost heart your admirable qualities & feelings & all I would hope is that you might direct them upwards, as well as to one who values them above every thing in the world. I shall keep this by me till I feel cheerful & comfortable again about you but it has passed through my mind often lately so I thought I would write it partly to relieve my own mind.

Could your words, like these, soothe and subdue the sorrow and wretchedness latent to the bands of mortality? Are you prepared, for the sake of your husband, to try?

I ran into an acquaintance last evening, quite by accident. Her countenance is fair, but her faith questionable and while she brims with energy, all too often it seems inappropriately and inordinately flirtatious. She is the kind that will show attention to anyone, and although any man likes a little attention shown, I sat with her and her cousin for the better part of an hour primarily out of courtesy. She regaled with stories of skinny-dipping and strip-poker, the bars she’s visited and her wild days of drinking, sex and partying. She wanted a picture with me, and sat far too close to get one. She exclaimed how she was looking for a nice guy, and only half-jokingly holding out for Tim Tebow. I asked if he wasn’t looking for the type of girl that’s been waiting for him, which clearly gave her pause. It’s perplexing that a woman should live her wild years and then entertain the hopes that the nice guys she’s sidelined for years in deference to her own pleasure will now be waiting for her.

I beg of her pardon, but for such women my inner voice is given to frequent retorts something along the lines of “get out of my sight.” I found her company vexing and wearying, simply because one hopes for fair soul to match fair face; to see boldness and find ambition to match.

Through it all, I long for the simple pleasure of your companionship. It isn’t as though your arrival fixes or guarantees anything. But your arrival is all I have left to ask of this world. The poets, lovers and romantics all speak of their continuing need and reliance upon their spouse, a love which, by merit of its very presence, bestows a healing touch on the troubles of man. The touch we each must live without.

Alegfast gone to the lake, and will be gone for an even longer span next week. The more I spend time with him and Gladbrui, the less sensible they seem, and as I’ve written previously, it’s hard to take seriously their complaints about a hard life. “There are few people whom I really love,” said Austen. “And still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”

I don’t know what to do with myself in the light of such a society. I want to run. But I don’t want to run. I don’t want to go, but I don’t want to stay. I fit no molds. I don’t like thinking in a box. I seem to burn with an empathy to surpass that of a nurse, an initiative to catch the eye of a doctor and the skill to negotiate with a mad man. (We get them at work often enough.) I suppose I’ll always have a foot in different worlds. Those at work don’t understand that I write or am involved in politics. Those who are in politics don’t understand that I work in a hospital for a living. Those who are my friends don’t understand the clouds of darkness that sometimes seep from my soul, nor the burden of being a servant by commission, and being neglected by those whom you serve. I’m not a chicken soup for the soul guy, and I disdain meaningless tropes warmed over in vain attempts to inspire. I don’t go along with party lines. I stay informed about my country, and while we celebrate independence today, our world is far less free than it was. I persuade people of my beliefs through quiet persistence, reasoning and logic. I’ve done that for years, sometimes to people’s own amazement. I’m no prophet, but sometimes it seems I’m not truly happy unless persuading someone of the truth.

Do I say all of this to brag? A thousand times no. These are talents I’ve been gifted from above, abilities which I’ve sharpened, but which are burdensome to carry. With wisdom comes sorrow, and with knowledge comes grief.

How peculiar that we celebrate independence today, when true freedom comes only in confinement to the grace of God and reliance upon His provision. And, by His grace, each other.

I’m sure much of these thoughts are the delirious fruit of a fatigued mind, one that only wants sustenance and reprieve. When Elijah raised his complaint, the Lord sent only an angel with food and then let Elijah sleep it off. Funny thing about that old prophet. He won a tremendous victory before all of Israel, then panicked in the face of a wicked queen. He runs fleeing into the wilderness. “What are you doing here?” God inquires of him. “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty,” Elijah exclaims. “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

No one’s trying to kill me, but the dismay at the rejection of God in my world, while I try to remain zealous for the Lord certainly strikes the same chord. And just as He did with Job’s challenging philosophies, the first thing God does is display His awesome power before him: “There was a great wind…but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake…but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire — but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

True power isn’t swaggered.

But, God doesn’t promise to save you from fatigue, especially self-imposed. Nor does he promise to pay the bills. But beyond mortal troubles, there are times I walk and feel that I should pray, but that I haven’t time to pray for the people and places that need want it.

As I look back over the years, and even over these letters, it’s surprising to see how much we’ve grown. I think we all look back on our younger years with some embarrassment, don’t you? And yet at the same time, I think we all spend our lives in the shadow of our youth. That is, deciphering, interpreting, filtering and comparing most of our lives against the first 18 to 25 years of it.

Well now, Darling. If you love me, you may have to do some looking too. If you want me, come find me. I’ve tried, and will keep trying, but maybe this story is supposed to begin differently than either of us intend.

In fact, I have no doubt.

Love always,
Beren

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July 5, 2014 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Another Day

Dear Darling,

I’m sorry. I know today must have been at least a little unkind to you, if for no other reason than because you were alone. With valiant shades of pink, red and purple, with confectionery treats and horticultural blessings abounding and a dance floor full of fools, floozies and lovers and a tune you love, it’s hard to bid your feet be still. Truly, I wish I could have been there for you, to rescue from it. It may not have been a night to be carried away on a violet cloud of emotion and sentiment, but it could have been a day to spend together, or a chance to grow fonder. Instead, we spent it apart.

I’m so sorry.

I dearly hope you made at least some use of it. I? Well, I spent much of its darker hours in the Houses of Healing, and some of it at rest afterward. Actually, it was another overambitious play for study and work, beginning with a live simulation in the morning, a hasty lunch, a work-related training module and then sixteen hours across two different floors. This was followed by a swift breakfast and two hours of lecture for which I could scarcely stay awake.

By the time I wearily rolled to a stop, it had been a straight twenty-eight hours without rest, most of which were spent either with schooling or working. It was the kind of long day and night where you wish and hope someone will be waiting for you, to feed you and praise you and put you to bed. Someone who will show appreciation and pride and gratitude for your hard work, taking pride in a husband so fine as to give so deeply of himself daily. Not too long ago, a friend exclaimed “night shift is hard!” This is a truth with which I am intimately acquainted, but hearing it validated for the first time was gratifying. Before then, it was borne as truth that is silent and unacknowledged.

It’s a different world there Darling. Truly — a different world. Here death and his enemies dwell together, fighting a unique and often unseen war, behind the curtains where society shouldn’t look, and often family members dare not.

There is a brink and a chasm between life and death and standing in that gap are the healers charged with keeping as many souls on this side as they can. We see how fragile life can be…and how tenacious. Sometimes it comes down to the balance of a hair…a balance whose weight rests heavily on all of our shoulders.

There is no makeup, no hiding, no masks. Modesty, propriety, our public game faces, all are left at the threshold. Errors paid for in blood and death.  Wounds seep, tears are shed and cries of pain echo. Their worst day is our everyday. We exist to lend grace and dignity in their most undignified moments, making the best of a bad situation. We are professionally and habitually unselfish. We put ourselves dead-last twelve and fourteen hours a day. We routinely, habitually and completely empty ourselves every shift. We surrender sleep, sanity and self to make our patients feel better. Our every day is the occasion to which others would have to rise.

I’d like you to be able to take pride in what your future husband does, my dear. That’s why I tell you this. No one wants to feed one’s own ego with self-placating praise, but we all need to hear that what we do is important, that we’re making a difference and our time isn’t wasted. When no one else (outside of the Houses themselves) understand this, one may resort to assuring himself of that fact. Healing is never “just a job.”

It is of course difficult to inflate one’s opinion of self-worth when one’s tasks frequently include the most menial of assignments, lowly of patients and basest of filth. And yet, it is difficult to diminish one’s worth when its direct results are seen in relief, gratitude and improvement in the condition of human suffering. In short, it’s meek work, but it always makes a difference, and if no one else tells us that, we have to tell ourselves.

I’d like you to be nurturing enough to know I am spent or weighted down and feel it incumbent on yourself to respond, whether by feeding me and then laying my head in your lap and asking what’s the matter, or by lovingly ordering me to the destination for which I was already bound.

We all need to be held. There is no substitute for arms full of compassion and willing to hold you for as long as you need it. Or so I’m told. I’ve never been looked-after in such a way. I hope I can look forward to it. I certainly know you can, and God willing by the skilled and well-taught hands of someone who knows.

It snowed again tonight. I spent some time with Loswen, Alegfast and their friends, before accepting the invitation which dispelled the last six weeks of silence between my family and I. I hope and pray those wounds, though maybe not forgotten, can be recovered from.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, my dear. I’m sorry today was just another day. I promise I’ll make it up to you in the days to come.

Fondest thoughts from far away.

Love,
Beren

February 15, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Holidays, Loneliness | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

18 Romantic Snow Day Ideas

02. Wierusz-Kowalski, Alfred - Goraca sannaDear Darling,

It’s snowing again. I can look out the broad windows and see a fresh and generous cloud of snow coating the city that sleeps. I guessed it would be a cold and snowy winter for once, and so it has.

I love snow. It excites me, activates the little kid in me. It’s beautiful, and inspiring. There’s only one thing missing.

Most programs have canceled for tomorrow, but I doubt mine will. A snow cancellation once offered a day’s worth of winter fun, before all this reality set in. But together, my dear…together we will set a new tone for reality. And even now, daydreams of the luxuries such free days would open to us provide a warm and inviting diversion.

Think what it would mean to awaken and find all pending obligations are canceled. Laying in bed with nothing to disturb us. How might such days be spent? Cabin fever seems a remote possibility in the face of such contemplations, but let us see where a day’s events may take us.

1) Movies – An obvious choice. There’s nothing better than to bank a few films for just such opportunities as these.

2) Puzzles – They often seem a frustratingly idle use of time for me, needlessly spent on a fruitless task. But, if your amusement and deep conversation are to be achieved, I’m game.

3) Cooking – Whether a fancy dinner or just cooking up an entire week’s worth of food, I’m sure bonding is done as easily over an oven as over a television. Bonus, cooking over a wood fire.

4) Sledding – Why not be young at heart again and pretend our bodies can take the blows our young selves once withstood? Why not snow angels, snowball fights or the active search for a steep hill? Why not find a posse of neighboring children and split into team captains?

5) Pillows – These multipurpose stuffed consorts are suitable for building forts, or winning fights. Growing up is only something children want to do, and being grown-up is only something the immature fret about.

6) Charity – Why not buy gallons of hot chocolate and find some cold people on a street corner? I’m sure our four-wheel drive can accommodate the road hazards.

7) Ice skating – One or both of us may find the ice leaves more marks on us than we do the ice, but I know the very place I would take you now, if I could.

8) Photos – I often find singularly frustrating the uncaptured beauty I must neglect in the pursuit of my adult obligations. Like the freezing fog through which the moonlight shone, too beautiful to miss and too fleeting to capture. Like the snowfall outside my window now, the back roads and wildlife that calls them home. Sometimes the life we’re busy chasing is busy passing us by!

9) Lodge – Maybe it’s too many Cabela’s adverts for flannel-spun garments, but there’s something about a wooden lodge or lake house, somewhere comfortably between rustic and modern, that calls to me. The escape, the mountain air, the chance to escape the world for a little while. Maybe we’d even get snowed in.

10) Marriage bucket list – The places we want to go, and the things we want to do in our marriage…the milestones we want to achieve. Or maybe just comparing our own bucket lists and seeing which ones we could cross off together.

05. Fischer, Anton Otto - A Winter Scene, Lovers On Skis11) Poetry – Trading reading poetry aloud, in varying accents

12) Vacations – Ready to lay aside some unique tropical getaways? Is there an exotic location on your bucket list? Or just the vacation laid aside for the spring or summer? The song says later on we’ll conspire as we dream by the fire. Who are we to argue?

13) Skiing – Those of us who are in the 99th percentile in height may find such activities more hazardous than others whose height growth kept them lower to the ground. Yet, finding ski lodge that offers such experiences sounds okay by me, certainly something to try once! I can see us all bundled up, with runny noses, ruddy cheeks and hat hair, but dined and divined at day’s end, washed and exhausted and laughing together as we retire to the room.

14) Party – Planning a mid-winter’s gathering, a snow party or even a ball to drive the winter’s cold doldrums away.

15) Games – Cards don’t easily occupy me, nor do most games with only two at the helm. But perhaps a nice tournament of pool or table tennis would be in order…perhaps with some sly and mischievous penalties for losing.

16) Restaurants – Snow days become snow nights. Why not bundle up in our finest (and warmest) for a fine restaurant with dim lights and gentle music, walking back to our car under a glittering night of frosty stars and a snowy road home?

17) Dancing – A seven-course ensemble of slow-dancing to the serenades of Frank Sinatra, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald.

18) Fireside chats – Sharing secrets and warmth as the light flickers off our bodies and our shadows dance on the walls.

These, my dear, will surely be the days and nights of pure nights of bliss, to bask in the frivolity of our youth and our love, to build memories and love together. The days that were magical from youth can be reclaimed once again. The taboos which once forbade us tread further will be dispelled. And for once, I’ll be your companion as you slip slowly into your dreams.

As surely as the memory of fire can warm, so the thoughts of how the evenings may one day be spent lends the warmth of hope to this night…and blunts the edge of this beautiful aching.

Yours ever,
Beren

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Holidays, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On the Verge And Crossing Over

Dear Darling,

It’s like a roller coaster, or a flume ride, or a curtain of rain. Feared, anticipated and drawing inescapably closer, until finally you cross that threshold, and the new year has taken hold. Humans can neither slow nor speed time, and when it dwindles to the measure of a day, an hour or a minute, we want it to be special, though we’re not entirely sure how.

In tonight’s case, most of your really good, proper new years activities require a date, and as you may have noticed, you weren’t there. I can’t say I hope you found a date for tonight, or that you are the sort that takes such things so lightly as to scrounge for any old date merely to have an arm to hang off of. I hope that you are saving such momentous occasions for someone who’s taken time to be worthy of them, and that you savor even their absence so that their arrival will be sweeter. But I hope you found pleasant ways to make it passable.

Trusting that someday this night will be far more special (even if spent at home on the couch) I attended a small gathering, not even of my friends but of a friend’s friends. They’re becoming more accepting of me, but are still new believers, most of them, and the sort that doesn’t quite understand why I would avoid alcohol or inappropriate movies or profanity. Which is alright — some of these are finer points of the faith that come with time. I also find myself on guard, to be careful not to be too nice and send unintended signals to any souls eager to interpret kindness as interest. (Of some discomfiture was an unshakable feeling that I was being hit on by one of the fellows at the gathering.)

They all had their glasses of champagne, and afterward wanted to huddle around and write all their hopes for the new year to share. It’s not uncommon for me to be considered withdrawn or a stick in the mud, but these acquaintances held no claim on my aspirations and hopes and dreams for the future.

What would I like to do this year? Run a triathlon. Grow deeper in God’s word. Lay more money by. Become more fit and strong. Ride in a hot air balloon. Travel overseas. Read more. Swim more.

Find you.

Somewhere between Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, I hope you found some heart’s rest this night. Here is a hopeful night anthem which may soothe your nerves.

Prayers and kisses to christen this new year.

Love,
Beren

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Holidays | 2 Comments

Consecrating the New Year

The Vigil exhibited 1884 by John Pettie 1839-1893Dearest,

What do the Bible, a pistol, a match, a pen, a stethoscope, a phone and a handful of salt have in common? Each of these seven items represents what my life has been, what it will be, and what I hope it will be. And as I knelt by the bed, a candlelit prayer to consecrate this year to the Almighty, I spread each of these out to remind me.

The Bible: that the word and will of God would be ever before me in all that I do. I have been less than diligent as a warrior in the service of the King to read and apply it to my life. This new year must be different.

A pistol: that I may always be prepared to defend that which is holy, pure and precious, a modern day knight’s sword with which to protect and defend, and that I may never need draw or use it, and if I did that God would be with each involved.

A match: that I may be light and heat to all that are brought across my path. A match burns for but a short time before being extinguished. Our lives are the same, although we realize too late how fleeting is our time on earth. In that span, we may spread that flame to others, or for a moment brighten an entire room. I would that my life would burn, be consumed if necessary, to furnish sufficient light to illumine the Cross. I pray that I may bring someone to the kingdom this year, and maybe many someones.

A pen: that my words may continue to be used to spread truth, and that God may bless them with love and mercy, qualities which I admit are often lacking in my determination to stand for truth. God has given me a gift of eloquence at times, and the opportunity to be compensated.

A stethoscope: that God would continue to bless my career in medicine, to grow in knowledge and skill to be a safe and proficient healer, and to listen to the voices and hearts of others when they turn to me for help.

A phone: that I may be a friend and brother to all who need me, to seek knowledge…and to stop using it so much when it’s unnecessary.

Salt: to be a flavor and a savor in my conversation; to season it with wisdom from above, and to preserve.

My dear, and all who come hereafter to read these words, take courage and hope for this new year. All things are in the Father’s hands, and even that which seems ill can redound to carry out His greater plan. I greatly encourage you to think of the things which characterize your life, past, present and what you hope it to be. Remember them. Lay them out before God and thank Him for His blessings in those areas, ask His blessing and guidance in those areas in times yet to come.

My darling, I wish you a brave, joyous and prosperous new year. May this year be the year all your wishes come true, and may you and I, whether apart or together, strive to better ourselves to serve the Lord, each other and others.

Love always,
Beren

January 1, 2014 Posted by | Holidays | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patiently Pacing

Dear Darling,

I believe everyone processes and reacts to events and emotions on different levels. There is a primary response,  that which is reflexive and impulsive, emotionally autonomic if you will. (Don’t be offended my dear, but in my experience, it is on this level that the female of the human race typically dwells.) There is a secondary level of response, that of analysis and reasoning, a more complex process of thinking and feeling and responding. However, it occurred to me today that my level of response seems to take place at a tertiary level, a blend of observing and reacting, but to the secondary level of response, and its peculiarities. In other words, “I seem to be feeling upset. How queer.” An analysis of the analysis.

So for example, after having worked a shift today as a favor to a friend, I get some take-home Mexican food (it’s not often I eat out, much less drive thru or order pizza) and make some notes for a radio appearance tomorrow. Ultimately, tonight I found myself pacing back and forth, feeling squirrely and restless; incomplete. It’s as if I had cabin fever, which of course isn’t the case. I like having the house to myself, but I do tend to go a bit nonlinear without human company.

This built-up of kinetic sentiment comes from frustrated analysis of how a day’s events impact me. It’s from missing the companionship I enjoyed over the summer. It’s from reading that another friend, with whom I once shared the same trajectory of life, is now expecting a baby. It’s from missing you. It’s from wishing things were different. In short, it’s from all the reasons that play into my everyday life. Engagements and pregnancies are commonplace these days, and while I’ll never get used to missing you, the sensation isn’t foreign.

So it seems in this tertiary process of observing the observation of the response, sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes it builds up. Being fairly adaptable to circumstances doesn’t help. (Heaven forbid either of my parents to be called home to be with the Lord, I know I would be too consumed with the responsibilities necessary to grieve.)

Just one more piece in the puzzle that we’re both trying to solve.

Yes, I’ll be on the radio again tomorrow. Of course, I can’t tell you where. It’s a local station, only for an hour. The host and I have formed a distant, amicable acquaintanceship. I didn’t expect the invitation, but it’s an excellent way to close out the old year.

God keeps creating opportunities for us to trust Him, and He’s creating another one for me now. In less than a fortnight, your Beren will be homeless. I’ve not yet found new living arrangements. (Rather than rooming off of a cottage, I’d be charmed to find a castle in need of a guard or two.) I suppose I should be worried about it. But I’m not. Our Lord has always looked after me; He won’t stop now.

And yes, I miss you still tonight, Darling. That old familiar desire came back, the desire to pick up the phone and call anyone who wanted to catch up. To scroll through a list of thoughts and interests strewn across a Facebook profile. (I use mine too much, and will try to scale back in this coming year.) I know it’s not your fault you aren’t here for me. But the end result is the same, so it’s hard. I don’t have any sensational New Years plans. If you were here, I would find us both a dance to attend, something formal and special and wonderful to ring in the new year…with kisses withheld until midnight, the strike of which would be rung in with plentiful kissing and embracing — in token of the hope we both share for the new year.

Hold on tight, my dear. I have a good feeling about this year.

Until then, you might just find me patiently pacing across the hands of a clock as it counts down the hours…the waning of the year, of my time in this house, and the time remaining until our meeting.

I will be patient forever if necessary.

Love,
Beren

December 31, 2013 Posted by | About Me, Holidays, Loneliness | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Just Anyone

UnknownBrideDear Darling,

“You should be talking to her,” he said. The officer, a friend of mine, who knows my goals and wants me happy. “How old do you think she is?”

I just shake my head.

Tell me, how do you deal with the people who, through no fault of their own, fail to hold your interest? Do you give almost anyone a chance, or are you as discriminating and skeptical as I?

For all their flaws and failings, people do try to be kind when they hear you are single, or newly-single, and will try to set you up with people.

How can you explain what you’re looking for to these people?

Someone at the megachurch tried very hard to set me up with her friend. Someone else has suggested that I date his daughter…or other women in that church. (I haven’t the heart to tell him that anyone satisfied by the superficial placebo sermons presented there is, much to my sadness, almost automatically out of the running.) A production volunteer has prioritized finding and talking to me between services, enough for others to think perhaps we are an item. (I neither encourage nor discourage her, but she knows I am not interested.) Another volunteer outright asked me to coffee.

At the hospital, one or two nurses have told me they want me to meet their daughters…or (between their smoking breaks) make subtle overtures of their own interest. (And in some cases, not so subtly.) And another acquaintance has suggested a girl I should meet.

Darling don’t think I tell you these things to brag or make you jealous. You know you have nothing to worry about, and I know that a woman as fair and kind as you must also be solicited frequently. How do you turn them down gently? I, who would not do injury to another’s heart for worlds, find myself in positions where I must decline with tact and gentleness. It’s kindly meant, but how can you explain the sum total of my philosophy on dating to such as these? How would you summarize the thoughts of these letters into a few fleeting sentences? I know many of these people sufficient to know they lack the qualities I look for in you, and I am skeptical of any other offers of strangers who might fit the bill. I know the impossible odds I face; a random stranger who goes to church and likes guns isn’t nearly a good enough reason to suppose there is great hopes for a marriage. And it’s not like I can ask random women for phone numbers based solely on looks like the rest of the world. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I met a devout servant of Christ where I work. Why pursue a woman and waste her time if you don’t see a marriage in your future? I’ve felt that connection before…those growing hopes that won’t be denied, no matter how viciously your cynicism wants them gone.

How do you tell the people that ask what you’re looking for? How can I explain that I’m looking for a lady rather than a girl? Someone of unimpeachable character, a fist of iron in a glove of velvet, a lady of exceeding purity and depth and faithfulness, a sanctified daughter of the King whose foremost goal is to shine for Him and to set other souls ablaze? Someone who abhors vice, of enduring strength and beauty and grace, who has weathered the storms long enough to recognize the fatigue of battle in another’s eyes, yet not so beat-down that she can’t kiss away those sorrows, or have her burdens lightened and joys multiplied in return?

You know I no longer desire furtherance of the dialogue on purity with my coworkers. I won’t shy away, but people always get quiet and, I think, guilty when I say I’ve upheld that standard and seek its equal in another. What if someone made a mistake, they ask. They think it sounds too harsh to say a woman may do as she pleases, but must accept the consequences of her decisions, since I want someone who values what is sacred, who is strong enough to keep those unspoken vows and has honored the marriage bed. But of course, it’s more than that. How do you explain shyness and boldness wrapped into one? How do you explain that you seek an enchantress who can bewitch with innocence? And how to contend with the many aspiring women who long for their own Beren, but without having to put forth the effort of becoming Luthien?

I need a caretaker for my heart, who will take it in hand and examine it for meaning, combing out the prickles, stings and scars from the day…refreshing it with compassion and grooming it to be loved. I need someone who asks but doesn’t question. Who shares its joys and smiles away its sadness. Who cleanses it with compassion, forgiveness, acceptance and unconditional love.

I love old people, and if ever I discuss the challenge of finding a good-hearted, God-fearing woman that walks the earth in these latter days, they often nod with grave sympathy and understanding in their eyes. They have watched the decline for decades longer than I, enough to know how bad it’s gotten. They know. And they feel bad for me.

You know now that there is nothing I ask that I haven’t already undertaken in myself. When you have my heart, all will be well and whole, and complete. We’ll never have to worry if it was a mistake, because I promise I’ll never marry if I lent any authority to such doubts. And truly, once you wear my ring, you will hold a foresworn promise of devotion and service, no matter what the cost. And all my hopes and purposes and dreams will lie with that ring, and its bearer. All that I have will become yours, not the least of which my heart. I won’t want anyone else. I’ll remind you I love you.

Sometimes, I imagine you already know who I am, and are just waiting for me to find you. Do you know, with a word, you could turn my world around? Sometimes I imagine a day when, if you were to find me, you come right up to me and say “Are you Beren?” or “I’m Luthien” and watch my entire world shift. Everything else would fade away except you, you would draw in all my attention and, as if on cue, I would probably say “What did you say?” Then we would find somewhere private and quiet to talk. All a fantasy of course, but don’t tell me you haven’t imagined your groom, in all his invisible armor and raiment, emerging from the crowd to take your hand and take your breath away?

If I could, I would find you now and set your world to spinning properly. If I could, I would enter your dreams this very night if that would sweeten them. I would find a New Years ball and take you dancing if I could. I would do anything to lighten your load and end your year on a high note. As it is, I can only bottle up these letters from the prison of your absence and hope they wing their way to your heart.

Love always,
Beren

December 29, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Uncategorized, Wonderfully You | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Empty Hours

Dear Darling,

We’ve reached that time of night once again where I’m at a loss to fill the blank spaces between dinner and sleep. There’s a cold rain falling again, and it’s hard to believe there isn’t but 48 hours left in this year.

There’s never really anyone around this time of night to talk to. That’s probably a good thing. There aren’t that many people that should see me like this, or know who I really am underneath. Every man needs to keep up that barrier and illusion to preserve his dignity and pride. You’ve read far too many of my laments and elegies for me to attempt concealing them now. I’m sorry they’ve multiplied so much in your absence. Maybe the best thing will be to burn them some day, a testament to the end of the solitude. I hope you will remember that you’re reading only the rawest and most intimate of my thoughts here, in the gloomy and bleak recesses of my mind.

Do you miss Christmas yet? I do. The season lingers, like the wake of a train already departed, but the day itself is gone. The candy and candles went on sale, the music ended at the stroke of midnight, the cards are being swapped out, Christmas for Valentine’s Day. (Because Valentine’s Day is so much better.)

But the truth is, I missed Christmas even when it was here. When I was little, there wasn’t much to do but hang out and wait for Christmas to come, pass the time with games and videos and play. The boxes under the tree were well-shaken and well-known before they were ever opened. The last few years, the presents never felt my grasp until Christmas morning, and I was equally excited to give gifts as to receive them. Christmas for me has become like everything else, always been something missing, a song just out of sight, just beyond the horizon. Maybe I won’t find what I truly seek until heaven.

Sometimes, it seems to me that we sometimes get so wrapped up in the art and motions of an activity that we forget to enjoy them. Or is that just me? And is a moment as special or memorable if you’ve whipped out your phone to take subpar photos — along with everyone else? We put all our Kodak moments into the actual Kodak, thinking we’ve preserved them, when really we’ve left precious little to store in our own memories.

But it fades, like everything else. Christmas fades into the distance, and after celebrating the new year, we plunge back into the meager months. The empty months. Oh, I’ll find a way to fill them, never you fear. But each day will be a little bit emptier without you. Just like tonight. I walked out of church (feeling more than my usual share of disgust for the cheapening of the gospel) and find I’m staring down another empty evening. As much as going nonstop can fatigue me sometimes, it worsens every blank and silent evening.

It’d be nice to have a listening ear. Someone who specifically invades and intrudes to see how I’m doing, see what I need. Like the girl who once, in a conversation, abruptly asked “how’s your heart?” Always seems like it’s me shooting off texts or messages to see how people are doing. And it always seems like I keep running into people who disagree with me on such fundamental levels. They’re okay with it, while I am ever the advocate, becoming frustrated when I deconstruct the logic and philosophy of a belief, only to have it clung to in spite of the truth rather than because of it. Wouldn’t it just be nice to have someone who, on the important parts, agrees with me and sets my heart at ease that I’m not alone in the universe?

Well well, forgive another blue note in this ongoing symphony of letters, my dear. I’ll keep playing the Christmas music for a little while yet. After all, in ancient tradition, there were twelve days of Christmas. We’ve barely begun the fourth.

I hope you are well on this night, and preparing to celebrate the last Lord’s day of the year. May God go with you and grant you peace and illumination this night.

Yours,
Beren

December 29, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , | Leave a comment

Needs and Wants

Dear Darling,

I’m back home again. Alegfast won’t be back for another week, so I have the house to myself. I walk through the door, suddenly finding it interesting to realize that home can now be in more than one place. I should have turned off the heat before I left; it’s comfortably warm in here and I haven’t been home in three days. I deposit my gear and it’s off to a shower by candlelight. (Cheap, fragrant and romantic…what isn’t to like?)

Playing overhead is the album Christmas Hymns by Paul Cardall. Darling, if you ever find yourself beset by the return of winter’s melancholy and in need of something to underwrite your Christmas blues, these songs offer a companionable solace. And yes you’re quite right, sometimes I am too comfortable reverting to my sighs and sadness. I have every reason to be a little lonesome…and yet, no reason at all. I need to be reminded of both those truths sometimes.

I should be praying as I shower, but instead I’m composing this letter to you in my head.

There’s a fine line between needs and wants sometimes. By most standards, I’m flourishing under the blessings of the Lord. Someone may argue I could easily reach the end of my days without having ever had you by my side. I may even be happy. They also say not to seek someone for completion or dependence. Marriage is mutual and complementary, but without it, I won’t die.

Well now, don’t the scribes and scholars tell us a man unmarried will die sooner? Doesn’t the Word tells us that finding a spouse comes from the favor of the Lord? Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but I think I shall be looking for someone to complete me, and on whom I can depend. I’ve never yet trusted someone so completely as to lean on them and trust them not to fall — not even myself. I know that even I will let myself down if I trust myself too much. But God made us to need  — or is it want? — each other, and there is no shame in the confession. I’ve never yet found someone who aspired to be that person…or who seemed to feel that she needed me in return. But I think anything less than a love which shamelessly needs me and requires my attention, which will fight for me and cultivate in me the same response, is not worth my time.

We all need to be loved. We need to be listened to, cared for, adored, needed. Maslow says we even need sex.There is a sleepless appetite which does not disagree.

We need also the practical needs to be filled. There are deadlines to be reminded about, bills to pay, meals to make. We need new ideas, different perspectives and conflicting preferences. We need someone to tend, guard, fret about, someone with whom to fight, and dream and share the popcorn. We all need someone to take to bed, someone tuck us in when we’re sick or to wake us when the alarm doesn’t go off.

We need someone to make us be our best, and feel and look and act our best. Someone to guide us on all those subjectives we toy around with. Do I like this perfume? Do you like that tie? Are these towels too ugly, and what kind of dog should we get? What shall we name it? Hardwood floors or carpet? I’m letting my hair and beard grow out for convenience (no matter how many times my family pointedly ask when I will be shaving) but as far as I’m concerned, this is nearly as much your decision as mine.

You and I have had to cope without all of these things for a very long time. And when those around us continually settle in with their temporary beloveds, sometimes it does make us wonder what we missed…and where the line is between patience and torture. “Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all,” they say. I ask this question often enough of both the forlorn and the fortunate, but there seems to be little consensus. If starvation is checked by one hearty meal, is it a kindness or a cruelty?

I do “need” you…unapologetically. You are among the many bright hopes I have for the coming year. So I hope you will stay strong as we alternate trudging and sprinting towards that wonderful finish line of each other’s arms.

I hope to find out a little more of the story behind those letters in the attic. They seem to promise stories, secrets and antiquity — a concoction you know I can’t resist — and a story that includes love, romance and a secret marriage!

Goodnight my dear. Look for me under mistletoe, behind snowflakes and next to the shadows cast by the flickering candlelight. And perhaps next to the Christmas close-out bargain bins tomorrow.

Love, cheer and Christmas kisses,
Beren

December 27, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Questions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas, Darling

“Greeting cards have all been sent 
The Christmas rush is through 
But I still have one wish to make 
A special one for you 

Merry Christmas, darling 
We’re apart, that’s true 
But I can dream and in my dreams 
I’m Christmasing with you 

Holidays are joyful; there’s always something new 
But every day’s a holiday when I’m near to you 
The lights on my tree, I wish you could see…I wish it every day;
The l
ogs on the fire fill me with desire to see you and to say 

That I wish you Merry Christmas; Happy New Year, too 
I’ve just one wish on this Christmas Eve 
I wish I were with you 

The logs on the fire fill me with desire to see you and to say 
That I wish you Merry Christmas; Happy New Year, too 
I’ve just one wish on this Christmas Eve 
I wish I were with you…
I wish I were with you.”

We’ve spent all our Christmases apart, Darling. Maybe this will be the last. Goodnight, I love you, and merry Christmas.

Beren

December 25, 2013 Posted by | Holidays | Leave a comment