Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

When the Winds Change

Dear Darling,

Writing can sometimes be a burdensome task. Especially when I’m on a deadline. I finished and sent off the article, though a grade or two suffered for it, and in the arranging I’m now told it will likely be a cover story.

Sometimes, writing can be burdensome because the wheels of your mind turn quicker than the paper which receives them, or the hands which channel them.

Neither is the case tonight. Tonight, I know only that I want to talk with you. Haven’t you ever rung up a friend, just because you felt like talking with them? And here I have no one properly within reach to listen.

Weather is a failsafe topic on which to begin, isn’t it? Has it been rain and sunshine and snowfall and red moons where you are? The daffodils, tulips and creeping phlox were all shivering under a snowy blanket this morning. But the days before, spring made her preliminary entrance again, and we all greeted her like a friend long-expected whose presence had been long missed. And I realized, it’s not just the summer winds from the south, or the westerly autumn winds that drive me to fits of restlessness; it’s the changing of the winds themselves. It’s the seasonal turning of pages and fitful ending of chapters. It’s the reminder that time is passing, ever passing, each moment curling off into oblivion permanently stamped with your absence.

A few nights ago, I had time on my hands and a turbulent disquiet in my heart. It wanted moonlight, night air and solitude, so I mapped my route for the park on the northside. There were no gates or closing times posted so I didn’t seem to be trespassing,
but nor was there a soul around. I paced the sporting fields and scanned the horizons. My city is a lovely blend of urban and rural, so these pastures weren’t cramped. But the glare of lights reflecting against the clouds, to say nothing of revelers heard off in the distance, fell far short of the previous night’s walk along the bridge.

The night after, I walked the blocks of neighborhood around the bungalow Alegfast and I now share. He came along for a time before retiring. I continued on. But the walks in the city don’t compare. I’m rather afraid, my dear, that if I’m to find any peace in this life, it will have to be by finding a house outside the city limits, and probably far outside them.

How have you spent these last few nights? Do you find the quality of life increases with your years…and yet, also loneliness? Do you have regrets about how you’ve spent your time thus far? Are you striving to trust God with your wrong turns and unmet hopes? It’s miles that count my dear, not the years.

Tell me this. Have you ever felt like someone owed you? It’s a feeling that turns easily to bitterness, and any time the feeling of obligation or entitlement creeps in, any time my mind suggests I deserve something, I try to hold those thoughts in check. I don’t deserve anything. But on occasion, I do find myself thinking I “deserve” better. I’ve put effort into birthdays and gifts and occasions for people. It doesn’t always turn out right, but I give gifts I can’t afford, or plan parties as complete surprises. I don’t know what I’m trying to say, except that I’ve come across people for whom I’ve tried really hard and met only lackluster response. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, putting emotion and feeling into your gratitude, if ever I earn it, will go a long way. Gratitude, appreciation, the knowledge that what I did made a difference…that’s pretty much the only consideration I ask.

Yes, sometimes it is a lonely existence out here, Darling. Yes, I know you couldn’t tell because I’ve only brought it up the last two hundred letters in a row, but sometimes there are times of emptiness and loneliness when it seems there’s not a thought worth thinking. Those moments sneak up on you. When that happens, you have to have something to run to, or from, or with. A couple of weeks ago, I took myself out to a movie. Last weekend, I suggested an impromptu park dinner, which turned into semi-fast food on a pavement veranda. (It amused me that I was the only guy amongst five single women, none of whom were of particular interest to me.)

And they are friends, in their own way. But somehow, through no fault of their own, they can’t meet me where I am. No matter who I’m with, I’m always a little bit alone. They don’t understand what it’s like to live and work among the sick, to be a healer. They don’t understand the bearing of swords. They’re sheep. Sheepdogs get me, because I get them. And I wonder if a sheepdog can be happy to end up with a sheep. Nor do those who bear the swords understand that I love weapons only for their use. When I work among the healers, they don’t understand the political work I’ve done, or why I choose to work with them instead. The unbelievers don’t understand my standards, and even the believers think I take the Lord too seriously sometimes.

It’s too much to imagine you’ll ever understand me on all these dimensions, my dear. I’ve no doubt I will fall far short in apprehending the multifaceted, nuanced and many-splendid dimensions on which you exist. But how wonderful it would be if we both tried?

Were this a phone call, these scattered thoughts would, I’m sure, made for on occasionally halting conversation.

Wherever you rest under starlight and moonlight, I wish you warmth, peace and purpose this night.

Love,
Beren

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Sundry Thoughts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sundry Thoughts and New Beginnings

Hello Darling,

The week is drawing to a close at last, and with it spring’s respite. I’ve been glad of the time off, but I’ll be glad to get back to a regular schedule; this week’s been awfully full. In a way, it’s a week of new starts…new week, new season, new house. I’ve left the megachurch job as well as making the move to another house — back with Alegfast, incidentally. A clean break from some unhealthy places, and a good chance to make some changes.

I’m here in the new place tonight in fact, hopefully to stay for at least a year. It smells old, like my great-grandmother’s house I was just telling you about. I like that. It’s a lot closer to work and school which will be nice. Moving three times in one year is quite a feat, and it can take a toll. And what is it about change that makes you nostalgic even for the times that weren’t that great? Just because they were present in your life for some part of it, even a difficult part?

And what is it about darkness that frees my thoughts?

1) The other night as the shift wound down, my colleague thanked me profusely for my help, knowing that her labors would have doubled if I hadn’t come in. “Mister big personality,” she called me. “Works his butt off.” It certainly had been a busy shift, and with the occasional gratification of achieving tasks that even the nurses weren’t able. That’s always nice, right up until they start asking you to do them again.

2) Have you ever wondered what people say about you behind your back? You shouldn’t eavesdrop if you don’t want to hear the truth, but I do wonder. “Ah, old Beren,” they might say. “Pleasant enough in his own way. Bit of a dreamer, he is. Bit of a loner too, not a lot of fun to be around and a bit taken with himself.” I wonder…I wonder what they’d say at my funeral. Oh, all nice things of course, no one’s allowed to be mean. But I’m not convinced it would be well-attended, even at this stage of the game. And it makes me wonder, have I made enough of a difference in the world, proportionate to what I’ve been given? Am I doing enough? Will people remember me? Is it so important that they do? God also gave me the ability to function well in the spotlight. Even to need the spotlight now and again. So he also made me want to shy away from credit, because I know my inclination towards pride. I work as well behind the scenes as in front of them, and sometimes I prefer the anonymity for its own sake.

3) It’s only within the last few years that I feel like I’ve broken out, firmly established my place in the world and found my calling in it. I used to walk up and down the lane late at night praying for guidance and purpose. Now it feels strange not to pray for purpose, but in a sense I know I’m now following the path God has intended for me, and the main thing is to thank Him and to ask for course adjustments as events warrant.

4) I’ve mentioned before the concept of broad shoulders. God gave me the fortitude to muscle through tough situations, to be a sturdy influence, and to absorb a lot from the world. A few people know they can hit me up online or call me if they’ve had bad days and want to vent. And sometimes I read back the thoughts written within these letters and think, there’s no way any self-respecting woman would find this attractive, it’s just the belching out of each and every hidden angst and insecurity, most of which should be shut up and shut out and not talked about. Guys aren’t really supposed to be this whiny. Is that what it looks like to you? I suppose I’ve been just arrogant enough to presume you had the same view as I, that any thoughts or sadness was precious, because it came from the dark and raw recesses of your heart, the place I long to go, to earn enough trust to be escorted into. Perhaps I misjudged. I recall telling you before how they say Winston Churchill, who put on so brave a face as the leader of the free world, would go behind close doors, put his head on his wife’s lap and just sob. Are you willing to know that side of me, and to bear it up on occasion?

5) What value do you assign to aesthetics and appearance? I don’t find myself altogether terribly handsome. Some would disagree. Of course, beauty is only skin-deep, and personality survives as we age. But don’t looks matter? Fitness? My sister admonished me about looks recently, because I mentioned someone to her, and noted she was not altogether attractive. It’s not as though that’s all I value, but on the face of it, that’s all one can evaluate someone by. That’s the flaw I’ve mentioned before as a single Christian. We can’t just approach someone we find attractive and say “say kiddo, what are you doing for church next Sunday and let’s go together!” More likely than not, they’re unbelievers. Even within the ranks of believers, it’s tough to find someone compatible. And yes, looks, personality, fitness and chemistry all have their part to play. Fitness is becoming increasingly important to me, perhaps as an outlet to burn off some of this fire within.

6)  I think the flaw of so many people today, trusting themselves too much. It’s hard to find the voice you trust enough to place more weight on it than your own judgments. And yet, although I have to trust them enough to act on them, I know myself too well to place too high a premium on my own judgment. My record has taught me to be wary of it.

7) I was thinking recently on the subject of going against the grain, and how I’ve always wanted to go against the crowd because the direction of the cultural is so diametrically opposite of true north as to function as its own poor man’s moral compass. I realized that, in general, I like finding and hearing the things I don’t want to hear. I don’t want sermons that tell me I’m okay the way I am, because I know I’m not. I don’t want to listen to my mind telling me to lay around and be unproductive, or my mouth telling me to eat unhealthy foods for their taste. Sometimes, doing the exact opposite of what your body tells you is how best to grow. Oh sure, I lay around or eat unhealthy often enough, but in general I thrive best in challenging and disciplining myself. I’m a fighter, and my greatest and most challenging foe is myself. I don’t need to be told what’s good and right…I need reminding of it. I need to dwell in it and inhabit it, constantly, because like every other human being, I forget. And somehow, we need to find a way for you to challenge me like this, or to help in those disciplines.

8) What does it mean to be a great guy? I think if you asked the random girl, she’d say a guy who listens and understands, who gets the doors and isn’t mean, who takes out the trash or does laundry and dishes once in a while. I don’t know, I find myself striving towards this standard, and when I think about it, I don’t quite know what it entails. When I fall into the trap of comparing, I have to admit, my pride looks at a fellow and gets ahead of itself, saying there’s a lot I have that he doesn’t. What does that mean to you?

9) The gathering last night went well, quite well indeed for the first real hosting I’ve done solo. The “act like you’ve been there” part is a bit eclipsed behind “I have friends! And they’ll all come over to my house when I invite them, and enjoy themselves, and thank me on their way out!” But I was feeling a bit lonesome after everyone went home. I’m not sure why. I guess any theater feels empty after the crowd leaves. Which means nothing will ever truly be fulfilling because it ends. You could throw a party tomorrow, invite guests and honor me before all the world. And even if I were willing to relish the moment, a part of it would be tinged with bitterness because it would end. Sometimes it’s hard for me to live in the moment because of its transience. But to go out with you and know I can see you again, or one day when I can go out with you and then come back home with you, tuck into bed with you. That has more meaning to me than the rest of the moments of boom-and-bust. Sometimes boom-and-bust is the story of my life, and I love the running, but there are aspects of my life in which I would prefer something quiet, steady and constant.

10) Have you figured out people very much yet, dear? Me neither. It’s a progressive and limitless task. People, my dear, want the world to be different and better. When it isn’t, they drift into stories. That is why movie stars make so much money and why the magazines sell so well which dissect their everyday lives. People don’t want to be told the truth — that the world is crumbling, that we have a duty to save whom we may, that dragons roam the land and that our boots must be planted firmly to resist the darkness. People want their life cozy and soft, with just enough solid underneath to keep from sinking. I’ve been engaging in a bit of an experiment lately with social media, posting thoughts about dogs and cookies and beaches and movies, and less of the news of peril and danger and duty. The response has confirmed the hypothesis. They don’t want to read your deeper thoughts, or know you’re in pain. People, my dear, are the same. The more you meet of them, the more commonalities you find in human nature. There are divergent people out there though. I call them Outliers, and I do love a good outlier. Outliers are familiar with a state of semi-gloom. They are wise enough to be content neither with the world nor with themselves, for they are wise enough to know the limits of both. Outliers are not so easily satisfied by the world, and more attuned to its darkness. (If only such darkness passed as quickly and surely as winter.)

11) This site was recently compromised, my dear. People I didn’t ever want seeing these letters found their way. It’s hard to complain too loud since this place, although anonymous, is public. Yet it took some searching to find, so it’s still an invasion of sorts. I contemplated removing the site, shutting the walls and staunching the soul. After all, there are parts of every soul that were never made to be seen, at least by those close to them. I considered returning to my old medium, and found plain document paper not at all compelling. There’s something, my dear, about knowing these words to you may give light and warmth and comfort and inspiration to others as they wing their way to you. A hundred people have subscribed so far (which means there’s maybe two dozen actual pairs of eyes that read) and in a way, knowing that someone else is watching keeps me accountable. But for whatever value such promises hold, I’ve been promised it won’t be viewed again. To have rawest secrets rooted out and ingested is a bit like being robbed or pillaged, so I trust those promises will be kept.

12) Writing these letters is like cooking, plucking the best of thoughts from my mind and moments from a day. Some of these thoughts have been on ice for a while, I’ll admit. And how many more times do you think I can reprise the theme of missing and needing you without you growing tired of it? How often can I reiterate that I’m empty and lost without you? At least a few more times, I am sure. Will you ever grow tired of such a message, of being told you’re needed and wanted and missed?

My time is long since gone. Thank you for reading, and I hope you rest well.

Yours,
Beren

March 24, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Sundry Thoughts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sundry Thoughts on a Frigid Night

Even Santa needs Mrs. Claus

Even Santa needs Mrs. Claus

Dear Luthien,

It’s after 3 a.m. on a frigid November night. I’ve been up almost 40 hours with only a four-hour nap to take the edge off. And yes, if you were here you’d close the lid and make me go to bed, because you’re thoughtful like that and I love you for it. But you’re not here. I’m free to be so irresponsible as to stay up and write to you, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop me.

1) It’s funny the changes in mood and outlook, and how they vary. That’s why we can’t rely on something as vague and transient as emotion. Yesterday I realized that, short of meeting you, life seemed to be going well. It’s a period of time where I’m competent and entrenched in the flow of juggling all the tasks in life and keeping a good rhythm. Then today I woke up from my nap and felt depressed. No, I don’t know why. I’m sure a little more sleep will remedy the problem.

2) Likewise, at work last night you could have convinced me I was the best in the hospital. We become different people depending on who we’re around, and once again I received the compliment of someone hoping they would work with me again.

3) I’m comfortable in my own skin, but there are times I need to know how I appear to others. I can’t wait to look at myself through your eyes. I want to see myself, failures and successes. I want to see the giant you look up to, and the flaws you rightfully abhor. You see, we’re constantly told we should compare and compete only against the person we were yesterday, not against other people. And yet, we should let another’s lips praise us and not our own. The end sum of those two axioms is that you can’t praise yourself, and you can’t gauge yourself based on the praise of others.

We all want to know we are good and brave and kind and skilled and compassionate. We strive for it. For my part, every time I allow myself to think I am, the built-in warning in my head cautions against pride. So Darling, I need to be told these things, and reminded of them. (And likewise, I must remember to do the same for you.) Alegfast left me a note of validation the other day, telling me he was proud of my work ethic. (It was after another one of those legendary 24-hour days.) I need to remember to leave validating notes for you like that, and I hope you can leave sticky note stepping stones of encouragement for me as well.

4) You know that identifying or blending with this culture is a losing battle for me. Chivalry, vigilance and virtue are scarcely prioritized. Add to that, the disparity of difficulty between jobs. Specifically, the concept of a “bad day at work.” During my appointed rounds, I contend with illness and pain and blood and death; the basest of circumstances are par for the course. How does one fit into a culture whose major problems are jammed copiers and difficult traffic? How do you make someone understand that while they were nursing a paper cut, you were holding back the hair of a patient wracked with liver disease as she vomited blood infected with hepatitis? And how do you avoid developing an ego or overdeveloped sense of significance based on these differences?

5) Do you like poetry as much as I do? Not the feeble and senseless meanderings without rhyme, reason or rhythm, but the kind intricately-woven and skillfully paced both to please the mind and to soothe the soul. I buy poetry books in pursuit of poems about you. Sometimes I sit and read them aloud to myself. I believe I’ve affirmed before that I would equally enjoy reading them to you.

6) I told you I’m done with my Christmas shopping. This year marks the another step in the circle’s completion, going from the boy who receives to the man who gives. That’s the transition we should all experience as we grow. I like becoming Santa Claus; I like finding and giving gifts. Mind you, even Santa needs Mrs. Claus.

7) I read some articles lately that I think you might appreciate. This one reminds you all the perks of dating someone in the medical profession. (They’re true.) This article is helpful to identify that lust isn’t just a man’s problem. Third, this article from a Christian source discussing virginity, and its alleged overemphasis in churches. I understand the sentiments behind it, but truly it seemed only to devalue yours and my struggle.

8) I was driving by the Bridge last night, and saw a man and woman walking their dogs in the cold. Sounds like fun, don’t you think? You with your dog and me with mine?

9) An unmarried classmate noted that she was going to spend a few days at her boyfriend’s house. For a moment I allowed my mind to enter the mindset of what it would be like to be married, and know I was going to see you and stay with you. A bright, momentary flash of heat ignited in my heart to imagine what it would be like to know some red-hot monogamy was pending on our calenders.

10) One of my parents celebrated a birthday recently. It’s funny how the relationship changes as time goes by. For the first time, you notice your dad is greying at the temples, or that your mom is repeating news. (I can’t point fingers on that, I’ve been known to repeat stories.) We don’t like to think of parents as human. We don’t like to think of them as having doubts, or flaws…or sex. We don’t like to think about the reversal of roles. But they’ve always been there for us, and we have to understand that one day, if not already now, we’ll have to be there for them. It’s a phase we all experience, those of us blessed to have good parents. You’d like mine, I think.

11) I wish I had grandparents. I wish I could introduce you to a really cool grandma that meant so much in my life. But I don’t. They’re either gone or were never in my life to begin with. Maybe you’ll have a pair or two that you wouldn’t mind sharing? I’ll gladly adopt them.

12) Finally my dear, I want to thank you for reading. When I’ve had a bad day — and even when I haven’t — talking to you through these letters makes it better. It makes me feel like it wasn’t all in vain and that maybe you’re out there somewhere, caring for me.

Love,
Beren

November 25, 2013 Posted by | Sundry Thoughts | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sundry Thoughts for October, Part IV

Dear Darling,

How was your day? What did you eat, who did you talk to, where did you go? My day was the same as the rest of my life — an unfinished song. I wanted to write several things, and as they all wished to be written at once, none of them were. I have to be up for a video shoot tomorrow early, but I must write to you again before sleeping.

1) It snowed today. I can’t recall an October that gifted us with snow so early. It was just the right kind of weather for afternoon cuddling, dreary and plodding, cold and blustery. I had on my favorite, slightly-oversized fleece pullover, and I cleaned up the car and room, wrote a little, shopped for medical stock, went to the bank, gas station and store, and wrote a letter. It was a laid-back day, honestly.

2) I’m sorry I can’t come sooner. No one should be more convinced my desire is to find you as quick as may be, but I follow the orders of my King, and He has deemed it is not the due time. But I know inwardly you must be lonely and suffering to bear up under these days of solitude, with no one to share your secrets or sadness. Take some solace in the fact that I am poised at the starting gate, and it is only my Savior who stands waiting to give the signal. Join me in asking Him that the time will come, that He will release me to come and find you.

3) Where do you spend your spare time? At home? In a coffee shop somewhere? Out with friends? If I knew where you tended to hang out, even in general, doubtless I would pay call and loiter about those places. But where does a servant of Christ spend his time that would allow him to meet suitable maidens? Where might you pass your leisure that I could loiter about and seek after your face?

4) I ran an obstacle race recently. There was mud, ice, rock, sweat and electricity — eleven miles of it. It was one of the hardest things I’ve made myself endure, and it was so miserable it was fun. It would have been such fun to have you run with me, or at least be waiting for me at the end. Though, I promise you wouldn’t have wanted to kiss me!

5) “If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.” ― Oscar Wilde

6) I started a business once. Did I tell you that? I was sued and it didn’t work out. I didn’t pay the corporation registry fee and they canceled it my LLC. But the website service lived on for a time, even when I left it alone. Some fellows now want to pay a handsome sum for its use. Meanwhile, a magazine next to me has an article I wrote. Another article is going to press, and each carries with it its own handsome check. I’m working on at least one, maybe two more. Funny how the Lord has always created these side opportunities to have one foot on a cloud and one foot in the mud.

7) What’s would fit best with your idea of a romantic night? Rose petals? A thousand tea lights? We should do a night using nothing but candlelight and firelight. I turned out all the lights in the house tonight and used just candles.

8) Listen to this song and remind yourself it’s all going to be okay…until I can be there to tell you so myself.

Goodnight my dear.
Beren

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Sundry Thoughts | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sundry Thoughts for October, Part II

Dear Darling,

1) What’s it like, do you think, to have someone who views it as part of their life’s purpose to support you, love you, help you and build you up? This thought occurred to me earlier today while I was driving back from the bank. (Is it at all strange to picture me, and the fact that if you’d been in the right place at the right time, you’d have been able to see me going about my everyday business?) The thought jolted into my head out of nowhere like so many of these thoughts do…what if someone came into my life right now with that mission, to serve me and love me, take care of me, to be a mother to my children, asking only that in return they be given the same?

2) What is your opinion on beards?

3) I went for a midnight stroll through the neighborhood tonight. I couldn’t resist. There are still too many street lights, and a silvery moon — almost full and peering through the clouds it illuminates — competed with them for custody of my shadow. I walked maybe half a mile.  Aside from some sirens and cars, the noise of civilization stayed at a dull roar, As I retrace my descent, I can smell smoke, and see a raccoon cautiously spying on me from the culvert to see if I’m a threat. I reassure him I’m not, but he still watches me long after I pass his makeshift cavern. I discover the source of smoke I’ve been smelling is just the local fire station with a grill. I don’t tell you these things so much as for my own personal chronicling, but because I would love to have an account of what you did today, or in retrospect years after, and in case you are out there, I am offering up my own.

4) Do you know what it’s like when you wrestle with words? Writing is one of the gifts the Lord seems to have given me, but I’ve come to learn that sometimes writers write because they have to, not because they want to. Sometimes it’s a torment to get words out. Sometimes you feel them inside, but you’re too tired or uninspired to struggle with them. Sometimes it’s a complex process of wrangling, choreographing and arguing with the words to make them say what you want them to say. Many times, you fail. Sometimes the words practically pulse with energy, compelling you to grasp for some form, any form for them to take. Sometimes the inspiration is past before you can finish crafting an outline, let alone the full work.

5) What is your take on Halloween? I was brought up with a view which will not surprise you, not to celebrate it. Age has mellowed the stiff rejection with which I viewed the day, but I still eye it warily and find discomfort in the things it lauds. Witches, ghosts, demons, monsters, everything horrible and loathsome are all celebrated with equal enthusiasm as the birth of Christ, or His resurrection. The Lord commanded His servants to have literally nothing to do with these things. I daresay the Savior would walk right past Halloween decorations to deal with the greater concerns in any given household, but I find it hard to imagine my Savior settling in with me to watch a movie indwelt with the gruesome and macabre. Harvest parties and even costumes are acceptable alternatives, but I truthfully don’t see myself embracing the full nature of a festival of death.

6) What sort of things do you imagine for your dream home? I have a peculiar and perhaps ambitious set of hopes tucked away for Someday. I already told you about some of them. I’d like a massive fireplace and vaulted ceilings, tall enough to accommodate a glorious Christmas tree, I would like to install a prayer room or chapel — a place where I and the rest of the house can go (retreat) to, to feel alone and meet with God. I love the idea of a library, maybe even one you need a ladder for. I’m sure I would stay far too busy to appreciate such a rich estate of writings, but it’s a nice thought. I mentioned the safe room of course, and I’d like to have a tunnel out back. I’m also holding out for a fair amount of acreage, including property to explore (or feel like we’re exploring), woods to get lost in on mythical evenings with full moons and mists, where we need fear no discovery and can be free to be ourselves.

7) You’ll recall I work at the megachurch, where worship is held in an auditorium with a stage, with bleachers which fold back and a floor doubling as a gymnasium. In an interlude, I ventured into the old side of the church, confined to the occasional wedding or funeral. I swear to you my dear, if walls could talk, these are older, kinder, gentler and wiser. The walls of the new building confuse size with power, and so presume to be the most important. They aren’t. It’s here that the hallways narrow, the carpet adopts a homey smell, and the walls seem to welcome you as though they seldom have guests that appreciate what they once were. It’s darker and quieter and, dare I say, more peaceful. The chapel is vacant, but of all the vast buildings, floors and hallways down which I could search, this is where I would choose to be. I half-expected to find Jesus himself sitting inside. Here I could be free to pray, to walk the aisles or sit on the stairs. The black locust tree grows tall and reproduces quickly, but it blows over with little effort. Its wood is cheap and weak, and for that matter, is covered with thorns. What have we lost in prioritizing quantity over quality?

8) Sometimes, a guy needs to know he’s needed. Sometimes, the lady has to do the asking.

9) At last, it’s gloriously nippy outside. Have you ever noticed how, on the first cold mornings, dogs will chase each other and play to keep warm? It seems colder weather makes many animals frisky, and I’m no exception. Tonight, I found myself seething with raw energy, feeling beastly and primal, like walking out into the woods with my shirt off and ripping up trees by their roots for sport. Guys get like that now and again, you know; it’s likely just a surge in testosterone, but it leaves one feeling pent-up, unsatisfied, trapped. But I can see what it might translate into one day, being channeled into a force for mutual benefit. Truthfully, I’m having trouble how there will be anything else when, during our married days, we rejoin each other’s company at day’s end. The faintest hints of an ecstatic dream whisper in my ear, that I’m sitting at my computer and suddenly realize I’m about ready to split some pine logs or run a warrior’s dash while panting steam. So I get up to find you and, catching you by surprise, kiss you with such fierce passion and tender romance that your defenses are overwhelmed and you can’t wait to surrender. I can see this kind of thing happening before dinner, after dinner, before bed, in the middle of the night. I can see us never getting anything done. And I see you wanting, desiring and craving the exact same thing, because you know few things make me happier than seeing you happy.

Are your feet cold? Bring ’em on over…and anything else that needs warming.

Love always,
Beren

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Nights Like These, Sundry Thoughts | Leave a comment

Sundry Thoughts for September

Dear Darling,

I was back at the bridge tonight.

I really wish I could find a place all my own and away from people where I can be raw and open before heaven. There’s something about civilization that closes me off.

Tonight the cicadas are humming alongside the crickets. It’s overcast and drizzling (yay!) and as I look down at the creek, I notice a number of fireflies have gathered on the moss and plants, giving the illusion that the water is sparkling.

After cleaning up the house yesterday (in fairness to me, anything contributing to disorder was 98 percent not my fault) then worked last night, and slept this morning. The family was sick (something resembling what I contracted a few weeks ago) and I staged a pizza rescue, cleaned up the kitchen and washed all the dishes. I was rewarded with dinner, a movie and canine affection, so I broke even. But, other than a few worries here and there, my mind simply isn’t engaged in the big stuff tonight. Either it’s shallow and numb, or just full and settled.

That wasn’t the case the other night. The other night I was slightly stir crazy. I occasionally have those nights, where it feels like something inside me is trapped, wanting to escape. Like that claustrophobic feeling that you have to stretch and have no room. In this particular occasion, I was just off from Monday night Bible study. A friend had come alongside and casually mentioned he and his new bride were already expecting. I was already ill-disposed towards this friend, who rejected my request that he serve as accountability partner when I was seeing the Lady Kirche. I congratulated him and then laughed at the fact that I had worked with his wife in the hospital some days after their honeymoon, and already strongly suspected the pregnancy before either of them did based on her symptoms.

Two acquaintances are pregnant and ready to give birth, and another acquaintance is posting photos and announcements of her newborn.

Something strange must have been going on roughly nine months past.

Oh of course, I should be happy for these couples! They have been blessed by God and should be celebrated. And were I more like Christ, I would gladly celebrate the milestones finally coming to fruition in his life. But instead, leaving Bible study, I avoided my friend (and further invitations to “catch up”) and quickly took to the highway. I bade the night wind to roar through the open windows and pounded a therapeutic dose of Evanescence out of the speakers on the drive home.

Quite a contrast to tonight. Tonight, the mind is subdued and doesn’t want to wrestle with the big topics.

And that’s fine. I need to stop being so self-absorbed anyway. As I walked the bridge, I made note to the Lord that I would not object in the slightest if this drizzle became a downpour, then ran down a short list of friends for whom to pray.

I need to get back on track with life. I need to remind you not just of my trials, but of the good that’s in store.

I’ll try to get back to that tomorrow.

Goodnight, my dear, I love you.

Beren

September 21, 2013 Posted by | Sundry Thoughts | 1 Comment

Sundry Thoughts for June, Pt. 2

Dear Darling,

It’s as beautiful a June night as you could ask for. There’s a crescent moon hanging high, the air is a perfect 75 degrees, and the humidity is just right.

I finished up work this morning, showered, ate and slept for six hours before going to the second job. I met some friends afterward for dinner, then visited an acquaintance in the hospital. And at the end of the day, as if I should be surprised, I found thoughts of you waiting.

As I pulled out of the lot, that familiar urge to grab my phone and call you sunk in. And I felt like I should already know you, we should already be at the place where I can pick up the phone and call you. (You’ll be able to expect calls from me with some reliability, you know.) And then I thought even better, that you should be here for us to turn up the music and find some back roads to drive through.

It’s been a long week. By week’s end, I’ll have logged a little over sixty hours. Sometimes it feels like simply reliving the same day. Some nights it’s like living in slow motion.

The other day I was driving in and thought about how a little from you would go a long way. I thought if I could just get a pat on the back, a “hang in there” and a kiss goodbye, I’d be set for the next 72 hours, no matter how difficult. And then I think that maybe I’ll have that same power over you. That maybe taking you into my arms, looking you squarely in the eyes, cupping your face in my hands and reminding you that you’ll be alright, better than alright, amazing. Maybe I’ll have the ability to lift you ten feet off the ground with a touch. Maybe a little from me will go a long way. 

I came home the next day, a little tired, and found a note from a friend of my roommate’s, scheduled to come to the house to do some work. I try to avoid being alone with single women behind closed doors, but that wasn’t entirely practical, and impropriety was not even close to the scene. It’s rare to discover a note with my name on it, courteously informing me of the next time she was planning to come. A small thing, perhaps, professional and scarcely affectionate, but it made me smile that while I slept, she thought of me enough to leave me a note.

The word “love” came to my mind unbidden during a quiet period of time at work. As if I would voluntarily bid that unkind sentiment to arise in my mind! I wonder if I have ever been loved by anyone outside of family, whose affections or at least obligations are somewhat compulsory. I wonder if either of us really know what love means…and I wonder what it’s going to look like when I can finally tell you that for the first time, and watch your response.

Lately it seems like the people who talk to me, who listen and are friends, are drifting away or creating distance, and it makes me miss you more. At times, I feel like I’m repeating ideas in these letters, reaching out to you in them because talking at you is the closest thing to talking with you. I reread them sometimes — often in fact. Some of them seem rather poorly-written in retrospect, but I dearly hope you’ll cherish them as much as I think.

Times of testing makes us stronger, my love. To be stretched beyond endurance…to have faith that the sufferings of solitude have no comparison, that better days are in store, the kind to make us forget nights like this, and yet sufficient to make all their agony sweeter and worthwhile.

Good-night, my beautiful darling. I love you.

Beren

June 16, 2013 Posted by | Nights Like These, Sundry Thoughts | Leave a comment

Sundry Thoughts for June

24. Reynolds, Graham - Alone At LastDear Darling,

A week’s vacation goes a long way. I feel energized and motivated. I started making my summer to-do list, and it sort of turned into a bucket list. There’s no way I’ll have time to do all the things on that thing. But that’s okay, it saves some of them to do together.

I smiled at the rain as I left the church tonight I’m sure I made a strange sight tonight, walking into the restaurant alone with my computer bag in hand, choosing a table, ordering, sitting alone with a novel in front of me and a yellow legal pad on which I made my list. Some of it is about priorities. God is at the top of the list. Then work, exercise, reading, writing and a plethora of activities including learning to be a lifeguard, resuming martial arts, learning to drive stick shift, advancing my piano skills (which at the moment have dwindled to very little I’m afraid), planning a camping trip, and multiple other activities. I have three destinations remaining on my summer travel list, two celebrations to shop for, a class to schedule, and so many other things besides. I love planning all this, and the thought that I’ll actually do it, but I’m sure fatigue will find its way between the lines of the list.

It kind of already has. (Haven’t you ever felt energized and tired at the same time?) While I was gone, I was with people the whole time. As I said, the shadow of your future memory was with me, but only a shadow. But now I’m back, and you aren’t here. The lonely songs are on the radio again, and I’m starting to miss you more. It’s not a cheerless despair, it’s merely the disappointment of waking from a dream and finding it not real…and the bittersweet of knowing one day it will be. It’s laying all these plans, seeing all these possibilities written out on paper, becoming a better man, citizen and person, but realizing I can’t put your arrival on the calendar…even as I know it could come at any time.

That’s the funny thing about love right now. It’s the perfect conjugation of ignorance and knowledge. I know by proxy, by reason, by extension, by deduction and by instinct that love exists, but it doesn’t reside in my heart yet. I know it exists but I don’t feel it to exist. At times I can hear the echo where it should be; at times I feel phantom pangs as if it were once there, and has renewed its sense of absence. It’s an innate, deep-seated, visceral feeling. It doesn’t emanate from my core…it is my core. Or rather, my missing core. My cordis in absentia. The resulting loneliness, the waiting and the working and the writing all rolled together, wear on the heart just a little.

It’s okay though. It’s just the loneliness resumed, dulled by sunshine, sand and seawater. It’s no different than the other burdens of life I’m resuming. And anyway, it’s a comfort to know such a strength — and weakness — burns in me still.

I’ve made my way through two novels in the last few weeks, and have begun a third. I completed another article (interview, really), am progressing on two more, and have two more ideas on hold. I’ve noted before that I often go at a breakneck speed through life. I’ve got a lot going on, you know that. But I have to admit…I love it.

A dear friend of mine had a baby, long-anticipated. Indeed, I was among the first few taken into confidence about the newly-expected arrival. When she texted the picture, I can’t explain why but I was so proud and happy for her, with no room for envy or sadness, and my eyes got a little misty. The bark is tough, but I really am a sap underneath. Maybe that’s how it will feel to be a father one day. And isn’t it kind of exciting to know feelings exist that we haven’t felt yet, and are stronger than anything we’ve known before?

I hope you are well and strong, my dear. Remember that God is present even in times when we feel Him distant, that He has a plan that will not be undone, and that the greatest demonstration of power is surrender. I dare to hope you are using this time as I am, to better yourself and be more disciplined as a vessel for God. I hope you aren’t unhappy tonight; and when you close your eyes to dream, I hope you’ll find yourself on the sands of a gentle beach under a welcoming sun, with me standing by the ocean, waiting for you.

Until then,
Beren

June 10, 2013 Posted by | Sundry Thoughts | Leave a comment

Sleepless Sundry Thoughts

23. Unknown Artist - Lovers Under The Desert Sky, 1920'sMy Dearest,

Congratulations. Even separated by time and chance, you are keeping me up nights. I suppose the fact I slept in altogether too late has some small fault in the matter; my sleep schedule is a little messed up anyway, alternating between night and day labors. Did you know, in addressing you about them the other night, I hesitated to refer to them as shifts? I thought the word might seem too menial to you, to term my work as too diminutive. I suppose to some, it is. It is quite humble work, I won’t lie. But I know it will lead to better things, and I can take some pride in knowing I turned down some things which the world deems greater in order to pursue something higher. In recognizing my own propensity towards pride, I have often been grateful for the opportunities God has all-too-amply provided to remind me to be humble. In allowing me to be featured in the New York Times and USA Today, He has also granted my day labor consist of the sick and dying.

So! Since sleep eludes, what shall I tell you?

Shall I contemplate how you and I, on some sleepless night after we’re married, both have trouble sleeping, and elect instead to elope like the crazy young lovers we are, finding haven and communion under the stars? Shall I share with you the rapid dissemination of thoughts prompted merely by falling in behind a jogger whose scented perfume lingered? Shall I share with you why I chose the name Beren Estel as the pen name for your bridegroom? Shall I share how you will one day be irreplaceable, or how I realized that to love is to fear? Shall I share with you a list of the preparations about which I’m set about to better ready myself for your arrival, or the travel plans to which I am given?

All of them, you say? A tall order at four in the morning, but I will strive to oblige you.

First; today is the second day I have not worked. Fresh off some travel and much work, you would think I would be gratified for these two days, particularly when it affords the chance to do some writing and interviews, which pay ever so much better than my day jobs. Instead, I was restless and squirrely and bored. So I took my roommate’s dog to the park, the better for us both to get out and enjoy the weather. I happened to cross paths with the wake of a jogger whose perfume made me instantly think not of her but of you. (Unless, of course, that was by some peculiar chance you.)

I thought about how you will meet, fulfill, overpower and satisfy every one of of my senses. I am blessed to yet be in possession of all five; taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell. To touch you…an honor beyond imagining. To see you…for surely in my eyes, if not in the eyes of all who see you, you will be the handsomest and most desirable of all women. To hear you…the joy of hearing your thoughts, your corrections, your affections, your laughter and singing and tears. To smell your perfume, your shampoos and conditioners and whatever other cosmetic products whose use you require. To taste your skin, your lips, the salt of your tears. To these contemplations the mind ventured, and then soared.

Second; why the name of Beren Estel? It is some time now I have been enthralled with the mythological works of Tolkien, and from his earlier works I have lifted the name. Far from the bizarre derivative fantasy worlds of today, Tolkien invented not a story but an entire world, with many volumes of back-history, and several languages based on his study of linguistics. To these volumes I owe as much as any my learning of poetry, writing and of dreaming. Beren means brave, and in falling in love with the elf-maid Luthien Tinúviel, princess of her kind and fairest of all, he fought through fire, water, battle and death to both save her and win her hand. She too strove at his side to help him in his labors, and healed him when his mortality overcame him. Her name means daughter of flowers. Estel simply means hope. And yet, there is a deeper concept imbued in its meaning, one of faith and trust. It is the idea that hope, or faith, “is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruchin, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves.”

So you see, my darling, that these names were not idly chosen, to deem you the princess of your people, the daughter of flowers and twilight, the fairest of all, and I assuming the mantle and responsibilities of the brave and faithful, who will fight as long as God gives breath in my lungs and you by my side.

Thirdly; Do you know what that means to be irreplaceable? We are likely both irreplaceable in some aspects of our lives, or at least to our families and friends. Were we to depart this world, there would be some aspects of our existence which could not wholly be healed or replaced. Yet when you become mine, and I yours, do you appreciate the significance of the fact that you will be utterly irreplaceable to me? Do you understand that this means no one else can ever, ever do what you do, or be what you be? One day, beyond the wildest of my dreams, you will tell me you love me. If that can be believed, then it must surely flatter and please you to inhabit the one form and existence without which I cannot live. The sum total of earthly desire and mortal longing, wrapped in skin and cloth and loveliness, surnamed Luthien, and one day bearing my last name. None other in the country, the world, the galaxy, the universe, has been created to be mine, or will be capable of bestowing or receiving the loving graces of my heart, to be needed and loved for no other reason than that I need you and love you. Though I yet know little of love, I know that it asks no permission of the heart, nor requires excuse or justification. I know that it is simply because it is.

Surely my love is a trifle and a pittance when weighed on this scale.

Fourthly, and in supplement to the previous; Surely to love is to fear! To love is to allow a portion of your essence and fulfillment to dwell outside of you. Life is no longer all or nothing; part of your heart resides with another, one who thinks, acts and chooses differently than you. The power to make them heal is also the power that can make them hurt you. To unite is to divide; to partake in the oneness of your soul with another, your world is split and a part of you is now in their keeping. Part of you can now be killed while you yet survive. I anticipate the mutual instruction of this fear!

Fifthly, owing almost exclusively to the providence of our good and gracious Lord, I have found several ways to travel quite cheaply to several nice locations. To Florida I return within days, and upon returning, I intend car trips both to the north and the south, as well as one more potential journey far to the west. A colleague recently shared with me the cheaper expense of travel by rail (wouldn’t that be fun?) and I recently uncovered opportunities both to Costa Rica and Hawaii for cheaper than most would make them out. Yet why should I go to Hawaii or Costa Rica? I have already discovered travel means less without you, and only makes me long for the days when you will join me.

And finally love, you will have to wait to hear my thoughts on the preparations for your arrival, but one more vision will I share with you before trying to sleep. My mind’s eye saw you again as I sat propped up in bed with a book in my lap. I saw you enter the room and regard my reading with some pleasure, while I regarded you and your entry with even greater pleasure. Your wordless approach, your wry and inviting smile as you wordlessly draw me in for a kiss, and more, reinforced my incredulity that you actually want to be closer to me. Far be it from me to deny the desires of my heart’s other half, but forgive me if I turn over the thought in my mind!

Here imagination must draw the curtain…but not forever. No indeed, not forever.

Love always,
Beren

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Nights Like These, Sundry Thoughts | , , | Leave a comment

Sundry Thoughts for May, Pt. 2

“The road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began
Now far ahead the road has gone
And I must follow if I can.”

My Darling,

2am seems hardly the time or place to be walking the deserted country roads, but if you’d had eyes to see, that is where you would have found me. For tonight, sky and cloud have traded places; the stars clearly visible and a heavy fog has descended. The trees are quietly dripping, lights are muffled and sounds dimmed. It’s a glorious stillness. No one is on these roads, of course, so I pray my way out the driveway and onto the road.

Funny how you have to wait until night to decide how your day was.

1) I’m back at the old homestead tonight; the family is traveling. In a way, I don’t know what to do with myself. Once again I reach the end of a finish line and, having known nothing but running for the last ten months, I want to keep running. I feel a little lost.

2) Tonight I made a batch of oatmeal cookies to accompany the grilled chicken in my own custom honey mustard sauce, with carrots, peaches and a salad, and I thought about how you and I could have had fun this weekend, and how one day we will find fun in these moments. I try to follow a principle not to be alone behind closed doors with any woman (the better not to rely on my strength to guard against weakness) but how fun it would have been to invite you over for us to bake cookies together, and dinner, and then to watch a movie. Or when we’re married…to sit on the porch in the cool of the evening and I can read to you. I bought a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets that would be perfect for the situation. To be truthful, some of them I find difficult to interpret; I think he outsmarted himself with his fluency of language. But reading them in a poet’s voice would be romantic, don’t you think?

Or you could have joined me for the walk. I would have been honored.

3) As I reach the end of the driveway, I’m asking God what He wants me to do. This is the question I must always remember to ask, because seeking God’s will must always be my — our — first ambition. I squat down and touch the road. How funny to think that if I only knew where you were, this same road is the place where my journey to you would begin. I would banish slumber and go tonight if I could…no doubt met, at this late hour, with silence, aggression and perhaps arrest. So, I content myself to stroll slowly up and down the road.

4) I’m reflecting on people again…on human nature. In particular, a young lady with whom I became friends, the one who said thank you, who I had great professional respect for and had worked with to accomplish a mission. Indeed, the two of us strove for a cause on one side, while the Vice-President of the nation personally strove for the opposite side. I had occasion to meet her during my trip, and she treated me poorly. I would like to believe I have a measure of grace and patience for everyone, and she quickly exhausted it. Yet when I became the one to end interactions by leaving, only then did she want me to stay. I can’t understand where that came from. She is either conflicted or playing a game, and I think I inadvertently played it back and won. There are some who advise this as a way of life…not to respond to texts too quickly, not to be too available. In short, playing “hard to get.” Darling…that’s just not me. It’s dishonest. I don’t play games. If I’m by the phone and you messaged me, I’d respond. In a sense, it’s all or nothing. When we both realize we are interested in each other, or that I’m interested in you, you will know. Whether by action or word, it shouldn’t be ambiguous. And I can’t see myself withholding attention out of some misguided principle that I am dangling myself just out of your reach, the better to make you want me. I certainly hope you would place yourself above that too?

5) I’ve also recognized, with age brings another realization; in becoming the grown-up, suddenly there are people who are too young for me. It may seem a small and obvious conclusion to you, but it’s a little new to me, looking at someone and seeing them as immature, realizing the years have indeed taught their lessons and pulled you into a different stage, one which is incompatible with some less advanced.

6) I enjoyed working a night shift, and it afforded me the possibility of getting some other work done as well. It certainly plays merry havoc with your circadian rhythms, but there you have it.

7) Healing heals me. I’ve spent a lot of time with patients the last year or two. Remember how I told you it’s been my goal to be useful, the man never caught unawares, who was prepared to respond in dire situations? Healing is part of that complex. It makes me feel utilized, fulfilled and useful. It’s part of who I was meant to be. And it’s interesting to recognize that at times, giving of myself in this way seems to recharge me rather than drain me.

And tonight, as the third watch draws to a close, I find myself both recharged and drained, and just wanting you.

Love,
Beren

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Nights Like These, Sundry Thoughts | 2 Comments