Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

This Song is Ending; But the Story Never Ends

TheEnd_2Dear Darling,

I have to stop writing here now. The secret is no longer safe, and once found, can’t be hid again.

I shall always remain yours most sincerely,

-David

August 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Rising and Shining

Dear Darling,

Rise and shine! This morning I’m drawing back the curtains and, if you were sharing my bed, kissing you awake. Have you ever been kissed awake? I expect you have. Well, we won’t dwell on it. It’s time to get up! I’ve already been awake, ran a 5K of my own devising, and have cooked up breakfast — yoghurt, oatmeal and hot eggs if you’ve stomach enough for them.

What then! Did you think your Beren was always beset by darkness? Nonsense. Darkness parts as surely as the sun rises. Night is no master over me, and dawn is ever the hope of men. And furthermore, I’d rather be empty from effort than empty from idleness. At least I know others have profited in the emptying. I daresay that one day you will be the heir to firstfruits of such labors, and then we’ll both have more to show for them than a mere paycheck.

I often know what I need, I just haven’t sense enough to follow through. My body wanted feeding and sleep, and I’ve given it that…a full shift’s worth, and well-earned if I may make such a pronouncement modestly.

Upon awakening, I breakfasted (at dinnertime) and then invited friends to join me for a movie, with dinner to follow. It’s worth noting as an aside that most of my friends of significance or depth are women. Perhaps it’s the necessary outcome of being a single man working and schooling in a predominantly female world. Or because the fairer sex still has the greater measure of consequence and depth. Regardless, if you notice this as a defining trait in my life once you enter it, please know that it isn’t something over which to become jealous. None of these women are pursuits or interests, but merely friends — friends for whom, I hope, I can set an example of what men ought to be. And anyway, in the case of last night, plenty of fellows were invited as well and declined.

When I returned home, I dispatched several of the menial household duties to which a bachelor is confined while profiting by another sermon before retiring to bed with a book. With the book I made progress; less so the bed. And so, I rose to run and eat and wake you to see if you wanted any. (Yes Darling, I’m afraid your future husband has just as much ebb and flow as any ocean, and his energy and vigor as unpredictable as the surge and swell of any tide. In short, no more or less human than any other.)

Smell, you say? Nonsense; simply the manly musk of an early morning jog! The sunshine is already spilling golden onto the cottages and byways of the kingdom; the sidewalks and lawns already teeming with squirrels and cardinals.

Now then, we’ve plenty of time before church to dine leisurely in the cool of the morning if you’ve a mind to awaken and join me on the patio. What’s that? Me come to bed? But it’s morning! What’s that?

Ohh. Yes ma’am.

-Beren

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And Rain Will Make The Flowers Grow

Dear Darling,

I’m afraid it’s another one of those drained nights where I’m not in much shape to do much good for anyone.

It should be a day for celebrating…it is. It’s only that sometimes, especially when weary and sleep-deprived, I find it hard not to let petty things like jealousy take over. People graduated today, people are getting jobs, engagements, pregnancies. (I’m grateful that the one young lady in particular who expressed a steady but not overdone interest finally found her mate elsewhere, as she has announced her pending nuptials, and thoroughly happy for her and the invisible stress her unrequited attraction placed on our friendship.)

I’m still fighting that feeling that everyone else is ahead of me, and better off. I expect that makes me rather weak in your eyes, and perhaps that’s well-deserved. There’s a lot of pressure on men though, my dear. (“Pressure on men…!” you must justifiably snort in disbelief.) But there are expectations that force a constant inner dialog on whether or not they’re being met. And on nights like tonight, the tired frailties and insecurities, all the sore and tender places that bear hiding, are stretched thin and come out all too easily.  Not having the best grades, the best intellect, the best memory or appearance or voice, not having the best body, best handwriting or the best car, or even career. I chose not to pursue law for a host of reasons, but for friends who went on to get their law degree, I see prestige and success for them where for myself I saw none. The tiniest fraction of my mind will always wonder if that was the right decision.

I see people winning awards and acknowledgements for their academic prowess, and the pall is cast over my own. (They aren’t hard to overshadow.)

I worked tirelessly for years in the one wing of the political industry, yet it’s others who came along and reaped the results, or the adulation. Of course, these doors are all doors I closed for myself (or if you like, was led to close) but they still leave me wondering. I could have been in on campaigns, could be working PR right now, could be practicing law right now. Instead, I was led down a lesser-known road. I have to trust in that leading, but sometimes I don’t find those decisions to have been validated. While others stay their course, and receive awards and accolades, I never wound up standing in the light when it was time to be recognized and applauded. (I can think of one speech locally where I presented, and the fellow who spoke after me made certain the crowd knew I had worked hard, and should be applauded. This is the same speech I gave directly after a man who is now a leading contender for President.)

What do trophies and awards matter anyway? Aren’t they just the perishable tokens of human recognition? The appreciation of heaven is all I should need. The relieved looks and grateful expressions from the sick ought to be enough to fill my cup. The privileges of working behind closed doors to improve the lot of those who suffer and ache, to make them laugh and rest more comfortable…isn’t it enough to be an unsung hero? Yet, how else does one assure one’s self of heaven’s favor? Is work, even work among the ailing, the same as working for the Lord? Didn’t Jesus bless Mary for learning at His feet rather than Martha for her tireless and frenzied preparations?

I want to be the best for you. And when foolish character flaws such as these arise, I realize it must be my fault, not to have drawn closer to Christ, the better to have these infirmities of the soul expunged. The only expectations that matter should be the Lord’s…and of course to a lesser extent, yours. Ah, but if only there were eyes as pretty as yours to look up at me with inexpressible gratitude. If only I knew I was making a difference, or could feel the warmth of my heavenly Father’s pride and favor just a little more.

Well, these dark musings are only the byproduct of another 34-hour marathon, minus the three-hour nap. (What? Oh now, don’t give me that look. Now that studying is through, it was time to jump back in to the swing of things!)

And driving home from a graduation celebration, the lightning lit up the sky and the rain began to fall. So of course, I rolled back the moon roof. And, I went for a walk in it when I came home, apologizing to the Lord for these petty insecurities. They’re not pretty to look at, are they? And yet, I’ll wager that every other man on earth has them too. And which would you rather have, a man who holds back and hides himself from you, or a man who owns his weaknesses?

I really don’t want to miss you tonight, Darling. Anymore, I don’t even want to remember that you might exist. It hurts too much.

I guess I’ll always have a little darkness in my soul.

Yours,
Beren

May 10, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These, Questions, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gypsy Soul

TheWandererDear Darling,

These days, if my feet aren’t pacing, my mind is.

I can’t explain it to you because I don’t quite understand myself. All I know is, I have to be on the move. Something in the core of my soul, if not my body, drives me to press on and conquer and achieve.  It’s not like I don’t have plenty to do. Easter was spent at the house of Gladhbrui’s family for lunch, and then my family’s for dinner. When I returned home, I had a presentation and a paper to complete, among other assignments. Monday was full of class, exercise and Bible study, after which I worked the overnight and then went to clinical the next day. After a 28-hour day (I’ve missed those long hauls!) I slept four hours and then cleaned the house.

Still. Restless.

You’ll find this about me, my dear. I owe allegiance neither to day nor night. I will be up late into the wee hours chasing a muse, or up early chasing a paycheck. I may be up all day, or all night, or both. It’s only fair to warn you that no hour will be off-limits for me, except for consideration of your consonant slumber. (I look forward to the day when sleep is a privilege and joy rather than a begrudging obligation.)

Last week, finally free of the majority of scholastic encumbrance, I vented my repressed energy by running a league, swimming three furlongs and doing some lifts. (In another life, maybe I was meant to be an Olympian.)

I visited the family too, and paid call to the bridge. The weather’s far more inviting now, so I parked my car at the top of the hill hoping no house nearby found it disturbing, and slowly descended toward the creek. I think a lot of people mistake the calm and communion with nature for connection with God, or a substitute for being in His house. Drawing near to a perfect and holy God isn’t always the serene and comforting experience people hope it will be. But for me, I find it hard to be genuine with the Lord unless He and I are alone. Still more, in a still evening with civilization miles away. But it bothers me. I should be glorifying God in my prayers. On the eve celebrating His suffering, death and victory, I should be thanking Him only for His indescribably gift of salvation and redemption. To be sure, my prayers have been filled with more gratitude of late, but sometimes I feel it’s a broken record, of gratitude, requests, prayers for others, and prayers about you. I’m grateful the Lord doesn’t weary of prayers for and about you.

Still. Restless.

I wonder what Alegfast thinks. “What’cha looking for?” he quizzed, as I dug through a volume of poetry. “Inspiration,” I sighed. Most evenings now, I walk the blocks trying to pray through the clouds and the pollution of lights. I walk past so many houses with TVs on and find myself hoping I never become someone so simple as to be content just watching TV every night. Some of us have to earn our contentment with heroic efforts, and sometimes I wonder if life wouldn’t be easier if I were satisfied by a disposable dinner and a TV show warmed over.

Maybe I have the trademarked gypsy soul. It’s not as though I never want to settle down, or have developed a penchant for hoop earrings and itinerant panflutes. But I do get chronically restless just sitting still. I have to go somewhere, be on the move, even if it’s just for a walk. I have to escape, to the bookshop or the roadside jogging trail, or the gym. I’ve been searching lately for another park to haunt.

Haunting, as everyone knows, is a deed best performed alone. Searching on the map, there’s only squares of green, and none to tell you which ones are open, which ones offer moonlit pastures or which are free of other wanderers. I spent some time visiting some of them recently, but I’ve yet to find what I’m looking for. (I now have a better knowledge of my surroundings, but I’m out the gas and time and took to find them.)

But haunting is also a lonely and, yes, restless business. Sometimes I’m out there all alone and think it would make a great story if you were out there wandering also. But that’s just the fatalistic nonsense the fairy tales are made of. And anyway, we’d both be startled out of our wits to find we’re not alone.

For now, the pedagogues and headmasters are nearly through exacting their penalties for choosing to pursue the path of the healer. It’s been an incredible year already to spend in the world of mothers, babies and childbirth. It’s presented its singular frustrations that I’ve had to withhold. I know which hospital to choose for the birth of our children. I know what songs I’ll sing to them. I know how to go about raising them. More education I’d rather have received with you.

I’m hoping and praying you’re not quite as restless as all this, and that maybe you’ve found a peace and a calling to last you at least until we meet. Until then, I’ll just be here, searching for peace and chasing forever.

Yours,
Beren

April 25, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

The Man in the Mirror

ManintheMirrorDear Darling,

Who do you see looking at you out of that mirror in the mornings? Who is it staring back at you over your sink and what secrets, praises, shames and kindness lie behind those eyes reflecting back at you?

That man in the mirror…sometimes I don’t know what to make of him. Sometimes I think he’s skilled and kind and slowly becoming everything he’s ever wanted to be, even if it looks a lot different. Sometimes I’m well nigh proud of him. And oftentimes, I realize that the pair of eyes meeting mine knows everything I do about myself, and that’s just unnerving. Sometimes that man in the mirror shakes his head at me and tells me to stop looking at my workout progress in the mirror. He questions whether or not that time is well-spent, or if I spend as much time bettering my soul as I do my body.

He reminds me I’m not really a good man if I expect others to return my kindness.

He orders me to get my thoughts in line with God’s word, and wags a finger at me if they get off-track.

He reminds me that even though we’re forgiven and covered by the blood, we must still repent to God, and that I don’t repent often enough. He reminds me there’s already enough life behind me to lift my head high with pride and bow it low with shame.

He reminds me I’ve skipped Bible study two weeks in a row already, and my Bible is scarcely cracked since the last study. (In fairness, I’ve listened to all of James and 1st/2nd Peter, plus accompanying sermons this week.)

I’m reminded to be more content with what I have, and wonder why I’m not. Why, I had four friends bake a cake, sign a card and take me out to dinner for my birthday. Alegfast bought my dinner. Other friends join me the night before for dinner and a movie, and laughs, presents and more cake with my family tonight. (“Three free dinners in a row!” snorts the man in the mirror, who would cuff the side of my head reprovingly if he could.)

I have no right to get into the car after spending time with my family and laughing harder than I have in some time, and feeling your absence, my dear, as soon as I turn the key.

How comes it that nothingness can take on form? How does emptiness flow like a flooding torrent, seeping right through the walls that inescapably pervade my existence, the minute I part company with people? People, who are so often the curse as much as the cure?

I have to stop taking shelter in those feelings like a dog going back to his den.

I do think I’ve found a church, my dear. I’ve not scoured from one end to the other, who knows, maybe you are there. Life lays more heavily on some of these. People here are sheep, and oft’times I no less than they, but at least they’re trying. I sat there this morning and had to remind myself I’m not more spiritual just because I shook off sleep to come here when someone else didn’t. I don’t care more just because I put on a coat and tie this morning when someone else didn’t, or because I carry a real Bible and other people use phones.

I wonder as I watch them, how do so many of them take relationships in stride? I’m certain the day is coming when I’ll take you for granted, but someone who makes life itself a little easier, whose presence I will one day be unable to imagine living without? To know I can take into my arms and kiss any time I want? To have children with? Children…! 

Compare with them the sheep in the rest of the world. I will say, watching people always fascinates me. Yesterday I worked trackside, a thrill to say the least. Thirty thousand souls crowded into the stands in their finery, a spectacle that even royalty travels to see. Rich and poor, pupil and master, all are here — and soon to be equalized by alcohol. Thirty thousand of them, and only three of us actually permitted on the track, present here for emergencies, kicking up dirt as we chase those flying hooves. The different people that you see…they’re not really trying that hard…this is for the Monday through Friday living, not the good behavior of Sundays. But I still do wish I could do more than stand at the ready to patch their bodies. What does the body matter when the soul is in peril?

And of course, that was but a fraction of what’s on my agenda this week. After pitching this article for months, the editor finally approved it, but only if I could provide a finished product within the fortnight. Last week, projects were due nearly every day. This week I have a research project due, prep work, a quiz Thursday, a scholarship showcase, a community emergency simulation and a Bible study. I have exams Friday and Monday, and I’ve already just done a quiz tonight.

And that man in the mirror, well, he just shakes his head at how busy I am, but smiles knowingly because he knows deep down I like the sweet madness of it all. And he sighs because he knows a touch of your hand would quell the tremors of my restless mind. He knows your heart would give me a reason to sit still, and that my mind will be just a little less at ease every time you leave, and just a little more at ease every time you return.

You’ll have to look at this man in the mirror one day. (It’s bad enough I have to face him, so I’m just sorry you’ll have to!) He’ll be what you see when you fall asleep and when you wake up. He’ll be the face you see waiting for you by the altar, and by your side when you’re in labor. He’ll be the face you’ll be caressing, and the face you’ll want to slap sometimes. And Lord willing, he’ll be the same face looking back at me in fifty years. Will I even be able to look at myself without shame then? Will I have kept the faith? What troubles will those eyes have seen?

That man in the mirror, sometimes his smile is a tired one and he knows I sacrifice sleep to write to you, because writing to you helps defray the inflations of silence inside my head, the bottled-up thoughts I withhold for reasons that are my own. It helps me to think you’re out there, listening and caring. It steadies me.

There will be times like this in our marriage too, my dear. A couple of left-hand rings don’t fix all the ills of the world. The indecision, whether great or small, may be a source of great frustration for me, let alone you. I may rant and agonize and question to your endless consternation. But eventually that man in the mirror makes up his mind, makes his decision, and walks out that door to face the world doing everything he knows to do to get it right.

And me? Well, I sure hope you’ll be out there having my back.

Thanks, love. Best hopes and prayers from my corner of the galaxy.

Yours,
Beren

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Moonlight and Memory

Dear Darling,

A week’s respite is working its charm. A walk tonight under a cloudy moon found my mind much more at ease, even if it’s still fairly chilly tonight. I indulged my domestic side with some dishes and laundry, and as the sun went down I lit the lamps, listened to a few sermons and cooked up a tray of chicken and a pan of cookies. I sure wish you could have come over to join me.

Tonight is one of those times where I say to myself, “Beren old chap, you’re really not that bad off. Truth be told, you’re among the luckiest of men and that’s a fact.” Maybe that’s why I’m loneliest too.

I’m writing an article right now, I have two more proposals in, and am working on a third for a much larger company I’ve published with before which paid me enough to buy the truck. I just sent in a piece to the New York Times, don’t know if it will be published or not. I’ve worked the past two nights and again that’s been meaningful. (I’ve almost…missed night shift.) I’m scheduled to spend time at the races next month, not as a spectator, but a responder. They come from thousands of miles to watch the horses and bid on them, but few are so fortunate as to ride behind them as they run.

In a year I’ll be a nurse, and that climb is less steep for the rest of the year. I’m working out and seeing results. I’m setting examples for people. I can tell I’m already becoming a better person each day than I was. I know that I’m going somewhere, and with purpose, and in a small way, am content even in loneliness. The strangest part of ongoing growth is seeing how small the me of each yesterday seems.

I’ve had a run of flashbacks recently. I rediscovered a melody with which I was enamored last year (was it only a year ago?) and scattering back with it were the memories of summertime and independence and travel and the ocean. It took a decided dip long about September, but all told last year really was a good year, with a lot of fond memories. I wish those moments lasted longer, and I wish I could relive a lot of them.

But even more than that, I’ve had flashbacks into my distant past. The rattle of a fan or a certain fragrance have, on separate occasions, taken me back to the house of my great-grandmother where we’d stay sometimes as children. She was a relic from the past, my great-grandmother. She had memories of her grandmother retelling the story of hiding escaped slaves under piles of cotton. She had a portrait of an ancestor during the Civil War, and the cloak in which she was photographed still hung in her garage. I can still recall the smell of the dogs she kept in her house, the echo of the switchback staircase, the rotary dial phones and floral-patterned wallpaper. The dank and musty basement, the endless knickknacks on her shelves, the colored glass lampshades. Her push-button light switches, the gas stove and the smell of buttered toast. I used to sit out on her front porch sipping orange juice and watch the cars. She always used to have orange juice on hand because she knew I liked it. I think I’d even pray out there. My mother was a child here, she grew up right down the lane. I don’t know why I remember that house more than one or two that I’ve lived in. Nor why those memories come back tonight. Nor indeed why they should be terribly important for you to read. If you’ve ever had the simple joy of wandering back through rooms of your mind you’ve neglected for some time, then you’ll understand. And I suppose the hallmark of getting old(er) is the increasing value of memories.

Funny how memories only seem valuable after the fact.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that children today are living different childhoods than I, but no less formative. And sometimes, I really, really wish you and I were already in the position to make our parents proud with grandchildren. I’ve seen a lot of new parents the last two months. I’ve seen two homosexual couples, a large number of drug addicts, people with sexually-transmitted diseases, smokers and poor couples from the impoverished hill country. I’ve even seen one woman in her forties with a newborn baby whose father came out of a jar. These couples are far less equipped to find their way than we are, and in most cases they’re much younger than I. It would be nice to stop reading the instructions on these things and get started on the actual assembly. There’s only so much books can tell you.

Ah my dear, we’re going to need to remember to stay outward focused. We need to be the type that is organized enough to entertain couples and families. When our union rises from the ashes of loneliness, we shouldn’t forget those still left behind. The lonely, the single and the bereft…where will they go if not to the church and its members? To bars, or movies. I’ve not yet been in the situation in which I could sponsor random and serendipitous dinner invitations, but would you mind terribly if, on some occasion after church, we forced ourselves to invite some young couple or a struggling single to our house?

I’m always grateful for the times when my brain and body have opportunity to push their limits. Such limits also mean the times of relaxation are twice-blessed, and they allow more freedom for thoughts about you. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about you, I daresay. There are a lot of phone calls, text messages and invitations you’ve never received, along with a lot of flowers and gifts and kisses. We’ve fought a hundred times already in my mind, but we’ve made up a thousand times more.

Life is good, my dear. But it would be better if you were here. Do hurry up, won’t you?

Love,
Beren

March 20, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fireside

Dear Darling,

It’s the winter that won’t quit, but I don’t mind. When seasons change slowly, we don’t appreciate the differences. This year, we have spring one day and winter the next. Last night I walked outside. Tonight there’s snow again. Several days past, I was running on the old highway in shorts, and the day after it was bitterly cold again. Ah, but again, I don’t mind. I have faith in spring.

For now, I’m warm and content to be bedded down by the fire tonight.

I am leaving my post at the megachurch at last my dear, pursuing a true church and the preaching of the word. For a short time, I’m accompanying Alegfast, his nonromantic girlfriend Gladhbrui and Loswen to visit some area houses of worship. This morning was small, sparse and aging, with an eager population repeatedly encouraging us to do what I knew we would almost certainly not do — return. I also find it more challenging to focus on God and knowingly worship Him through music if I’m constantly taking in the new customs, faces and surroundings.

It would be nice if you’d have been around to call. I have a lot of free time this week, with no plans on how to spend it other than work. It would have been so nice to phone you to catch up, or for you to come over and spend time. (Time, not the night.)

There are other thoughts bidding to be in print, but they are too fragmented yet to air.

I hope you’re well tonight, love.

Yours,
Beren

March 17, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Always and Never Alone

HeWalksAlone

“Where has that old friend gone, lost in a February song
Tell him it won’t be long til he opens his eyes, opens his eyes
Where is that simple day before colors broke into shades
And how did I ever fade into this life, into this life?”

Dear Darling,

The page turns and another month is concluded. It’s been a year of ups and downs so far Darling, nothing phenomenal and nothing terrible, just an increasing speed as we plow through the breakers.

I’ve always been a bit wary of occasions in which a man and woman share dinner and a movie, or operate under similar circumstances which would normally be branded a date. At times, the line between kindness and flirtation already grows thin enough. I don’t want to lead a girl on, nor feed a placebo relationship and shortchange the soul of the nourishment it requires. But twice this week, I’ve been “out” with different friends in a form some would construe as a date. Loswen and I met for casual dinner, and somehow she found a way to make me do most of the talking.

Tonight, having invited several friends, only one could make it, a classmate I’ll call Nyérëwen. I knew we had similar beliefs, and that she was a single mom whose husband left her. She was on the verge of mourning due to the death of a mutual classmate. I asked her questions about her life. My intent was to listen to her and let her talk, because obviously she’d come by bitter roads, although I doubt she feels I did her a favor by listening. It doesn’t matter…the actual benefit given is what matters. She was distracted and occupied tonight, and perhaps that’s reason enough that no one else came. I suppose I don’t mind. She obviously needed to get her mind off the bad day she’d been having, even if it was dinner and a dollar movie with me. I wanted to hug her close and tell her she’d made the Lord proud through all of her struggles, and that she was so close to finally breaking even. But one restrains such expressions; knowing what to say isn’t always useful if you know you shouldn’t say it. Words weave powerful spells, and you must take caution on whom you cast them.

Still, I wonder how many people have wanted to do that to me and restrained themselves? And I can’t remember the time someone sat down with me just to listen, asking questions when the words ran dry, intentionally applying therapeutic listening skills to help me feel better. And then, I presume, patted themselves on the back before going straight home to tell their unknown bride what a good listener they are.

I wish I could say I knew this classmate that died, but with so many women in the program, I didn’t. I wish I’d shared the gospel with her, but how could I have known? Sometimes the gospel is lived, not preached, but maybe that’s just as easily a coward’s way out. I’m sure I’ve told you how, whether megachurches, airports or the vast complex of hospital floors on which I work, I’ve always wound up working with large masses of people. It’s been difficult to remember names or faces, and I’ve been known to lose track of who’s already heard what story or bit of news.

It does seem that loneliness transcends these crowds. I’ve been with friends this week, in a few different groups and settings. For a little while, it staves off loneliness. But only at the time. I had most of the day off today, and again, after a packed week, I still went slightly stir crazy with “only” an article to work on.

I’m always looking for things that explain me as you know, Darling. Half the sum of these letters are my meager attempts to explain myself, to me as much as you. In light of that, take a look at this article. Traits one through six apply directly, as well as numbers ten and fourteen. I always thought sensitivity was a trait you chose, a behavior you selected. I’m not sure it occurred to me that “some people just aren’t as sensitive.”

I went to the bookstore two nights back. Their anthologies of poetry were unfortunate, and I walked out without one book of poetry in hand. What is the world coming to?

I’m likely to be moving again. A dark-hearted cheat tried to sell me a dream about renting my own house, but in time I saw through the lies. And the fellow I room with currently is presenting behaviors I don’t think I can long abide. So, in all likelihood it’s back with Alegfast, in a house too old and cramped and tight for my liking. But the price, company and proximity are right.

More icy weather is on the way this week. They say it could be bad, in the truest tradition of my city’s ice storm heritage. Bring it on.

I’m still praying for you, you know. I hope your weekend has a little more receiving and a little less giving than mine.

Love,
Beren

“And I never want to let you down; forgive me if I slip away
When all that I’ve known is lost and found
I promise you I, I’ll come back to you one day.”

– Josh Groban

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Balancing Head and Heart

Balancing Head and Heart

Dear Darling,

And here you are, arrived at another weekend. You are probably sleeping as I write; I ought to be. But sleep eludes, and we both know our relationship is more important than sleep, even if it exists only in the letters we write.

I think we all experience the moments (hopefully brief) where we don’t like ourselves. We balance our looks, knowledge and personality against what others have and find ourselves wanting. I’m sure you’ve looked at yourself, at your life and possessions, and not liked what you see.

I think all wise people at some point in their life come to dislike themselves, by knowing themselves too well and dislike the frailties they see. Sometimes I don’t like me. I find it strange that a lot of other people seem to. But then, I don’t think they like me…they like the side of me that they see. They like social me, professional me, the me that has learned how to make fast friends with people, especially with whom you’ll be working for the next twelve hours. We all have different sides we show, different masks we wear. We all become just a little bit of someone else if we like them and are with them.

That’s why people like hanging around Alegfast. He’s happy and positive most all of the time. There are people who artificially portray this (the overcompensating fakers…we’ve all met one of those) and then there are those who are just generally positive and outgoing. I have a classmate who constantly radiates sunshine and joy, and I truly don’t know how she does it. Happy just isn’t who I am deep down, not all the time. I’m no war-scarred veteran, but I’ve seen death and sadness and tragedy. I stay alert to what’s happening in my world. I hear the thunder-peals of storms approaching. I’ve studied the darkness, the better to know how to prepare against it. The heart doesn’t break; it just has a thousand tiny fissures in it. Soon enough they calcify and harden. “To love at all is to be vulnerable,” wrote Lewis. “Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become breakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

Still…there’s something to be said for a heart immune to the sting and stench of brokenness. Or at least, a heart so accustomed to ache that it bends with pain rather than breaking from it.

What if you could go back and visit yourself as a child? What would you wear? What would you say? I haven’t the slightest idea where I’d begin. But I’d like to think that the me of fifteen or twenty years ago would look up to the tall man of his future walking towards him, confident and grown…and he’d be glad to know he’ll grow up to be at least most of the man he wanted to be. And as for advice? Well, how does one summarize two decades of life, in all its disappointments and triumphs? Like love, it’s really something that has to be lived to understand. Life is truly just a process of building up and then breaking down our illusions.

But again, this chubby young lad with his hick accent, goofy smile and hopeless personality was also naive enough to think adults knew what they were doing. Perhaps that would be the quickest rumor to dispel. Christ really is the solid rock, and everything else really is sinking sand. No one is ever absolutely certain of what they’re doing, and can seldom advise others any better. Often when I confront life’s dilemmas, I want to hear a word of wisdom from someone who cares enough to offer some sage counsel. Life seems increasingly flat, and people increasingly unintelligent as they offer such witless suggestions as “it’s just one of those things” or “you’ll just have to let that go.” I don’t know why I keep asking questions of people and thinking they might have a better answer than I. By the time they’ve offered a thought or a suggestion, my brain has already gone six steps ahead, and wants a new thought or a new perspective. Illuminating insights are hard to come by. And that’s why I’ve resolved to at least try to be that voice for others…advice and reason and compassion.

A nurse was obviously angry with her husband this week while we were working, and it bled over into her work. (She was unapologetically but consciously venting.) Well I don’t quite know what got into me, but I came over and massaged her shoulders and told her she needed to calm down. Then when she enumerated her cold intentions for the husband in question, I suggested going one more level up…the level of angry response where you’re so angry that you resolve to kill someone with kindness. “Tell him he may be a jerk but you love him anyway,” I suggested. “Bring home Chinese food.” She liked the Chinese food idea.

Sometimes I wonder if being Christ to the world doesn’t always mean just sharing the Gospel. Maybe it can be just the voice of being Christlike. But then, Christ emphasized to those He healed that salvation and forgiveness came before physical cures. It’s no good acting like Christ if you never meet Him.

I’m trying to reclaim that concept. I’m trying not to lose sight of what’s important. I’m trying to wrap my head around the concept of grace, and if there’s such a thing as too much grace. For example, if a couple is living in sin and violating God’s design for sex, marriage and relationships, is inviting them over for dinner a form of acceptance and fellowship with darkness (that which light ought not to have) or is it an opportunity to be a gentle witness? Why does it seem like those who throw grace at you are merely wanting you to add your signature to the permission slip they’ve written themselves to sin?

We shouldn’t continue in sin that grace may increase, but obviously the Lord forgives and wipes away the debts of our immoral deeds, and rejoices over the repentant sinner. Of course, I’ve asked the question before if “behaving” is worth it, since the prodigal son is invited in for a feast (having sipped dry the fountains of sin) while the loyal brother stays in the field. When I was young, speeding was a cardinal sin, and I once admonished my father for it from my car seat. Even when older, I was careful to follow it. I suppose I’m still proud I’ve never been pulled over, while other friends share their amused commiserations of the traffic schools they’ve attended and tickets they’ve had to pay. I assumed from the Bible and my upbringing that alcohol was, if not sinful, at least a vice and certainly less preferable. But that aversion evolved into something akin to a graceless and proud perspective — graceless in struggling to accept drinking in other believers, and proud because I’ve never joined that activity. And anyway, if God forgives, what’s the point of trying? If obedience pleases God no more or less than anyone else because all our righteous acts are as filthy rags, then why wouldn’t you have a little fun? Why not let that profanity slip out a bit more easily? Why not watch movies or TV or music that set a tone far more resonant with hell than heaven?

Maybe grace is what’s more important. Maybe I’ve just been to uptight about all of it. After all, God didn’t even get on King David’s case for multiple wives…only for having a kid out of wedlock. And God was pretty matter-of-fact: “You’ve done wrong, you’ve got some consequences to pay.” The baby died, and David was sad. No death penalty. No time behind bars.

God forgives. He’s really, really forgiving. And we should all be grateful, because no one doesn’t need grace. But beyond that, I’m understanding increasingly less the fact that additional obedience doesn’t matter. Whether you’re Mother Teresa or a reformed killer, no one can “earn” God’s favor, and anyone who tries is just admonished for falling into the trap of earning God’s favor, or trying to be better than someone else. And the more people to whom I pose this question, the less answer I get in return.

That’s the balance, Darling. Balancing the head and the heart…believing what God said and lining it up with what we feel. Feelings, someone said, should be viewed through Scripture, not Scripture viewed through our feelings. Finding the heart to accept people even if your mind assertively stamps their behavior as intolerable. I stopped by to see a few friends-of-friends that are becoming friends last night. One was meeting a man she’d talked with online, and asked me for my advice. She abruptly mentioned my pursuit of purity in a mate (something I hadn’t mentioned since I’ve resolved to keep that quieter, so obviously our mutual friend brought this to her attention) and this immediately became a focus of the conversation. “It’s not a standard for me!” announced one of the girls. “You have to have some grace!” Clearly pride can be found within grace as much as in its absence. I changed the subject.

On another subject, I picked the wrong field to be a gentleman. I spent all Thursday night and Friday morning studying even further the art of breastfeeding, its pitfalls and complications, with a great many accompanying photos, illustrations and videos, along with a helpful teacher gesturing with her own body. It makes me appreciate who you are as a woman my dear, able to produce and nurture a baby. And no doubt it makes me more attuned to these things for later reference. But I can’t shake the feeling I’m being slowly desensitized and conditioned in so systematic a way as to rob from some future date the pleasure of that discovery.

In closing, I was profoundly amused tonight when my silent and stoic roommate returned home this evening with a woman with whom he’d apparently shared a date. They are both older, easily their forties or fifties. He’d only said “a friend” was coming over, he’d said nothing of a woman or a date, and I was thus unprepared to meet her. But we immediately hit it off and launched into a twenty minute conversation about politics, government and our mutual opinions of world affairs. If I had to guess from what I know of him, this was the most animated the conversation had become all evening. He sat there rather silent for most of the conversation, until I realized even if he’s been self-absorbed and remote, I should still leave him alone with his date. A brother never shows up another in front of his date, so hopefully that wasn’t the most amused she’d been. But I laughed all the way to the shower on that.

Good night, love. I hope your dreams are pleasant, and your waking no less.
Beren

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment