Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Sundry Summer Thoughts

Man Alone by the Sea

“The urge to run, the restlessness
The heart of stone I sometimes get
The things I’ve done for foolish pride
The me that’s never satisfied
The face that’s in the mirror when I don’t like what I see
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me.”

Tim McGraw

Dear Darling,

I’m not entirely sure my little vacation did me the good it ought to have. I think instead it was a respite without requiescence, disrupting the restless and sometimes reckless pace that I love — and hate — to maintain. The past couple of nights at work I’ve struggled. There were patients who offered a meaningful thank-you when I was able to console and relieve their pains; a tender reminder of exactly why I’m in this business. Of course, tonight I must needs reshuffle the sleeping arrangements for church tomorrow, and the hours of night already fly.

1) I went walking tonight, but I find my walks less productive of late. Perhaps they needn’t always produce fervent prayers or glimmering revelations, but it does seem as though desire and inspiration have trended downward. Perhaps I am in a holding pattern at the moment, biding my time for studies to resume, and until I find you. Perhaps desire smolders and inspiration is subdued through some disuse. I haven’t found you to live for and care for, nor anyone to render like compensation in my name. I think I’ll always need something for which to struggle, even though it weighs heavily at the time. I’ll always need something to which I can look forward as well. I hope you’ve likewise set goals for yourself? If not, I hope you will. I hope to learn archery, to ride a hot air balloon, and to once again straddle a horse. Then of course there’s the travel I mentioned, and the time to pursue more outdoors sports such as biking, canoeing and kayaking.

So my walk seems devoid of true purpose. The thoughts aren’t so loud as the often seem, nor so pressing. The silence seems a poor gift to lay at the throne, but so do the same names I’ve brought before, or the nameless, selfsame bride to whom I write.

2) There are nights where yours and my words will run dry. Ah, but that’s why they invented kissing.

3) I’ll write more about this one day, but as you might imagine, there are a great number of women who think shedding the majority of their raiment for seaside recreation is perfectly acceptable. By society, it is. (And what man wouldn’t approve of a woman feeling herself “liberated” from clothes?) By myself, it is not. Please remember, my dear, the simple reality that you can either cover up, or contribute to the constant battle of a man to look at women honorably, no matter how dishonorably they dress. Some men still wage such a war, and I greatly hope you will want to air on his side.

4) On my travels back, I sat between a Buddhist and a lesbian. I struck up a conversation with the former and, being a dabbler myself, was able to instruct him about some of the more technical points of photography and camera operation. The woman to my right paid some attention, and when our plane landed, we all sat down for a bit before our connecting flights. I was able to share the gospel with both of them at that time…perhaps the most gratifying moment of my trip. At a time when I felt like I’d neglected the things of the Kingdom, or that I wasn’t shining bright enough, it seems He sent to me the opportunity to shine for Him, and for that I was thoroughly grateful.

5) Within two sunsets of my having returned, I prevailed upon a friend to temper his urge to move, and accompanied him on a thirteen hour excursion into the deep south with a load of furniture and possessions. He is an intellectual, and he understands fully the perilous direction society is trending. Our conversation was heavy with topics ranging from Catholicism and transubstantiation to farm subsidies and taxation. Before we left, I had occasion to play with, feed, change and then rock to sleep his infant son. It reminded me again that although there are things I hope for us both to accomplish before we begin our own family, I will be gratified when the day comes. On our car trip, his father noted the Catholic enjoinment that marital intimacy was reserved strictly for reproduction. This reminded me that I am most certainly not Catholic.

6) I wonder what excuses I will find when I am finally out of school and fully commissioned, but this summer has afforded the opportunity to resume some reading. I’ve put away the Diary of Anne Frank, The Last Lecture and am currently working through Oliver Twist, to say nothing of the poetry I continue to peruse. (That last bit comes from a volume I found tonight in the shop, and is best read with a crisp Scottish brogue if you can manage it.)

7) Did you ever stop to wonder when you became “the smart one”? I’ve noticed an increasing trend here of late. A comment on the subjugation and colonialism of south African nations (and how diamonds are a marketing trick) led one nurse to look at me and ask, not entirely without sarcasm, how I got so smart. I’ve reached a cruising altitude in my job now where some nurses ask me questions. A friend asked me the meaning of a word. Naturally this makes me check myself to make sure I’m not swaggering knowledge. But of course, I forget not everyone is on the same page as I.

8) Do you ever evaluate in your own way whether or not God is happy with you? Of course, we are all made perfect in the sight of God, but if that is the only standard by which to measure, then there is no incentive in striving to please God passed the shadow of the cross. For example, does it make God happier that I sponsored a child than if I hadn’t? Would be be more pleased if I paid more? Not, of course, that the favor of the Almighty can be purchased, nor that scales such as the widow’s mites can be ignored. But I do find myself wondering, asking, hoping, that God can smile down from heaven in pride, knowing that His son is seeking and striving to better the world as often as may be, and imploring others to repent and be saved when he can. I do know that I need to work on grace and forgiveness, love and acceptance and patience. I think the prayer we must all pray is that God may make us more like His Son each day.

9) In olden days, men of valor performed great deeds and the minstrels sung of them. Now as a rule, neither men  nor their deeds are great. They sit idly by and revere the minstrels. I live to see the most amazing things, working with the warriors, the guardians and sentinels, the menders and the healers, preservers of peace and keepers of health. We don’t ask for admiration. But on nights when I venture out among friends, I often harbor a hidden disbelief that they laud the vapid and insignificant stories and brush aside those who stand on the front lines of all that has meaning in this world.

10) Often it’s the saddest and heaviest of emotions that drive me to process them in a letter to you. I think it’s the same with God; we hear him best when hardship drives us to Him for answers. And so, when I seem to unburden the gravest of loads, I hope you appreciate that these are not the sum total of my thoughts or experience. Much of it means I’m only unhappy in your absence; that I don’t have someone else to live for, and that when I have entertained such hopes in the past, I’ve been far more pleasant to be around. My dearest, you’re the answer to this problem. You’re the other half. You’ll mellow me out. You’ll make me okay either with relaxing or with not being relaxed.

There’s more, Darling. There’s always more. But for now, the loose ends have been threaded through honesty’s ink-jar and arranged in a way which I hope you will find agreeable. Doubtless you’ll be rising before long for worship, and I hope you find it meaningful.

Yours,
Beren

June 29, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy We’ll Be

beachlove-15Dear Darling,

I’ve lately returned from a seaside excursion with friends. I expect you will wonder if I had a pleasant time, and the answer is partially. My friends are a bit absurd, as so much of my generation is. There were some nights where the conversation could be guided into a greater depth of topics, but for the greater part of the trip, self-photography and deep thoughtful conversations on how warm coffee should be. These are adults chronologically more advanced than I, yet the senses of humor drifted between the risque and the childish, the perpetration of acts of flatulence and a childish amusement therein. By virtue of my disapproval , I was rendered the antediluvian mossback.

Furthermore, I found irksome the contemporary conversational expression “I feel like” as a substitute for a statement of belief. Instead of saying “this bread tastes stale” the statement transitions to “I feel like this bread is stale.” Coupled with the trend of phrasing each sentence as a question, I observe that these are symptomatic of the subtle poisonings from relativism, self-centeredness and a slackening of conviction. It seems most Christians I meet are liberalized in some form, shallow in conviction and supposing themselves enlightened because they can see “shades of gray.” I wondered at their intimate knowledge of songs and films not just that fail to honor God, but which actively dishonor Him.

Well then Beren! Is this all that you have surmised in the wake of your retreat? Could you not take even a small reprieve from your consternation over the encroaching ills of society?

Naturally not.

And so you see now my dear, your Beren cannot even holiday by the sea without expounding on his grim expectations for society and the church. Yet I challenge you, as a woman of dignity and grace, to overlook the churlish pastime of breaking wind for idle laughter with no more than a rolling of the eyes.

Satisfaction and fulfillment in their true forms seem more elusive for me. Perhaps it is my situation and circumstances. I prefer the company of those who value purpose and depth over those who prioritize fun and pleasure, and find more loneliness than satisfaction among the latter. I prefer distant mountains, challenges to myself, and a sense of accomplishment. I would rather canoe, camp, hike and cycle, or see more return on my investment than just a moderate tanning of the skin. I prefer that which draws me closer the Lord, and on this trip I quite nearly forgot Him. Furthermore, I found in myself a striking lack of inspiration. I quite thought rejuvenation should be the necessary conclusion of such a trip!

Insofar as you are concerned, your absence wasn’t escaped, merely diminished. You’ll think me rather silly if I tell you I looked for you as I made my way through the concourses and byways of my trip. You do think me silly, I am sure, but I’m not afraid to own it.

I did find time for reading and relaxation. And I suppose I am dissatisfied to find the trip dissatisfying, if you take my meaning. Happiness is simple, but not easy.

Ahh, but then there were the moments wherein I imagined you present. I rewrote the script in my head starring you, and bathed the moments in the imaginings of us. The planning of the trip, and the packing. The travel, the arrival. The dinners out, the picnics together. I saw you in a gentle island-print dress as we dined on seafood, and I saw you silhouetted against a nautical sunset as we waded in a tranquil sea of deep red. I saw the freedom we had with each other, the breathless racing back to privacy when desire overcame us.

I wrote to you but once throughout the week, a letter which was surrendered to the waves by twilight.

So Darling, as you lay your head on the pillow tonight and if your thoughts drift to your future groom, consider that somewhere beyond the sea, your lover stood on golden sands and watched the ships as they sailed, and thought of you. In the company of friends and food, still the moments were incomplete, and he spent them loving you. And that we may very well return to these shores, to the fulfillment of the song that flowed through my head each day: “Happy we’ll be beyond the sea; and never again I’ll go sailing.”

Yours,
Beren

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Late It’s Early

TheBridge

“But always and ever when high and far
The old moon hideth her troubled face,
I think how the light like a falling star
Lit all my world with a new strange grace.
The passionate glow of your splendid eyes
Shines into my heart as it shone that night,
And its slumberous billows surge and rise
As the ocean is stirred by the tempest’s might.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Dear Darling,

It’s the brightest moon of the year tonight. A “honey moon” they call it. It’s directly opposite the sun tonight, and lowest in the sky. Having one this close on a Friday the 13th won’t happen again for another 84 years, if you didn’t know. So enclosed you’ll find a picture of the old bridge I keep talking about. It isn’t much to look at; no testament to architectural art or tribute to an era gone by. Just a simple old bridge that does the job so no one has to ford the creek.

Now that I’m back home, it’s so late that it’s early. Adjusting back to days is always a bit of a hassle after working nights, and often leaves me a bit down, especially with no one to talk to on nights.

Tonight I’m somewhere on neutral ground between felicity and futility. What did I call my lifestyle? Binge and purge. This week on my way to work, I felt myself infused with an energy, eager even to lift many times the panel of patients I would care for that night. Brief periods of rest and relaxation often give me that surge.

On to the news before I cash in for the night.

I adopted a child this week. Not physically of course; I decided it was high time to give a little more of myself than I have been, so I’m now the sponsor of a young girl on the coast of east Africa. Now this led me to an interesting ponderance, Darling, and on this I must solicit your opinion. Where do we draw the line between letting our light shine before men, and not doing our good deeds to be praised by them? In sponsoring this child, I wished to urge others to join me in the act. But then I questioned whether I was doing so to garner the praise and attention of others. Our Father who sees what is done in secret will reward us. But I also believe good deeds are easier done in tandem. I gambled against my own pride and haven’t told anyone, except a coworker or two. (I met one young co-worker who reminds me a little of you; her soul smells of Jesus, though her language sometimes stank of hell. She has a heart and passion for overseas missions, and her position as a nurse allows her that luxury.)

Now I will brag just a little. I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve been going to the gym since the beginning of the year. We gym monkeys sometimes do deadlifts and obviously want to do our best. This week, my new personal best was 270 pounds. This too leads to another question. I’ve been working on the concept of doing my best for my own sake, not because it will make a good story to tell others, or because it proves something to them. But, we like to share personal triumphs with others, and heaven knows our friends and their albums are full of them. So I found myself again asking, would I be showboating if I were to have documented this moment? Again, I hedged my bets against pride. If in doubt.

A patient of mine was featured on the Today show. One thing about being with a nurse my dear, you’ll never lack for good stories!

I’ve also been (tentatively) invited to speak at a convention overseas. The expenses would be covered, but the times and dates are up in the air. I’m hopeful. You know I do love to travel…and if God is willing, I will go to the beach, the mountains of Appalachia,  the jungles of South America, the orient, and India all in the next six to eight months.

Tomorrow begins the first journey, and hopefully one of relaxation and rejuvenation. I’ll write as often as I can, but if you don’t find any further letters here, look for one or two bottles afloat in the Atlantic ocean addressed to you.

Goodnight, my dear, and Godspeed.

-Beren

June 14, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Loneliness, Nights Like These, Poems | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments