Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

New Year’s Snow

Dear Darling,

Finally, it’s snowed again. The cars are all frosted over and the driveway would probably be slick to get up if the truck wasn’t already parked there. I worked last night, and found the snow upon awakening this afternoon. It’s bitterly cold, and the light casts cross-hatched quilts of light on the snow outside. The street light’s amber glow is far from romantic, but it does afford a view of both night and white as they swirl and drift and coat the streets and rooftops.

We watched another patient depart behind the great veil last night…whither to heaven or hell, I know not. They don’t usually let people in my position start IVs, but if the nurse is willing, it’s been known to happen. In my case, I started one because the ICU nurse couldn’t. It was a grim night, but I would rather face a grim night with someone than a happy night alone.

When I awoke, I cleaned the whole house. Alegfast was returning with his father and mother, and I knew anyone appreciated a clean, fragrant and inviting house. I sometimes enjoy cleaning for its own value, and it will have to suffice until some night when you are out late and return through a snowy night to find a fire burning, the dishes gleaming and your husband at the piano as I was tonight. (Would you like to hear the song I was playing tonight?)

And all the way, thoughts were ricocheting inside my head.

Misery is comfortable.

Happiness takes work.

No one should be alone at a time like this.

People don’t want you to be smarter than they.

You have to take most people on their terms, not yours.

People who are young, weak or helpless often seem drawn to me.

I can’t wait to have someone who would take time to clean a house and make it inviting just for me.

I’m going through a rocky time in my relationship with my family. I think there are times where human beings owe it to each other not to be alone, such as break-ups, losses, sickness or sadness. This is one of them. That’s why it’s ironic to talk with a friend or two, and find them having very little if anything to offer, even when I was there for them. My drive to “be there” for people will always be there regardless of their ability to return the favor, but sometimes the one-sidedness frustrates. Anyway, Alegfast was kind enough to ask, and after a long trip too.

Do you think you can help me deal with problems like this? Can you teach me to love them and respond in grace, even when the situation is impossible? Can you find for me the line between responding with grace and rewarding behaviors that shouldn’t be rewarded? Will you let me hate on them for a few frustrated minutes without hating them yourself? Can you help me to respond God’s way? You see, through it all, I love my family. I want you to love them to. But you will also be that sacred repository of confidential frustrations, the person who will hear the bad along with the good. I hope I can share those things with you and not fear that you will dislike my parents, or think I can’t get along with them.

I want to be most totally and truly myself in your company…and to make you comfortable and confident to be yourself in mine. I want us to share our glories and gripes freely, without fear of seeming proud or selfish or unkind…or if we are, then to have freedom and safety to show even those parts of us which are unkind and selfish and proud, knowing that we are more than the sum of those vices.

Sometimes, I think if you are as willing to make a relationship work as am I, success is just a matter of finding each other.

I leave you with a quote from Napoleon, to his wife, at a time when he was emperor and controlled almost all of Europe: “Without his Josephine, without the assurance of her love, what is left him upon earth? What can he do?”

Pray for me, beloved Luthien.

Love,
Beren

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Needs and Wants

Dear Darling,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, cheer and Christmas kisses,
Beren

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

The Eve of Salvation

FiresideKissDear Darling,

Any war can end when either party resolves to discard all prior offenses. Consequently, I was under the shadow of the tree tonight in all its glory, dining with the family and watching a Christmas movie. My budget really wasn’t thrilled with the array of gifts purchased weeks ago and only now wrapped and brought to the tree, but it doesn’t matter. Whether or not it is returned, whether or not it’s always carried out in prudence, I am a giver and that cannot be changed. I always hand-wrap my gifts, and this year I experimented with some new packaging which turned out splendidly, minus the glitter on my cheek.

I’ll be headed back to spend Christmas Eve and Day with them, but for now I’m home. The clock strikes two. I used to be a stranger to this hour, but now it’s an old friend, full of thought and memory, rhyme and reminiscence. I wrap myself in them, and arrange their finer aspects for your consideration.

I cannot recall a time when Christmas and I were more estranged. I don’t like it, but I’m learning to be okay with it. It is a hazard of maturity, perhaps. Man goes from believing in Santa to disbelieving, to becoming Santa, to looking like him. I have not quite mastered the properly indomitable spirit of Christmas to be as giving as he, but the act itself is gratifying, and I enjoy the thought process of giving. Indeed, it came all too easily to me this year.

We grow wiser with each year that passes, I think, and with it comes the sight to see the problems of the world, and how gravely we still need the Savior born in Bethlehem.

It seems that to everyone I know, this Christmas, like the last, finds Christmas shining less than it once did, which causes me to think it’s more than just age that has seen its colors fade. If you think about it, fewer people decorate with lights than used to be. I remember going driving for hours with my parents to look at the decorations. The times are growing darker.

The traditions seem musty to me now. I shudder to imagine I have outgrown them, but I can quote nearly all the movies word for word, and the songs. It’s all very predictable. For me, the kingdom of Christmas needs refreshing, and I am too old to expect Santa to do it.

Perhaps it is proper that our shimmering veneer be peeled back for a time, that the days be seen as they truly are. Maybe the fact that work and school have kept from me many of the customs will allow them greater fondness through absence. Or perhaps the rest of the year has seen pleasures that simple Christmas can no longer rival. Regardless, stripping away many of the childhood comforts does help return one to the proper focus of the day, to the definition of true love, and remind us that there really is only one Reason needed this season.

You and I will make our own refurbishments, carve out our own new traditions upon our arrival. I’m certain you will breathe fresh life into my Christmas, and seeing my family’s traditions through your eyes will be a blessing. And one day, you and I will (I hope) be Santa and Mrs. Claus to our children. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize one cannot depend on others to make merry. Therefore, I hope you’ll understand my interest in hosting Christmas parties, and of course, a dance or two for the winter and new year. I’d certainly like our lives to be devoted in some measure to the happiness of others, and not just those who can reciprocate.

And of course, if I haven’t already exhausted the thought, there are so many nights awaiting us to sit with nothing on but firelight and tree light, sharing of our hearts and bodies and souls, waltzing to carols and murmuring our love amidst kisses uncounted.

The warmth and depth of my wishes for you this Christmastime transcend the weight of words. May joy inexpressible permeate every aspect of your season, and may you forget for a time the griefs and loneliness which life so rudely imposes. Be sure to find a sprig of mistletoe somewhere, and meet me underneath for our annual Christmas kiss.

Love always,
Beren

December 24, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sundry Thoughts for December

My Dearest Love,

For some reason, it feels like it won’t be long before you’re calling me to bed; my body feels at ease as if it knows it will soon be lying next to yours, drifting off to dream. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I actually went to a church this morning, and had that “welcome home” feeling of relaxation and ease, knowing the afternoon was mine to plan. It makes me think of the days to come when you and I will come back home, our home, shaking off the cold as we enter. I’ll help you off with your coat, and maybe more. You’ll fix lunch while I build up a fire. We can both sit on the couch, huddle under the covers and enjoy being in each other’s arms as the sun sets.

Don’t you wish?

1) I’m a little blue again today. The holidays, I think. But it’s time we began making allowances for the fact that on some days, I will feel a little blue in spite of your presence. Doubtless, the small efforts you make to cheer me will make any such triflings far more pleasant than now.

2) It is the sad province of men that he can neither speed nor slow the passage of time to suit his whim. I cannot slow down Christmas to enjoy it, nor can I speed it up to find you. We take time as time finds us, not counting the years but making the years count. A German poet named Freidrich von Logau once wrote “though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.” We’ve yet to be ground, but I wish for the sake of the child in me that I could slow down time and breathe in Christmas this year.

3) Being with someone means doing nice things for them without being asked. But what is a kind deed? What does kindness look like, and how does one set about becoming so helpful and supportive as to become necessary? (That is, after all, what I intend to become for you; vitally necessary, an essential ingredient to your day.) I confess to you, the standard of acceptance for kind deeds is at once both high and low. Low, because I am unaccustomed to kindness unlooked-for, but high because think about what I do for a living. Nurses are consistently present in the lives of the wounded and hurting, the ill and diseased. The worst day of your life may be just another day in mine. I bathe head to foot, deliver a smile and a cup of water, I make you laugh while drawing your blood. This is what kindness looks like to me, and all in the course of a day’s work. I help heal you. Who heals the healer? I don’t mean this to raise an impossible standard, but how do you impress someone with kindness for whom kindness is a career? You may have to rise to the occasion, because I seldom see comparable kindness in the world.

4) I do not ask the question of you without posing the same question to myself, Darling. Kindness for me looks like trash taken out, dishes washed, children (or pets) bathed, rooms cleaned, laundry run, food cooked. It looks like a treasure chest of four hundred letters, written in ink and tears, scattered across the wind until they come home to roost on our wedding night. It looks like anticipating your needs and trying to fulfill them. It looks like looking you over and thinking about what you want, or how I can surprise you with kindness unlooked-for. You can certainly expect foot rubs…and back rubs…and shoulder massages.

5) I’ve always known God had something in mind for me. I’ve always insisted He and I have a standing agreement not to call me to be a pastor, but something in politics. I never aspired to something so high as the presidency, but today during the sermon I felt maybe that would one day be the call. Truly, I don’t want it. And of course, so much to learn before that is even possible. Perhaps because I don’t want it, it is something marked out for me. But God never gives us a task without the means of its achievement, and when I asked, I felt the response was not that He intends me to be president, but perhaps that He wants me to try. What about it, Luthien? Could you be a first lady? It’s a stern and solemn question to consider, not to be answered lightly. If I have preparations towards my goal, then you must take thought into what preparations lie ahead of you, and which you should undertake now. “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

6) I believe I have imparted before my love of all things old and traditional. The old that is strong does not wither, and my love runs deep for old music, old fashions, old customs and books, old speech and vernacular, of old hymns and old hymnals. If I did not believe in God’s sovereignty, I would speculate that I was born in the wrong decade, if not century. Churches and my Bible study are so quick to embrace the overheads, and I find it sad. More than once my stubborn adherence to page and paper has saved me the confusion others experience when technology goes awry. Too soon my people abandon their roots to pursue the latest fad and fashion. Too late they discover the fleeting and hollow transience of pursuing change; too late they realize there will never be satisfaction in chasing the wind.

7) I reach out to people too much. I’ve told you that before too, haven’t I? (Thoughts change shape but not substance, and sometimes I repeat them, forgetting I’ve shared them before. Four hundred and thirty-five letters, surely you’ll forgive a repeated thought or two.) I’m built to reach out, but I don’t like it. I get restless when people aren’t in touch. I have to hold myself back from texting people who don’t care. It becomes a balance between “am I withholding out of pride” and would Christ really resist such an urge because someone didn’t reply?

7) I’m sorry I’m too needy and emotionally thoughtful at times. I look back on these letters, and through them seeps darkness and woe like a vapor; surely it isn’t pleasing to your eyes as they pierce the veil? At times I am glad to reflect on a night’s writings, whether dark or bright, but seldom do I truly find joy or delight in the reading, except maybe with the thought of how it might one day make you glad. I see these distant, hardened men of history or of film, who want a woman but don’t need her. I think sometimes that’s what makes a woman want a man…the fact that he doesn’t need her. Well my dear, I need you. I make no qualms about that, nor about the thoughts that drift through my mind on nights like this. I hope you will need me, and that you need me now — and that you make no objections to feel thus. Yet, for your sake, I hope you don’t feel the need quite so keenly as I.

Sleep well, Love.

-Beren

December 2, 2013 Posted by | Holidays, Nights Like These, Our Timeline | , , , , , | 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