Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

There Was Evening, And There Was Morning

MaidenVoyageDear Darling,

The days and feelings all jumble together.

Two nights ago, there was a great storm. Alegfast is away and I’ve the house to myself, and my heart smiled to hear rain on the roof. The clock struck midnight, and the lightning flashed on the horizon. I chanced to venture outside before a particularly close bolt strongly recommended the indoors as a safer alternative.

What phenomenal creatures, lightning! Transient suns in forests of rain, huntless game both proud and wild. They contain more power than we could hope to harvest, and yet are casually wasted in errant displays of might, flashing as if only for their own sport. They outpaces the blink of an eye, creatures “which doth cease to be, ere one can say it lightens” leaving its footprint on the ear only in the wake of departure. Yet they are idle enough to meander in their path. Fearsome to hunt indeed, would be the lightning.

The following day is mild and beautiful; it wants something done with it. It wants wordless enjoyment and appreciation, it beckons to be celebrated and reveled in. Yet, here I am torn, for words are all I can avail myself of which affords any sort of connection with you!

Changing winds always stoke up the restlessness, and this preview of autumn is no different. It wants for impatient chasing through pastures and by creeks, it wants for hiking and biking, snuggling and conversing. It challenges us to chase starlight and hail the smiling moon. There is nothing I can contrive to satisfy what this day wants of me. It wants us. Fleeting winds brush the skin only remind me they can’t be caressed in return, nor do they care. They only whisper “She’s not here. She’s not here. She’s not here.”

Uncertain of how to answer these challenges, I load up my bike and drive to the southern trail. The rain-washed sky against the vibrant green fields makes the perfect backdrop, and I listen to sermons as I ride.

Telling myself I can still go to work later in the evening, I open the windows, wash and lay down to rest. Hours later, I awaken halfway through the night, well-rested and faced with a neighborhood submerged in silence. Circadian rhythms are overrated once you break out of them. Now, with nothing better to do, I dress and go for a walk. It’s a morning crisp and chill, promising another mild and inviting day. Prayer and memory mingle with aromas and essences, some of them unexplainable. Why do I smell the old motorhome that my grandparents once brought to my childhood home? Or why the disinfectant which recalls a class three summers ago? How inextricable are the aromas from their memories.

Wherever you are, I imagine you are somewhere adrift on the high seas of your dreams. Your chest is rising and falling amid slumbering sighs, missing me during your days too if I’m not mistaken; you’ve no idea that you’re being prayed so intently while you sleep.

I’ve examined this paradox before, but I remove it from its box to ponder yet again. Contained within this life of mine are all the ingredients that should make a body happy. (And indeed, coming off one of my longest stretches yet, logging nearly a hundred hours at work, there is a sort of blissful content to be had, the kind only wrought by cessation of an unpleasant task, or a pleasant one maintained too long.) My work has purpose and meaning. I seem to find favor with my colleagues and clients alike. The path none too distant can only improve. During intervals in which I don’t work, I collect whomever will follow and find some dinner or a movie or both. I owe no financial attachment to anyone, and the Lord is attending all my needs. My prayers ought to consist only of thanks and gratitude. Indeed, for the present, there should be no petitions to present, no pleas to proffer. The Lord knew them before they were spoken the first time, and they’ve been spoken often enough since.

And yet. And yet, when I’m out here, I am aware that in a way, life hasn’t truly even begun yet. That’s a harrowing thought, considering the ages and afflictions of some of my patients aren’t so much greater than mine. This life misses the care and companionship of someone sensible, gentle and devoted, someone made kind from seeing enough pain and loneliness. The kind of person who wins me over with the little things.And you know, it will really be the little things. It’s always the little things that catch my eye, that give grounds for a second look. Someone using a minced oath rather than a true one. Someone who ignores or walks away from the obvious vulgarity. Something as simple as handing someone else a piece of cake before taking yours. The way you interact with children. There was a girl with whom I worked some days back. A patient, half out of her head, expressed fear. We attended her physical fears as much as we could, and as I left the room, I heard her gently ask if she was a woman of faith. Halfway out the door, I was awestruck as I listened to her unfold a prayer before the throne that would make any minister’s congregation proud. Oh, she’s taken, never fear. But it’s little things like that which grab and hold my attention. It’s the behavior of an outlier, and seldom have I seen such deeds as make me give glory to God.

She later confided troubles she faced between her family and her current suitor, troubles which I could tell she would not tell just anyone. (I’m always so infernally safe for people to confide in.)

And look at all my friendships. Most of them seem to be ministries of a sort. I wasn’t the sort of kid when younger whom others came up to and invited me along. I learned how to grow up on my own two feet. I can’t immediately think of someone who isn’t family that I’m not on guard against in some small way. Some nights, I conclude I need to leave people to spin on their own wheels for a while and attend my own needs. But only for a night. A full night’s sleep later, I’m fresh enough to start the circuit of checking in on people again, because I know they need someone to check in on them. I can’t really think of anyone who’s doing the same for me.

You know, I was listening to a radio program on my way home from biking, one of those programs that troubleshoots and advises couples on love and marriage. The wife interviewed spoke of mismatched blind spots she didn’t anticipate, like being a morning person versus a night owl, or serving someone who’s laid up sick. Surely these are the words spoken this side of ignorance, but the warnings mentioned did not even faze me. I’m both a morning and an evening person as need calls; and pull 24- and 36-hour shifts when need arises. I’m used to attending the needs of seven and twelve patients at a time, laid up sick and hurting and all having needs to be prioritized and met. Do you think one wife laid up will be a trial?

I am considered by many to be unwavering and unbending on many issues of import; but beneath that, beyond the standards laid down by God Himself, I believe most people who truly know me would say I am pleasant and easy-going. I don’t get hung up on the trappings and bickering of too many insignificant things like I’ve seen so many colleagues or friends do.

So when I make my vows to you, to serve and honor and cherish, it’s because I will mean it. When I discharge the duty laid upon me by the Lord Jesus through the Apostle Paul to love you as Christ loved His bride, it’s with the intent of loving you up to and including my own death. You will be my wife. You will be part of me. As woman was taken from man, so man takes woman back to himself; I will fold you into my own existence and protect you as my very own — bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. There will be times when reason rejects and inclination opposes; you won’t want to love me, nor I you, and for perfectly valid reasons that either of us is, in the moment, acting incredibly unlovable and stupid. There will be highs and lows of our voyage together. But when the storms come, at least you and I will have each other to stand beside at the helm.

Until then, my dear, I salute from afar the memories we have yet to make, and the appointments we have yet to keep. I’ll turn my attention back to the waves and sails, and navigate them as best I can until you come to claim your place at my side.

Affectionately yours,
Beren

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July 16, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Love?

Dear Darling,

Do you find it unthinkable that anyone who writes letters of love to an unknown bride for a half-decade still question its definition? On its face, the question seems rudimentary.

But if we look beneath the face of love, the question is anything but. Our native tongue is woefully inadequate to define love; you cannot love cake with equal avidity as you love your job, or summer, or friends, or parties, or your mother, or your spouse, or your country.

To Scripture we must first turn, to find that God created love and God is love. When we love, we are like God, but only because love makes us like Him, not because we have approached Him or belong to Him. All lovers may for a time become better for having loved, more godly and virtuous in their behavior, more charitable and patient in their demeanor. The blessing of love is not confined to those who belong to God; He is generous enough to bestow its blessings even to the unrepentant. Because God is love, and loving makes us like Him, sometimes people mistake the two for each other. God is love; but love is not God.

1 Corinthians 13 famously expounds on its virtues by telling us that love is patient and kind, without envy, boasting or pride. It doesn’t dishonor others, nor is it self-seeking or easily angered, nor keeping records of wrongs. It rejoices in truth, not evil. It always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

All of these describe love, as we ought to aspire. But do they define it? The same may be shown to a sister as much as a wife. Nor can a list of mere descriptors fully define love, any more than the words “swift” or “beautiful” define a horse.

What does the world say?

The scientist says love is in our chemistry, neurons firing in the brain.

The teacher says love is in our actions.

The preacher says love is a commitment and service to others.

The mother says love is in the heart.

The philosopher says it is a force of nature, irresistible and untamed.

The hedonist says love is God, obeyed heedless of cost. The lover says it is a feeling; you have to go there to know there. The cynic says it is an illusion; the sensualist that it is sex.

This also is true, that some loves we choose and some loves choose us. After all Darling, you could not guarantee you would seek out and love every member of your blood kin had you not been born into their family. Families love each other, even when they don’t like each other. And some loves endure long after reason says they should.

The Greeks find greater variety of descriptors for love; in their tongue, there is ludus, the playful and unripe love among children. Then there is agape, the unconditional love and charity we show towards the world and its natives, a selfless Christian loving-kindness and altruism. There is philia, a deep affection, friendship and connection between comrades, which may be only friends or may be romantic partners. Of course there is eros, which may be the primal and passionate fire which presses towards any physical consummation, and the sense of being romantically in love with one in particular. There is storge, the natural love between family. Finally, there is pragma, the abiding devotion brought about through mutual understanding and longevity.

Why should such a question arise after so long? My Darling, I ask because I wonder how I’ll know that I love you. Such revelations take time, but may dawn suddenly or gradually. Some say there came a specific moment at which they suddenly decided, or realized that they loved. Others say it was a gradual process. Love (philia), I think, cannot come suddenly and spontaneously, not for me. I’ve inoculated myself against such uncontrolled sentiment. Reason has built walls and buffers to ward off such insensible emotionalism. (Though make no mistake, much of me still devoutly longs for surrender to such passions.)

It worries me, you see, because some say that love is putting someone else’s needs before your own (agape), and I think I would not be overly generous to myself if I say I tend toward this already. It’s hard not to be charitable of deeds when your life’s work is with the sick. Nor do I say this to congratulate myself; half the time I hate it. I hate feeling responsible for others, I hate feeling their pain and mistakes. I hate that people won’t listen. I hate that I am only human, much less others. I hate that “only human” is the excuse so many conjure in defense of their wanton misdeeds. I hate that I give so often and receive so little. I can’t deny this is just how I was created, one of God’s built-in cushions of the universe to balance out the selfish. I just have to make peace with it. That is, after all, one of life’s greatest blessings: to carry the burdens of others without breaking. To break, and only be kinder for it.

So Darling, how does a Christian discern between agape, eros and philia? How much play do we allow Venus and Cupid? What happens when you decide to spend time with someone, and resolve to model the behavior you hope is characteristic of yourself as a husband (why else would you date?) and you can’t tell between the deed and the feeling? It’s second-nature to me. More than getting doors or paying for meals, it’s an ongoing “how was your day” or “tell me your troubles.” It’s reading someone’s face to see what hidden meaning lurks behind polite formality. It’s being willing to get up at 5am if necessary to take you to the airport. It’s coming over and nursing you back to health if you’ve taken deathly ill. It’s sacrificing sleep to come help you change a tire. Within reason, it’s basically being available 24/7, and dearly hoping the same is offered in return.

Now don’t mistake me, Darling. I can be a selfish pain in the neck as well as anyone. That’s what will make our love last, a resolution to put behind us the parts which make us intolerable towards one another. But my inclination is towards serving as I describe above. You see how that already looks like love? Add to that a physical chemistry, which can present its own quandary by posing the question “do I like you for you, or do I just like having anyone to be with for a change?”

When do you choose to love someone, and when do you “fall” in love? How much is controlled and how much is loss of control? When do you possess love, and when does love possess you? To one who places high value on maintaining control of one’s senses and faculties, it takes a great deal of trust to be willing to let go. When do you love someone for what they do for you — for their mind? Do you need someone because you love them, or do you love someone because you need them?

You might say I’m an overthinker. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of such. But asking too many questions? Nonsense, my dear. The secrets of life are reserved for the one who never ceases to ask questions.

Here is what I know. Love is priceless. It cannot be bought.

Love is a flame that cools us, and an ice which thaws.

Love is the sixth sense that makes no sense.

Love is needing someone, as well as wanting them.

Love is more than a feeling, but it isn’t just all the bolstering spiritual intangibles. There’s head spinning, heart racing and blood pumping, and it’s here that I need the most work.

Love is a Verb. It isn’t what you think and feel and say. It’s what you do that defines you to another.

Love is a Command. God said to love one another, no options, no exclusions. That means even when you don’t feel like loving someone, you love them anyway. Love is a Commitment.

Love is a decision. It’s an act of will and sometimes runs counter to all our instincts.

Love never looks the way you wanted or expected. It will change us and shape us and transform us. In time, it will define us. Love is a force and a power, and like any power, it must be controlled. We must change and shape and transform it ourselves. We channel it.

Love is unconditional.

Love is a multiplicitous, jumbled, wonderful mess, one in which I can’t wait for us to become entangled.

I will meet you there. Someday. Somehow.

 

I remain ever yours sincerely,
Beren

May 26, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Questions | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Time Is Coming, Part 2

On The Marriage of T.K and C.C. The Morning Stormy
Thomas Carew

Such should this day be, so the sun should hide
His bashful face, and let the conquering Bride
Without a rival shine, whilst he forbears
To mingle his unequal beams with hers;
Or if sometimes he glance his squinting eye
Between the parting clouds, ’tis but to spy,
Not emulate her glories, so comes dressed
In veils, but as a masquer to the feast.
Thus heaven should lower, such stormy gusts should blow
Not to denounce ungentle Fates, but show
The cheerful Bridegroom to the clouds and wind
Hath all his tears, and all his sighs assigned.
Let tempests struggle in the air, but rest
Eternal calms within thy peaceful breast,
Thrice happy Youth; but ever sacrifice
To that fair hand that dried thy blubbered eyes,
That crowned thy head with roses, and turned all
The plagues of love into a cordial,
When first it joined her virgin snow to thine,
Which when today the Priest shall recombine,
From the mysterious holy touch such charms
Will flow, as shall unlock her wreathed arms,
And open a free passage to that fruit
Which thou hast toiled for with a long pursuit.
But ere thou feed, that thou may’st better taste
Thy present joys, think on thy torments past.
Think on the mercy freed thee, think upon
Her virtues, graces, beauties, one by one,
So shalt thou relish all, enjoying the whole
Delights of her fair body, and pure soul.
Then boldly to the fight of love proceed,
‘Tis mercy not to pity though she bleed,
We’ll strew no nuts, but change that ancient form,
For till tomorrow we’ll prorougue the storm,
Which shall confound with its loud whistling noise
Her pleasing shrieks, and fan thy panting joys.

March 21, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your Time Is Coming

GleamingBrideDear Darling,

We all have our time in the light.

I’m not talking about fifteen minutes of fame. I’m talking about the moments where the sun shines fair and the light catches us just right to magnify all of our best and favorite features. We look our best, and feel our best, we feel grand and capable and hopeful, and everyone is looking at us while it happens, wishing us happiness and joy.

You’ve had a taste of that here and there, I know. Times you won, times you were proud of yourself, never happier to be you, times when everything came together at just the right time, or you were paid a compliment that somehow fell through your defenses, or you caught your reflection smiling back and approving your favorite outfit.

One day, someday soon, that day is coming round, bigger and better than it ever has been. It’ll be the sum of all those parts put together. Your friends will come to honor you, our families will celebrate and give gifts. The bells will ring, the organ play and down the aisle will come the only person that matters among the whole crowd in the entire church. Every eye will turn to you, radiant and glorious in white.

You will get to fret over wedding cards and decorations and venues just like you’ve wanted to, only this time you won’t be worried about bridesmaids’ outfits which fit or compliment you, but your friends. You’ll shine brightly in our engagement and wedding photos, and of these I attach the greatest premium. I don’t see us lacking for photographers with as many friends as I know in the industry, and these are the captured moments that can outlast a wedding gown or bouquet. We won’t let our friends and family be snapping away with their phones, but invite them to be present in the moment itself.

You will go from joy to joy as we seal our vows with a kiss, celebrate our union with a dance, and then depart at last.

But it’s not just a day, sweet heart. Days can disappoint, fail, be sabotaged. Winds can mar, rain can soak, tempers can flare. We can’t hinge all these golden hopes on the one day, but each one after. We can rest in each new morning, in the simple and intricate confidence of knowing we rise together to face life’s challenges.

You can rise knowing you’ve found something equal, something new. Something that turns your head because it touches your mind or heart in a way no one ever does, that you thought no one could. Something surprising and unexpected. Someone who asks questions, appreciates rawness, can get you to talk more, invite themselves to listen more. Someone who gives you an outlet, a ray of hope, a new perspective…or who will at least try.

Oh my dear, you’ve lived in the shadow often enough, unappreciated, unrecognized. You’re a crown of beauty, and one day the curtain will draw back and you’ll be properly brought into the light.

And oh, how you’ll gleam.

Until then.

Love,
Beren

March 20, 2014 Posted by | Anticipation, Our Timeline, Our Wedding | , , , , | Leave a comment

Finally

Dear Darling,

Hunger is the best seasoning. Too rare are the moments when both the word “finally!” and its significance can be breathed together. Life is a struggle, and things seldom go just the way we want. More often than we admit, that’s best for us.

Yet there do come moments whose sweetness is almost beyond savoring, moments where the burden of cares and of life itself is lightened, sometimes forever.

It may be the job we’ve always wanted, introducing us to achievement, respect and a new income bracket.

It may mean the luxury of new living arrangements, easing the constriction of a troubled mind.

It may be finally conquering a lifelong worry, finally understanding that we’re greater than the sum of our fears.

It may be succeeding where we thought we would fail — or the sigh of relief when the speech is done, the song is sung or the concerto played.

It may be triumphing over an exam or a class, when after anxious seconds the score is known and the knots of your gut finally loosen.

It may be a truth finally learned, a mystery solved under whose darkness you’ve labored for years.

It may be the slow and gradual awakening to the fact that we are capable and strong, the envy not of our peers but of our former selves; to realize you’ve become the self you aspired to be.

And then, it may be the peace and joy of finally, finally finding that long-sought special someone for whom we’ve pined.

None of these things solve life’s problems. They simply ease them. They don’t cure the affliction…but they do manage the symptoms. After all, it isn’t until you escape the surly bonds of earth that you recognize what a burden it is being a slave to gravity. Accustomed as we are to earth’s weight and pull, the lifelong struggle merely to stand erect, we don’t know what such relief is like until it happens. And then it does. And all the rest of life pales by comparison.

The irritations of life are diminished and its joys enhanced. Life’s problems loom less, its pleasures more. The world itself seems changed. Food is better, touch is kinder, patience keener, sun brighter. Sheet are softer, sleep is sweeter — and we are none the worse for waking. We wring meaning from life instead of life wringing meaning from us.

Perhaps this sentiment won’t feel as it seems, or else how could couples restrain themselves within the joy they’ve found?

I’m at the stage of life where most of these are still just a promise to strive toward. Which can be difficult since my peer group tends toward people who are already unwrapping those moments for themselves.

My dear, in this earthly life, marriage should be the single greatest and most important thing. School and work should be secondary; they will always be there with their opportunities, the bills will always come, the sick will always need of treatment. And maybe I do wrong by having to prioritize those things to keep the lights on and to keep progressing on the track towards which I can be your provider.

Age, though it asks only a day at a time of our lives, will continue grinding away at our hopes and our destinations. God knows what He’s doing…but we have our own “finally!” to find. Several of them, in fact. The ones we first say silently to ourselves as each learns more about the other. The finally of a relationship in which we both feel secure. The finally at the altar, or the honeymoon suite. The finally of a first house and a firstborn child, and all the other finally’s I wrote above. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get them started. One can be driven mad with the changing promises of those moments and their arrival. All we can do is keep pressing on. So Darling, I’ll see you there, and until then, I will see you in my prayers and dreams.

Love ever,
Beren

February 16, 2014 Posted by | Anticipation, Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Just Anyone

UnknownBrideDear Darling,

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

I just shake my head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love always,
Beren

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

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

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

My Heart Sees You

Dear Darling,

I can see you.

I see you out there, clinging to hope like a climber’s cleft, trying to be strong, just hoping to break even. I see the glory and solitude of the season descending on you, the epoch of bitter and sweet. You’re happy to be doing well on your own. (After all, the mere act of life — with its licenses and setbacks and deadlines and demands — can be gargantuan!) You’re on your own and you’re managing. You’re keeping your head above the tide, you’re keeping the colors within the lines. But it’d be nice to have someone to lean on.

You want rescuing, but you don’t want to want it. You want the hurt to end, you just want a piece of life without its loneliness, without a missing ingredient you can neither name nor place. You want rest and peace. Your eyes are tired from seeking the face of a familiar stranger.

You want to let go, but you don’t want to fall. If you let go, you want to be caught, but not by just anyone. There aren’t many you’d actually trust to catch you, and you’d really rather they be the one destined to catch you for the rest of your life.

You want to be cared for, wrapped up, held. It’s cold outside…just the weather for warm drinks and cuddling on the couch while watching a movie.

You’re tired. Tired of the rhythm of your weary feet, the passing of the years, the meals cooked for one. Tired of trying your best, only to have no one to tell you you are the best.

You’re tired of the almosts and not-quites, the posers, doppelgangers and imposters.

You’re tired of eating alone, and sleeping alone, and being alone. You’re tired of faking a smile every day of your life, because no one will help you carry your sadness, or give you a reason to smile.

You’re tired of the happy couples, the romantic movies and the love songs. You’re tired of pregnant moms and beautiful babies, tired of people telling you you’d be a great mom, asking you when your turn will come.

You’re tired of always having to do the heavy lifting, of being consumed from the inside out, of having to soothe yourself. Tired of feeling like the future is perpetually on hold.

Day is cold, night is long, silence is bitter. You want life to get started. You want to be understood, or for someone to at least try. You don’t want to be trapped anymore. You want a hello with promise, and goodbyes without fear.

You don’t want to be lonely.

Darling, it’s alright. I see you. Not with eyes, not the spectrum of mortal color channeled through the optic nerve, but a sense of the heart, a perception of the soul, an echo of eternity. I know what you feel, I see what you dream.

You aren’t alone.

I’ll get there. I spend every night praying I’ll get to be your hero soon. We are two years closer to our meeting, and though each day has been passed in loneliness and solitude, it is two years of waiting that are complete and behind us. Take heart! White fire and pure reward await those who fulfill their oaths.

Love,
Beren

November 28, 2013 Posted by | Our Timeline, To Be The One, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sundry Thoughts for the End of May

“Golden haze; another morning feels like yesterday.
The end of may…and now you’re gone and there’s still bills to pay.
And you know it doesn’t help to make believe, you’re sitting next to me.
It doesn’t help, to make believe that you are right behind me
Saying ‘it’s okay’…”

Dear Darling,

It’s been unseasonably chilly the past few days. Low-40’s as May draws to a close is highly unusual, and given my recent switch to working a few overnights, I’ve felt the sharpest of the chill’s edge. Working overnights provides a different outlook on the world. The streets normally teeming with traffic are abandoned. You leave at last light and return after the first. And really, I’ve been surprised at my own adaptability to it. Never fear, I wouldn’t plan to work the night hours once I find you, but until then it’s an interesting experience.

Today I was required to work during sunlight hours. It was a heavy day, but that is so any time you stand as silent participant and comforter in the observance of a soul sundering from the flesh and passing from the world.

Nor indeed is it often (though not unheard-of) to offer counsel and consolation to a friend whose husband abruptly left her.

Meanwhile, another friend had gotten engaged, and my colleague of the day’s labors was a woman lately married to a friend I’ve mentioned before.

So I arrived home with marriage, death and divorce on my mind, having asked God to turn my head from thoughts of bitterness or pettiness.

I concocted an intriguing recipe of my own design involving chicken cubes, orange juice, maple syrup, apples, bananas and pepper which I shall delight in sharing with you some fine day. By necessity, your Beren is finding himself nearly equal to the task of cooking!

Outside, the night air is finally behaving like late spring. I step out the front door and the night smells like adventure. It’s the kind of night I would endeavor outside to walk alone. But alas, I’m now firmly ensconced in the city, with horrid lights and houses and neighbors. There is little to offer in the way of nighttime excursions, and I am confined to my dishes, my reading and my letters.

Oh yes, I’ve taken up reading again. This past year afforded almost no time for it and now I’ve resumed it.

And Darling, you may as well know, I am being taught a rather painful lesson on dealing with failure. It has set me back some months and some expense, and carries with it a frustration and a stigma that I find challenging. Perhaps I should be grateful the rest of the world is less judgmental than I, for if anyone else were to tell me they had failed, I would presume shoddy workmanship and lackluster effort. Yet here I know my effort was nothing less than my best, and yet it wasn’t enough. (Perhaps that is but one of the lessons I’m being asked to internalize.) The problem lies, I think, in suffering from an overabundance of critical thought rather than a deficit. And although only failures bother to offer excuses, it is my firm belief my work actually ought to have been deemed sufficient, for multiple reasons not up for dispute. Regardless, it has offered a stern check on my life and ambitions, and left me struggling to master a concoction of feelings such as jealousy, anger, shame, embarrassment and insufficiency.

Such is often my lot, to spin my many-splendored blessings into an unfortuitous tale.

Darling, here I must pause to ask you if you might consider this request, that when you must rebuke me, do it gently. We will fight, of course, and exchange heated words of anger. That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean that at times, people don’t understand me. With my blend of sarcasm and kindness, a sort-of weight in the heart from being alone and a buoyancy of spirit, people have been known to misinterpret me as haughty, bitter or mean. These people are then given to rebuking me in a manner not even fitting the notion of “wounds from a friend.” If…if you might just try being gentle in proposing an alternate means by which to draw my attention to my mistakes in this regard, I should be greatly in your debt.

I suppose, more than anything else, I just need to know I have value, that my efforts and contributions have value. I need to hear it from someone else.

Most of all again, my dear, I wish you to know how very greatly you are missed. There are very random and sporadic moments of availability that I find in myself, coupled with the fact that I dislike being on my own and unoccupied. I’ll have sudden urges to go see movies, meet for dinner or go for a drive. None of these desires are met with companionable responses. I am minded to embark on a fitness regimen this summer, and I don’t have anyone to do it with. All you’d have had to say is “please?” for me to pick you up, drive us both downtown and walk around the city park at midnight. (Maybe I’ll take myself there tomorrow.)

I’ve been blessed with another opportunity to travel on a low budget, and I’d love to share it with you.

As I mentioned, engagements continue to plague my circle of acquaintances, bringing out all that’s worst and petty in me. I’m beginning to feel quite the relic, and wishing I could have warned myself this phase of life would come!

Know that you are missed, loved and prayed for, my dearest.

Beren

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Nights Like These | , , , , , | Leave a comment