Newlywed Love (#108)

October 11-14, 1970

Our J.O.Y. Sunday school class was growing. Apparently word was getting around that we had lively discussions, and curiosity was bringing people in.

Score sheetThis week Martin shook things up again with his debating. Nate was a good debater, too, having been the captain of his high school team, and I found myself keeping score — first in my head and eventually on paper.

The class was never dull, and Pastor Ralph made sure to faithfully interject Scripture. But something about the argumentative mood didn’t seem right for Sunday school. After class Nate said, “I want to talk to Ralph for a minute, OK?”

As we drove home, he told me he and Ralph had concluded that what Martin really needed was loving acceptance, not counter-arguments. Apparently he wasn’t a Christian, and Ralph was concerned he not be driven away from the church by verbal sparring. He hoped Nate and the others would work to keep things calmer. No more trying to “win.”

I felt like a bratty kid in the car when I said, “Yes, but he started it!”

Gradually, though, I came to understand the situation as Ralph (and Nate) did, and we decided to act better in class – and even pray for Martin when we thought of it. We were living and learning.

On Monday, Columbus Day, I was disappointed not to be heading back to my Danville kids, but we had the day off.  After missing Friday with poison sumac, I was looking better and wanted to explain my absence, proving it with the leftover rash. My students would love the whole story.

When Tuesday finally came and I did return, they fawned over me like I was a celebrity, each talking over the others to share their weekend stories. One little girl jumped up and down saying, “I feel good today, because mommy said I don’t have to wear an undershirt anymore!” As she was pulling her dress up to show us, we quickly moved to the next story.

pumpkin seedsOne of the boys, having had a family outing over the weekend said, “I found out what you do to pumpkin seeds.”

“What ‘s that?” I said.

“You plant a whole bunch in a little pile, and that will get you an apple tree!”

The girl next to him nodded. “I already know that,” she said, “because I did it once.”

Another boy said, “I saw where my dad works.”

“What does he do?” I said.

“The dirty work.”

My studentsI laughed, knowing the real truth was that kindergarten teachers had all the fun.

To add to the gaiety of our reunion, I’d brought Nate’s and my Super 8 movie camera to school, a wedding gift from Mary and Bevin. During recess we created a mountain of leaves, and I recorded the kids jumping and leaping into the pile.

Both the morning and afternoon groups starred in their own movie, and I told them that once it was developed, we’d get permission to show it on the big Cannon School screen.

Their great delight was also mine. Five year olds were just the best.

Jesus prayed, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth …you have hidden things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children… This is what you were pleased to do.” (Luke 10:21)

Newlywed Love (#73)

June 28-July 2, 1970

My second week of student teaching was harder than the first. The 22-year-old certified teacher (to whom I was accountable) told me I would be doing most of the teaching while she sat and observed.

That meant every evening I had to study curriculum materials and prepare lesson plans. Since I didn’t know what I was doing with this new grade level, I had to dig into the seminar textbooks by the hour to figure it all out.

Job searchAs for Nate’s days, he continued making calls and pounding the pavement seeking a third job, since day-after-day his name was passed over for construction work, and his pots and pans weren’t selling.

The two of us had virtually no time together and were suffering because of it. We did sit together over our simple dinners, but the rest of the time I was either gone or busy. The only recreation was late-night coffee breaks with Cathy and John… and of course fun in the bedroom.

One evening we gave ourselves the luxury of a walk through the neighborhood, taking Baron with us. His funny antics always lifted our spirits.

DiscouragedWhen we returned to our apartment, though, we discovered we’d locked ourselves out. The only option was to knock on a neighbor’s door and ask to use the phone. Then, after calling the landlord, the 3 of us waited on the front step.

We talked about our sticky situation with Baron being there, and how it could end badly. But I had an idea. “I could take Baron around to the back yard,” I said, “so Mr. Norman won’t see him.”

Nate, with his sterling integrity, responded exactly as I expected. “Better not.”

“But what is he gonna say?”

“Well… let’s just wait and see. Maybe it won’t be a big deal.”

When Mr. Norman finally arrived with his master key, he immediately zeroed in on Baron, perched in Nate’s arms. “Who’s this little fellow?”

Nate introduced them while Baron did his best to radiate puppy-charm. Watching our landlord pat him on the head lit a tiny flame of hope in me. But then he said, “He’s not your dog, is he?”

Nate and I took a quick glance at each other, which of course answered the question. “Well… he can’t stay here. Nothing against him, you understand, but that’s my rule.”

When we didn’t respond, he continued. “I’ll tell you what. You can have through the weekend to figure out what to do. But after that, he needs to be gone.”

Our feet were heavy as we followed Mr. Norman and his key up the stairs. He didn’t chide us for interrupting his evening or threaten to evict us. But as he gave Baron one last pat on the head he said, “By the end of the weekend.” And that was that.

Baron at easeMy heart was hurting, but Nate summed it up well. “We knew this would happen eventually. And really, he didn’t even have to let us back in the apartment… with Baron.”

“I suppose,” I said. “And I guess being honest should count for something” – though right then I wished I’d done the dishonest thing and taken him to the back yard.

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Proverbs 11:3)

Newlywed Love (#44)

March 19, 1970

Nate was a husband who used words to praise, never to find fault. When I looked, it was clear which of us was contributing more positives to our marriage, and it wasn’t me.

No complaints

He cheerfully encouraged me through failures without the slightest criticism, and I found myself admiring his example – and learning from it.

For instance, as I made my first attempt at banana bread, for some reason the batter overflowed the pan. It dripped through the racks and spread out on the oven floor. I didn’t notice until the smell of burn filled the apartment, but it was too late for a rescue.

EatingDiscouraged over yet another failure, I couldn’t face scraping and scouring the oven, so left it for later.

Over the next few days as I used the oven to make dinner, burned banana flavored every meal and filled our home with an ugly odor. Surely Nate noticed…. but he never said a word.

As he loved me unconditionally, I often felt convicted of self-centeredness. Though my grumbling wasn’t about Nate, I often whined to him about other things, not realizing the extra stress this was putting on him.

He listened carefully no matter what I said and never forgot the words. Then he would do whatever he could to remedy my problem. His greatest desire was to make me happy.

If I stood in front of my closet and complained about nothing to wear, it wasn’t long before he’d surprise me with a little money attached to a sweet note – urging me to go shopping.

Noon note

If I whined about not getting to go out very much, soon a coupon to the local pancake house would appear with a note inviting me out to breakfast. Nate was a pro at demonstrating how to love well. And his good model became my good teacher.

Sometimes as we lay snuggled in bed, I would listen to his breathing in sleep, silently thanking God he’d been willing to wait for me. He’d suffered through 18 months of sadness watching me date another boy without ever losing patience.

Lying safely next to my loving husband, I was filled with gratitude that God had prevented me from marrying a guy who would not have been good for me, nor I for him.

Nate’s arms were the only ones I wanted around me.

“I am my lover’s, and he claims me as his own.” (Song of Solomon 7:10)