Young Love (#119)

November 22-23, 1969

The weekend arrived, and Nate stepped into the apartment bright and early. “A week from now we’ll be hitched!” he said, picking me up and spinning me around. It was a moment of pure joy.

After packing up his VW, we headed back across the familiar route to Wilmette, hoping to tie up a few loose ends. For one, my gown hadn’t arrived at the bridal shop, and I wanted to find out why.

For another, we hadn’t decided what the 7 bridesmaids would wear on their heads. It was too late to order anything, but Mom thought we could fabricate something out of sewing scraps. I figured the girls could go topless (just their heads, of course), but Mom nixed that idea. “It’s a formal wedding,” she said. “Their heads need something on them.”

Avacado.When we walked into Mom and Dad’s house, we couldn’t believe the transformation. Their kitchen was completely put together, with something we’d never seen before: avocado appliances. And Mom had chosen a stove with, of all things, a glass top. Amazing. She had a double oven built right into the wall and a four-foot square fixture of fluorescent light on the ceiling. The whole thing looked like something out of the Jetsons!


In the corner she’d had her carpenter build a bench that sat along the south and west walls with storage underneath, “….so we can sit lots of bottoms around the table,” she said.

IMG_5329The living room had been carpeted in dusty blue and topped with several pieces of new furniture. Draperies would be delivered on Monday. The built-in cabinets (with lights) expanded the dining space and made Mom’s Sunday dishes look very pretty. “You two will be getting the old china cabinet,” she told us. We were delighted to know we’d finally have storage for our sweaters, shirts, and socks.

Mom was in her glory, tidying up and putting her well-worn pots and pans into new kitchen cabinets. Dad reported that the new sound system at Moody Church had been completed, an eight-month project. It had made a successful debut’ the Sunday before, lifting a heavy load from his shoulders.

The schedule for our wedding week was flapping on the new refrigerator door and included daily runs to the airport to shuttle incoming guests. By Wednesday, relatives from California and New York would all be on hand, and that’s when the real fun would begin.

IMG_5356Mom was especially eager for her son’s return from the east coast that same day.





As Nate and I drove back to Champaign on Sunday evening, my wedding gown was in transit to the bridal shop (we hoped), and we’d decided to put ribbon bows on the bridesmaids’ heads. It seemed every item had been checked off the list, and as we drove the 3 hours home, a feeling of deep contentment settled over both of us. A song by the Carpenters came on the radio: “We’ve only just begun.”

I turned to Nate and said, “Hey. Let’s make this our song,OK? ”

His response surprised me. “Actually, I have a better one.”

“You do?”

“It’s, You Make Me So Very Happy.” And he grinned.


“Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live.” (Ruth 1:16)

Young Love (#117)

November 18-19, 1969

As Nate and I were in Champaign happily crossing off one more calendar square each night, Mom was in Wilmette wishing each square would last longer. Her kitchen was still unfinished, and new furniture hadn’t yet been delivered. The day before Thanksgiving, quite a crowd of people would be arriving to use her house as their home base – myself among them.

Brother TomIn addition to a handful of relatives and bridesmaids, my brother (right) would be coming home from his east coast college, too, and all of those arrivals were only a week away. That’s when Mom did something uncharacteristic of her. She began putting some heavy heat on her workmen and the furniture stores, as well as the men constructing built-in cabinets in her living room. And she terminated their coffee breaks — no more of her home made cinnamon rolls for any of them.

A couple of friends dropped by for a visit, and she put them to work. A few days later a happy note appeared in her diary. “All kinds of workmen here today! Furniture delivery, too!” Her pressure had produced, and just as she’d optimistically predicted those many weeks back, everything would be done before the wedding.

Down in Champaign, we received a last letter from Aunt Joyce, who was wrapping up her pre-wedding correspondence to us:

From Aunt JoyceI’ll always cherish the memory of your taking time to write me about so many interesting and delightful happenings in these your final days of Miss Margaret Johnson.

This new chapter you are entering is even better than the last, and opens the way to even greater, deeper, and more exciting chapters, each one a joy with the promise of even more to come as you and Nate commit yourself to Him and He does all the work! Our only effort is surrender!

She concluded with this:

I think about you so often and discuss you with the Lord also. And I hope I’ve remembered to answer all your questions and write about all the really important things – like I love you!

Our fireplaceAs the November days shortened and temperatures dropped, Nate and I sat on the floor in front of our apartment fireplace and counted blessings. It wasn’t hard to see how fortunate we were, especially having two supportive families who loved us.

Wrapped snugly under the same blanket, looking into the dancing flames, we felt delightfully warmed, both inside and out. It was the perfect time to pray together, asking God to show us how to give back to those who’d given so much to us. We also asked Him to teach us how to love each other as much as our families loved us.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you…. Write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3)

Young Love (#115)

November 15-16, 1969

It was the weekend – before the last weekend – before our wedding weekend! No one was happier about that than Nate and I.

I wondered how Mom’s kitchen renovation was coming along and whether or not she’d had a chance to shop for her own gown. But her diary tells the tale:

IMG_5271“Seeing is believing! Im- possible to visualize our home with a wedding soon!! Soup under piano! Refrig in living room! etc! etc!

A day later she mentioned a friend coming to help her. She wrote, I think she pities me.

But her letters to Champaign continued to be upbeat, one of them written during church while listening to a sermon by George Sweeting:

Pastor Sweeting is elaborating on the financial monopoly as revealed in Rev. 13. The older I grow – and I’ve been around too long already – the more I recognize the sheer anchor of all authority – the Bible. The Author of this Book is my Friend, and His Spirit explains His writings. Pretty good, eh?

IMG_5232At the end of the letter she said she’d heard every word of the sermon and invited me to quiz her sometime. No matter how hard Mom worked or how little sleep she got, she never lost her vitality. She must have been experiencing tremendous pressure, but she never let it show.

As for Nate and I, we joyfully prepared for our first Champaign visit from Mary and Bervin. Nate volunteered to get the groceries while I did the cleaning. After two hours when he hadn’t returned, I began to worry. But when he finally came in, he was all excited.

“Guess what!” And he held up $25 in cash, the equivalent of $150 today. For a couple that was always penny-pinching and was still short, I was flabbergasted.

“Where’d that come from?”

“The Carle Clinic,” he said. “They gave it to me for giving blood!”

Apparently he had answered an ad on the grocery store bulletin board. But despite a blood loss, he seemed hale and hearty, so I had to agree it was a great idea. “Now,” he said,  “we can go to a movie with Mary and Bervin or even out to eat if you want!” That $25 was a fortune to us, and I made a mental note to get over to the clinic myself, as soon as I could.

Bervin and Mary visitWelcoming Mary and Bervin to our little nest was extremely satisfying. Even though we’d been bumping into them in Wilmette now and then, since I moved to Champaign I’d missed my sister a great deal. She and I had been best-buds since toddlerhood, and more than that, she was my #1 confidant and advice-giver. It had been hard to be far apart for long stretches of time.

As the four of us drove around Champaign, the University of Illinois, and Allerton Park, Mary and I huddled in the back seat sharing secrets. I was about to step from singleness into marriage, and what better time to glean wisdom than from a marriage veteran of two years. It was a delightful weekend and flew by all too fast.

On Sunday evening as Nate and I stood on the front steps of our apartment building waving goodbye, my heart started to hurt. I wondered how many years Mary and I would be separated by distance. But the sadness was softened a bit by knowing she and I would soon be sharing a new kind of togetherness…. as wives.

” (Mary’s) ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” (my version of Proverbs 3:17)