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)

Young Love (#112)

November 10-13, 1969

As the school year moved toward Thanksgiving break, I was pleased at how well my little six-year-olds were learning. Linda (the 2nd grade teacher) and I talked about what they would need to know before entering her class the following year, and I finally felt confident I could get them there.

My friendships with Linda and Judy were deepening, and we began doing a few things socially, away from school. We shared several dinners and included our guys, so they were getting to know each other, too.

The RobinettesThe 4th grade teacher at our school, Mrs. Robinette, was like a teaching mentor to all three of us with her many years of experience. But she was a friend, too. She and her husband lived on a farm, and she often shared her home-grown produce with us – fresh veggies and eggs.

One Sunday, she and her husband invited all of us McKinley teachers and spouses to their home for dinner.

After a delicious meal, Judy sat down at the upright piano and began playing hymns she seemed to know well.

Upright pianoLinda walked over and started singing the words, and then Judy added an alto part. I joined in too, trying to put my notes between theirs. This amateur trio probably sang well beyond the enjoyment of the others, but Linda, Judy, and I had discovered a faith-link between us. All three loved the Lord and had had experience with him. Finding this out meant something special to each of us.

For the most part, our school days went well. We’d adjusted to the 80-mile round trip commute, and the teaching staff felt like family. There was one day, however, that Judy, Linda, and I wished would never have happened.

It was time for a teacher training afternoon, and the students were sent home before lunch. All the teachers in the district were then supposed to report to in-service meetings for the rest of the day.

The three of us really didn’t want to go, so we concocted a better plan. Thinking we wouldn’t me missed, we ditched the afternoon and headed home early. But Principal Scarce had had his eye out for us and wasn’t fooled.

Principal's officeThe next day, when he called us to his office, we knew we’d been caught. Instead of a trio of hymn-singers, we had morphed into a trio of truants.

Mr. Scarce patiently listened to our side of the story, but between the three of us, we couldn’t come up with even one good excuse. His only choice was to dock our paychecks – a big disappointment, and an even bigger embarrassment. Thankfully he didn’t withdraw the permission he’d given me for 3 days off after Thanksgiving. Had he taken that away, Nate and I wouldn’t have been able to have a honeymoon.

All of us felt bad about our immature choice to skip the meetings and vowed to do better, throwing ourselves into the day-to-day work of teaching. But each evening I forgot all about McKinley School and switched into wedding mode, especially enjoying Nate’s and my favorite part of the day – crossing off one more square on our countdown calendar.

By the end of the week, there were only 12 squares left when my students could rightfully call me Miss Johnson.

“….forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13

Young Love (#110)

November 5, 1969

Sitting togetherAs Nate and I sat next to each other, my crying gradually tapered off and finally stopped. But we sat there a long time. He softly spoke words of loving commitment to me but promised we wouldn’t marry unless I was completely sure. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it must have been for him to speak those words. He was all-in, and I had one foot out the door.

Listening carefully, I did hear his pledge of unwavering love, but the massive wave of doubt that had washed over me had nothing to do with that. I’d never questioned the sincerity and depth of his love. As he continued to talk, though, I focused on something else he said, something that was far more important at the moment.

What I had heard was that he’d given me complete freedom to leave the relationship, if that’s what I wanted. Rather than trying to convince me to stay, he had opened the door. He was telling me I could exit without any misgivings.

I thought of how Christ-like that was. Jesus loves us but never forces us to love back. We can walk away if we want.

It was Nate’s willingness to let me walk away that began my turn back toward him. In my heart I knew that I sincerely loved him and that if I walked away, I would regret it for the rest of my life.

By the time we got up from our chairs, worn out from the ordeal, I had recommitted to him…. and to marrying on November 29.

“You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me.” (Ruth 2:13)