Newlywed Love (#102)

September 26, 1970


As two young men in a small car continued to follow me home from school, my fear grew. I tried to make sense of their tailgating, puzzling over what their intentions were and why they picked me.

Driving.Gut instinct told me I might be in some real trouble. Had they just randomly seen me as I turned onto the expressway ramp? Or had they watched me get into my car in the school parking lot? Did they know where I worked?

One thing was sure: I couldn’t lead them to where I lived. But where would I go?

Questions tumbled into my mind, distracting me from driving. I was in the left lane going 80 mph in a car that sounded like it was about to explode when their car came alongside on the right, both men glaring at me. I tried not to look, not to show fear.

When I was half way home, they swerved to my other side, coming up on the left. This was really dangerous, since they were then driving on the shoulder.

I wished with all my might a squad car would come out of nowhere with lights flashing to pull them over for reckless driving. When I saw a giant light pole coming in their path, I thought they were going to crash right into it! But they swerved back on the highway just in time.

Police carI had read that if something like this ever happened, a driver should cause a minor accident to force another car and a “normal” driver into the situation – and also bring the police.

But snatching glances at the cars around me, I knew if I caused a crash, it would be fatal. We were going too fast. My heart was in my throat, and I began to think about Nate. Oh how I wished he was with me! What sensible thing would he suggest?

Dark despair flooded me. “Oh God!” I shouted. “Please, please help me! I don’t know what to do!”

We continued on, and as we came within 10 miles of home, very suddenly these men pulled to the far right and zoomed off an exit ramp — and they were gone! I felt like wailing with relief but knew I had to hold myself together to get safely home.

As I got off the highway several miles later, I came to the first stop sign of my journey and went to downshift. That’s when I realized I’d driven 40 miles at high speed with the car in 2nd gear the whole way. No wonder it had resisted my push on the gas pedal and sounded so loud! Oh, how I hoped I hadn’t ruined the engine.

I pulled in front of our building and raced up the steps two at a time, bursting through the door and throwing myself into Nate’s arms – and the anguished wailing came out.

He held me tightly, waiting for me to calm down enough to tell him – and after I did, I stayed wrapped in that place of safety for a long, long time.

photo strip“They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. He led me to a place of safety.” (Psalm 18:18-19)


Newlywed Love (#100)

September 16-20, 1970

The weather continued to be warm and summery, tempting us to take longer walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes we’d hike the mile to Cathy and John’s place and knock on their door unannounced, but they always welcomed us in for cookies and coffee.

Good pals

Then, as we walked home, we’d rehash the conversation, usually landing on the mounting differences between us. Although we four had always gotten along well, whenever we discussed anything related to Christianity, friction developed.

It was frustrating for all of us as each couple tried to convince the other of a better way to think about life. On our walks, Nate and I wondered aloud where our friendships might be lead.

But on most nights, our evening walks brought nourishment to our marriage. Stepping away from law books, dinner dishes, and teaching prep allowed us to share what was on our minds and stay current with each other. It was also a chance to count blessings.

sidewalk.One night as we were walking to no place special, Nate said something surprising. “I made a big decision today,” he said, “and I think you’ll be pleased.”

“What is it?”

“I’ve decided to interview for my first law job in the Chicago area rather than anywhere else.”


“Oh wow!” I said, genuinely elated. “That’s fabulous!”

“I may not find one,” he said, “so don’t get too excited yet, but I’m going to try.”

We stopped walking so I could smother him with kisses. I couldn’t wait to move back to where so many relatives and friends lived.

The last time we’d driven past the city on our way back to Champaign, I’d snapped a photo — quietly hoping I’d one day be able to call Chicago home again.

As we turned back toward our apartment, my feet could hardly keep from skipping. Nate had put his undeserving wife at the top… again… giving me what I wanted most, and I was overwhelmed by his selflessness.

Job hunting in his home town of 30,000 would have been the more comfortable choice, but apparently Nate was willing to comply with whatever Chicago might require. He’d have to learn how to do life in a giant city for the first time — but he was game to try.

And I was thrilled.

SkylineOur walk concluded with his statement that the upcoming new semester would be his last in law school. He would graduate in January of 1971. The challenging Bar Exam would follow, two days of demanding tests every grad had to pass in order to practice law. Many didn’t succeed on the first try — something new to worry about.

That night we began praying about the changes coming, each one with heavy decisions attached. And we asked God to please go ahead of us and set things up before we got there – wherever “there” ended up to be.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

One Year Without Mary

September 24, 2017

One year ago today, Mary left us, although that isn’t the accurate way to say it. She didn’t willfully leave us but allowed her departure to be orchestrated by God.

Trusting God.Scripture says Jesus has the key to death (Revelation 1:18) and that whatever he opens, no one can close. (Revelation 3:7) A year ago he opened death’s door for Mary, and her spirit walked willingly through it, right into eternal pleasure. It was God’s perfect plan for her.

That’s the encouraging thing about a loved one’s passing. If we, like Mary, have loved and followed Jesus in our earthly lives, death’s door is simply a passageway to a glorious new life we can’t possible picture now.

Knowing that, however, doesn’t ease the sorrow in the rest of us. Throughout this day, our minds have been filled with Mary – sweet remembrances and the thousand-and-one-ways we each miss her.

Bervin initiated a time of sharing tonight, to take place at the beach Mary loved so much. A bunch of us gathered to talk and let our eyes freely fill with tears, if need be. From a wide circle of beach chairs, we shared bits and pieces of who Mary was to each of us by way of things we hold dear about her now – memories from silly to serious.

Bervin prays

Bervin coaxed Scripture from us by asking if anyone could recall Bible passages that Mom/Grandma had taught them. As 7 young children played in the middle of our circle, the verses came forth. And in reciting those, we remembered how much Mary loved the Word of God.

It’s mindboggling to realize she is now loving THE Word, face-to-face. (John 1:1) And as one of her children said tonight, “She’s also got all the answers to all the questions the rest of us are still asking.”

SunsetLater, as we warmed hot dogs over our fire on a perfect weather-evening, the sun set over Lake Michigan. And we concluded that none of us knows who will next join Mary or when that might be.

But if she had walked up to our circle on the beach tonight with a bit of advice from her life “on the other side,” she probably would have said something like this: “Trust God with your life… and death. Study your Bibles. And be sure you say these words to others often: I love you.

“Because after all, you never know…”

On the beach“The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18)