Newlywed Love (#120)

November 19-23, 1970

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Nate and I hosted a party for our Sunday school class. We cleaned, grocery-shopped, put a party menu together, and readied for our first “big” company.

J.O.Y. party

I pulled out a couple of my wedding-gift cook books and told Nate I would make an attempt at some interesting recipes. Thankfully it wasn’t a dinner but just dessert.

After baking two cakes, one a “wine cake” and the other plain, I made a raspberry sauce to drizzle over the plain one. If it seemed strange, we could always smother it with whipping cream from the squirt-can.

Of course we bought chips, dips, soft drinks, and even a little wine, though we weren’t sure what Pastor Ralph would think of that.

As we prepared, John and Cathy seemed interested, so we invited them to join us, hoping they might one day attend our lively Sunday school class, too.

All 20 guests threw themselves into a game of charades, and laughs were plentiful. We continued till 1:00 AM – despite the next day being a Monday. John and Cathy were the last to leave, close to 2:00 AM.

Teaching was a challenge the next day after such a short night, because the children and I were preparing for an open house before the Thanksgiving break.

Tee pee exampleTo accompany our unit on American Indians, we were building a six-seater canoe… and a full-sized tee pee! I wondered what ever possessed me to agree to such extreme projects — probably the enthusiasm of some adorable 5-year-olds.

Arriving home to Nate’s loving welcome made everything better, though, and he suggested we nap together before dinner. Two hours later, the world looked brighter, and we were energized to make it through a long evening.

Nate went back to his books, and I wrote the November newsletter for my classroom parents. Many had said they appreciated the monthly communiqué about what their children were doing in school (below) and felt like they were part of the team. My real goal was to let them know how much I loved each of their kids.Parent letter

Open house went well, and the next day was our party send-off to the Thanksgiving weekend. Usually it made me sad not to see them for four days straight, but not this time. My mind was racing with Thanksgiving preparations.

That evening, our family would arrive for 24 hours, and there was much to do. A year earlier we’d eaten Thanksgiving dinner as unmarried singles two days from our wedding. This year we would be hosting as a couple – and it felt great.


The RidlensMom and Dad would be bringing brother Tom and three aunties. Mary, Bervin, and baby Luke would come the next morning. And we invited our Danville friends Rick and Barbara (left), who had no local family and no Thanksgiving plans.

Finding beds for our four older relatives would be a logical challenge, but we were glad they wanted to come at all. It would be a holiday to remember!

“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters [and families] get along!” (Psalm 133:1 The Message)

Newlywed Love (#119)

November 13-15, 1970

Nate continued to leave notes for me, many of them thank you’s. I loved him for writing them and got a kick out of his hiding places.

One note was stuck in the steering wheel of my car, another under my pillow. Notes were taped to the bathroom mirror, the front door, and the kitchen sink. Once he bought me an Eskimo pie and attached his note to it in the freezer: “Happy Wednesday!” he wrote. Occasionally I’d find a message among the frozen vegetables.

Another noteNate thanked me for cleaning the apartment, folding his undershirts, and making breakfast.

Of all the notes he left, though, my favorite was his simple “I love you,” something he had said consistently from the beginning of our then-one-sided relationship. Even when I hadn’t loved him, he’d written of his love for me.

He did many other things that spoke love to me. He opened doors, whether it was at the apartment, in a store, a church, someone else’s home, or anyplace – including the car. Even if it meant standing in the rain, he always took care of me first.

Bearing burdensHe brushed every new snowfall off my car and always carried boxes or bags for me, even if they weren’t heavy. He pulled out every chair for me, never seating himself before I was settled – even when it was just the two of us in our apartment. And at the dinner table, he never helped himself to any of the food before offering the serving bowls to me.

When we took our evening strolls around the neighborhood, he faithfully walked on the curb side, the old-fashioned, gentlemanly way to shield a lady from harm. I marveled at how seamlessly he changed sides if we went around a corner or across the street, almost like a smooth dance.

Ice waterAny time he got a glass of water or a Pepsi for himself, he’d ask if I wanted one, too, and then would prepare them both. And he never sent me off to work without giving several delicious kisses. When I returned, he had a bunch more ready for me.

On cold days he made a cozy fire before I came in from work, knowing this would warm me inside and outside. As we talked on a blanket in front of it, he was careful not to interrupt me and always focused on my face when I talked.

Even when we were in a group, he kindly introduced me and spent time talking to me as well as others. By his consistent example in these ways, he let me see what life looked like when one person put another ahead of himself. His actions assured me of his devotion.

I love you.As I watched him, it seemed like he didn’t have to work very hard at doing these things, which amazed me. Rather, they flowed naturally from what he was feeling. Nate was committed to me and to making our marriage the best it could be. And he deserved full credit for its success.

I knew not all young wives were thus blessed, and I was deeply grateful – both to Nate and to God… the One who had brought us together.

“I have not stopped thanking God for you.” (Ephesians 1:16)

Newlywed Love (#117)

November 7-9, 1970

Nate and I were getting along great, so thankful to be married and living together.

Friends in VietnamOccasionally we’d watch the news coverage of Vietnam and grow agitated about Nate’s future with the military. Three friends overseas had actually sent us pictures, showing how radi- cally different their lives were from ours. Had Nate not joined ROTC, however, he would have been drafted and most likely located in Vietnam by now. Life in the reserves for the next few years would always be better than that.

A quick trip to the Chicago area reunited us with baby Luke as he approached his one month birthday, and also with our “baby” Baron – who wasn’t really ours anymore.

David, Baron, and Tom

When Mom broke her arm and had to wear a bulky cast for six weeks, Baron had taken up full-time residence with my brother’s friend David. Baron and David loved each other with abandon.

We still got to spend time with this special doggie, though, since Mom kindly invited him (and David) to many of our family gatherings.


Our two babiesBaron was keenly interested in baby Luke, and as always, he was a delight to watch. But we had fully accepted that our lives were too fluid to include a pet, especially one as time-intensive as a dog. With David, Baron now had a back yard where he could run, along with a dog-loving family that lavished attention on him. It was a good fit.

After seeing Baron and Luke, Nate and I also squeezed in a quick trip to spend 24 hours with his parents. Lois cooked a Thanksgiving dinner, since our Thanksgiving would be spent in Champaign with my side of the family.

She also gave me a wonderful gift during our visit. After watching her pull out a box of old photographs, I got my first look at Nate as a child. It was heart-warming when she said, “Would you like to take some of these home with you?”


One photo completely charmed me. Little Nathan, as his family called him, was sitting on a trike at about kindergarten-age. It illustrated the get-up-and-go his parents frequently talked about in reference to his childhood.

His firm grip on the handlebars, his bright eyes and big smile, and his badly-skinned knee were indicative of a lively, determined little boy.

As soon as we got back to Champaign, I framed the photo for our bedroom wall. Looking at it brought me sweet pleasure, making me wonder if we’d ever have children of our own. And if we did, would they look like this little guy? I hoped so.

Meanwhile, I would have to be content exercising my love for children through 28 kindergarteners and baby Luke. But those opportunities were OK by me.

“Out of the mouths of babes… you [Lord] have ordained strength.” (Psalm 8:2)