Newlywed Love (#121)

November 25-26, 1970 – Thanksgiving Eve and Day

Nate and I finally figured out where we would sleep my parents, brother, and three aunties on the night before Thanksgiving. Agnes and Ruth would go in our bedroom, having hoped for a closed door. Helen would be comfortable on the living room couch.

TommyMom and Dad would cuddle up on the pull-down Murphy bed, and Tom would have the dining room floor.

Nate and I would be on the living room floor in front of the fireplace – a sleeping spot not unfamiliar to us. And the whole night promised to be unique!

After our cake and coffee at about 10:00 PM Wednesday evening, we took turns in the bathroom and then said our good-nights. Mom was so into the adventure of it all she couldn’t settle down, cracking jokes about her sleeping spot with Dad in the swoopy Murphy bed.

“Don’t look at what’s going on in this bed,” she said. “It’s x-rated.” Of course she was joking, and I could hear Dad trying to shush her so he could drift off to sleep.

Dad carvesSomehow we made it through the night and a nourishing scrambled egg breakfast before Mary, Bervin, little Luke, and doggie Russell arrived. Then Mom lent me her cooking expertise, and when everything was finally ready, Dad did the carving on the sink drain board. Despite having prepared the meal in a kitchen with only 18 inches of counter-space, our late afternoon Thanksgiving feast was a success.

After washing all the dishes assembly-line style, we “youngsters” played games on the floor while the “oldsters” nodded off.

Aunt Agnes snoozesDad snoozes








It was peaceful… and perfect. And I was proud of Nate for setting aside his books completely throughout the day. They were on his mind, to be sure, pressing hard, but he never mentioned them.

Family photoMom wanted to take a family photo announcing their first grandchild in a Christmas card, so we assembled in front of the window. Our Danville friend Rick took the picture.

A family of five had begun to grow, and now we were eight. Mom wondered aloud how many might join the ranks in future years. “The more the merrier,” she said, meaning it with all her heart.

Around 10:00 PM our guests began getting their coats, which we’d known ahead of time had to happen. Even the Chicago group was committed back home the next morning.

Saying goodbyeNate and I stood at our apartment door waving them down the stairs, one group at a time, deeply thankful that the whole family had been together. Our time had been short — but memorable.

And with our parting words, we promised to host a Thanksgiving dinner for the whole family every year from that day forward – no matter how big we grew.

“Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.” (Psalm 50:23)

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 (#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)