Another December Day

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December 15th. Today was a typical gray, wintry day. After a week of sunshine, the leaden sky threatened rain. The water in our backyard birdbath was frozen solid, while the suet feeder in the leafless magnolia was barely visible under a lively cluster of tiny juncos.

It was a similar gray, wintry day on December 15, 1966 when I waved goodbye to my parents and drove toward the Portland bus station. I’ll see him in just an hour!

Larry was traveling north on a bus from Fresno, near his home in California. Since September, when we had spent concentrated time together and precipitously agreed to get married, our frequent letters made the long weeks of separation bearable. Now he was coming for a visit, to ask my father’s permission to marry me and put an engagement ring on my left hand.

Although I treasured our correspondence, we quickly learned that letters were a poor substitute for face to face conversation. Occasionally a hastily-written missive produced misunderstanding, and the delay between sending a letter and receiving a reply sometimes brought doubt and anxiety. Now we would be together for another brief week, able to say everything left unsaid in the months apart.

As I sat tensely in the bus terminal waiting room, I wondered if the warmly-dressed matron sitting beside me could hear my pounding heart. I ran to the doorway when a bus  pulled into the inbound lane and a voice came over the scratchy speaker: “Continental Trailways from Los Angeles and points south arriving in Lane Two.”  A line of passengers straggled off the bus, and then I saw him. His smile answered mine, and when he wrapped his arms around me, the love in his eyes scattered all the anxious thoughts that had fluttered in my mind. I leaned against him, safe and content; I could wait until the privacy of my car for his kiss.

Like all long-lasting marriages, we’ve experienced challenge and disappointment as well as joy and satisfaction in our five decades together. But I’m immeasurably grateful to still feel safe and content in Larry’s arms.

A First Thanksgiving

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Looking back on our fifty years together, I couldn’t help thinking of our first Thanksgiving as husband and wife. We’d been married two whole months, living in Monterey, CA in a “room with kitchen privileges” while awaiting Larry’s next Army assignment. We debated about going to his parent’s home for Thanksgiving, since we barely had enough money left for gas for the 175 mile trip. But we knew they were anxious for us to come, and would send us back home with plenty of leftovers from the holiday dinner.

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Newlyweds, October 1967

Our new marriage was wonderful, but we were starting to feel a definite financial squeeze on Larry’s monthly paycheck of $127.50. Eventually, I would get a spousal allotment, but that hadn’t started yet. Larry wasn’t permanently assigned to Fort Ord, so I couldn’t get a job, since employers knew I would be gone as soon as he got orders. When I got an unexpected traffic fine that used up our rent money for the rest of the month, we had our first serious discussion about finances. It didn’t take long for us to agree that regardless of what was in our wallets, we would continue to follow our life-long discipline of tithing.

We arrived at Larry’s parents home late Wednesday evening, happy to be off the road. As we headed to the bedroom to put away our things, Larry’s mom said, “Oh, by the way, there’s some mail for you on the dresser.” Larry picked up the envelopes and said, “These are addressed to you, Carolyn, from the US Army.” Surprised and curious, I ripped them open, and found not one, but two checks for my spousal allotment, totaling nearly $200. We were suddenly rich, and our thanksgiving prayers the next day were definitely heartfelt!

To find out how a sci-fi loving guy from dusty California connected with a horseback-riding girl from the foothills of Mt Hood, read our love story!Front resized

The link below will take you to the book page on Amazon.
https://goo.gl/4BzxtM

This Week, 1967

Fifty years ago this week, I was scrambling to change plans for my immediate future. When I agreed to marry Larry, neither of us had any idea how much uncertainty and adventure was ahead.

Our formal church wedding was scheduled for Saturday, September 23, based on Larry’s promised two-week leave at the end of his Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Ord, California. He would hitchhike 175 miles home after graduation, then drive to my parent’s house in Brightwood, near Mt. Hood. We’d have nearly a week of getting re-acquainted after not seeing each other for six months. After the wedding, we’d have a week-long honeymoon before he left for Officers Candidate School, and I would return to Oregon College of Education for my senior year. When he finished OCS, I would join him at his next duty station.

But the US Army had other ideas. On September 15, he learned that he had no orders for his next assignment, and as a “hold-over” would not be allowed to leave the base. Waves of panic flowed between Fort Ord and Brightwood. Finally, after a very tense weekend, his reputation as a model soldier gave him the edge to get permission for a 72-hour pass to come to the wedding.

Opening gifts the day before the wedding

Honeymoon plans were out the window, but when Larry suggested that I cancel my plans to return to school and go back to Fort Ord with him the day after the wedding, I didn’t hesitate. In the middle of the Vietnam War, soldiers and their sweethearts grabbed any chance to be together!

Because Larry was sidelined, it was up to me to make all the arrangements. I called the college and withdrew my registration, called my prospective landlady to tell her I wouldn’t be renting a room, and bought two one-way tickets to fly from Portland to Fresno the morning after the wedding. As a splurge, I booked a room at Timberline Lodge for our wedding night.

Of course there’s more to the story, but as I sit here fifty years later reminiscing about that crazy, emotional week, I realize it’s a very personal illustration of the verse I read this morning in the Book of Isaiah: Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be overcome with joy and gladness.

I’m so grateful for God’s hand in our lives. He proved himself faithful that week decades ago, and has continued to lovingly lead and guide us year after year, turning disappointment and sadness into joy and peace.

The Chapel of the Hills, Brightwood, Oregon

 

 

Preserving Memories

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Recently two friends told me that they hadn’t kept the letters written during their courtships. Their regret is unfortunate but understandable–one couple came to America from overseas; the other couple moved frequently during a military career.

The hundreds of letters Larry and I wrote during our engagement were nearly discarded several times during the sixteen moves of our marriage. Although the box was unopened for more than forty years, we’re glad now that we toted it back and forth to between Oregon and California and stored the box while we lived overseas. It’s been a great pleasure for us to relive our experiences during 1967’s “Summer of Love” and the other months of our separation.

Since our children and grandchildren have read Five Hundred Letters, the book based on our letters, we’ve gotten comments and questions: “Did you really…?”  or “I didn’t know that you…” Learning details of our lives as young adults makes us more human to them, and gives us dimensions beyond “parent” or “grandparent.”

Whether you’ve been married five years or fifty, if you don’t have letters from your courtship, I encourage you to take time to reminisce and write down memories for your children and grandchildren.

The stories of how God worked in your life can provide a unique connection and have an immeasurable influence on the next generation.

Five Hundred Letters  is available in paperback or eBook at Amazon.com.

 

 

An Important Question

Fifty years ago this week I received a letter from my fiancé with a very exciting question.

August, 1967
Ma Cherie,
     Two letters today! It was wonderful to hear from you.
     I’m supposed to finish my Advanced Infantry Training here at Fort Ord at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, September 15. Judging by what’s happened in the past with the Army, it would be cutting it too close to schedule our wedding that weekend, so how about September 23rd? That would give us a week together before I have to report for my next assignment. What do you think of that date? Please let me know if you agree, so I can notify my family…
     I really do love you, even though sometimes my actions may not prove it.
     Larry

Class A

A few weeks earlier, Larry had written to suggest that we revive our plan for a September wedding, in spite of the instability of his position as an Army trainee in the Vietnam War era. We’d been engaged for nearly a year, but when he got drafted, our original plans had been temporarily derailed.

He had applied for Officers Candidate School, which would involve several more months of training. I was heading back to Oregon College of Education (now WOU) for my senior year. A wedding on September 23 would give us a few days to get reacquainted after six months apart, and a short week together as husband and wife before another separation.

Of course, I happily agreed to the September 23rd date! I had seven weeks to arrange our dream wedding and adjust my college plans. But again the Army intervened, and things didn’t go quite as we hoped.

Five Hundred Letters tells the full story of how God’s plan trumped the U.S. Army.
Print and Kindle versions now available, other eBook versions coming next week.

Unexpected Detours

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9, NLT 

Four years ago when I stopped blogging “temporarily,” I didn’t anticipate such a long detour. My life in the past 48 months has been a vivid example of both the Proverbs quote about plans and steps, and the dictionary definition illustrated above.

One of the painful deviations from my course was my brother Dave’s traumatic brain injury and subsequent death in 2014. As his next of kin and personal representative, much of that year I was focused on his personal needs, business issues, and estate.

The past four years have also brought me renewed friendships, wonderful new friends, opportunities to serve, amazing travel, and other rewarding experiences. We no longer live in the house with the special “borrowed view,” but in a roomy house with a very tiny yard and a view of other people’s houses.

While I often enjoy writing, publishing a book was never on my bucket list. Of course, every writer has fleeting daydreams that their words will have a broad influence. Any serious writer also knows that it’s mostly a difficult slog, requiring hard work, discipline, determination, and a thick skin. My plans never included taking hours, days and weeks of my life sitting in front of a laptop writing, re-writing, and re-writing again. But I found myself compelled to do just that.

Today I can hold in my hands the fruits of that laborious task, a love story based on correspondence during our long-distance courtship fifty years ago.

The recent journey, with its various pleasurable, painful and mundane detours, has added immeasurable richness to my life.

What detours have you experienced in your life?

 

The Season is Changing

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The view out my windows this morning–puffy clouds, fragrant blooming lavender, a wild bunny nibbling at the edge of the lawn–announces, “Summer is here!”

Bunny 2

When seasons change, I’ve learned to appreciate the unexpected. As spring unfolded in 2013, we had unseasonable warm weather in April and record-breaking cold weather in May. While the Farmers’ Almanac predicted cool weather through June, we’ve had warm, sunny days, and signs of summer are everywhere.

The unexpected is evident in the garden as well as the weather. On the positive side, a clematis that I planted four or five years ago has finally decided to thrive. Grandkids have been excited to watch it inch up to the top of the fence, and now we’re looking for the first blossoms.

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On the negative side, the two peonies that flank my pale purple garden bench decided to pout this year. They sprouted on schedule, but stopped growing at about ten inches, and never set blooms. I enviously gaze at the fragrant, blowsy blooms on my neighbors’ peonies, and frown at my own. Would classical music help? Hymns? Maybe some Shakespeare?

The pace of my life has also changed with the seasons. Just a month ago, our household was expanded by five, including a day-old grandson. The easy access to cuddles and hugs from little ones more than makes up for scattered toys in the family room, random socks on the stairs, and soggy granola under the kitchen table. Now the move-out countdown has started, with renovation of their new place fully underway.

When seasons change, I often need to re-evaluate aspects of my life. As I look at the amount of time I spend on various relationships, tasks and responsibilities,  I’ve decided it’s time to take a sabbatical from blogging. While the  unexpected connections and responses from writing a blog have been enjoyable, at this season, it’s distracting me from higher priorities. I’m sure that there will be times I can’t keep quiet about what God is doing in our lives, but I’m releasing myself from the “have to” of blogging on a regular schedule. In order to focus on the best things, I need to set aside some good  things.

The words of Ephesians 1 in The Message confirm this to me, and I pray it for you also.

I ask (God) to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing (Christ) personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, (and) grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians…

This summer, let’s all live gloriously!Front door 6 13

 

12 Months in the Blogosphere

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ImageTwelve months ago, I joined the online community known as the “blogosphere.” It’s been an interesting year, some of which I’ve written about. Here’s a snapshot of the year for “A Borrowed View.”

  • Total posts: 36
  • Total views: 3,022 as of 5/20/13.  (For those of you unfamiliar to this realm, that’s an infinitesimal number. There are blogs that get millions of hits each DAY.)
  • Viewership: Readers from more than 40 nations. How did people in Bahrain, Chile, Switzerland or Botswana find the blog?
  • Most-viewed post: “Hi, Jesus”
  • Post receiving the most comments: “Weeds, and other disorderly growing things”
  • Most popular topics: God, family
  • Pleasant surprises: unexpected connections with new friends/readers and people I’d lost touch with
  • Greatest challenges: a) taking life (and blogging) too seriously, b) balancing writing time between blogging, writing articles for actual cash, and my book project.
  • Unexpected bonus: A request to forward my recent post, “Welcome to the World” to a private school parents’ group in Uganda, for use as a starting point for discussions on sexuality

I recently re-read my “Welcome” page, which states the purpose for the blog. That purpose is still valid a year later, because God and His Word are the constant backdrop of my life, and my desire is to point to Him.

To all of you who have made comments, “liked” posts on Facebook, or sent me an email to tell me that a post was thought-provoking or encouraging, I give my heartfelt thanks. Your communication means more than you’ll ever know.

Here’s to another year of meeting in cyberspace!

Welcome to the World

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William Bruce Bowman, our thirteenth grandchild, entered the world at 7:58 pm, Saturday, May 4th. He joins two delighted big sisters, Ava, 2, and Emily, 5.Bowman kids

As I cuddled him recently, I breathed his sweet newborn scent and watched his sleeping face, with its fleeting frowns, smiles and grimaces. His smooth head, with its cap of brown hair, fit perfectly into my cupped hand. I stared into his face while I listened to his chirps, sighs and hums. His cries usually start with a squeak, but can accelerate in sixty seconds to a lusty bellow that impacts the entire household.

I marveled that just hours before, he was safely cushioned in the warmth of his mother’s womb, rocked by her easy stride, comforted by the steady rhythm of her heartbeat. The 3D sonogram had confirmed his gender, but we hadn’t yet glimpsed his slender fingers with their tiny complete fingernails, or noticed the pale skin of his feet, extra dry from the additional week he spent in utero.

As I gazed at this brand new human being, I was awestruck by the whole process of Nana 13conception, pregnancy and birth. It’s intriguing enough that a random glance between a young man and a young woman sparked interest and led to romance, courtship, and marriage. But it also led to the arbitrary uniting of one sperm with an egg, and grew against huge odds into this warm little body, still reflexively contracted into his womb-shape, with all his potential for laughter, wit, passion, intelligence and influence in our world.

William’s birth is something of a miracle. Jennifer, his mom, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age nineteen, and the hormone link with this tumor left her doctors questioning her ability to bear children. With God’s grace and intervention, he has blessed our family with three “miracle” children, and a healthy mom/daughter.

This little boy’s parents will bring him up to believe that God created him for a purpose—that his birth was no accident of passion, but part of the amazing eternal plan of the Creator. They will help him understand the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

These timeless words are not only for baby William, but for any of us who are willing to believe the truth of God’s promise.

Hi, Jesus!

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Isabella EasterRecently our 4-year-old granddaughter started a conversation while riding in the back seat of the family vehicle:

“Hi, Jesus. It’s me, Isabella…”

She has a new awareness of prayer, and wants to pray about everything. When our daughter-in-law Candice posted this on Facebook, I thought, “How cute.” But in thinking about it, I’m reminded of the words of Jesus to his followers:

“…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

Little Cousins, Easter 2013

Little Cousins, Easter 2013

Isabella’s spontaneity  in talking to Jesus illustrates several insights that are important for “grown-ups” to consider:

  1. She can talk to Jesus any time, any place.
  2. She’s confident that He knows who she is.
  3. She can talk to Jesus as she would anyone who loves her.
  4. Jesus is ready to listen to her.
  5. He’s interested in everything that’s important in her world–her family, her friends, her daily activities.

Good things to remember!

What insights have you gained from children in your life?