Soul Beauty

beautiful-insideWhat could be more lovely than inner beauty of a life well lived, developed through years of experience? Think of all the funny stories, the heartaches, the worries, and the triumphs that reside in the hearts of older folks. I once had an older friend who used to say, “We’re all the same age on the inside.” It’s true. As I get older, I realize I still feel the same as when I was a teenager. Sure, I’m not physically able to do all the things I could then. But I can do some things now that I couldn’t as a younger person, like listen with more empathy because I’ve already walked in those shoes. I can hold things more loosely because I know there’s infinitely more value in things that can’t be held.

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In the Meme Time: Judgment

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Love Letter Begs for Date

bettys-letter

Love Letter Begs for Date

by

Betty Mason Arthurs

 

Long before the internet and online dating sites, young ladies communicated with potential “matches” by letter, hand-written or typed on ancient typewriters. Like most senior folk, I miss those days when you could unfold a piece of stationary and reread a love note, not an e-mail, from your sweetheart. When I was dating my husband John, he left me sweet notes in my college mail box. I also loved getting letters from my mother when I lived miles away from her. So it was no surprise that I found some letters she had saved in a box from the 1950s and 1960s. One mysterious letter, written to my 19-year-old brother Mark, when he was in junior college, made me wonder, “Why did Mom keep this? Who typed the letter, its keys skipping and smudges of ink on every line?” I’ll share the letter.

November 17, 1960

Dear Mark,

I have often thought of you but I have never been able to bring myself to the point of actually writing to you. I hope you don’t think that I am too forward. Actually I am very shy, and somewhat cute, if I do say so myself. My problem is this: I don’t have a date to the banquet yet and I was wondering if you could possibly (now if you won’t don’t hesitate to say no, for it wouldn’t hurt my feelings too much. I mean, I would get over it in a couple of weeks, I think.) find it in your heart to try to help me out of my predicament which is very embarrassing to me. You see, I was once homecoming queen of my high school and since then I have never wanted for dates, that is, until now. Now I come to (Christian college), which they all told me was just about as close to heaven as one could possibly get and I haven’t had a single date as of yet. This is really hard to take. I have noticed that you haven’t had too many dates this year so I thought you might be in a similar predicament. So I am writing this letter to tell you I would be happy to date you even if no one else is. If you want to contact me, please write to Box 26, as I have a private box at the post office. I am a town student but am only 20 y/o. Of course I am too shy and modest to sign my name, but as soon as I receive your letter I will gladly let you know who I am. Until then, love, ????????

Can you imagine a young lady pouring her heart out like this on a dating site today?  I cringe when I think of the ridicule and bullying a desperate girl would receive if she admitted she needed a date. I think my tender-hearted mother kept the letter because she had once longed for dates. I know I did in high school in the 1960s. I can’t ask her because she died in 1985. I would like to tease my brother and ask him, “Did you take her to the banquet?” but he is gone too. Mark, who always had girls chasing him, often wrote to our folks, “I’ve got a banquet coming up. Can you send $20?” The joke in our household was, “When we hear from the boys it’s because they need money.” Even today, girls don’t understand that not all guys have a nice suit or tux to wear or a car to drive, plus money for prom, a corsage and dinner at a nice restaurant.

This letter speaks to me about teen girls and self esteem. Not much has changed even with the advent of internet communication. Maybe you’ve heard the story of a young lady who had a pair of men’s jeans on the end of her bed. Every night she knelt and prayed, “God please fill those jeans with a man for me.” I don’t know if God ever answered her, but I chuckle at her ingenuity.

My heart goes out to the writer, since she thinks having lots of dates will bring her happiness. I want to hug her, like I did with my daughter, and say, “Sweetheart, tell God your desires and your dreams. No one will ever love you as much as He does. Only He can be trusted to give you the love you long for.” Scripture is full of promises and one of my favorites is found in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “’‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Do you know a lonely young lady who longs for dates or wants to be married? What advice would you give her?

Student by Gualberto107

Posted in Doing Life Together, Dreams, Hope, Love, Nostalgia, Prayer, Romance, Trust in God's promises, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Fear of Driving

I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 19.

I got my first learner’s permit when I was a senior in high school. My dad took me out driving several times in his huge Buick LeSabre. Our sessions usually ended with him red-faced and shouting at me, and me crying. At the time, I didn’t understand why Dad was so frustrated.

The day of my scheduled road test was also the day of the first blizzard of 1970. I had no experience driving in snow. Even though Dad promised the test course would be plowed by the time we got there, this was not the way I’d imagined it. I pictured myself driving us to the Motor Vehicles office on non-scary, dry roads. I didn’t want a last-minute lesson on driving on snow-covered roads. So I refused to go. Dad said I could call and reschedule, but I just didn’t want to practice and be shouted at and burst into tears any more. Besides, in the fall I would be going away to college, and there was no place for dorm residents to park on campus. Plus, I didn’t have a car.

Fast forward to the middle of my sophomore year in college. Concerned that the focus of my program was not the best fit for me, I decided to transfer to the college closest to my parents’ house. That would be a savings, I reasoned, because they wouldn’t have to pay for my room and board (that’s how a 19-year-old’s brain works; of course they were paying for my food and the roof over my head and the utilities I was using).

tempest

My Tempest looked like this, but mine was turquoise. Is that road snow-covered? Show-off.

The first week at my new school, I discovered that the two buses I had to take got me to school in an hour and a half, and the return trip was just as tedious. So Dad bought me a used Pontiac Tempest and driving lessons. The room and board savings flew out the window. But I actually got my driver’s license.

 

Of course, a few days later, the first blizzard of 1972 struck while I was in class. I called Dad, and he bummed a ride to the college from a neighbor, and drove me home in my new car.

I never got over my fear of driving in snow. (I’m glad I live in the Arizona desert now.)

In 1974 I married my sweetheart. We lived in an apartment in a subdivided house in Edison, New Jersey. Which meant that every day, traveling to and from work, I had to cross the Morris Goodkind Bridge. Like its companion, the Donald Goodkind Bridge (though neither of them were particularly good or kind, by the way), it was three lanes wide. From the outer lanes, it was a very long, terrifying drop to the water. And I was sure my car was destined to take the plunge. Southbound on Route 1, I could stay in the middle lane, where I only had to worry about the 18-wheelers whizzing past me on both sides. But northbound, I had to stay in the right lane, mere millimeters from a watery grave, because my exit was just past the northern shore of the Raritan River. Many years passed before I could make that drive without dissolving into panic. Moving to a different part of New Jersey helped.

goodkind-bridges-photo-by-zanderz

The Morris and David Goodkind Bridges may look pretty from this angle, but when I drove across them, they seemed neither good nor kind.

I finally became comfortable with driving, at least under favorable weather conditions.

And then I had kids.

Becoming a parent gives you a new respect for the perils of the road. One second’s inattention could cause the loss of my family’s next generation. The sense of the responsibility made me hypervigilant and phobic.

By the time I had five children, I came up with a strategy for minimizing distractions in the car. If the kids got too noisy, I’d find a place to pull over and we wouldn’t move again until everyone was calm. It worked so well that after a few years, if I stopped at a traffic light, one of the kids would ask, “Mom, what did we do?”stocksnap_vflt8d6ejf

At this point in my life, I have 45 years of driving experience. I’ve only had one accident—when I was still in college and drove on an icy bridge on the way home. (Honestly, why are people that young allowed to drive? I think the driving age needs to be raised—to 35.) But my friends all know I won’t drive at night if it’s raining. Too scary. The reflections confuse me. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

How about you? Do you drive? Are you comfortable driving in rain or snow? Have you ever been afraid to cross a bridge? What scares you? Share in the comments below.

Posted in Fear, Humor, Memoir | Tagged | 4 Comments

Children and Politics

(This post first appeared on the Christian Children’s Authors blog in Nov. 2016. I thought it might be a good reminder for this Inauguration Day.)

children-laughingFirst, let me be clear, I hate political rants. This post is not one of them. It doesn’t raise one party over another or cheer one candidate and boo another. It is a guide for how to help your children navigate this emotional time in our country.

Think back to your childhood. What emotions come to mind? As I reminisce on mine, I see days of happy play with my siblings. Neighbors and church members looked out for one another and people lived relatively peacefully together.

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Posted in America, Doing Life Together, Elections, Parenting, Politics, Respect, Uncategorized, United States of America, Voting | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

In the Meme Time: Hold On

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Posted in Christian Living, Doing Life Together, failure, Faith, Fear, Life, Perserverance, Prayer, When life seems too much | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday, Mother

Today is my mother’s 92nd birthday, the first one since her death four months ago.

Today I am acutely reminded of my loss. I will be glad to get through this day, to have checked off one more “first” without her.

I am filled with mixed emotions: happy she was born, glad for the life she lived, grateful to be her daughter; yet, this year, missing her laugh, missing buying her a card and baking her a cake, missing her.

She always chose Olive Garden for her birthday lunch. Eggplant parm, salad, breadsticks, and anything chocolate for dessert. I think I’ll go there next year.

Today I will visit, for the first time since her burial, the national cemetery where she rests with my father. It will be the first time I will see their joint marker, with the inscription, “It Is Well With My Soul” added to their dates and Daddy’s years of service.

I will go with my husbnd, one of her two “sons- in- love,” and my youngest daughter, her youngest granddaughter. The last time we were there, we watched the hearse leave with Mother’s light blue casket (the one she chose 30 years ago) from the committal shelter toward my father’s grave site. I  hugged family and friends,  picked up my purse and got settled in the family car with barely enough time to see my mother drop into the open grave.

Just like that, it was over.

The years of wandering in the wilderness of dementia…over. The eleven days of active dying, without a drop of water or morsel of food…over. The funeral preparations…over.

As much as we wanted her to be free of earthly limitations, we didn’t want to lose her. As much as we knew it was happening, we didn’t want it to be true. Yet it was.

And so we filled her final days and hours with as much love as possible.

“Jesus will carry you home on his strong shoulders,” we assured her.

We played her favorite hymns by day and held her hands throughout the night.

“You loved people with the love of Jesus,” we reminded her.

“Jesus loves you,” we repeated. “I love him,” she whispered in response, with some of her final words.

We re-committed her into the loving arms of Jesus, confident He will do exactly what He said He would do.

“And this is the will of Him who sent me; that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:39)

Today I will stand at her grave and imagine that day.

Thank you, Jesus. I am grateful for what you will do for my mother, and for all who believe. I am grateful we will be together again. I am grateful that you love us, forgive us, free us of guilt and condemnation, declaring us righteous by faith in you. I am thankful for your comfort and peace. I am grateful for your grace.

And on this day, as every other January 3, I am grateful for my mother and will celebrate her life. Only this year it will be through tears. Happy birthday, Mother. I love you.

Posted in Aging, Bible, change, Christian Living, Death and Dying, Faith, Faithfulness, Family Life, Grace, Grief, Jesus, Mom | 4 Comments