“I found one!” I shouted to Duane.

A letter my grandmother, May Telford, wrote, dated November 9, 1934, fell out of the soft as velvet manila envelope Uncle Paul had sent me.

I was eager to find May’s letters.  Pastor Archie McGilvary,  my grandfather’s biographer, introduced me to them in his pages on Andy’s colorful life.

“Among the young people in the Bible church at Bronte, was an attractive girl by the name of May Clifford.  All during the years of service in WWI Andy wrote to her faithfully.   When he was at Moody Bible Institute they continued to exchange letters.  When he went to South America the mail routes were kept busy with their letters.”  (May, white blouse with thin black bow, seated at Andy’s right in the center of the picture ‘leaving for South America, 1922.’)

Archie continued: “May’s oldest daughter in Philadelphia, Marian, has those letters.  They would make interesting reading and could be the basis for another book!”

Marian died two years ago, and my mother Ruth four years ago, so I’d been harassing her younger brothers, Tommy and Paul,  “Where are they?!!”  No one could find them.  This letter was not one of those, penned between 1917-1924, the year Andy and May married.  The letter Paul sent was written during their second pastorate in Ottawa, Canada, to their friends at their first church in Three Rivers, Michigan.  I was elated to receive it, like an orphan discovering her biological mother.

I held the yellowing pages in my hands, the same pages that May had held in her hands 85 years ago, and began reading, stopping on page 8:

“…Mrs. Gintzler will be lonesome after living so long in Three Rivers –  I know how it goes.  But in our work  one soon becomes engrossed in the new work  and people.”

In our work.  Andy and May.  (in their first pastorate, Three Rivers)

Archie’s book, “A Twentieth Century Caleb,”  describing Andy Telford’s conversion and ministry, doesn’t contain many paragraphs about May.

“Mrs. May Telford was the ideal preacher’s wife.  No matter the occasion or circumstances, she was never perturbed or upset.  She had a sweet, calm, placid disposition that always steadied the family.

 The home was a bee hive of activity with no end of visitors and guests, some of whom arrived unexpectedly and unannounced.  It was a regular thing on a Sunday morning after service for Andy to invite people over for dinner, even though Mrs. Telford knew nothing of the plans.”

A few paragraphs aren’t enough for one of God’s warriors, Erie May Telford.  2 Samuel 23 lists the names and specific accomplishments of the thirty ‘mighty men’ who fought alongside David.  The chapter reminds us that God ‘delights in every detail’ of his faithful follower’s lives.  (Psalm 37:23)  The heart of Andy’s ministry was May.

I began investigating May’s story.  Her name, itself, was a surprise: legally,  ‘Erie May.’

 

Erie May Clifford and her fraternal twin, Sadie, were born in Oakville, Canada, March 25, 1900 to Patrick and Erie Elizabeth Clifford.  May’s grandfather had died in Lake Erie in 1899 which would explain her unusual name.  I never heard anyone call her “Erie May”  in my life.

Andy and May married on July 31, 1924, in Bronte, Canada.  Andy planned to take May back to South America with him  for mission work after the wedding. (Groom Andy and bride May seated in front of the large wedding gathering.)

  Her friends gave her this little card, as a parting gift, showing the ship they would sail across the ocean.

Inside a poem read:

“Come join us as we pray.  On the day we say, For we now must send A dear mutual friend Very far away- ‘Our Andy’s Own May…”

However, May didn’t pass the mission’s physical.  They had to cancel their plans.  Andy took a pastorate in Three Rivers, Michigan.  May became a pastor’s wife.  Marian and Ruth were born there, in 1926 and 1929, American citizens.

In 1932 Andy, May and family moved back to Canada, to Ottawa to build, literally and spiritually, the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Bank Street.  Paul was born in 1934 and Tommy in 1936.  They were Canadian citizens, like their parents.

In addition to pastoring,  Andy traveled to speak at Bible Conferences around Canada and the northeast United States. May accompanied him on these trips to  Maranatha, Gull Lake, Sandy Cove, Pinebrook, and so many others.

This introduced Andy and May to friendships with other Christian pastors and leaders.  Andy was invited to become the pastor of Berachah Church in Philadelphia.

May wrote on the back of this picture:  “Dad – with new Buick Church gave him on our arrival in Philadelphia – Sept. ’43”

May’s life centered on home and family.  Most evenings of the week,  Andy was out teaching.  On Mondays he taught at Washington Bible College, in D.C.  He rode the train, arriving home at midnight.  Tuesday and Wednesday he taught at Philadelphia College of the Bible.  Friday nights he led a popular Bible class at church.  Andy graced the pulpits at youth rallies on Saturdays.  Sundays: church.  Andy spent mornings, from 8 til noon, in his study.  After lunch, he did yard and garden work.  He and May both loved flowers and gardens.

May was independent, a trait cultivated during  seven years of separation and letter writing in their courtship.  May was intelligent.  As a pastor’s wife, May taught a ladies’ Bible class each Sunday morning and was on the board of Regions Beyond Missions Union.   Her letter from Ottawa shows a confident spiritual maturity:

“I am going to the ladies’ prayer meeting this afternoon.  We have it every Wednesday.  We are always sorry to hear things are not going so well at the Bible Church (in Bronte).  Pat (her brother) thought things were pretty bad.  He doesn’t say much about where the blame lies.  Andy has his opinion of course.  But I think all are to blame.  Mr. G. may have his faults, who hasn’t.  But I don’t think the people are doing their part either.  We are all so fond of our own way.”

Andy and May were a team, but not mirror images of each other.  Andy had grown up a farmer.  May was a lady.

At Camp Manor, an annual summer Bible conference outside Philadelphia, May drew the line.  Conference guests stayed in cream colored canvas tents in the woods in Lancaster.    The first time May arrived at Camp Manor, she stayed for the morning and afternoon meetings, then told Andy he needed to take her the bus so she could go home.  May was no camper.

Every week Andy wrote a letter to May’s twin sister’s husband, Roy, also a pastor.  A  July 1959 letter, illustrates more differences:

“Dear Roy:

Here I am in Ocean City (N.J.) sitting at the door of our apartment just two blocks from the Ocean.  I preached at Berachah in the morning – then in the afternoon May and I drove down here.  We had supper here and I preached last night.  I am here all week.

May bought a new bathing suit – so she is all set for the “Water Pool.”  And the price of that Modern Bathing Suit.  I remember when we could have bought a cow for what she paid for it.   We could have bred the cow – she would have had a calf and then milked her for 7 months and made a little profit.  This high-priced bathing suit, I am afraid will go down in price and finally be a total loss – These women sure can spend.  I haven’t bought a pocket handkerchief for over a year.”

Andy and May shared the unique challenges of parents in ministry.  In the first part of the century,  God came first and the family second.   He and May took God seriously, and believed Andy’s packed schedule of Bible teaching honored God.   I’m trying to find a nice way to explain why their children, especially Paul and Tommy, were not Sunday School poster children.  May was on the front lines, often alone.

Andy’s Mother’s Day sermon notes of 1949 are really a tribute to May’s parenting.  “Proverbs 31:28.  Theme: “Your Mother.”  Of all the lives that endear themselves to the hearts of boys and girls, none stand above the one who gave them birth – their mother.  Before I am through I will show you how a child with a Christ loving mother is part way on the road to heaven when he starts the journey of life.  In true Motherhood we see:

“She never raised her voice or yelled at us,”  I heard Uncle Paul remark, with a shade of awe.  My Dad often said the same thing, adding, “She was a saint.”  He had lived in the Telford home and witnessed Paul and Tommy’s shenanigans, legal and illegal.  Like the time… no.  I won’t go there.

Even Marian, very social, and Ruth, worried them.  At age 18, my mother met and fell in love with my Dad.  Allan Mitchell, five years older, just released from the British Marines, wasn’t  interested in spiritual things.  They had met when  Allan and his parents had moved into the Telford home’s  third floor apartment.  Allan’s father Ralph was a pastor friend of Andy’s.  They needed a place to stay while he began a ministry in America.

Looking back, knowing my parent’s great marriage,  I can’t imagine what the problem was.  To Andy and May, it  was like a wolf stealing from the cradle.

Ruth and her parents leave their home on December 16, 1950, for the wedding!

Andy and May’s family grew.   They doted on their nine grandchildren: Andy, and Stephen (in the bow ties), Wendy, me, Jennifer (in the candy cane dresses), David (tie) and Susan (on May’s knee), and Brenda (leaning against May)  and Tommy (in Aunt Nancy’s arms).   Pam, grandchild #10, arrived two years after May died.  I’m the one leaning on my grandfather’s knee.  I’m still leaning on my grandfather.

We called May, “MomMom.”  I regret not being able to remember her voice.  I was only nine when she died.  Also, she didn’t talk a lot.  Andy, aside from the pulpit, was fairly quiet, too.  But I can still hear his confident, “Our Father,” as he leaned over the dining room table to give the blessing over Sunday dinners.   How MomMom taught a ladies’ Bible class that morning, attended the service,  then laid out a full roast beef meal for us and whichever missionary friends happened to be in town, is a miracle of time management.  And pressure cookers, which she used with skill.  After dinner we cousins were ‘excused’ from the table to play in their basement, which had a linoleum tile shuffleboard court floor.  We also liked to put on shows for them.

May died of a heart attack, August 11, 1964.  She and Andy were at Fair Haven Bible Conference, where Andy was the speaker.  A friend, Margaret, later wrote a letter to the Telfords about her afternoon at May’s bedside:

“…I thought the family would like to know what their mother said to me as I sat with her in her cabin:

“When Andy comes back from dinner I think he better get the doctor,”  May closed her eyes for a few moments, then she wanted to tell me all about her family.  I can hear her talking about Tommy, Paul, and their cars, Ruth and her nice home, new drapes and carpet, also Marian and her children, and how she liked to be with Andy, as she called you, at the conference.  When I’m at home, I’m alone.”

The Sunday after May died, two verses and a poem, “Unto Myself,”  were printed on the back of the church bulletin.

Erie May Telford was not well known, never earned a paycheck or even drove a car.  Uncle Tommy told me she had once attempted to steer Andy’s maroon Buick into the garage, but scratched the whole side of it.  That was the end of that.  Driving, money, or fame  weren’t things that meant anything to her anyway.

Her interest was Andy.  His weekly letters to Roy always mention her:

“Just a line while  May is getting breakfast for the ‘gang’ here at home, and also while she is getting dinner ready for 21.  The Propst family (all 9 of them) will join us…’

“May and I have just returned from my Bible class in Ephrata…”

“May and I attended a banquet last night…”

“May and I have just returned from ‘Old Mills Bible Conference…”

“…May went with me…”

The poem May cherished, “Unto Myself” states,  “…The end is sweet, tho’ bitter be the way…”   At the time of her death, age 64,  daughter Marian was in a difficult marriage.  Things looked rosier in my family; Dad was now the Sunday School Superintendent and Mother taught a College Age Bible class.  Paul and Tommy, married, with kids, were struggling to find their vocations.  Paul, who loved cars, went to vocational school, then Bible college and eventually Dallas Seminary.  He worked a day job and taught Bible classes at his church, but it was a long road.  Tommy drove a bus for the city of Philadelphia.  It wasn’t until after his mother died that he became a full time missions teacher and author, with United World Missions.

“If anyone ever needed anything, they would talk to Mother,”  Tommy said.    “The Christian life is all about relationships, and she was a master at it.”

I keep picking up May’s letter, addressed to “Dear Friends in Michigan.”  It’s mine now.

“… Well I didn’t get very far with my letter.  I don’t have much time for writing …  Two ladies came in after prayer meeting, one to see Paul (the new baby), the other to tell me her love life …

Pat (her brother) was here yesterday.  I think he was undecided whether or not to go back to Michigan.  I think he has a wonderful work there, some conversions of middle aged people.  Two men have gone to Bible school.  But Pat is worried about money.  He gets enough to live on but not to think of getting married.  I guess it looks hopeless … I tell him the Lord can undertake for him, it would be wrong for him to leave the work.

Andy is as busy as ever, every minute seems to be occupied.  He is teaching Ecclesiastes at Bible Study Friday night.  It is very good.  We have wonderful crowds…”

Erie May Telford, one of God’s Mighty Women.

 

“The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle.  All will share alike.”  I Samuel 30:24

 

 

 

Archie McGilvary, Andy’s lifelong friend, scrawled Andy’s life story of faith in Jesus Christ on pages of spiral notebook paper.  He titled it, “A Twentieth Century Caleb” because like Caleb, when pastor and Bible teacher Andy Telford was 85 years old, in 1980,  he was  “…still wholeheartedly following the Lord.”  (Joshua 14:10 – 14)

Andy Telford was not born into a Christian home, although his parents were good people.  But that’s not enough.

Archie’s notes begin:

“On January 8, 1881,  Thomas Telford and Rose Clark were united in marriage in Ballymena, Ireland.  The wedding ceremony was one of simplicity in every detail.

Life was rough and rugged for the young couple.  Thomas felt the urge to go west and seek his fortune in the new world, in Canada.  They settled on a farm on the north shore of Lake Ontario near Bronte.

Thomas and Rose had five children; four boys and a girl.  They lived frugally.  There was little social life in the home.   Mr. Telford was a strict disciplinarian.  He wouldn’t know the meaning of the word, but he saw to it that his children obeyed his every word.   Through the years, the Telfords took in 16  orphan children from the Barnardo Home in Toronto.  Thomas never allowed anyone to smoke, drink, play cards or to participate in any of the ‘ways of the world.’  Unnecessary chores were prohibited on the farm on Sundays.  He believed that if such things were permitted in his home, that the judgment of God would fall upon them for indulging in such sins.

Of their five children, a set of twins, Hugh and Andrew, were born, in 1895.  Without the pursuit of pleasure and frivolous pastimes, the main activity on the Telford farm was work and lots of it.  The twin boys worked hard, filling many a long day behind a plough.

There were Bibles in the home, but nobody ever read them, and grace was never spoken at the table.  Rose did have her children recite the Lord’s Prayer at bedtime.  They attended the Appleby School and were taught by the same teacher.   The 10 Commandments were painted on the wall behind the teacher’s desk.   Every Friday at noon, the students would stand at attention and quote them.

Andy  started school at the age of 7 and stopped at age 13.  For six years he faithfully quoted the Decalogue.  He knew what they meant; they were instilled in his mind and heart.  He had a deep sense of guilt whenever he did something wrong.  Each night he would kneel at his bedside and say the Lord’s Prayer.  He had a comforting feeling that this was a kind of covering for his sin, but the next day he would go about his work and repeat his lying and cheating.

Although Andy had very little schooling, he had great ability in handling the various jobs on a farm.  He was hired as a foreman to direct the business of a large farm of 1,000 acres, with 50 workers.  It was his responsibility to make the assignments of the work to be done each day and then drive over that acreage to see that all the work was cared for.  He enjoyed it.

In 1917,  Andy and his twin Hughie bought a horse, and a month later, Andy went back to see the man he purchased it from.  He was not home that evening, but his wife and her mother, visiting from Toronto, were.

During the visit, Andy said something about another man; that he was no good.  The lady from Toronto said to him, “What’s your name?”

“I’m Andy Telford.”

“Don’t you know, young man, that none of us are any good?”

He said to himself,  “She doesn’t know me.  I don’t smoke, drink, play cards or run around.  I say the Lord’s Prayer every night.  I think I’m pretty good.”

He said to the lady, “Can you prove that?”

She went into her room and brought out a Bible, opening it to Romans 3:10.  Putting her finger on the verse she said, “Can you read that?”

He said, “Yes.”  And read,  “There is none righteous, no not one.”  He closed the Book and handed it back to her.

“I guess you’re right.”

As he left the home that night she said, “I’ll be praying for you.”

On Thursday night  Andy had to go to the blacksmith’s shop to get some work done.  The shop was located in Bronte about 3 miles from where he lived.  The blacksmith was a Christian man.  He told Andy he was going to the Prayer Meeting over at the Baptist church.  It was a small church seating about 60 or 70 people.  He invited Andy to go with him.  That night there was an older man visiting from Toronto.  He brought a devotional message.  During the course of his remarks he mentioned the passing of his wife.  After the meeting was over, Andy went to him and expressed his sympathy at the loss of his wife and companion.

The man said to him, “Do you attend Sunday School here?”

Andy said, “No,” and explained to him about all the work they had to do on the farm.  They had 30 grazing cattle and every Sunday morning they had to salt those cattle.  Then on another farm they had a number of horses that had to be attended to in the afternoon.

The man replied, “Well, that really isn’t important.  I want to ask you another question, Do you know that you are a sinner?”

At the age of 22,  Andy bowed his head and began to cry, at the consequences of his sin.  The Christian gentleman asked Andy if he had a Bible.

“Yes I do.”

“Then go home and read John chapter 5 verse 24 and I’ll pray for you.  What’s your address?”

Burdened with his sin and guilt, he went out behind the church and sobbed his heart out.  He was so broken up that he was ashamed to go back to the blacksmith’s shop where he had tied his horse.  He finally got control of himself.   He let the horse walk all the way home that night and sobbed from the depths of his heart, “O God, I’m bad, I want to be good.”  That’s all he knew.  No one had ever talked to him about Christ or Christianity or the Bible in all his life.  He had never heard a gospel sermon, but he knew he was not right before God.

That Saturday he received a letter from the man who had spoken to him at the Baptist church.

“Dear Andy,

I was pleased to meet you last night and the more so when I found that you wanted to settle matters with God.  In Jesus Christ alone can this be done. “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  Read John 5:24 and Romans 3:9 to the close of the chapter and ask God to show you the great meaning for yourself.

May you have the greatest possession; the pardon and promise of God.  Do not fail to confess Him before men.  Read Romans 10:17.  I have been a follower of Christ 53 years.  There is real fighting but sure victory and the promised presence of Christ.

I will never forget you and will pray for you.

Yours in the mercy of Christ,

E. Hooper”

All day Andy pondered the contents of that letter.  Sunday  morning he decided that the question must be settled once and for all.

Taking the letter and a Bible he went upstairs to his bedroom and locked the door.  Spreading the letter before him, he opened the Bible to  John 5:24.

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life.  They will never be condemned for their sins, but have already passed from death into life.”

He turned to Romans 3, reading from verse 9 till the end of the chapter.

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous.  He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.  People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood… he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”  (vs.23 – 26)

He knelt beside a chair and gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ.

He believed the Word of God.  The burden of his sin was gone.  Joy filled his soul.  He went downstairs and went out behind the barn and met a neighbor.  The neighbor asked, “Good morning, Andy.  How are you?”

There was his first opportunity to confess Christ.  “I’m fine.  I’ve just been saved, born again up in my bedroom.”

The neighbor said, “Well, I only hope that you’ll hold out.”

“Hold out?  I’ve just fallen in!  I’ve been born again!”

With a heart overflowing with the love of God, he began to cry tears of gratitude.

Thrilled with the certainty of his conversion, late on that same night, he got up and headed his horse and the buggy into Bronte.  He just had to tell some folks what had happened to him.

The first home he went to was the Town Magistrate.   Andy told him how the sentence of death had been lifted and how a guilty sinner had been pardoned.

The next midnight call was the blacksmith’s house.  He must have rejoiced , even at that late hour, to know that his invitation to a prayer meeting had played some part in the salvation of Andy Telford.

By now it was 1:30 a.m.  There was one more call to make.  He made his way over to the Post Office and wakened the Post Master.  As the Post Master heard the pounding on his door he must have wondered what great emergency had happened in  town.  No better news ever came in the mail than the good news of the Gospel.  It had brought another soul to the Savior.  The Post Master attended the little Methodist church.  Andy asked him if he could come to his Sunday School next Sunday afternoon and tell the boys and girls about his conversion.  This experience brought joy to his heart.

On Thursday night Andy went to the Prayer Meeting at the Baptist church and told his story.  Those early days of his new found life as a Christian were filled with the joy and blessing of witnessing for his Lord.  He faithfully attended the prayer meetings and services at the Baptist church.

He invited some of the young people at church to help him share the Gospel on a street corner in the center of town.  When he arrived at the arranged spot after the service, no one was there.   Undaunted, Andy stood alone and proclaimed the Good News to all the church members as they wended their way home from the churches.

Witnessing to strangers is one thing, but doing so in the home is another matter.   Even here, Andy wasn’t ashamed.

Later that week, a Salvation Army officer from Hamilton visited the Telford farm.   In the past, Andy’s father had given contributions to the work of the Salvation Army.  On this particular day the officer said to Thomas, “Mr. Telford, are you a Christian?”

“No, but my boy Andy is!  He reads his Bible, prays and says grace at the table.”

Archie’s story about his friend Andy, will continue … in another chapter.  (Bride and groom Andy and Erie May, seated, behind them, Thomas, sister ? and twin brother Hugh.)

 

After I read Archie’s story to my Uncle Tommy, named after his grandfather Thomas, he added the following:

 

“When I was grown up, Dad took me back to the farm where he had grown up in Bronte to visit his twin brother Hugh.  Dad wanted to share the Gospel, one more time, with Hugh, now in poor health.  It was a cordial visit, including lunch and a tour around the old farmhouse.  As we were walking down the front steps, Dad said to his brother,

“Hughie, God loves us and sent his Son to take our sin away, to forgive us and give us eternal life.  He’s given me a grand gift and I want that for you, too.”

Hugh mumbled something about not needing that.

“Well it was good to see you, Hugh,”  Dad said, with a warm handshake.  It was the last time he saw his brother.

“Thanks for showing us around,”  I said.   “Take it easy.”

Dad and I turned and walked back down the farmhouse path to the front gate.

It was the only time I saw Dad cry.”

                                                         “Oh the joy of those whose sins are forgiven.”  Psalm 32

 

 

Dear Valerie,

I loved your book!  I took four pages of notes.  It brought back vivid memories of you, Wheaton and my grandfather.  He, too, was a missionary in South America.   From a letter he wrote to a supporter in 1923:

“Within me rose a soul burning passion to reach the unreached of the most neglected continent of the world…So today finds me seated in a little 2 x 4 hut 1000 miles north of that grand city of Buenos Aires…to do this work, I will have to buy a good mule and saddle…(Some Indians have just killed a large snake outside of my hut.)…”

And your book brought memories of you, because we met at Wheaton when I was a freshman.  You were a sophomore.

“How blessed you are!” You and your roommate Donna announced as you marched joyfully into the room I shared with Rochelle, in Fisher Dorm on the first day of school.  “You have the room we had last year!”

A year later, we were in Concert Choir together.  Every time I hear the hymn “Beautiful Savior” I think of you singing the solo of the first verse on choir tour.

We traveled through England, studying Arthurian Legend and Dickens with Wheaton’s English Lit program in the summer of 1975.   I had just fallen in love with Duane that spring.

“Jill, Walt and I are engaged, but we don’t write as many letters as you do,” you said.

I received a letter from Duane every day.  I wrote to him every day, too.   I was surprised at how matter of factly, Valerie, you explained your love relationship, as we talked about love in your dorm room one afternoon.  I was a bundle of over the top emotional love.  I was devastated to be apart from Duane for one minute!  I remember your quiet smile, a response to my youthful exuberance for Duane. Well, you were one year older than me, and already engaged.

That summer, I was trying to get through the eleven weeks away from Duane, without thinking ahead.  The last week in August, when we returned from England,  Duane got our parent’s permission for me to vacation with his family at a cabin on Lake Chautauqua in New York.  One afternoon we stepped into a small boat and Duane rowed to the middle of the placid lake.

“I have it all figured out,”  He began.  “I’ve prayed about this a lot while you were gone.  From everything we’ve written to each other this summer, I know we’re supposed to be together.   It’s not going to be easy; we’re going to have to wait to get married.”

I was shocked to hear the ‘m’ word! I was only 20.

Reading “Devotedly” was like reliving that summer, and the next two years.  After the Wheaton in England summer program, I had to take off the fall semester.   We were apart again.  I was in Minnesota while he while he was at Wheaton.  Phone calls were long distance; rare and expensive.  We wrote letters.  And waited.  I remember Mother’s response to my moping.

“What do you think couples did during WW II?  Our friends Jack and Joan were separated for years!”

Her words did not console me.

Reading your parents’ words about waiting, did.  Looking back over forty years gives a different perspective.

“…Perhaps  you’re in one of those places where these insights of hers will speak with perfectly timed wisdom in your life,” you wrote.

And from your mom’s diary of September 7, 1950 “….Rather, my Father has quietly opened the way, often after much “sitting still on the part of his daughter; repeated disappointments, “hope deferred”; and finally, a revealing of some plan which does not at all fit my expectations….And in the meantime, while I am waiting, watching, praying, He gives quietness and peace.  He will never suffer me to be tempted above that I am able…So I go on, not knowing – I would not if I might.  I’d rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light.     Over and over I am impressed with the importance of walking alone with Him, following Him regardless of all else…”  – p. 116

Life continues to bring those times that need  waiting on God.  Your mom’s words encouraged me to trust God while I wait.

“Devotedly,”  also reminded me of my mother’s family.   I have to disagree with you on one point in the book.  In the Preface, you say, “I come from a ‘quite ordinary family.”  No.  My mother’s family, like your mother’s family, was a family with a uniquely rich spiritual heritage.  My mother’s father (the one who served God in South America) was now a pastor in the Philadelphia area and also taught at Philadelphia College of the Bible.   Your grandfather was the editor of the Sunday School Times.  Your mother grew up in an intelligent, gifted family that took God seriously.     “The godly people in the land are my heroes” – Psalm 16:3.

That secure, godly heritage blessed your mom.   Your mom’s letters radiate confidence in word and thought.  Your dad commented on this once, describing your mom as ‘the Woman with the Man’s Mind (all that from Wheaton)’ – p. 246.  I never saw, in any sentence, anything but your parents having a mutual respect for each other; in devotion to God, ability or intelligence.   The letters illustrate they talked over every detail of life and marriage; no thought or topic was off limits or not of interest to the other.  In the Christian culture of their time, and the continued controversy over male/female ‘roles’ in marital relationships, the tone and subjects of their letters are truly remarkable.

After reading “Devotedly,” I dug out one of Duane’s letters to me:

“…I wanted somebody to hear everything I was thinking – and I wanted to tell everything to you.  And then you sent me a few letters; one about money, and a couple about God giving us a hard go of it in our being apart to strengthen our character…”   Separation and letter writing might be the secret to a happy marriage!

“Devotedly,” reminded me of my love for Wheaton.  Loved the picture of your dad looking at a letter in the college post office.  He stands in front of the same boxes that were there when I was there!  I wish I had taken more pictures at Wheaton!  The memory of your mother and dad walking to the lagoon as Wheaton students took me back to one of the places Duane and I had our first picnic, when I cut a math test because it was Duane’s birthday.   Here we are at Duane’s graduation in front of Blanchard in 1976.

Your book isn’t primarily for lovers, although the title mentions, ‘love story.’  Your mother said, “life cannot be all love…” p. 198.  That made me smile.  She was clearly, deeply in love.  Knowing her practical personality, through her letters, I understand what she meant.   The book is mainly for all of us who have committed to follow God and might be discouraged in our waiting for him.  Or any of us who are seeking God’s guidance in a complicated situation.  Your parents’ letters illustrated how they kept moving ahead and carrying on with their lives, even when God’s ways seemed mysterious.

It’s for those of us in lonely times.  “Have no care for me, Jim, He alone is enough.”  (p.122)  With eerie foreshadowing of your mother’s life, ‘loneliness’ is often mentioned in their letters.

In spite of their difficulties, the letters aren’t somber.  Your mom and dad enthusiastically enjoyed life. It was fun to read of their interests in being outdoors, music, reading, and friends.  They didn’t take themselves too seriously, either.  “Let people think we are nuts,” your dad wrote.  (p. 111)   The letter your dad wrote describing his parents’ less than lukewarm impressions of your mom, was hilarious.  As you mention later in the book, he might have been a bit naive to have shared it with your mom, but reading it in ‘real time’ makes your dad all the more lovable.

I enjoyed so many ‘little things’ in the book:  the pictures of your parents’ artistic handwriting.   I liked the honesty.  In one letter, your dad wrote he was “…a tad too spiritual.”   He wanted to throw off legalism. (p. 52)  The daily details of their  experiences made me feel like I was on the journey with them, from your mom’s time at Prairie Bible Institute,  (“Mr. Maxwell asked all to stand who have not won a soul” – p. 66, horrors! ), to her service in a tenement mission in New York City.  Your dad’s name for his kids’ mission in the small Illinois river town, ‘Club 66′ was a funny misunderstanding between your mom and dad.

I knew some of your parents’ story.  But reading their letters in “Devotedly” encouraged… no, encouraged is not a strong enough word.  Jim and ‘Betts’ letters pulled me back up onto the path of  trusting and seeking God while I wait for Him.  The epilogue in your book spoke to me, too.  After over five years of waiting on God,  they married and settled in a house, following daily routines and continuing to follow God in Ecuador.  When your dad died, his life maybe seemed ordinary: he left house, wife, and baby albeit in the midst of a jungle mission station.  However, because of your parents’ faithful obedience and conscious intent to seek and wait on him, God’s plan to set the Aucas free with the Gospel was just beginning.  And your dad’s last words to your mother, “Teach the believers, darling!” prophetically announced her life’s work.

Which has blessed me and many thousands more.

“Take my life and let it be

Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

Take my moments and my days,

Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Let them flow in ceaseless praise.”

– Frances Havergal

love,

Jill

p.s.  I was going to name my first baby girl “Valerie” but I had two boys!

 

 

It’s British myth, King Arthur, retold in 2019 with a 12 year old boy.  It’s British humor, with a mesmerizing, quick witted ‘teen’ Merlin stealing the show.  London and Cornwall for settings.  The Four Point Chivalric Code explained for kids, as they ride the ‘coach’ on the M3 on their way to Tintagel. Now that is funny.

Kid actors:  100% believable.  As I watched the four main leads tromp through the marshy Cornwall countryside, following Merlin, I remembered Dr. McClatchey teaching “Arthurian Legend.”  We didn’t visit Tintagel on that Wheaton in England semester… have to go back.  I’ve been to Cornwall, though, and what I saw tonight on the screen is as stunningly beautiful in person.

The movie also taught me that every body of water, even a bathtub, holds a “Lady of the Lake,” with Excalibur, in case I am in need of it.

Great pacing and back and forth between reality and fantasy, which means the writing is excellent.  They creatively presented a great story; one of The Great Stories.

Perfect for families and adults who love England, heroes and a movie with heart.

Go!!!!!

5-star-movie reviews

“Eighth Grade” is a true and terrifying film.  Nominated for one Golden Globe, but ignored by the Oscars, it has won numerous acclaim.  We saw it on rental.   As if staring through the window of their suburban house, we witness a story about a 14 year old girl who lives alone except for a smartphone in her hand.  Her dad inhabits the house and tries to share her life; even his caring attempts illustrate today’s culture’s mixed up understanding of parenting.  We never see her mother.

Adolescence can be an awkward time.  However, this film trumpets the warning that technology has driven our country’s children into the poverty of loneliness.  The star, Elsie Fisher, should be up for “Best Actress.”  Her honest portrayal of life lived on a phone is heartbreaking.  She’s befriended in a superficial way by one other living person, a  high school girl in a rare but inappropriate school program.  (Why should an eighth grader be hanging around at the mall with high school kids?)

When I was 14, I lived with a family who loved me.  It was a weird time: I still loved my dolls, “This is the last Christmas you’re getting a doll,” my mother told me.  Yet it was also the year I started wearing a bra.  (Yes, that late in life (!) compared to now when mothers who shop at “Justice” now buy their daughters those ‘bra things’ at age 8!) My family also chose to attend church where I had youth group sponsors like Jerry and Carol Augustin who planned fun social activities for us middle school kids like tobogganing, “Dutch Date Nights”, sleepovers, trips to Hershey Park, etc etc.  I had friends.  I had friends at school/neighborhood.  Not many; I was not popular.  But I was not alone.

This film is heartbreaking and unfortunately true.  Must see for anyone who cares about their grandchildren and the next generation.

Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are totally believable as film legends Laurel and Hardy.  The settings, in Hollywood and Britain, are impeccably 1953.  The film looks great.

Laurel and Hardy were comedians, but this is not a comedy but a snail’s pacing, melancholy story about their last years, when  they faced half empty seats in theatres.  Producers didn’t want to make their films.  Hardy’s gambling, arguing wives and bickering over business affairs soured their relationship.

This film is as predictable as a documentary, but I do not mean to belittle documentaries, which can be fascinating.

Duane said he liked it.  He liked the relational aspect of it, he said.  There were no guns or car crashes, I’ll say that.

My dad adored Laurel and Hardy and I watched him laughing hysterically at their movies.  I appreciated them, too.

I wanted to like it.  Five hearts for the actor’s great portrayals.  Comedians often make the best serious actors.  Minus three hearts for poor pacing/writing/storyline.  That makes two hearts.  Add one more heart for the scenery.

Sometimes I feel like my family is falling apart.

I comfort myself by skimming Mother’s Bible, one I gave her a few years ago, where she underlined some of the Psalms and Proverbs with red pencil.

Mother  occasionally added a family members’ initials, if the verse applied.  Interesting reading (?!).

Proverbs 12:7  was not underlined, but caught my attention: “…the family of the godly stands firm.”

I wonder if that’s a promise of God.  Our family’s pastor Leith Anderson once said, “If God said it, you can take it to the bank.”

Today, I’m not feeling it.

Juicy details:  none.  The same crap you’re dealing with: the death of parents and friends, job stress, major health issues, etc etc etc.  Big things.  Then the smaller things pile up: the deer just ate all the flowers I planted or Duane’s plantar fasciitis won’t heal.   A few families on Facebook do seem to have it all together.

I wonder how people cope, who don’t have loving family memories, like I do.  Remembering a picnic our family shared at Lake Cornelia Park in 1985, gives my mind a vacation from hard times.

Or I imagine myself standing in the kitchen of the house on Abbott Avenue, back in 1971.  I was a sophomore in high school then.  It’s a weeknight evening.

“Quick, get the tablecloth on!”  Mother flies into the kitchen from her bedroom.

The pound of ground beef for tomato soup casserole isn’t browning in the frying pan yet, but Mother’s plan to make it look like supper is imminent is to have the kitchen table set.  That meant a tablecloth.   Tablecloths weren’t only for company.   Every night the six of us: Dad, Mother, Wendy, Jennifer, Pam and me, ate dinner squeezed around a small kitchen table covered with a cloth.  Even on picnics or vacation, Mother always spread a tablecloth.

The most famous family tablecloth was green and covered with blooming white magnolias.  I don’t know where Mother got it or if she inherited it.  One hundred percent cotton, it could be thrown in the washer and then the dryer, without wrinkling. Mother ironed white linen tablecloths for Thanksgiving, Christmas and special company.  This tablecloth didn’t need it.

The cloth became a family vacation fixture, in spite of:

  1.  Mother’s favorite color wasn’t green.  She was more partial to gold, the color of our gingham kitchen wallpaper.  This cloth was a dark drab green, with white (magnolias) and brown (stems and centers).  Green/white/brown; yuck.
  2. Our dishes didn’t match the tablecloth.   The ‘everyday’ Stangl ‘Fruit’ pattern Mother chose featured cherries, peaches and grapes.  Back in that day, white dishes, which would have worked with it, weren’t popular.

Anyway, that family tablecloth covered our table, every night, at whichever duplex we rented, in Ocean City, New Jersey, year after year on summer vacations.

In the summer of 1980, six months after Mike was born, Duane and I joined Mother and Dad, along with the sisters who could make it, to 2126 Wesley Avenue, our four bedroom apartment in Ocean City.  Ocean City!  America’s Family Vacation Paradise!  That’s what it had always been to me.

I should have lowered my expectations.  My parents were wonderful parents, but they spent their days on the beach when I was expecting them to help with the baby so I could go to the beach.  Duane and Dad went off and played tennis at the public courts in the morning.  I was left alone at the apartment, to be there while Michael napped, or needed to be fed, or cried.  My toes hardly touched the sand.  Nights were worse.  Because we shared a bedroom with a six month old baby, no one got much sleep.  Mike’s nighttime schedule was a mess for the next year.

But I still treasure that great picture of Dad, sharing life with Mike over the green magnolia tablecloth.

Our family continued our treks to Ocean City, with the magnolia tablecloth.  In  2008, after our grandson Ethan was born, Duane and I rented a huge four bedroom duplex at 19th street, overlooking the Boardwalk.  Mother, Dad, Duane and I, Jeff and Heather, Mike and Elizabeth, and Jennifer shared a place where family dinners also included the six Sathers, staying nearby.   The adult girls of each family took turns coordinating and preparing dinner for 15 people each night.  Every fourth night, we ordered Mack and Manco pizza. Spots of tomato sauce stained the white magnolias.

After dinner we’d head to ‘walk the Boards’. Then with tired legs we arrived back to plop on chairs around the same table, to play games.  We’d compare stories of the treats we found on the Boardwalk, which, according to family rules, no one had to share.  Except for the Johnson Brothers caramel corn in plastic buckets, which we ate til we felt sick.

“It’s your vacation, you can do what you want,” was one of Mother’s quotes.  That freedom made vacationing with our family easy and fun.

The family began to grow and change, with weddings, new girlfriends/boyfriends, new jobs, work moves, and grandchildren. It was getting harder to gather around the green magnolia tablecloth for family vacations.  So I would use it at home when family visited.

One year we were able to get most of the family together at a beach house outside Jacksonville.

The tablecloth was getting more worn and moth eaten, but it still meant the family was gathered for fun.

 

Now it’s nearly impossible to gather everyone in the family around that tablecloth, to share dinner,  with games afterwards. Mike and Elizabeth are here in Tampa with Ethan and Sophie, but Jeff and Heather, along with Addi and Henry, live in Jacksonville.   Wendy’s three girls are married; Kate and Marc live in New Jersey with their three children: Oliver, George and brand new baby Violet. Lee and John teach English and live in, literally, China, with son and daughter Harry and Eloise.  Sarah and Julian live in West Palm Beach.  Jennifer’s daughter Maggie works in Boulder, Colorado.  Pam and Greg live in Jacksonville, while sons Peter, Andrew and Tommy are scattered around Florida, with Jack in Chicago.

I’m realizing that each family, as it changes and grows, has to start its own vacation and family traditions.

But the sisters decided we can still get together.   Pam joined Wendy, Jennifer and me for a weekend at the condo Duane and I own in Indian Rocks Beach.  We arrived with our suitcases full since the January weather was cool, and we knew Wendy would be there.  She’s a fashionista, so the bar was set high.  Pam, a style maven herself, forgot to pack half of her clothes.

We ate stone crabs and talked at Salt Rock Grill Wednesday night, then stayed up too late talking.  Thursday morning over coffee we read verses to each other from Mother’s Bible.  We walked the beach while talking.  We soaked up the sun; I’m the only one who wears sunscreen.  We gave each other piles of advice, all unsolicited.  We watched “Leave It To Beaver” reruns Thursday afternoon, with Wendy commenting on June’s excellent choice of ‘statement’ jewelry.  We ate steaks at E & E Stakeout Thursday night and talked, and talked, and talked.

Friday afternoon, when our ‘sister time’ was over, Duane and Greg joined Pam and me at the condo with a few of the Sather boys.  I pulled out the green magnolia tablecloth for dinner.

“The tablecloth!”  Pam exclaimed.  It meant something special to her, too.

The green magnolia tablecloth stands for family and happy memories of us being together.   It reminds me of Mother and Dad and  how much they loved being with us.  We’re not perfect, and even the happy memories of the times around that tablecloth are a bit sugar coated, when I start remembering specifics.  But we love each other.

Mother taught, “It’s people that are important, not things.”  That is true.

But I’m glad I still have that green magnolia tablecloth.

“Be still my soul: thy God doth undertake to guide the future, as He has the past.

Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last.”

– Katharina A. von Schlegel, 1752

 

 

 

(The Queen’s crown is in the picture; this movie is the story of the British rock group Queen and its’ lead singer Freddy Mercury).

I love music; I was more into Broadway albums, Barbara Streisand, Judy Garland, Motown, the Beatles and romantic classical artists, like Rachmaninoff, than boy band groups like Queen.

But I’m a sucker for any well told story about a musical artist who comes from nowhere to become an international star. It’s a story of nonconformity and courage. And the cliche fall into drugs and arrogance. Then redemption.

The actors are brilliant, writing excellent and pacing sticks to their sermon. Queen wrote songs their followers could sing! Real singable melodies! A lesson for song writers.

Caveat: Freddy was a gay musician so the film goes there but that theme did not take over the film. Not sure of the truthfulness/timing of the last bits of the story – it got a bit too much of an ‘everything falls magically into place’ ending.

But I admire creative musicians and loved hearing Queens’ music; watching the process. My Dad, a great lover of classical music, would say about Tchaikovsky, etc, “they’re all nuts.” But he said it with a smile.

 

 

Based on a remarkable true story, Adam Driver and John David Washington sell this.

Loved it because it rang true and though not a happy film, the leads play heroic characters and I always go for that.   A bit preachy in one scene right at the end;  the filmmaker earned the right to preach.

I hope it does win some awards.

 

Mary Queen of Scots stayed in Dumbarton Castle as a child, just blocks from where my grandparents lived on 4 Wallace Street.  So I couldn’t wait to see this movie… I have Scottish blood in my veins!

Mary then fled to France, married Francis II, twenty years later returning to England and Scotland .   Lots of potential for story here with French court intrigue, religious power struggles for Elizabeth I’s throne, murders and deceit.  Too bad the film, with beautiful costumes and gorgeous settings, didn’t go there.  Whoever made the film was focused on conveying the message that men are jerks and women aren’t, and breezed through any attempt at a coherent storyline.  Saiorse Ronan sure looked pretty in her close up shots, but wouldn’t the real Mary have spoken with a French accent, having grown up pretty much in France?  

One of those films so eager to be ‘realistic’ they show detail of Mary getting her period, and then at the same time, they show Queen Elizabeth’s chief ambassador as African American and her courtiers as Asian. Really?!  

Except for the scenery and costumes, a waste of time to watch a filmmaker in 2018 with a gender axe to grind, fantasize about 16th century history.

 

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