Story gives reminder about being thankfulPublished 11:22am Monday, November 21, 2011
My contribution to readers’ Thanksgiving is to share an edited version of something I wrote last Thanksgiving to our children:
Although for several years we have driven to the St. Cloud area to have Thanksgiving with our older son and family, we were forced to abandon the traditional trip at the last minute because of extremely risky driving in this area. So, here we are alone in our own home without the ability to improvise an alternative.
What came to mind as I awoke this morning was Thanksgiving 1957. Mom and I were not together, but it began then. And Thanksgivings have never been the same.
I had arrived in Grand Rapids (Mich) two months earlier to begin seminary studies and was still in the process of visiting the area’s many churches, looking for a new church home.
More than I consciously intended, I had my eyes open for a woman: The Woman. I had already completed two years of graduate school, and as my advisor put it: Find a wife and get married while you are in seminary so you do not need to seek a pastorate as a single man.
A few weeks earlier I had visited Calvary Baptist Church. Who should be playing the organ this Sunday but one Miss Ann Carmichael. I had heard about her over a year earlier during the missions conference of my home church in Milwaukee. William Carmichael, missionary to Ghana, was the speaker. Born in Scotland into a non-Christian family, he told of the ungodly and thoroughly secular life he lived with his wife and two children. From this regrettable life, he told of his daughter, Ann, who was now, he said with both gratitude and pride, a graduate nurse completing her degree at the college I attended.
Sounded pretty good to me. I looked her up and introduced myself. This was it; I got no further. I told her about “meeting” (actually, just hearing) her father in Milwaukee and how impressed I was with him. Be that as it may have been, she was obviously unimpressed with me.
Now a couple of years later, here she is. I found this curious, but it did not excite me because I had given up hope. I had no idea what she was doing in Grand Rapids, but I supposed it makes no difference for me. I had not run into her at the church, although I attended from this Sunday on. When she was not playing the organ, she was singing in the choir or teaching Sunday school.
I finally met her at the Thanksgiving service. I learned, because I asked, that she was now teaching in a school of nursing. I was impressed that she was not only a graduate nurse, but teaching nursing.
We had a most delightful but inconsequential conversation. What struck me very strongly is I thoroughly enjoy chatting with this pleasant, intelligent woman. I admired her social poise. I thought: I like this.
Though she had said nothing to encourage me, I took courage nonetheless. When classes broke for Christmas, I told a friend when I returned to Grand Rapids after the break, I would at least ask her out.
Another factor encouraged me to try. Return to this fateful Thanksgiving. I had already been invited to have the holiday dinner with another seminarian and his family. They confessed they had initially planned also to invite this single woman whom they felt was “perfect” for me. She is a nurse, and a nurse would make a wonderful wife for a pastor. They had come to know and respect her as the sister of a recent graduate, now a missionary in the Mali Republic of West Africa. As they planned to match-make, they came to feel it might be pushing it. But they highly recommended my getting to know her. “Have you happened to meet her?”, they asked. I answered simply, Yes—but the wheels were certainly turning.
At this point in the story, it seems customary to say, “And the rest is history.” But this is history, and that is why I am sharing this Thanksgiving story. So, this Thanksgiving, we are here alone—not alone, but together.
This was a year ago, and what I am still thankful for at Thanksgiving is …