‘You can’t control who you fall in love with’

In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage in all fifty U.S. states, this old phrase has been making the rounds again: “You can’t control who you fall in love with”.

Well, actually, you can.

In fact, when you get married you promise to do just this. You promise to forsake all others and stay loyal to your marriage partner.

Do you seriously think that you’re never going to be attracted to anyone else? Think again! We’re all living a lot longer these days; the chances are excellent that, at some point in the course of a fifty-year marriage, you’ll be tempted elsewhere. And the experience of a married person falling in love with someone else is very common.

But it didn’t start with love. It started with attraction, and it progressed when we made the choice to allow that attraction, to indulge it, to cultivate it in fact. And that’s when we made the choice to fall in love.

Having a healthy marriage depends on the ability to control who you’re going to fall in love with. If you can’t control that, your chances of making your marriage last are severely diminished. So there may be good arguments in favour of what its proponents call ‘equal marriage’ (I think there are), but this isn’t one of them, and I wish people wouldn’t use it. When it’s believed, it damages all marriages, gay or straight.

So let’s set the record straight. Let’s stop saying helplessly “I can’t control who I fall in love with”. Instead, let’s say “I meant the promise I made on the day of my marriage, and so I am going to learn to control who I fall in love with, because I want my marriage to last”.

Posted in Love, Marriage, Thought for the Day | Leave a comment

Wanted: Anglican people in the Diocese of Edmonton who are excited about Jesus and want to introduce other people to him

Well, along with being the rector of St. Margaret’s I’m now the Warden of Lay Evangelists for the Diocese of Edmonton. What the heck does that mean?

It means that we’re looking for some ordinary Christians in our Anglican churches who are excited about

  • sharing their faith with others,
  • helping non-Christians become followers of Jesus,
  • training others as witnesses, and
  • giving leadership in outreach and evangelism in their parishes.

Do you like that idea? I’m not asking if you’re not afraid (we all are, to a certain extent). I’m just asking, can you feel something tugging at your heart when you hear about this? Are you maybe thinking, “Well, that’s not me right now – but I wish it could be!”?

More information? Of course! Here it is.

Why evangelists?

In our baptismal covenant we are asked, ‘Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?’ and we respond by promising, ‘I will, with God’s help’. Evangelism is what we do in order to keep that promise.

Every Christian is called to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others. So why do we recognize a special ministry of evangelism?

Evangelists are people who have a special gift and joy in communicating the gospel of Jesus to others, by word and action. They enjoy having conversations about faith with non-Christian friends. They love watching the Holy Spirit drawing people to faith in Christ, and they like helping new Christians get established as followers of Jesus. They don’t pretend to have all the answers, but they live their lives transparently and honestly, so that others can see God at work in them.

Evangelists look for opportunities to help the church connect with the non-Christian world around. They are always on the lookout for new ways their congregations can serve their neighbours in Jesus’ name. They are comfortable on the edges of church life, building bridges for the gospel into the community at large. They are learning to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, so that they can relax and enjoy the work of evangelism without feeling that all the responsibility for leading people to faith is on their shoulders.

Evangelists are part of the ministry team of their parish, and their specific roles may include any of the following:

  • Relational evangelism (learning to share the gospel in the context of genuine loving relationships, and mentoring others to do the same).
  • Helping new disciples grow in basic Christian practices.
  • Taking a leadership role in helping their parishes welcome and integrate new members.
  • Leading inquirers’ courses such as ‘Alpha’, ‘Christian Basics’, ‘Pilgrim’, ‘Emmaus’ etc.
  • Working with baptismal families to share the gospel with them and help them come to faith in Christ.
  • Finding creative ways to engage the people in their neighbourhoods.
  • Taking a leadership role in Christian service projects in their communities in order to build bridges between the church and the world around.
  • Helping organize Invitation Sundays (e.g. ‘Back-to-Church Sunday’) and other special events by which a parish can share the gospel with unchurched people in the neighbourhood.
  • Pioneering outreach work in new areas where the Anglican church does not presently have a gospel witness.

How can I be licensed as an Evangelist?

What sort of people are we looking for? Well, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ personality profile, and in fact there are as many different ways of evangelizing as there are different human temperaments! But we can say in general that we’re looking for people who have a real sense of joy in what Christ is doing in their lives and a desire to share this with others. We’re looking for people who love people, enjoy conversation, and share Jesus’ compassion for those who are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matthew 9.36). We’re looking for people who enjoy thinking outside the box, trying new things, taking risks, and stepping out in faith.

If you feel that this might be you, and that God may be calling you to be licensed as an Evangelist, the first thing to do is to talk to your rector about it. There will be a simple discernment process involving conversations with your rector, your parish, and the Diocesan Warden of Lay Evangelists (that would be me!) so that we can talk about your sense of call, pray about it, and get a clearer sense of whether God is leading you into the ministry of evangelism.

On being accepted as an Evangelist-in-training, you will be required to participate in thirteen training modules over a two-year period. Most of these modules will take place on Saturdays; a few of them will involve Friday evenings as well. These modules will be offered at a central location in the diocese, and there will be a small registration fee for each module. We strongly encourage parishes to cover this registration fee for their candidates in training.

The modules will cover such things as:

  • Sharing your faith with others in the context of genuine caring relationships.
  • Helping a person become a follower of Jesus.
  • Addressing big questions and common objections to the Christian faith.
  • Helping new disciples of Jesus grow in basic Christian disciplines.
  • Understanding changes in our culture and their implications for Christian witness.
  • Helping a congregation become more effective in sharing the gospel and growing (in numbers and in faith).
  • Welcoming and integrating new members into a congregation.
  • Engaging our neighbourhoods with practical outreach projects.
  • Running effective inquirers’ courses (eg. Alpha, Emmaus, Christian Basics).
  • Working with baptismal families to share the gospel and encourage them to follow Christ.
  • Running effective invitation Sundays (eg. ‘Back to Church Sunday’).
  • Resources for Evangelists.
  • Spirituality for Evangelists.

On successful completion of the training and on the recommendation of the Warden of Lay Evangelists, the Bishop may license candidates as Lay Evangelists in the Diocese of Edmonton. The license will be for a specified period of time, and renewal is at the Bishop’s discretion.

After training and licensing…

…comes the adventure of sharing the gospel, working in step with the Holy Spirit, and seeing people come to a new joy through faith in Jesus Christ!

In order to help this happen, the Warden of Lay Evangelists will help you to negotiate a working agreement with your parish, which will specify such things as which specific tasks you will be working on, how many volunteer hours you will be expected to give to this work, how the parish will support you, and how continuing education will take place. You will be expected to give regular reports on your work, and the parish, the diocese and the Warden of Lay Evangelists will be there to support you and cheer for you! The diocese will also organize regular opportunities for continuing education so that you can grow your skills and learn new ways of becoming more effective in the ministry to which God has called you.

For more information:

Contact the Diocesan Warden of Lay Evangelists, the Rev. Tim Chesterton, at stmrector@gmail.com or 780-437-7231.

Posted in Evangelism, Following Jesus, Gospel, Ministry | Leave a comment

‘Out of the Depths': a sermon on Psalm 130

When I was in college my Old Testament professor used to say, ‘the rest of the Bible speaks to us, but the Psalms speak for us’. I think this is true, and I’m really glad that we use them week by week in our Anglican worship.

The Book of Psalms is a book of prayers written by Old Testament people; some of them perhaps date as far back as the time of David, a thousand years before Jesus, while others are more recent. In the psalms we’ll find the whole breadth of human experience and emotion – joy and suffering, praise and anger, love and hate – every part of our human life, even the nasty parts, all presented to God in prayer. I hope you’re getting to know the psalms, and I hope you read them regularly. This extraordinary collection of prayers is telling us that every part of our human life can be prayed; there’s no experience, and no emotion, that can’t be brought up in our conversations with God. The psalms invite us to be honest and to be ourselves in our prayers. God knows all about us anyway, so we may as well tell him the truth!

Today’s psalm, Psalm 130, is definitely speaking for us in our troubles. It speaks of a painful aspect of our human experience, when we say to ourselves, “I’m in trouble, and it’s my fault: I’m the one that caused it”. So we’re not only dealing with despair and difficulty, but guilt as well. If we’re religious people, we may find ourselves thinking “God must be punishing me for what I did”.

This was a common view in Old Testament times: the idea that if you were suffering, you had obviously done something wrong, and God was punishing you for it. I say this was a common Old Testament view, but of course it’s still with us; we still hear people who are going through hardship asking, “What have I done to deserve this?”

But even in the Old Testament not everyone agrees with this, and when we turn to the New Testament we come across a completely different view. In John chapter 9, Jesus’ disciples looked at a man who had been born blind, and they asked Jesus, “Who sinned – him or his parents?” Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him” (John 9:3). Throughout the gospels Jesus lives out a message of grace, which is God’s unconditional love for all people, like Zacchaeus the tax collector, and the woman caught in the act of adultery at the beginning of John chapter 8, and even his own friend Peter, who denied him three times. In each case, instead of sending trouble on the sinner to punish them, Jesus is reaching out to them with the message of God’s steadfast love, and is calling them to come home to a God who is more than ready to welcome them.

Psalm 130 is one of those places in the Old Testament where we catch a glimpse of this truth as well. Let’s explore it together. I’m going to use the pew Bibles, the NRSV translation, rather than the BAS which we prayed a few minutes ago, because there’s one word that I think is translated much better in the NRSV; I’ll point it out when we get to it!

So let’s start by asking ourselves, what is the writer of this psalm experiencing? Look at verses 1-2:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!

The ‘depths’ are a common Old Testament metaphor for suffering, despair, and depression. The writer is talking about the ocean depths, or maybe the floods: ‘Lord, I’m drowning in despair here!’ There’s another example of it in Psalm 69 where we read these words:

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God (Psalm 69:1-3).

Our readings for today give us examples of these depths. In our first lesson, David is crying out to God in grief for his dear friend Jonathan, who has been killed in battle with the Philistines. Grief, we know, is one of the hardest things we go through as humans – the death of someone we love, and the continual experience of their absence, is something we never really get over. And of course, the more we loved them, the harder it is to deal with.

In our gospel one of the characters in the story is going to deal with that as well. Jairus has a little daughter, and he’s frantic with worry about her; she’s very ill, and indeed is at the point of death. The serious illness of a much-loved child is one of the great fears of all parents, isn’t it? And if you’ve lost a child, you know how black those particular depths can be.

There’s also a woman who has been suffering hemorrhages for twelve years; she’s spent a lot of money on doctors, and we can guess that she’s prayed a lot too, but nothing has changed. Twelve years is the age of Jairus’ little girl; all the time that Jairus and his family have been enjoying their dear daughter, this woman has been suffering, and there has been no relief. A long, chronic illness, and years of unanswered prayer: that’s a very, very dark valley.

In 2 Corinthians 8 there are hints of another dark valley. Paul is organizing a relief fund in all his Gentile churches to help the Christians back in Jerusalem, who for some reason are going through a time of severe economic hardship. Very few of us have to deal with that sort of thing; even if we’ve been out of work for a while, we usually haven’t had to worry about where our next meal is coming from. But of course, there are people in the world who are overwhelmed with worry about that; they have no idea whether or not they’ll be able to eat today.

So these are some of the ‘depths’ that Bible people experienced – bereavement, chronic illness, unanswered prayer, crushing poverty. They are with us still, of course, along with many other hard circumstances that threaten to overwhelm us.

I wonder what ‘depths’ you have experienced, that have led you to cry out to God in fear or desperation? Maybe it was the depths of grief at the loss of a loved one, or maybe it was panic when you found yourself in serious financial difficulties, or maybe lost a job that you were depending on. Maybe it was the pain of the breakup of a marriage, or conflict with children or parents. Maybe it was the unexpected diagnosis of a serious illness. Or maybe it was a sense of guilt at some things you had done, and a fear that God had turned his back on you and abandoned you.

These are all common human experiences; we all go through them, whether we’re Christian or not. Sometimes it’s harder for us as Christians, because we’ve been told that if we follow Christ, God will always bless us and look after us. So we find ourselves asking, “Have I done something wrong that he’s punishing me for?” Or again, we’ve been taught that we’ll always be joyful if the Holy Spirit lives in us, and now we’re not feeling that joy.

So how does the writer of Psalm 130 deal with this experience? What does he have to say to God? Where does he find hope in the midst of despair? Let me point out a few things to you.

First, the writer arrives at what seems to us to be a blindingly obvious conclusion, but it’s surprising how many people don’t seem to get there without some help. What’s the conclusion? Simply this: If God was sending thunderbolts to strike sinners dead, there’d be no one left standing. Look at verses 3-4:

If you, O Yahweh, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.

Of course, we tend to think of ‘sinners’ as being people who are guilty of some particularly heinous sin. What we classify as a ‘heinous’ sin, of course, changes with our culture. To some people, it’s anything to do with sex; to others, it’s anything to do with social injustice. In the Middle Ages, it was daring to charge interest when you lent money to anyone!

But we Christians can’t be so selective in our definition of sin, can we? In most of our services we confess our sins together, saying “We have not loved you with our whole heart, and we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves”. This, of course, is based on Jesus’ two great commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. If we’ve neglected to do this, then we are sinners. And as soon as you start defining sin to include the good things we don’t do, then we know we’re all nailed! As Paul says in Romans 3, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ – which is pretty much a New Testament Christian way of saying exactly what our psalm writer said.

So that’s the first thing the writer reflects on: everyone is a sinner, so whatever else my troubles might be, they can’t be God’s punishment for my sins, because if they were, everyone would be going through the same punishment. The writer then goes on to reflect on three aspects of God’s character that give us hope.

First, God is a God of forgiveness. Verse 4 says, ‘But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered’. The wording seems a little strange to us, but if we read the psalm as a whole, we can see that this ‘with you’ language is the writer’s way of pointing out different aspects of God’s character; he might say ‘there is courage with you’ or ‘there is patience with you’. So in verse 4 we have ‘forgiveness’, and in verse 7 we read ‘For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem’. And these three ‘with you’ characteristics turn out to be just the things that give us hope in our despair.

So – first, forgiveness. We who follow Jesus, of course, don’t need to be in doubt about that. Over and over, Jesus met people who were in despair over their guilt and assured them of God’s forgiveness. He reached out to people who were considered to be the worst sinners, to the point that he was even described by his enemies as the ‘friend of sinners’ (hint: they didn’t think that was a compliment!). He taught us that God is like the father who welcomes the prodigal son home after he’s wasted all his property, or like a king who forgives an embezzling servant a debt bigger than the entire revenue of the kingdom. Paul says, ‘The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15). ‘There is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered’.

Secondly, God is a God of steadfast love. This is why I like the NRSV better than the BAS translation of this psalm. The BAS says, ‘for with the Lord there is mercy’; the NIV says ‘for with the Lord there is unfailing love’, which is a little better. The Hebrew word is ‘chesed’, which I think means ‘love with muscles attached to it’, ‘stubborn love’, ‘love that never gives up’. And so the NRSV has this wonderful phrase, ‘steadfast love’.

What’s it telling us? It’s saying that God has made a covenant with us that he will not break. In that covenant, he has adopted us as his children, forgiven our sins, given us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and promised that nothing can ever separate us from his love. His love for us is patient, stubborn, steadfast and sure, and we can count on it. His love will never let us go. Never.

So God is a God of forgiveness, and God is a God of steadfast love. Thirdly, God is a God who comes to the rescue. The NRSV uses the old word ‘redeem’; it says in verses 7-8, ‘…and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities’.

The word ‘redeem’ is often used in the Bible to mean paying a price to set slaves free, or rescue them. But it’s also used in a military sense: God rescuing his people from a hopeless situation by what the Bible calls ‘the strength of his right hand’. Our psalm writer asks the question ‘What enemies are too strong for me to defeat all by myself?’ and comes up with the surprising answer, ‘My sins’:

‘…with (Yahweh) there is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities’ (vv.7b-8).

Yes, our own sins, or ‘iniquities’ as the psalm calls them, can be our worst enemies. How many times have we made New Year’s resolutions about dealing with our bad habits, and how many times have we broken them? And, on a less humorous note, how many times have we said of someone, “He’s his own worst enemy?” Positive change is very, very difficult for us humans; if eternal life is a reward for good behaviour, we’re in a desperate situation indeed.

So once again, we’re back to forgiveness. Jesus says in Mark’s gospel, ‘For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). In the original language, the word ‘ransom’ comes from the same root as ‘redeem’ or ‘redemption’. Jesus is using the illustration of the slave market: we are slaves of evil and sin, but he’s given himself on the cross to ransom us from slavery, so that we can be forgiven and go free.

We’ve seen that God is a God of forgiveness, a God of steadfast love, and a God who rescues us from our sins. What’s the conclusion? The conclusion is two words: ‘Hope’, and ‘wait’. Look at verses 5-6:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.

This is honest and realistic; the writer isn’t promising that the answer to our prayers is going to come instantly. Whatever this ‘flood’ is that’s threatening to overwhelm him, he’s not expecting that God will instantly taking it away. Far from it: he’s expecting to have to wait.

And this lines up very much with life as I experience it. My Dad told me once, “I’ve been impatient all my life, so every time I’ve really wanted something, the Lord has made me wait for it!” And I remember that in Luke’s gospel Jesus tells us a parable to encourage us ‘to pray always and not to lose heart’ (Luke 18:1); there would have been no need for him to tell that parable if we always got everything we asked for right away!

So – keep on praying, and don’t lose heart. ‘I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope’. Whatever trouble we’re going through, let’s keep bringing it to God in prayer, confident that God is not punishing us, because he’s a God of forgiveness and steadfast love. This trouble we’re going through isn’t a big stick he’s using to beat us up or punish us. Rather, he’s walking through our dark place with us, just as he came and lived and died as one of us in Jesus, experiencing all the trouble that we go through as human beings, all the way to death on a cross. So we can come to him with confidence, knowing that nothing can ever change his steadfast love for us.

As we finish, why don’t you put your own name in the last two verses of this psalm? ‘O Tim, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him there is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem me from all my iniquities’. Amen.

Posted in Prayer, Psalms, Sermons | Leave a comment

Meadowvale (Revised): Chapter Twelve

I’ve gone through the ‘Meadowvale’ story over the past few weeks and done a rewrite. I will be posting the revised chapters here over the next few months, at the rate of about two a week. The originals are still on this site (go to ‘Meadowvale’ in the sidebar) in case you want to compare! I hope you enjoy them.

Kelly spent the first week of October moving back to Meadowvale. In the end she decided not to stay at Will and Sally’s house, but to rent a place of her own for a year. As it happened, the house she found was only three blocks from mine, which led to more than one comment from friends and family about how that particular piece of sidewalk was going to get well worn over the next few months.

Once again, Will and Sally hosted a family gathering on Thanksgiving Sunday, which fell this year on October 9th. The significance of the occasion was not lost on Kelly and me; we sat beside each other at the table, our shoulders touching, and I knew that, like me, she was remembering last year’s gathering, when we had first met in this house. As usual, there was a fiercely contested Scrabble game later in the evening, and Krista surprised everyone by winning it handily. Kelly’s little sister was wearing an engagement ring now; she and Steve had made the announcement a couple of weeks previously, but they had not yet set a date.

“It might not be for a year or two”, Steve had said; “We’ve both got our degrees to finish, and we’re not quite sure what comes after that yet”.

“I’d like to go on and get my doctorate”, Krista said, her hand in his.

“I’ll be looking for a job”, Steve added, “but of course, we have no way of knowing where that might be”.

On Thanksgiving Monday Kelly and I spent the day together; I wandered over to her new place for coffee in the middle of the morning, after which we went out to Myers Lake and spent a couple of hours walking the trails and talking quietly together. There was a cool wind that day, and we were both wearing sweaters and jackets; we sat for a few minutes on the bench by the lake, but soon decided to walk back to the parking lot and head for home.

Later on, we worked together to make a light supper at my place; I put a candle on the table and opened a bottle of red wine, and as we ate we talked for a long time about all that had happened in the past year. After we had finished we cleared up, washed the dishes, and then went into the living room to sit together on the couch for a while, taking the half-empty bottle of wine and a couple of glasses with us. I put my arm around her, and she laid her head back against my shoulder and said, “Krista’s so happy; it’s hard to believe she’s known Steve for most of her life”.

“Where did Steve grow up?”

“Not far from Uncle Hugo, actually; the Janzen farm’s about four miles north of the old Reimer homestead. Have you met Steve and John’s dad?”

“Henry, right?”

She laughed; “That’s what we all call him, but his name is actually Adolphus Heinrich”.

“That’s quite a mouthful!”

“I think that’s why he goes by Henry”.

“Steve and John have a sister, don’t they?”

“Bonnie; she was actually Krista’s best friend when they were teenagers”. She frowned; “When we were kids Kris and I were inseparable, but she was kind of hurt when I stopped going to church. It’s funny; she’s got this amazing scientific brain, but she’s never been troubled with doubts about faith the way I was. Bren had struggles like me, although she never left the church, so that’s when she and I became closer”.

“And Krista and Bonnie…?”

“Yeah, Kris actually got to be good friends with the whole Janzen clan, but especially Bonnie”.

“So she’s known Steve forever, but they had to go away to fall in love with each other”.

“Exactly. You and I, on the other hand…”

“Yes”. I kissed her softly and said, “It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year since we met, isn’t it? Sometimes I feel like I’ve known you my whole life long”.

“I know what you mean; we’re kind of like living proof that your friend Wendy was wrong”.

I leaned forward and poured a little wine into the glasses. Handing her a glass, I said, “A toast”.

“A toast?” she replied.

“A toast”. I raised my glass; “To friendship and love”, I said.

“Friendship and love”, she replied with a grin.

We sipped our wine for a moment, and then as we put our glasses back down on the coffee table I said, “There’s something I want to ask you”.

“What’s that?”

“Is there something we’re still waiting for?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we’ve been having these conversations on and off since August – conversations about what marriage might look like, if we were to go down that path – and we’ve talked about a lot of different things. I guess I’m wondering if there’s still more that we need to talk about”.

She looked up at me, and I saw the sudden surge of happiness on her face. “What do you think?” she asked.

I shook my head; “I’m sure there’s still a lot to learn, and I know we’ll spend our whole lives discovering more about each other. But I don’t think I need to wait any longer to make a decision; I already know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you”.

“Me too”, she said softly.

I lifted her hand to my lips and kissed it, my eyes on hers. “So, my lovely Kelly”, I said, “will you marry me?”

For a moment she didn’t reply, and then she leaned forward and kissed me on the lips. “I will”, she said; “very, very gladly”.

As she drew back I saw to my surprise that there were tears in her eyes. “Are you okay?” I asked.

She nodded her head; “I’m just happy; just unbelievably happy, Tom”.

I held out my arm to her, and she moved closer again, cuddling up to me and laying her head back down on my shoulder. For a few minutes neither of us spoke; I had the sense that if I said anything else, the moment would be over, and I wasn’t quite ready to move on yet. But eventually she moved her body slightly so that her face was against my neck, kissed me, and whispered, “That was perfect; I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. I love you so much”.

“I love you too”.

“The timing’s going to be a little difficult, though, isn’t it?”

“Well, I think the first question is, before or after next August?”

“Really? I thought the first question was going to be, before or after next week?”

We laughed, and I kissed her on the forehead and said, “Or tomorrow, maybe?”

“Tomorrow would be good!”

“But maybe our families would be a little miffed”.

“Maybe”. She gave a sigh, snuggled closer to me, and said, “Okay, I’m done with fooling, I’m ready to talk sensibly now”.

“Alright. Well, much as I’d like to do it sooner rather than later, I think we might have to wait until after Owen and Rick”.

“Because of your family members coming over, you mean?”

“Well, I’ve got no idea whether or not any of my family will come over, although I’d like to think my mum will. But I’d like to ask Owen to be my best man, and he’s going to be significantly out of pocket this year”.

“Right, so we need to give him time to try to raise the money”.

“Yeah; and then there’s a possible conflict with Krista and Steve, too”.

“But they haven’t set a date yet. I figure that if they drag their feet like that, they can’t complain if we jump in first!”

I laughed; “Well, she’s your sister and you’ve got to live with her, so I’ll leave it to you whether you want to risk annoying her!”

“I think we should come up with a tentative date ourselves, and then raise it as a suggestion and see what people think”.

“I’ve got an idea”.

“What is it?”

“How about a year from now, on Thanksgiving weekend 1984?”

She looked up at me, and I saw that her eyes were shining; “You know, you are an incurable romantic!” she said.

“Thank you; I’ll take that as a compliment!”

“It was meant to be a compliment. And yes, I think that would be a really wonderful idea. And we’d be able to give people a good reason why we wanted that date, too”.

“We would”.

She snuggled up close to me again. “It’s a plan”, she said. “Now we can start talking to people about it”.

“Well, first of all, can I interest you in an engagement ring, Miss Reimer?”

“You sure can! Have you got one close by?”

“As it happens, I have”. I got to my feet, kissed her on the forehead, smiled at her and then slipped out to my room. A moment later I returned, holding out the simple diamond ring I had bought in Saskatoon the previous weekend. “How’s this?” I asked.

She caught her breath; “Tom, it’s beautiful”, she said.

“May I?”

“You may”. She held up her left hand, and I slipped the ring onto her finger. “There”, I said; “Now it’s official”.

And so the conversations started. No one was at all surprised, of course, when we announced that we were engaged, and when we said that we wanted to get married on Thanksgiving weekend next year everyone immediately picked up on the significance of the date. But it was Sally Reimer who looked at us as we sat across from her at the kitchen table and said, “You’re going to have an expensive year, what with making a trip to England and all”.

“I guess so”, Kelly replied.

“We hadn’t really talked about that yet”, I added.

“Where are you going to live?” Sally asked.

“We haven’t talked about that yet either”, Kelly replied. “He only asked me yesterday, Mom!”

“Although, to be fair, we’ve been dancing around the subject for a few weeks now”, I said.

Will was sitting at the end of the table, nursing a mug of coffee in his hand. “It’s none of my business”, he said quietly, “but if you’re interested in some fatherly advice, I could give it to you”.

“Please do”, I replied.

“Well, it seems to me that you’ve got at least three major expenses coming up”. He listed them one by one, holding up his fingers to count them off. “First, the trip to England in August for the two weddings over there – which is the most expensive time of the year to fly. Second, your wedding, which may or may not be really expensive, depending on what sort of event you want to have. Third, buying a house, which would be a challenge right now because the interest rates are still sitting at around 11%, which is lower than a year ago, but still makes for a pretty expensive mortgage payment”.

“True enough”, Kelly replied.

“Well, it seems to me that expense number three is the one you can do without right now. You’re going to make that trip to the U.K., because you have to be at your brother’s wedding, Tom, and your best friend has asked you to be his best man, so that’s a given. Whether or not Kelly goes with you…”

“I’m going”, Kelly replied stubbornly; “I’m not going to miss out on my chance to meet Tom’s family before our wedding, and to see the place where he grew up”.

“Okay, so that will be expensive. As for your own wedding, well, as I said, it all depends on how much of a splash you want to have, but for sure it won’t be cheap. But when we come to a house – well, Kelly, you’ve just rented a pretty good place for a year, and it’s bigger than that little cabin that Tom lives in – why not just make that your place for a while, until you get ahead a little financially, and maybe the interest rates come down?”

I nodded. “I’m not a financial expert, but that sounds like good advice to me”.

“You know we’ll help you as much as we can”, Sally added.

“We’re not asking for handouts right now”, Kelly replied; “We’ve both got good jobs, and we’re doing okay, even though we’re not rich”.

Will nodded, and then he held out his hand to me. “I hope you know how happy this news makes Sally and me”, he said.

I took his hand and shook it firmly; “Thanks”, I replied.

“I have to say, though, that I sure wasn’t expecting this the day I picked you up at the airport in Saskatoon!”

I laughed; “Life is full of surprises!”

“Isn’t that the truth?”

Kelly asked if she could be with me when I made my phone calls to England, and so she was sitting beside me in my living room on the following Saturday when I called Owen. I told him I was putting him on speakerphone so Kelly could hear the conversation, and then I shared our news with him. When I asked if he would be my best man, he didn’t hesitate for a moment. “Of course I will”, he said, “and if we can possibly manage it, Lorraine will be with me”.

“Are you sure?” I asked; “I know Lorraine’s not making much money as an artist…”

He laughed. “She’s not making any money as an artist!” he said; “It’s the waitressing she’s not making much money at!”

“Well, okay, and you’ll just be finishing up your house officer training, and I’m sure the bills pile up”.

“Don’t even think about it, okay? If I have to go busking all winter to raise the money, or go begging to all my friends and relatives, I will. I’ll be there”.

“Thanks, mate; I owe you”.

“Well, that’s true, but then again, you’re paying to come to my wedding too, so I’d say we’re about even”. He paused, then asked, “Have you told your parents yet?”

“That’s my next call”.

“Are you going to stay with them when you come over here in August?”

“I’m assuming so”.

He hesitated, then said, “Might be wise to have a Plan B, in case Plan A gets unexpectedly stressful”.

“Well, you said you didn’t want us staying at your place, so that might be difficult”.

“I don’t mind you staying at my house before the wedding, although I’ve only got one spare room, and it sounds to me like you’re not sharing a bed yet. But you know what – after we talked about this last time, I suddenly realized that Lorraine and I will probably be going away for at least a week afterwards, so the place would be free, if you needed it. I don’t know what your dates will be, though”.

“We haven’t booked them yet, but Rick’s wedding’s on the 4th and yours is on the 18th, so off the top of my head I’d say we’d come for three weeks, from about the 1st to the 21st”.

“Right, so most of that falls in the time when you could stay at my place with me, if you didn’t mind the cramped condition. Also, Dad told me to tell you that if things get difficult at home and if my house isn’t available, you and Kelly would be more than welcome to move over and spend a day or two with him and Mum”.

“That’s really nice of him; thank him for me and tell him we’ll keep it in mind”.

“Good, I’ll pass that on to him. Right, now, Kelly’s there and listening in, is she?”

Kelly laughed; “I’m right here, Owen!” she said. “I’m glad to finally meet you, even if we can’t see each other!”

“Hello, Kelly!” he said; “I’m Owen, Tom’s partner in crime from when we were little brats. You do know what you’re getting into, I take it?”

“Are you asking me whether I’ve discovered his less charming personality traits yet?”

“Yes. For instance, he’s an introvert, you know, and I’m told that you’re an extrovert, like me, so you need to be warned: he can be a real stick in the mud sometimes! Just when you want him to go out to one more party with you, he gets that pained expression on his face, as if you’ve offered to pull his teeth without anaesthetic!”

We laughed, and Kelly squeezed my hand and said, “I’ve noticed he isn’t quite as outgoing as I am”.

“Kelly, trust me, you don’t know the half of it! Well, you probably do, and you love him anyway, which demonstrates admirable patience on your part!”

“You see the crap I have to put up with from my oldest friend?” I said to her with a grin.

“Well, anyway”, Owen said, “I’m really happy for the two of you, and Kelly, I don’t really know you, but I already know that you’re a good thing, so thank you”.

“Thanks, Owen; I’ll look forward to meeting you face to face next year”.


My mother was a little more restrained when she heard the news, but I could tell that she was pleased when she found out that Kelly was there. “I’m so glad to have the chance to talk to you, my dear”, she said; “Tom’s told me all about you, of course, and I’m really looking forward to meeting you”.

“Me too”, Kelly replied; “Tom’s always told me how much he loves you and respects you”.

“What do your parents think of this news? I hope they’re happy”.

“I think they’re thrilled, actually; they’ve both had a real soft spot for Tom, almost since the day they met him. In fact, I think the whole family’s pretty happy about this”.

“Well, I’m glad. You must give me your parents’ address; I’d like to send them a card or something”.

“It’s exactly the same as Tom’s address, only a different box number – Box 431”.

“Of course”.

“Is Dad there, Mum?” I asked.

“I’m afraid not – he had a meeting at the office this afternoon. He’ll be sorry to have missed you both”.

I shook my head at Kelly; “He won’t”, I mouthed silently, and then I said, “How about Becca?”

My mother was quiet for a moment, and then said, “Yes, she’s here. I’ll ask her if you really want me to, Tom, but I think you’d be wise not to push it. I know it’s hard, but we’ve had a very happy phone call, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. I’m ninety-five percent sure that she won’t come to the phone”.

Kelly put her hand on mine and shook her head; “Let it go”, she mouthed at me.

“Alright, Mum, I’ll leave it at that, then. I’ll write to you with more details about the wedding as soon as we know about them”.

“Good, I’ll look forward to that. And please send me some photographs. Kelly, please make sure he does that, will you? I only have one photograph of you, and none of the two of you together. I’d be very glad to have one of you both, if that’s possible”.

“Leave it to me, Mrs. Masefield”, Kelly replied with a grin; “I’ll make it happen”.

“Thank you. My love to you both”.

“‘Bye, Mum”, I said.

“Goodbye”, Kelly added.

I turned off the speakerphone, replaced the receiver and looked at Kelly. “You’ve got a way of winning people over”, I said.

“She’s your mom, and you’ve never had a bad word to say about her; what’s not to like?”

I nodded; “Yeah, she’s in a class of her own”. I got to my feet and walked slowly over to the kitchen. “Do you want some tea?” I asked.


I filled the kettle, plugged it in and then turned to see her standing there. “Come here”, she said, holding out her arms.

I put my arms around her, and for a moment we held each other in silence. Then she said, “I’m sorry about Becca; I know you were really hoping she’d talk to you”.

“Yes. It’s been fifteen months and she still can’t let it go”.

She kissed me on the cheek, then released me and said, “We just have to be patient; eventually she’ll come round”.

“But what if she doesn’t? What if I’ve lost her forever?”

Kelly looked up at me and shook her head. “You can’t let yourself think like that. We just have to go on and on reaching out to her, making sure she knows the door’s always open”.

“For how long, though?”

“For as long as it takes”.

I looked down at her and shook my head slowly. “You are extraordinary”, I said.

“So are you”, she replied softly; “I don’t fall in love with ordinary, you know”.

And so I quickly settled into the routine of having Kelly living only three blocks away from my house, instead of eleven hours away in Jasper. One thing she especially enjoyed about her new job was that it didn’t involve any shift work; she worked five days a week from eight in the morning until five in the afternoon, and she had all her evenings and weekends free.

Of course, I was busy too. I was now on my second time through the yearly round of activities at Meadowvale High School, and I had long since gotten over my initial apprehension at confronting a class of people who were not that much younger than me. For many of them, English was not a particularly interesting subject, but I had gradually discovered that if I could speak to them out of my passion for the stories and not just out of a desire to fulfil the requirements of the curriculum, I had a better chance of keeping their attention. So I reached into my memory for all the tricks I’d seen George Foster use over the years, and I gradually developed a few of my own as well. None of that meant, of course, that I still didn’t have plenty of frustrating days, but I was slowly learning to relax and roll with whatever surprises each day brought, and the more I could do that, the more I enjoyed myself.

Like all teachers, I had a lot of preparation to do at home in the evenings, as well as marking students’ work. Nevertheless, I loved having Kelly so close; it meant we could spend time together every day if we wanted, even if it was only half an hour to hold hands and drink tea together. And being the sort of person I was, I naturally preferred that as much of that time as possible be shared with no one but the two of us. Now, Kelly liked that as well, but not all the time. And here we ran into the reality that Owen had warned her about, in his light-hearted way.

I had of course become very fond of Kelly’s mum and dad and of Joe, and was in the habit of having coffee with them regularly. But Kelly’s circle of family and friends was a lot wider than that. She was close to her grandparents, especially her Grandma Reimer, Will’s mother, and she liked to visit them regularly. She was good friends with her cousin Don Robinson and his wife Lynda as well, and she loved their two little girls Amy and Beth. I saw a lot of Don at work, as he taught science at our high school, and Lynda was the grade four teacher at the elementary school next door. Don was six years older than Kelly, but for some reason they had hit it off when she was a child, and she enjoyed going over and having coffee with him and Lynda, and playing with the girls. She also got on well with Don’s younger sister Ruth, who was married to Steve’s older brother John Janzen, and with her Uncle Hugo and Aunt Millie, and she particularly enjoyed going out to Hugo and Millie’s farm to visit with them and to ride her horse. This, by the way, was something that I came to enjoy as well; through that winter of 1983-84, if the weather was mild on a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon, I was always happy to go out to Spruce Creek with her and spend a couple of hours riding.

And this was not the limit of Kelly’s wide circle of friends and family; in fact, it was only the beginning. Brenda and Gary were only an hour and fifteen minutes away in Saskatoon, and in the middle of October they had their first child, a nine pound baby boy who they called Ryan James. Kelly of course went down to visit them as soon as she could, and those visits continued. She had most Saturdays free, and she would often call around and ask if I would like to run into the city for the day with her. And even if we didn’t go to Saskatoon, there was an endless supply of relatives and friends in Meadowvale who she had gone to school with, or known all her life, and she enjoyed visiting with pretty well all of them.

They were good people for the most part, and I had nothing against them. Taken together, though, they were a much wider group than I had been used to including in my regular social life, and I sometimes found myself going to bed exhausted at night, looking back over the day and wondering if I had been able to call a single minute my own from dawn to dark.

One snowy evening in December, she came over to my place after supper and suggested that we walk over to visit with Don and Lynda for a while. I hesitated, and then said, “Would you mind if we didn’t?”

“What would you like to do?”


“Hello again, ground control to Major Tom, Kelly Reimer here, your fiancée!” We both laughed; “Yes, of course honestly”, she said.

“What I’d really like to do is just lock the doors, make a pot of tea, curl up on the couch with you, listen to some music, and talk”.

She looked at me for a moment with a bemused expression on her face. “This is the Tom Masefield that Owen was warning me about, isn’t it?”

“Sorry – are you really disappointed?”

“Just mildly, but I’ll get over it”. She crossed to the kitchen sink, filled up the kettle and plugged it in, and then turned to face me again. “Okay, do we need to talk about this?” she asked.

“About what?”

“About the fact that you’re getting exhausted by my constant desire to be out sharing you with all my friends and family, and I’m getting claustrophobic because of your constant desire to shut out all the people I love and keep me all to yourself”.

“Claustrophobic? That’s a pretty strong word”.

“I’m not there yet, but I’m beginning to recognize the potential”.

“I’m sorry, Kelly, I just find it exhausting after a while…”

“I know”. She grinned; “You have your little group of friends, and you like moving in that tiny circle and having lots of time to yourself”.

“And you don’t”.

“No, of course not – that’s why we’re having this conversation. I come from a big family and I’m used to spending time with them”.

“But Joe’s from the same family as you, and he…”

“I know; he’s a stick in the mud, just like you”.

“What I’m saying is that you can’t just say, ‘I’m like this because I come from a big family’, because Joe’s from the same family”.

“I’m not blaming it on my family, Tom – I know it’s my temperament, and I know it’s not the same as your temperament, and if we’re going to get married and find a way to live together without murdering each other, we’re going to have to talk this one through”.

“Okay, how do we do that?”

“Well, let’s start by making a pot of tea, like you said”.

She made the tea, brought the pot and two mugs to the kitchen table, got some milk from the fridge and put it in a jug, and sat down across from me. She poured tea for us both, then sat back and smiled at me. “No need to look so glum”, she said.


She put her hand on mine; “What’s eating you?”

I shook my head; “I’m probably being stupid”.

“Don’t talk like that about the man I love, okay? What’s the matter?”

“I just don’t like hearing you say, ‘if we’re going to get married’”.

She held up her left hand, showing me the engagement ring. “Look; it’s still on my finger. I never take it off. I wake up in the night and feel it there, and I feel all happy and warm because I remember that I’m going to get married to you. What I said was not, ‘if we’re going to get married’; it was ‘if we’re going to get married and find a way to live together without murdering each other’. The ‘if’ wasn’t about the marriage; it was about coming out of the marriage alive!”

We both laughed then, and she leaned forward and kissed me. “That’s better. Now come on, let’s talk about this. Tell me what you really feel, and I’ll tell you what I really feel, and then we’ll see if we can meet half way”.

I sat there in silence for a minute, cradling my mug in my hands. I opened my mouth to speak, then closed it again. I laughed and said, “This is so stupid; I don’t know why I just can’t tell you how I feel”. I put my hand on hers and said, “Yes, I do. I love you so much, Kelly, and the last thing I want to do is to hurt you. So I feel like I want to go over every word in my head first and make sure it’s okay before I say it”.

“That’ll never work. Speak your heart; I’ll listen with mine”.

“You make it sound so easy”.

“I’m sure it’s not easy for you”. She sat back and looked at me with a smile. “You like Jane Austen, don’t you?”

“I do, very much”.

“Do you think her observations are generally pretty accurate?”

“I do, although it depends on whether she’s making them herself, or speaking them through a character, and which character it is”.

“Lizzie Bennet’s usually pretty well spot on, though, right?”

I laughed softly; “Why do I get the feeling I’m being set up?”

“Because you are; I’m about to skewer you with a Lizzie-ism. I’m actually re-reading Pride and Prejudice right now, because I know you like it, and I just read the chapter last night where Lizzie and the Collins’ are visiting at Rosings, and Lizzie and Darcy and Fitzwilliam are having the conversation around the piano about Darcy’s behaviour in Hertfordshire. Darcy makes some excuse about not having the talent for making friends and making easy conversation”.

I nodded; “And Lizzie says, ‘My fingers don’t move over this instrument in the same masterly manner that other women’s do, but I’ve always supposed that to be my own fault, because I don’t take the trouble of practising’. So you’re about to tell me that I should consider that, if I take the trouble to practice, I can learn to be more open”.


I shook my head with a smile; “My God, you’re going to be a formidable conversationalist if you’re going to start using Jane Austen against me. She can be pretty merciless sometimes”.

“Come on, Tom; tell me what you’re feeling”.

“Okay”. I sat up, took a sip of my tea, and said, “Don’t get me wrong, I like this town and I enjoy the people in it. But I spend all day every day in front of classes of teenagers, and working with other teachers and staff, most of whom are nice enough people, but I’m not really close to many of them. Then I come home late in the afternoon and I’ve usually got a couple of hours’ work to do. I don’t get too many hours a week that I can call my own, really, and I just need to recharge my batteries, you know, so I can go out the next day and do it all over again”.

“And this is how you recharge – by sitting here alone?”

“Sometimes, but not always. If I can sit here some nights and have a quiet read, or play some music, or go for a walk, that works well. Or if I can spend some time with someone I’m really close to, like you or Joe, that’ll work too”.

“But going out to be with people you’re not really close to…?”

“That’s more of a drain than a recharge”.

She frowned. “Okay, help me understand this, because I want to understand it. When you first came here, you didn’t know anyone. But now you enjoy spending time with Joe, and my mom and mad, and you like having coffee with Glenn, and you enjoy dropping in on Charlie Blackie from time to time, and Wilf and Mabel, and Uncle Hugo and Auntie Millie, and you enjoy your conversations with Rob. Surely, these are all people who, a year ago, you weren’t very close to?”

“You’re right. So maybe I am practising and learning to be more outgoing than I was. But I still can’t sustain too many relationships at any one time”.


“You, on the other hand, don’t find people a drain at all”.

“No, I don’t. I find people endlessly fascinating. I love talking about every little detail of their lives with them, and I don’t care if it’s just small talk, because I’ve noticed that if you’re not willing to put in the small talk with people, you don’t usually get to the big talk. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being by myself sometimes: I do, especially if I’ve got a good book or if I’m out for a walk in the country. But most of the time, I prefer to have company, and I hardly ever find people boring”.

“That’s why the whole of Meadowvale loves you”.

“Well, I think that might be a slight exaggeration”.

“Glenn told me that, and you know, he’s not much for exaggeration”.

“Okay, so what are we going to do about this? I want to take you out and share you with all my friends and family, and I don’t want to seem rude to them, which is what will happen if I never go over for coffee and if I just seem to be cutting them out of my life now that I’ve got you”.

“That’s probably what they’ll think of me, too – right?”

“Some of them will. Others, fortunately for you, share your hermit temperament, so they’ll be secretly relieved!”

We laughed, and I said, “What are we going to do? Set up some sort of expectation of how many nights a week we go out, or something?”

She shook her head; “I don’t think that’ll work. I think there are two things we could try”.

“What are they?”

“Well, the first is, we could agree that we’ll both try to move out of our comfort zone a little; I’ll try to restrain my desire to be a social gadfly, and you’ll try to push yourself out the door with me a little more than you’re perhaps comfortable with right now”.

“Okay, that sounds like a plan”.

“The other thing is, we can accept the fact that, given our different temperaments, we aren’t always going to be doing things together in our marriage”.

“How do you mean?”

“You’ll want to stay at home more; I’ll want to go out more. Sometimes, the simple answer to that will be that you’ll stay at home and I’ll go out, and we’ll learn to be happy with that. We’ll see it as a gift we can give to each other, giving each other the space to be who we are”.

“I’ll have to think a bit more about that one”.

“Of course you will; I’m just sharing ideas, not carving them in stone. Now, tonight being a night when you’re needing some quiet time at home, do you want me around, or would you prefer it if I finished my tea and then left you to yourself for the evening?”

I shook my head; “I don’t want you to leave, Kelly”.

“You’re sure?”


“Okay, good, because I don’t want to leave. I want to talk to you about Pride and Prejudice, and then I want you to get your guitar out and sing me some songs”.

“Any particular songs?”

“Well, I like that you’ve been learning some Bruce Cockburn songs, but if you want to play me old folk songs, I’d be okay with that, too”.


She reached out and took my hand in hers. “There’s something else I want to say before we finish this conversation”.

“What is it?”

“We have to keep talking, Tom”.

“Aren’t we always talking?”

“We have to keep talking about how we feel, and about things that are bothering us. We have to trust each other, and trust our love for each other. You’ve been keeping this bottled up inside for a while, now, haven’t you?”

“I suppose so”.


“Well, partly because I didn’t want to hurt you, and partly because I didn’t want to sound whiney and selfish – and every time I went over what I might say in my mind, it sounded whiney and selfish”.

She raised my hand to her lips, kissed it, and said, “You won’t hurt me by telling me the truth, but you will always hurt me by shutting me out. Please, let’s not be afraid to tell each other what we think and how we feel. If there’s a gap between us, it can only be bridged if we talk honestly with each other”.

I shook my head slowly. “There’s one thing I’m sure of”, I said; “I’m a lucky man”.

The following Saturday morning at about ten o’clock we went down to the Co-op to have a coffee in the deli and do our grocery shopping together. It had been snowing on and off all week, and the temperature was hovering at around minus twenty celsius. The deli was only about half full when we arrived, and I immediately recognized Don Robinson’s sister Ruth Janzen at a corner table by the window. Sitting across from her was an elderly lady who looked as if she had stepped off the boat from old England the day before; she was wearing an old-fashioned dress and a wool cardigan, with a headscarf partially covering her white hair.

“Ruth must be helping her grandma do her shopping”, Kelly said to me.

“Is that Ruth’s grandma? I’ve seen her around town a couple of times, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually been introduced to her. She’s the old English lady Krista was talking about the day you and I first met, isn’t she?”

“Yeah; she moved here from England in the late twenties, I think, when Ruth and Don’s dad was about a year old. I’m not sure if she’s the oldest British immigrant in Meadowvale, but she must be one of the ones who’s been here the longest; there aren’t too many of those 1920s homesteaders left”.

“What’s her name again?”

“Joanna Robinson, but she’s very formal, so we always call her ‘Mrs. Robinson’”.

I chuckled, thinking of the movie The Graduate; “She doesn’t look at all like Anne Bancroft”, I said.

“No, I guess she doesn’t! Do you want to meet her?”


Kelly put her hand on my arm and looked up at me. “Tom, are you sure? I’m quite happy if you’d rather just wave hello to them and then find our own table”.

I shook my head; “No, let’s go over”.

So we went over to the corner table where they were sitting. Ruth was about Joe Reimer’s age; she had long dark hair twisted back into a single braid, and like Kelly she was dressed in jeans and a thick sweater. Her grandmother looked up and smiled at us; “Hello, Kelly!” she said.

Kelly leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Doing your shopping, Mrs. Robinson?” she asked.

“That’s right”, she replied; “Ruth’s helping me out a bit”.

“Would you guys like to join us for a few minutes?” Ruth asked; “There’s plenty of room”.


“Grandma, have you met Kelly’s fiancée, Tom Masefield?” Ruth asked; “He’s from the old country too, you know”.

The old lady shook her head, and then as I watched she got to her feet slowly and carefully, holding out her hand to me. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Mr. Masefield”, she said; “I’m Joanna Robinson”.

I took her hand; “And where are you from originally, Mrs. Robinson?” I asked.

“I was born in a village called Bramthorpe in Lincolnshire; do you know it?”

“I don’t think I do”.

“It’s just north of Stamford, a few miles from Peterborough”.

“Oh, right”.

“And where are you from?” she asked.


“Oh, lovely! I went there when I was a girl, but of course I expect it’s completely different nowadays”.

I was trying to place her accent; it had a very slight Midlands flavour to it, but it was obvious to me that she’d been raised in at least an upper-middle-class setting, like my father and mother. She sat down slowly, and Kelly and I took our seats on either side of the table. Ruth took a sip of her coffee and smiled at me; “So is Oxford close to Grandma’s home town?” she asked.

“About ninety miles”, I said, “but of course that’s a long way in England”.

“It was even longer when I was a girl”, the old lady said; “Cars were still quite rare, so when we travelled we tended to go by train”.

“When did you come over?” I asked her.

“1929; we came in the spring, and we started a farm eight miles east of here”.

“Do you still live there?”

She shook her head. “No; my husband died seven years ago, and not long after that I moved into town. Ruth’s father Michael is my oldest son, but of course he’s got his own carpentry business, so my son Sam farms our land now”.

“Have you ever been back to England?” I asked.

I saw a sudden sadness in her eyes as she shook her head and said, “No; unfortunately, we never had the opportunity”.

“Surely it’s not too late?” Kelly said. “It’s pretty simple nowadays, with air travel. I’ll be going there myself in the summer; Tom’s taking me to his brother’s wedding”.

“Is your brother getting married in Oxford?” the old lady asked me.

“No; his fiancée’s from Edinburgh, so that’s where the wedding will be”.

At that moment the waitress came over to our table with a pot of coffee in her hand. “Hello there, Tom and Kelly”, she said with a smile; “Coffee?”

“Sure”, I replied.

She filled our cups, topped up Ruth’s, and then said, “More hot water for your tea, Mrs. Robinson?”

“No thank you, my dear”.

“Thanks, Denise”, Kelly said.

“You’re welcome”, she replied over her shoulder as she moved on to the next table.

“How long have you lived in Meadowvale, Mr. Masefield?” Mrs. Robinson asked me.

“Only a year and a half; I moved here in August 1982”.

“And I expect you met Kelly through Mr. Reimer at the school, did you?”

“Yeah, that’s right”.

“Did you go to university in Oxford?”

“I did”.

“That’s not something you hear very often, is it – a teacher trained at Oxford University, coming to Meadowvale?”

I grinned and winked at Kelly; “It’s worked out pretty well for me”, I said. “How about you – what brought you here, all those years ago?”

“My husband had worked on farms back in England”, she replied, “but he was having difficulty finding permanent employment. So we decided to emigrate; it seemed to be the only way for us to be able to make ends meet, as it were, so we scrimped and saved and eventually raised the money to make the journey and get started on the land. We didn’t know anyone here, of course, but that didn’t matter in those days; there were lots of others in the same sort of situation we were in, and everyone banded together and helped each other”.

“My grandparents sometimes talk about those days”, Kelly said; “I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must have been”.

“Yes, your grandparents would already have been here when we arrived, although of course they lived out in Spruce Creek, and in those days the Mennonites tended to keep themselves to themselves. Mind you, your Reimer grandparents were less stand-offish than most, especially your grandfather; my husband thought very highly of old Mr. Reimer”.

“What was it like, moving here from England in 1929?” I asked.

She shook her head slowly; “To be honest, I thought it would kill us”, she said. “My husband had to clear the trees from the land and pull out the stumps, dig out all the rocks, build farm buildings, plant a crop. Of course, we had to borrow heavily from the bank to get started, and we arrived just before the dirty thirties, so it was ten years before we made much of a profit on the land. And we’d never seen anything like a prairie winter before”.

“And you had a little boy”, Kelly added.

“I did, and it wasn’t long before we had more children, of course”. She smiled at me; “By the end of the 1930s we had a family of five”.

“Are they all still around here?” I asked.

“Yes, they are. Of course, you know our oldest, Michael – he married Sally Reimer’s sister Rachel, Ruth’s mother. As I said, our second oldest, Sam, lives on our old farm now; he’s married to Martha Craig and they’ve got three grown children. Next comes Thomas; he farms six miles north of us. He married Lucy Robillard, and they’ve got four grown children. Then our daughter Mary married Arthur Pickering – you know the Pickerings, of course?”

“Is he related to Glenn?”

“He’s Glenn’s uncle – he’s Lawrence Pickering’s younger brother”.

“Oh, right, I’ve heard Glenn talk about him – he runs the Wheat Pool elevator, doesn’t he?”

“That’s right. And then there’s our youngest daughter Shirley; she married Evan Roberts, and they farm on the old Roberts land, just north of the lake. They’ve got two children”.

“So you’re the matriarch of a real tribe”, I said.

She smiled; “Not as large as some of the other families around here, of course”, she replied, “but I do have fourteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren”.

“I know a couple of your great-grandchildren”, I said; “We see quite a lot of Beth and Amy, and of course we see Ruth’s two in church pretty well every week”.

“Ah, so you go to the Mennonite church, do you? Of course you do”, she said, smiling at Kelly; “Silly of me to think otherwise!”

Kelly grinned and shook her head; “Not necessarily”, she replied. “I was away from church for a few years, Mrs. Robinson, but I’m back now”.

“Well, I’m very glad to hear it, my dear. My husband and I always went to the Anglican church, of course, Mr. Masefield”, she said to me, “but I’m afraid we weren’t very successful in raising churchgoing children, so I’m very pleased that my granddaughter here married a churchgoing Mennonite boy!”

“And we see another one of your great-granddaughters at church, too”, I said. “I’ve only been going there since last summer, but in the last few months Beth’s been coming along to church with her grandma Rachel”.

“Has she now? I didn’t know that; well, that’s excellent”.

Ruth glanced at her watch; “Well, Grandma”, she said, “I need to get going. John’s got a job to go to, so I need to get home and relieve him of his child-minding duties”.

The old lady nodded; “So we’d better get our shopping done and be on our way”. She smiled at me; “It was very nice to meet you, Mr. Masefield”, she said. “Do you like your tea made in the old-fashioned English way?”

“I do”, I said with a grin; “Warming up the pot, good strong tea with a little drop of milk”.

“Milk in the cup first?”

“Of course!”

“Well, you come over and visit me some time, and I’ll make you a pot of tea that you’ll really enjoy”.

“I’ll be sure to do that!”

They got to their feet and said their goodbyes, and we watched as the old lady took Ruth’s arm and went out into the grocery store. “It’s nice to see Ruth looking after her grandma like that”, I said.

“She looks after her pretty well”, Kelly replied. “Uncle Mike keeps a pretty close eye on her as well”.

I took a sip of my coffee; “What’s the story with her?” I asked.

“How do you mean?”

“Well, she’s not really got a farmer’s wife’s accent, has she?”

“Hasn’t she?”

“No; she sounds more upper-middle-class, like my mum and dad”.

Kelly punched me lightly in the arm; “You Brits and your class system!”

“Hey, you’re talking to the boy who broke with the class system, remember? But seriously – that’s not a Midlands working class accent”.

“You don’t think maybe she’s changed her way of speaking a little, having lived here for over fifty years?”

“Not a bit – she sounds like she got off the boat yesterday. Did you know her husband?”

“Of course, and he didn’t have much of an English accent left by the time he died. He dressed just like a local farmer, too, but I’ve always thought Mrs. Robinson looked exactly like the photos you see of the Queen when she’s tramping around one of her country estates”.


She grinned at me; “Are you smelling a mystery?”

“I am, but it’s probably none of my business”.

“Well, she’s invited you for tea, so you might be able to make it your business”.

I shook my head; “No, I somehow doubt it. I get the sense that it might take a while, with someone like her”.

Kelly and I kept up our reading of the gospels together; when she came over to my place for a cup of tea in the evening, or I went to visit her, we often read the words of Jesus and talked about them, and we had even begun to be brave enough to pray together. I had learned this from her; quite out of the blue one evening, after we’d read and talked, she had suggested that we pray, and she had bowed her head and talked to God in a simple, direct, conversational style. I had never heard anything like it before, and was immediately taken with it. Before long, I was taking my turn and praying out loud with her, although in my prayers, I did not yet address Jesus; I had yet to resolve the issue of whether or not he was the Son of God. I knew that Kelly had resolved it, and we talked about it from time to time. I had a hunch that she was ready to be baptized, but I also knew that she would wait for me, and I knew her better than to think she would be fooled if I pretended to be further along than I actually was.

And if the truth be told, I was slowly moving in that direction. Rob’s patient conversations with me, and his thoughtful preaching week by week, were having their effect. Also, I was seeing the teaching of Jesus lived out day by day in the lives of ordinary church members. Not that they were perfect – far from it – but they were making an honest attempt. I had first noticed this, of course, when I had seen Hugo and Millie reaching out to the Collins family in the aftermath of the deaths of Corey and Billy. In the months following, I continued to see examples of Christian people trying to put their faith into practice.

And I was identifying with them; I was already thinking of Meadowvale Mennonite Church as ‘my’ church. I went there almost every Sunday, played guitar in their music ministry, and joined with them in their prayers and songs. Kelly and I helped out with kitchen duties after church, and when the Saskatoon Salvation Army made an appeal for clothing for street people, we took part in it, and drove the bundles down to the city the following Saturday in Kelly’s truck. And of course, we were planning to get married there, and Rob had already had conversations with us about what that would look like.

Kelly went down with a cold during the Christmas holidays, and by January 1st (which was a Sunday) she was in bed with the flu. I went to church on Sunday, then called her and asked her if I could come over. “No”, she replied firmly, “I’m no good to anyone right now. I’m just sitting up in bed coughing and spluttering and blowing my nose and shivering, but it’s just the flu. I don’t want you picking it up. Go out and enjoy the few hours of daylight you’ve got left, and call me again tonight, okay?”

“Okay; are you sure?”

“I’m sure”.

“Alright; I love you”.

“I love you too”.

It was another cold day, but there was no wind and the sky was a clear blue. I took my snowshoes in my car and went out to Myers’ Lake; there had been a foot of new snow earlier in the week, and I was looking forward to breaking fresh trails. I packed a small thermos of coffee, and I took my binoculars with me too.

I walked the trails through the trees for a couple of hours, my binoculars at the ready, and I saw chickadees and nuthatches, and at one point the hint of a downy woodpecker. I saw tracks, too: the deep marks left by deer, and softer, dog-like tracks that I guessed were probably left by a coyote.

For some reason, while I was breaking trail, I found myself thinking about Becca. I still wrote to her approximately once a month, hoping against hope that this might be the one letter she would read, although my mother had told me that she never opened any of them. I thought about the many times I had read stories to her when she was little; of the times I had played with her in the orchard behind my parents’ house, when I had taught her the names of birds and flowers. I remembered the first time I had taken her out in a canoe on the Thames, which flows right past Northwood, and taught her how to paddle.

As the short winter day began to fade and the sun sank behind the trees, I found a picnic table half-covered in snow beside the frozen lake. I took off my snowshoes, cleared some snow off the tabletop, sat down there, and poured myself some coffee from the thermos. I sat there in silence, looking out over the frozen lake, the steam rising from my coffee in the cold air.

Without noticing that I had begun, I found myself praying. “God, what am I ever going to do about Becca?” I asked. “You know how much I miss her. I feel like such a shit for what I did to her. She trusted me, and I deceived her, and now she can’t get over it. Will she ever be able to forgive me? Have I lost her forever? And what about you? Can you forgive me for what I did?”

I prayed like that for a while, intermittently, sipping on my coffee, and eventually I lapsed into silence. And that was when everything changed.

Looking back on it now, nearly thirty years later, I’m still struck by how vividly I remember it, and how impossible it is for me to describe what happened. One moment I was looking out over the frozen lake, taking in the bare trunks of the poplars and willows on the other side, with the rays of the setting sun shining through them and dazzling my eyes with their brightness. The next moment, I was seeing right through all of that, as if it had suddenly become transparent, and behind it, for the first time, I sensed a presence. I’m sure that with the naked eye I saw nothing different, and yet, in a sense, I did see something, something huge and awesome. I sensed the majesty of God, who had created all this, and I realized how tiny I was in this vast universe. And yet, at the same time, I sensed a deep and powerful love, reaching out from all of this beauty around me and enveloping me. And I suddenly knew, without any doubt, that this love had a name, and the name was Christ. I sensed the love of Christ enveloping me, and at the same time, without any words being spoken, I knew that Becca and I would be reconciled.

I experienced all this in the space of a few seconds – certainly no longer than a minute. When it was over, I looked around and saw the world as it had been before – beautiful, but opaque. But the moment I felt my rational mind saying “You imagined it”, I felt something else rising up inside me, and it suddenly came to me that what I had just experienced was the most concrete thing that had ever happened to me in my life. And before I knew it, I was crying.

I cried for a long time. I sat on the picnic table, cradling my half empty cup of rapidly cooling coffee in my hand, and wept out all my sadness about Becca and my mother and the fact that never at any time in my life had I experienced any sense of love from my father. And at the same time, I was weeping out of a deep sense of wonder; I kept saying softly, “Christ, you’re really there. You’ve been there all the time, and I never knew”.

Eventually my weeping subsided, and I began to realize that I was very cold. I got to my feet, packed the thermos back in my backpack, put my snowshoes back on, and began to follow the trail in the fading light toward the parking lot. When I got there the light was almost gone; I threw my gear in the car, turned on the engine, waited for a few minutes for it to warm up, and then drove back to Meadowvale. And the first thing I did, when I got through the door of my house, was to pick up the phone and call Kelly.

A month later, on the first Sunday of February, Kelly and I were baptized together at Meadowvale Mennonite Church. Our church did not have an adult baptismal tank; “We usually baptize by pouring a bit of water on the candidates’ heads”, Rob told me, “or if people want to be baptized by immersion, we wait until the summer and do it at the lake”.

“I don’t want to wait”, I replied; “This baptism by pouring, is it a real baptism?”

“Oh yeah. You’ll make your baptismal promises, and then you’ll kneel and I’ll pour the water on you, and you’ll be a baptized Christian from that moment on”.

I looked at Kelly, and she looked at me; “I’m ready”, I said.

And so it happened as Rob had said. The church was full that day, with a large group of Kelly’s family making a special effort to be there. Krista and Steve had come from Edmonton, of course, and Brenda and Gary and their baby boy Ryan from Saskatoon. I had told old Charlie Blackie what was happening, and as I looked out over the congregation I saw him in the back row, watching everything with his eagle eye, with a big black King James Bible in his hand; to my surprise I also saw Glenn Pickering in the same row.

Kelly and I had been asked to give short testimonies of what had led us to this day, and we had decided to do it together rather than telling two separate stories. So we stood side by side at the podium; she talked about her upbringing in the church, about her family and their faith, and about her years of doubt and her gradual journey home to God. I then gave a brief outline of my own relatively churchless upbringing, of my friendship with Owen and the beginnings of spiritual questioning for me, of my move to Meadowvale and how God had used the Reimers to awaken my hunger for him and to start me in earnest on my spiritual journey. Kelly and I then talked together about our discussions and questions, our reading of the gospels and our attempt to practice what we learned. She talked about her epiphany, the time when she realized that she believed that Jesus was the Son of God because she knew instinctively that God had to be like Jesus. And then I attempted to describe the experience I’d had at Myers Lake, but to my embarrassment, less that half a minute into it I choked up and couldn’t continue. At that moment I sensed the love coming up to me from the congregation like a tangible force, and I simply nodded my thanks and stepped back from the podium.

And so Kelly and I made our baptismal promises, knelt in front of Rob, and I felt the splash of water on my head as he baptized us. When the moment was over we got to our feet and Rob embraced us both. “Welcome to the family!” he said to me with a broad grin on his face.

“Thanks!” I replied, feeling Kelly’s hand slipping into mine. Then we turned and stepped down into the congregation, where we took our places with Kelly’s family in the front row.

Posted in Fiction, Meadowvale, Meadowvale (Revised) | Leave a comment

Three models of church – and they’re all true.

This week the clergy of our Diocese of Edmonton have been enjoying a clergy conference with Doug Pagitt as our theme speaker. I think it’s safe to say that Doug was provocative! I liked some of what he said, strongly disagreed with some of it, but certainly enjoyed the conversations he sparked.

One of the things he said was that churches tend to relate to the world around them in one of three different ways, or models:

  1. Church as a bounded set, with strong boundary lines for who is in or out.
  2. Church as a centred set, with fuzzy edges but a strong centre of unity (a shared belief or shared loyalty).
  3. Church as a network in which everyone brings their own toys to the party, and the whole thing is about being connected to others.

It occurred to me, as I thought about this, that I actually believe in all three of these models, and I think that church is incomplete without all three of them.

To start with the second one, at the centre of church is our loyalty to Jesus Christ, who (as Peter says in Acts 11) is ‘Lord of all’. When churches lose sight of the centrality of Jesus and start to put something else in his place (a tradition, a liturgy, a political commitment, or even the Bible), then trouble always results. So we need a strong focus on Jesus, on his revelation of God to us, and our commitment to following him.

But the idea of a ‘bounded set’ also has its place – not that we’re trying to keep people out, but that we acknowledge that if we have chosen to follow Jesus as Lord, we’ve committed ourselves to a different standard. In chapel Thursday morning we heard the Old Testament reading from 1 Samuel about how God’s people asked Samuel to give them a king so that they could be like the nations around them. When God’s people want to be just like everyone else, we know something is seriously wrong! The New Testament tells us that ‘once we were no people, but now we are the people of God; once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy’. So we are not to take our cues from the world around us but from the one who we believe is the Son of God. That’s the truth the ‘bounded set’ idea reminds us of.

Finally we get to the network model. This reminds me that everyone in my church is part of multiple networks of people. Some of them are inside the church – Bible study groups, friends who hang together at coffee hour, vestry members and so on. Others are outside – friends, work colleagues, family members, schoolmates and so on. Those networks are natural lines for sharing the love of Christ in word and deed. They are also natural lines for getting people involved in other ways. As Doug said, everyone brings their toys to the party. In our church, for instance, musicians who are not members of our church, or even necessarily believers, have gotten involved in the fundraising we have done for World Vision; in other words, they have brought their gifts to the party in the cause of blessing the poor.

Doug’s preferred model was the network, but I refuse to choose. I think each of these three models has something to contribute to our view of what the church is all about, and I want to learn from all of them.

Posted in Church, Following Jesus, Jesus | Leave a comment

Dave Van Ronk: ‘Hang Me, O Hang Me’ (1963)

Here’s Dave Van Ronk’s take on the old traditional song ‘Hang Me, O Hang Me’ (also called ‘All Around this World’). Note: it ends rather bruptly.

There’s a great exploration of the history of this song here.

More about Dave Van Ronk here.

Posted in Folk music, Music, Traditional Folk music | Leave a comment

Meadowvale (revised): Chapter Eleven

I’ve gone through the ‘Meadowvale’ story over the past few weeks and done a rewrite. I will be posting the revised chapters here over the next few months, at the rate of about two a week. The originals are still on this site (go to ‘Meadowvale’ in the sidebar) in case you want to compare! I hope you enjoy them.

Kelly and I were married on Thanksgiving weekend in 1984. We chose the date, of course, because of its associations with our first meeting, on Thanksgiving weekend two years previously. However, the road from our first discovery of our love for each other to our wedding day took a long and winding route, and there were a number of significant milestones on the journey.

The first milestone was Joe and Ellie’s wedding, five weeks after Corey’s death. They got married in Humboldt, Ellie’s home town, on the May long weekend.

Ever since we had met back in October Joe and I had been getting together at least once a week for coffee, at his place or mine, or at one of the coffee shops in town. I liked going to Joe’s little rental house; his bookshelves were every bit as packed as mine, but the contents were almost entirely different. He had Canadian, American and Russian novels, books about animal biology, evolution, and DNA, North American history, and books about theology and spirituality. One thing that surprised me was his shelf of Solzhenitsyn. “Don’t you find him a little depressing?” I asked, and Joe gave me a slow smile and said, “Well, maybe so, but he spent time in the Gulag, and I suspect that quite a few of my relatives have been there too, so I thought it was important for me to have some sense of what it was like”.

From time to time he invited me to ride along with him when he went on Saturday or Sunday calls out into the country, and in this way I got to know the various grid roads around Meadowvale quite well. I knew nothing about veterinary medicine, of course, but Joe was quite happy to explain things to me, and occasionally when he needed an extra pair of hands with no skill required, I was happy to oblige. And sometimes, quite naturally, our conversation would venture into questions of God and the meaning of life; I had told him that Kelly and I were trying his plan of reading the gospels and attempting to practice the things that particularly struck us, and he was always glad to discuss specific passages that I needed help with.

I realized, of course, that I was gaining a friend, but nonetheless I was surprised, a few days after Corey’s funeral, when Joe asked me to step in as his best man. “Me?” I exclaimed; “Surely you must have lots of friends or family who could do a better job than me?”

“Well, there are lots of people I’m friendly with”, he said, “but I’ve never actually felt the need for more than a few close friends. Kelly’s the one I’m closest to now,but of course, for obvious reasons, she can’t be my best man!”

“That would be a bit adventurous, I suppose”, I said with a smile.

“Yeah”. He looked at me across my kitchen table where we were having coffee together, and I saw the sadness in his eyes. “If I was a little more like Kelly, it wouldn’t be a problem, because she’s always making new friends. But I’m not like her; I think I’ll be living in close company with the empty space Corey left for a long time”.

I shook my head slowly. “I’m so sorry, Joe”.

We drank our coffee in silence for a minute, and then I asked, “Who are your other friends, then?”

“Well, Krista, but there’s the same problem there: she’s a woman, and I need a man! There’s Glenn Pickering, but he’s not really connected to the church community in any way, and I want someone who’s got some sort of connection there”.

“But I’m not a Christian, or at least, not yet”.

He grinned; “I think the Holy Spirit is doing things in your life, though. I’m watching you and Kelly, and I’m thinking, one of these days…”

“But there must be someone else beside Glenn?”

“Well, my other close friend is Rob Neufeld, but he’s already co-leading the service with the minister from Ellie’s parents’ church”. He smiled at me; “I know we haven’t known each other for very long, Tom, but we’ve had some good long conversations and done a few things together, and I have a hunch about you; I think we’re going to be really close friends in the years to come. So – I’d really like you to do this. What do you say?”

I looked at him without speaking for a moment, and then I held out my hand. He took it, and I said, “I’d be honoured. Of course, I’ll need some help with all the inside jokes the best man’s supposed to know”.

“Talk to Krista”, he said with a grin; “She keeps track of all the embarrassing stories in our family”.

“There is one story I’d like to know better”, I said.

“What’s that?”

“Well, I already know a bit of it, but I wouldn’t mind hearing a more complete version”.

“You’re talking about the story of how Ellie and I met?”


He sat back in his chair and gave me a slow smile. “Well, it’s not exactly romantic”, he said, “but we met at a Bible study group”.

“Oh yeah?”

He nodded. “I’m a little older than Ellie, as you know, so I was three years ahead of her in university. Corey and I shared an apartment, and we both went to First Mennonite Church when we weren’t coming home for the weekend. In our first year we often came home on weekends, but as time went by I got busier, and it was just easier to stay in the city and study, so I became more regular at First”.

He took a sip of his coffee, put the mug down on the table, and said, “Ellie wasn’t raised a Mennonite; she was United Church, and she’d always been a believer, but when she started university she made friends with a couple of Mennonite girls from First who were in her classes. They found out that they were all churchgoers, so they started talking about their faith together, and Ellie was really taken by the things she heard about Anabaptist Christianity, so she tried out First and she liked it, and after a few weeks she joined a midweek Bible study group”.

“You were already in it?”

“Yeah, and the first week she sat next to me. I think I’d actually seen her a couple of times in church on Sundays, but I hadn’t really noticed her”.

“Really? She’s hard not to notice”.

“Yeah, she is”, he replied with a smile, “but I can be a little focussed sometimes, you know. Anyway, the first night she came to the group, I noticed her for sure. We got talking afterwards, and that’s how it started”.

“How long have you been together?”

“Well, we were friends for quite a while before we realized that we were falling in love with each other. It’s about three years ago that we had our first real date, I guess, and we’ve been engaged since last August”.

“What brought you together, do you think?”

He frowned, and I said, “Sorry – if you want me to back off, I will”.

“No, of course not – I was just thinking that it’s a good question”. He was quiet for a moment, and then he grinned and said, “Well, for starters, she’s very attractive!”

“Yes she is”.

“But I liked that she wasn’t loud or pushy; she was always quiet and thoughtful, and when she had something to say, it was always worth hearing. She was pretty shy in the group, actually, but when we got talking, just the two of us, she did much better. I’ve always enjoyed talking with her, right from the beginning”.

“The two of you would have had faith in common”.

“Yes, and she really wanted to learn about Anabaptist Christianity, so we had a lot of conversations about that. It didn’t take me long to find out that she was the real thing”.

“The real thing?”

“Yeah. Some people go to church out of habit, though you don’t find that as often these days, but Ellie was never like that. She’d always wanted to get to know God better, and she’d always been taken with Jesus and the things he had to say”.

“Like Kelly”.

“Yeah. Also, when we started to sit together in church, I noticed that she had a wonderful singing voice. I love music and I really enjoy singing; I’ve always loved that Ellie’s a musician and that she likes traditional music, including old hymns, which I’m kind of fond of too”.

“First date?”

He laughed; “Well, we went to see The Muppet Movie together when it first came out, but we weren’t really dating at that time!” He shook his head, his eyes far away. “I took her out for a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant in early May of 1980; that’s when I told her I was falling in love with her. Fortunately for me, the feeling was mutual”. He looked up at me with a grin; “How about you?” he asked.


“It appears rather obvious, Mr. Masefield, that you and my sister are rather taken with each other”.

“You could say that”.

“So – first date?”

“We went out for supper at Pyramid Lake Resort last month, but we weren’t really dating at the time. Still, I knew I was in love with her at that point, and she tells me that she knew she was in love with me, too; we just hadn’t got around to telling each other yet”.

“When did you tell each other?”

“About ten days ago, after church, the day after Corey died”.

He nodded again; “I thought that might have been the time”.

“It’s early days, though, Joe”.

“I understand. Kelly’s special, though – you know that, right?”

“Yes, I do”.

“Can I be really up-front here?”

“You know you can”.

“Is she your first real love?”

“Second, but she’s the first one I’ve told”.

“Oh, that doesn’t sound good”.

“No, the first one was a rather painful episode”.

“Do you mind if I ask who?”

“Wendy Howard; she sang folk music with Owen and me”.

He nodded; “You’ve talked about her. She’s in that picture on your wall, right?”


“That’s over, though?”

I grinned at him; “If you weren’t a pacifist Mennonite, I’d be watching out for your shotgun right now”.

“Kelly got badly hurt in Saskatoon, Tom, and I’ve been a little protective of her since then”.

“I know; she told me”.

“The thing is, Mike Sorenson seemed like a nice guy when she first started going out with him”.

“So even though I seem like a nice guy to you, you’re reserving the right to change your mind?”

He laughed; “I think I know you better than I knew Mike. But if you hurt my sister, I will renounce my pacifism and break every bone in your body”.

“Duly noted”, I replied with a grin.

Joe and Ellie were married at the United Church in Humboldt, with the local minister officiating and Rob assisting. Kelly, of course, was one of the bridesmaids, and I also asked her to help me with my duties as M.C. of the reception, along with Ellie’s older sister Karla who was her maid of honour. And so the meal was shared, the speeches were made, the cake was cut, and we danced into the wee hours of the morning. It was the first time Kelly and I had danced together, and I quickly realized that she was far better at it than I was. “I’m going to have to practice this”, I said to her as we were sitting down after one of the songs.

“That would be good”, she replied with a grin; “I like dancing!”

“Then I’d better practice for sure”.

Glenn Pickering was one of the invited guests at the wedding. He came by himself, dressed as usual in a smart suit and tie, and I saw him dancing contentedly with several women during the course of the evening, including Ellie’s sister Karla. By now Glenn and I were relaxed and easy in each other’s company, due to our continuing habit of spontaneous coffee conversations at the Co-op deli.

At one point during the dance that night, he and I found ourselves at the bar at the same time. “Can I buy you a drink?” he asked me.

“Sure; rum and coke, if you don’t mind?”

“Hmm – I had you down as a beer man”.

“Yeah, but I’m English”.

“Ah – you like your beer dark and warm, then!”

“I do”.

He ordered a rum and coke for me and a beer for himself, and we went and sat down together at one of the tables on the edge of the dance floor; Kelly was on the other side of the room, dancing with another of her cousins.

“So”, he said, “you and the lovely Kelly Reimer?”

“Yes”, I replied.

“Very nice. Congratulations”.

“Thanks; we’re not engaged or anything”.

“All in good time. Krista seems to be somewhat attached as well”.

“Actually, she and Steve have been an item since before Christmas, but they’re so very rarely in town that you probably wouldn’t have noticed”.

“What are they doing for the summer?”

“She’s studying woodland caribou in Jasper, and he’s studying whooping cranes in Wood Buffalo National Park”.

“That ought to make for some nice romantic dates”.

“I think you’re a bit late to that joke, Glenn”.

He grinned; “I guess I probably am”.

We sipped our drinks quietly for a minute, watching the people moving on the dance floor. Eventually he put his glass down on the table and spoke quietly; “I expect you’ve heard some rumours about me”, he said.

“I have. I tend not to listen to gossip, though”.

“I appreciate that”. He looked down at his glass with a frown; “I was married once”, he said. “That much is true”.

“Joe told me. Who was the lucky girl?”

He gave me a rueful smile; “Unfortunately, she didn’t think she was so very lucky”.

“Someone from here?”

“No, someone I met in Saskatoon”. He frowned thoughtfully, took a sip of his beer, put the glass back down on the table, and said, “Her name was Katelyn O’Donnell. She and I went through law school together, and when we graduated we went to work for the same firm in Saskatoon”.

“What was she like?” I asked.

“Irish by name, and Irish by nature. Kind of like Kelly in some ways – outgoing, extroverted, always on the move. She had dark curly hair and dark eyes, and I was absolutely entranced by her, pretty well from the first time we met”.

“Sounds like she was more than a little different from you”.

“She was – rather like you and Kelly, actually”.

I grinned; “Yeah, we’ve run into that one already. She never has an unspoken thought, and me…”

“I know – you take a week to mull it over before you speak!”

We both laughed, and I said, “Well, not quite that extreme, but you’ve caught the drift pretty well!”

“Yeah, that’s the way it was with Katie and me, too. But we enjoyed working together, and in those days I had myself convinced that I could enjoy living in the city, too. So we went out to expensive bars and clubs, and concerts and plays, and we talked a lot about getting ahead and living the sophisticated life”.

“That doesn’t sound like you, Glenn”.

“No, I wasn’t driving a truck in those days, I can assure you”.

“So what happened?”

“We moved in together in our last year of law school, and we got married when we graduated, while we were articling at the same firm. We lasted two years”. He looked across at me and said, “I couldn’t be what she wanted me to be, Tom. I blame myself; I was so intoxicated with her that I bent myself into pretzel shapes trying to be that person, and for a while I succeeded in convincing myself that I genuinely enjoyed that sort of life. But in the end it all came crashing down”.

“Do you mind me asking…?”

He shook his head. “She was never interested in coming up here to visit the family, and that sort of thing’s important to me; I’m the youngest of six, as you know, and by then most of them were married, or at least coupled in some way, and I already had some nieces and nephews, who I really enjoyed. Plus, Mom and Dad were getting older, and as you know they’re pretty traditional; Mom was dropping hints about more grandchildren, which was when I found out that Katie really wasn’t interested”.

“You’d never…”

He shook his head; “No, we’d never had that discussion. Amazing how stupid two intelligent lawyers can be, isn’t it?”

“I’m sorry, Glenn”.

“Let’s chalk it up to experience”.

“So it was four years ago when you split up?”

“Yeah; that’s when I moved back to Meadowvale and started my business here. I should have done that right from the beginning, but I was a little distracted by Katie. Our divorce came through a couple of years later, and since then I’ve been single”.

“No other girls…?”

He shook his head, taking a sip of his beer and holding the glass in his hand. “To be absolutely honest with you, I’ve been more than a little shy about it”.

“How old are you, Glenn, if you don’t mind me asking?”


“Was Will Reimer one of your teachers?”

“Yes, he was, actually – he taught me social studies. I left school before he became the principal, though”.

“But you wouldn’t have been in school with Joe and Kelly and Krista?”

“Well, they were younger than me, so they weren’t in my peer group, although I knew of them, of course. But Joe and I have become good friends in the last four years, and of course, everyone in Meadowvale loves Kelly”.

“Don’t I know it!”

He smiled. “I hope things work out for the two of you; you’d be a lucky man”.


“Will you take some advice from a guy with some scars?”

“Of course, Glenn”.

“Make sure you’ve got the same expectations before you make any commitments to each other. The stuff you don’t talk about ahead of time will rise up and bite you in the ass afterwards”.

“I’ll keep that in mind”, I said. I frowned, glanced across at him, and said, “Do you mind if I tell Kelly what you’ve told me?”

He shook his head; “I know her well enough to know that it’s her own stories she tells, not other people’s”.

“No, that’s true; she’s pretty discreet that way. Goes with being a nurse, I suppose”.

“A good nurse, anyway, and she is a good one, or so I’ve been told”.

I told Kelly about this conversation the next afternoon; we had driven back to Meadowvale after lunch, and had decided to take advantage of the fine weather and go out to Myers Lake for a walk. The spring was in full bloom now; the trees were bursting into leaf, and the air was full of the songs of migrating birds.

“Poor Glenn”, she said; “I knew about his divorce, of course, but I didn’t know the story of how it came about”.

“I was a bit surprised when he talked to me about it, actually; he and I talk a lot, but it’s pretty rare for him to open up about himself. Usually we’re talking about other people in Meadowvale, or politics, or even religion sometimes, or he’s asking about me about what’s going on in my life. But he keeps his cards pretty close to his chest most of the time”.

“I don’t really know him very well at all”, she replied; “He’s Joe’s friend more than mine”.

“Have you ever had any divorces in your family?” I asked.

“I’ve got divorced cousins. Uncle Karl’s oldest son James got divorced about five years ago; he and his wife had a couple of small children. I never did find out what that was all about. He got married again about two years ago; they live in Vancouver now, I think”.

“He wasn’t back for Corey’s funeral, was he?”


“How did the family handle the whole divorce thing?”

“I think there was a lot of disappointment about it. James and Nancy were living in Saskatoon at the time they split, but they were still going to church and they looked to me as if they were practicing Christians. You kind of think that Christians ought to be less prone to that sort of thing, but I guess not. James has been back to visit his mom and dad a few times, but I don’t think he’s ever come to church with them, and he certainly hasn’t brought his new wife to church”.

“How do you think the church folk would handle that?”

“Well, James wouldn’t be the first person in our church to be divorced and remarried, but some of the older folk still have a tough time handling it, I think”.

“Jesus seems pretty hard on it in the gospels”.

“Yeah, I know”.

“How do you deal with that?”

“I tend to see it as an ideal to aim for. But sometimes these things don’t work out the way we hoped they would”. She frowned thoughtfully for a moment, then stopped, turned to me and took my hand, looking up at me with a sudden intensity in her eyes. “That didn’t come out the way I meant it to”, she said. “What I really want to say is that, when I get married, I’m not going to go into it with the attitude that if it doesn’t work out, we can get a divorce. I want to get married for life, and if I run into tough patches in my marriage, I’ll try as hard as I can to work through them. But I don’t feel it’s up to me to judge other people whose marriages have failed. I’m not close to James, but if I was, I’d try to let him know that I was there for him. And of course, I’ve had other high school friends who’ve been through marriage breakups”.

I looked down at her in silence for a moment, and then I put my arms around her and held her close. “I love you, Kelly”, I said softly.

“I love you too”, she replied, tightening her arms around me.

We were quiet for a moment, holding each other; I could feel her heartbeat, and the warmth of her breath against my neck. Eventually I kissed the top of her head and said, “That’s the way I feel about marriage, too”.

“Good to know”, she whispered.

The second milestone on the road to our wedding was my growing friendship with Rob Neufeld.

Rob was about ten years older than me, a married man with two small children; he had been raised on a farm in southern Saskatchewan before training as a minister, and he had been the pastor of Meadowvale Mennonite Church for about four years. He and I first met for coffee in his office a couple of weeks after Corey’s death, and we soon fell into the habit of getting together once every two or three weeks.

I quickly discovered that Rob wasn’t going to argue with me. I shared with him my questions about Jesus being the Son of God, about what the authority of the Bible meant, and about what a faithful Christian life might look like. He probed a little, asking me what was driving my interest; was it just my growing love for Kelly, or was there more to it than that? I admitted that Kelly had a lot to do with it, but I also told him of my distaste for the life of wealth and success that my father was obviously committed to, and my desire for something more than that.

“The thing about God, of course, is that you can’t control him”, Rob said. “I wish I could give you a sure-fire formula for having a spiritual experience, but I can’t. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is like the wind – it blows where it will, and you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going”.

I gave him a rueful grin; “That’s not very encouraging, Rob!”

“Oh? You want a god you can control, do you? Seems to me that kind of god wouldn’t really be worth much”.

“No, I suppose not”. I frowned; “So what can we do, then?”

“I like what you’re already doing – reading the gospels, trying to put into practice what you read there, praying for God’s help and guidance, and asking God to show himself to you. Don’t try to manufacture a religious experience by your own emotional effort; leave that to God. God knows if and when you need it. We really do have to learn to trust that he knows what’s best for each of us”.

“My friend Owen Foster said much the same thing”.

“Well, then, there must be something in it!”

On about our third meeting I discovered that Rob was a secret guitar player, too. “I’ve never said much about it here”, he said; “I don’t play the sort of music people around here seem to like”.

“What do you play?”

“Bluegrass, and old fashioned mountain music. Do you know anything about that?”

I laughed; “Oh boy, Ellie’s going to be really pleased to hear this!”

“Joe’s Ellie? Does she play?”

“She’s a fiddler; she plays bluegrass, and old time mountain music. She’s very good, too; apparently she was in a bluegrass band when she was in university in Saskatoon”.

“No way!” He laughed; “I had no idea!”

“I play too”, I said; “Traditional folk music from Britain and Ireland, and I’m learning some of Ellie’s stuff, too, but I’m not really a good enough flat picker yet to do what she wants me to do”.

“Are you a fingerstyle player?”

“Yes, I am”.

“I’d love to hear you play”.

“Well, let’s get together and have a singaround, then”.

“A singaround?”

“It’s a British term – sort of like a song circle, where musicians get together, sit in a circle, and take turns playing their songs. I’m sure Ellie would love it. Will would too, although he’s more of an old time country player”.

Rob shook his head; “And I thought I knew my congregation!” he said.

We had our first singaround in early July, at Joe and Ellie’s new place on the northeast corner of town. They had bought a modest three-bedroom house with an unfinished basement, and the first thing Joe had done was to press all his relatives into service to insulate the basement and put drywall up. The project was ongoing, of course, but fortunately they had a good-sized back yard, and since the weather was fine, that was where we had our singaround.

There were half a dozen musicians there, including Will and Ellie, Rob and myself, along with various spouses and children. Kelly had come home from Jasper for a couple of days, and she sat beside me in the circle for most of the evening, enjoying the music and singing along if anyone played a song she knew. She also helped Rob’s wife Mandy entertain Megan and Matthew, their two little ones, with the help of some toys they had brought along and a swing set Joe had set up a couple of days before. We played and sang for several hours; the music ranged from bluegrass and country all the way to classic rock, with the occasional traditional folk song from me. Joe and Ellie supplied coffee and iced tea, and some of the guests had brought along munchies to help fuel the music.

Rob and Mandy left at about ten o’clock with two sleeping children in their arms; I carried his guitar case for him so that he could carry their five year old, Megan, and as they were putting the children in the car he said to me, “This was a great idea, Tom; I hope we’ll do it again soon”.

“Me too”.

“Have you ever played guitar in a church setting?”

I laughed; “I can count the number of times I’ve been to church on my fingers and my toes”.

“Well, maybe you should think about it. There are people in our church who might enjoy a change from piano and hymns from time to time. There’s lots of newer Christian music out there; maybe you and Ellie and Will…?”

I grinned; “Why do I feel like my arm’s being twisted?”

At about midnight Kelly and I were sitting outside on Joe and Ellie’s swing set, swatting mosquitoes and talking quietly in the darkened yard. Everyone else had left, and Joe and Ellie had gone in to bed, telling us to use the swings for as long as we wanted.

“He asked you to play in church?” she exclaimed.

“Apparently so”.

“Wow – sneaky!”

I grinned at her; “Sometimes I get the feeling that I’m being set up”.

“By people, or by God?”

“Well, maybe both! Maybe this is as close as I’m going to get to a spiritual experience – a divinely-orchestrated conspiracy to suck me into Meadowvale Mennonite Church!”

She laughed, and then she said, “Are you going to do it?”

“I haven’t decided yet”.

“I’m sure he doesn’t mean every Sunday. Some of those old people are pretty attached to their hymns”.

“I don’t mind some of those hymns either, and apparently your dad’s got guitar chords worked out for quite a few of them”.

In the dark I saw her giving me another grin. “You’re going to do it, aren’t you?”

“Like I said, I haven’t decided yet”.

“Oh, I think you have”.

“Well, maybe”. I glanced at my watch in the dark; “Twelve fifteen”, I said. “I should walk home; these mosquitoes are starting to get persistent”.

“Walk with you?”


And so we walked through the darkened streets toward my house; I was holding my guitar case with one hand, and holding her hand with the other. “Those are some cute kids”, she said softly.

“You were getting on pretty well with them”.

“I like kids”.

“I’ve noticed that”. I hesitated, then asked, “Would you like some of your own some day?”

“Honestly, Tom, I’ve been looking forward to having kids since I was about fourteen”.

“Really? How many?”

“Well, enough to make for fun family holidays, anyway”.

“Two or three?” I suggested tentatively.

“Or four or five”, she replied with a grin.

“Five! You’d need a bus!”

“Or a van, like the Brady Bunch”.

We both laughed, and then she spoke quietly. “I don’t know how many, but sometimes I’ve had dreams of having a little girl with blonde hair, like mine”.

“Real dreams at night, you mean?”


“Has the little girl got a name?”

She looked across at me and nodded; “Her name’s Emma”.

“Emma. I like that; it reminds me of Jane Austen – Emma Woodhouse, you know?”

“I’d forgotten about Emma Woodhouse – I haven’t read that book in years”.

“Where did the name come from, then?”

She shook her head; “I don’t know”, she replied. “I’ve had the dream several times, and her name’s just always been Emma”.

“What do you think of ‘Dawn’ for a girl’s name?”

She considered for a moment. “Dawn – you don’t hear that one very often around here. Is it common in England?”

“It used to be; I haven’t heard it much lately, but I’ve always liked it. I was just thinking the two names would go well together: Emma Dawn”.

“You’re right – they do sound good together”.

I nodded. “Emma Dawn. Sounds like a plan”.

Suddenly she stopped, turned round and kissed me. “I love you”, she said, and even in the darkness I could see the delight in her eyes.

“I love you too”.

“I know we haven’t made definite plans for the future, and there are probably still lots of questions we need to think about. But I just wanted you to know that I love having conversations like this with you!”

“Me too”.

When it came right down to it, I didn’t think I had much choice about playing guitar in church. Ellie and Will just assumed that I would, and before I knew it we were getting together and practicing songs. Everything kind of became a country song when Will played it, but I discovered that I didn’t mind that, and it soon became apparent that the congregation didn’t, either. We played for them on the last Sunday in July, and we had lots of good comments afterwards. Kelly was back in town again, having her interview for the upcoming job at the Special Care Home, and she sat with me during the service. It was only the second time I’d attended a normal Sunday service at Meadowvale Mennonite Church, the first time having been the Sunday after Corey’s death.

It soon became obvious that the people weren’t ready to let us get away with only playing once a month; they preferred the idea of having a mixture of hymns and guitar songs every Sunday, or as many Sundays as possible, anyway. And so somehow, over the summer, when I wasn’t away on holiday, I found that for the first time in my life I had become a regular churchgoer.

I went to Jasper a couple of times over the summer to visit Kelly, and of course she took me hiking on some of the back country trails. We climbed the Edith Cavell Meadows trail and went to the top of Whistler’s Mountain, we went canoeing on Pyramid Lake and whitewater rafting on the Athabasca River, and on my second visit we did a three-day hike across the Skyline Trail from Maligne Lake to Jasper, the most strenuous trek in the mountains I had ever attempted, with some of the most spectacular views I had ever seen in my life. We made the trip with a couple of Kelly’s Jasper friends; of course, we had to carry everything on our backs, including tents, sleeping bags, and food, and when we finally got back to town I was totally wiped out, while somehow managing to be totally exhilarated at the same time.
“Next time you come we’ll have to go to Maligne Lake and take a canoe to the Coronet Creek campground”, she said.

“Where’s that?”

“At the far end of Maligne Lake; you can only get there by canoe, and it takes about nine hours to do it”.

“That’s a little isolated, and I don’t think I’ve ever paddled a canoe for nine hours before”.

“Time to get into training, then!”

The third milestone on the road toward our wedding day came on the last weekend in August, when I got two phone calls from England, one from Owen on the Saturday, and one from my mother on the Sunday.

I knew that Owen had been doing a lot of travelling over the summer, so we hadn’t been talking on the phone as often as we normally did, and our regular letters to each other had turned into a series of postcards. I had been thinking of giving him a call, but I was sitting at my kitchen table eating my breakfast on that Saturday morning when the phone rang and I heard the familiar sound of his voice.

“Well”, I said, “It’s been a long time”.

“It has. I enjoyed your postcard from Jasper”.

“I liked yours from Switzerland, too. Did Lorraine’s dad really pay for you all to make that trip?”

“He did. Like I told you a while back, he’s something financial in the City – I’m not exactly sure what. Anyway, this was their thirtieth wedding anniversary and they wanted to take the whole family away on a trip. I suppose they must consider me family, because they invited me along”.

“Well, it sounds like you enjoyed it”.

“I did. What about you – what have you been doing?”

I told him about my conversations with Rob and about playing music in church. He laughed; “Is this my pagan friend Tom Masefield we’re talking about here?”

“Apparently so; I appear to have dwindled into a churchgoer”.

“The lovely Kelly is obviously having a good effect on you”.

“I’m a pretty lucky man, Owen”.

“Did she get the job in Meadowvale?”

“She hasn’t heard yet, but she’s expecting to get word some time this week”.

“Good”. He paused for a moment, and then said, “Well, I’ve got some news for you”.


“I asked Lorraine to marry me, and she said yes”.

I let out a triumphant whoop; “Wow! Congratulations! That’s fantastic, Owen!”

“Thanks; I’m glad you approve”.

“Have you set a date?”

“An approximate date; we’re thinking about next August, a year from now. It’ll take that long to book something around here, and of course it will cost money and I don’t want to sponge off Lorraine’s dad, or my parents, for the whole thing. Also, I wanted to give you time to make plans, because if you’re willing, I want you to be my best man, of course”.

“Well, absolutely! Is it going to be at your church?”

“I think so. Her family aren’t really churchgoers, and since she’s been living in Oxford she’s made St. Clement’s her church home”.


“I suppose I’m also giving you a lot of notice about it, because it might be a good thing for you to prepare the ground with your parents, you know?”

I took a deep breath, hesitated for a moment, and then said, “Right. Yes. I suppose it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to come to Oxford next summer and spend the entire time at your house”.

“Um, don’t take this wrongly, but I won’t really want you at my house the whole time, anyway”.

“No, I suppose you won’t, will you?” I exclaimed; “Don’t want to crowd you and Lorraine!”

“You’ve got that right!”

“Okay; so I need to start priming the pump with Mum and Dad”.

“That would be good”.

The next day I came home from church, made myself some lunch, and was just sitting down to some schoolwork when the phone rang again. I wandered into the living room, a sheaf of papers in my hand, picked up the phone, and said, “Hello?”

“Hello Tom”.

“Mum!” I exclaimed; “How are you?”

“Very well, thank you. Have I caught you at a bad time?”

“No, I just had some lunch and I’m doing a bit of prep work for school. We start classes this week, you know”.

“Yes, hasn’t the summer flown by?”

“Well, mine was a little longer, Mum – we get eight weeks off here, so I’ve had some nice holiday times”.

“Is Kelly well?”

“She is, thank you; hard at work on night shifts this weekend”.

“So she’s back in Jasper, then?”

“Yes. She should hear this week whether or not she’s got the job at the new Special Care Home”. I paused for a moment, then said, “How are things with you, Mum?”

“I’m very well, thank you. Becca goes back to school this coming week, of course, so the house will feel rather large and empty for a few days”.

“Has she had a good summer?”

“I think so. She spent a lot of time with Corrina and Chris and Stevie. She and Stevie have enrolled in gymnastics this autumn, too, which is something new”.

“Wow; I don’t remember her doing that before”.

“She’s had gym classes at school, of course, but Stevie’s very keen, apparently, so they’ve agreed to take extra classes together, with a view to competing”.

I was quiet for a moment, and then I said, “Please give her my love, Mum”.

“I will. And I’ve got some other news for you”.


“Your brother is going to be getting married next year”.

“Oh wow; is this that Scottish girl he’s been with for a while?”

“Alyson Mackenzie, yes. Her family live in Edinburgh, but she’s a biology student at Magdalen”.

“Didn’t he meet her on a tennis court or something?”

“Yes, they’re both quite committed tennis players”.

“It seems to me that I met her a couple of times before I moved, didn’t I?”

“Yes, he brought her here a few times during the last year you were here; I’m sure you must have met her at least once”.

“Have they set a date?”

“They’re thinking about next August”.

“Then I need to call him”.


“Yes. You see, you’re the second person to call me with wedding news this weekend”.

“Who’s the other one?”

“Owen. He’s getting married in August, too, and he’s asked me to be his best man. But he and Lorraine haven’t set an exact date yet, so I’ll need to find out from Rick if they’ve got a specific date in mind, so that Owen can avoid it”.

“So you’ll come, then?”

“Of course I’ll come – if I’m invited”.

“I know he’d want you at his wedding, Tom”.

“I hope so”. I paused; “I hope Dad would want to see me, too, but…”


“Well – this is exciting”.

“Perhaps, if she’s interested, you’d like to bring Kelly with you, Tom?”

“I’m sure she would be interested. Of course, we’ve got no idea what we’ll be doing this time next year”.

“I understand. But I just wanted you to know that if the two of you are still attached this time next year, I would very much like to meet her”.

“Thank you, Mum. I’d like you to meet her, too; she’s really an amazing person”.

“So I understand. And has it been a good summer for you, Tom?”

“Yes, really good. It’s been really hot here, hotter maybe than I’m comfortable with, but I’ve gone off to Jasper a couple of times to hike in the mountains with Kelly, so that’s been nice. Also, I haven’t told you that I’ve been playing guitar in church”.

“In church?” she exclaimed.

I laughed; “That took you by surprise, didn’t it?”

“It certainly did! I didn’t realize you’d become a churchgoer”.

“Yes; Kelly and I have been talking a lot about Christianity; I think I told you that her family are Mennonites”.

“You did mention that”.

“So, I struck up a friendship with their pastor, and he invited me to come and play music for them. I play with Kelly’s dad – Will, my principal, you know – and with Joe’s wife Ellie. Will and I play guitar and Ellie plays the fiddle. We’re having a lot of fun”.

“Well, I’m surprised. Pleased, though. It sounds like there are a lot of changes in your life”.


For a moment she didn’t say anything, and I wondered if the conversation was over. But then she spoke quietly; “Are you happy, Tom?”

“I am, Mum. I like Meadowvale a lot, I love teaching here, I really enjoy the people I work with”.

“And of course there’s Kelly”.

“Yes, Kelly. I’m very lucky”.

“Well, as I say, I hope I have the chance to meet her before too long”.

“Get on the plane any time you like, Mum. No need to wait ’til next August”.

“Tom, I would love to do that, but…”

“I know; Dad wouldn’t approve”.

“There are some things I can’t change”, she said.

“I know, Mum; I’m sorry, it was wrong of me to mention it. And yes, if everything works out, I’ll talk to Kelly about coming over with me for Rick’s wedding. I know she’d love to see the place I grew up, and meet my family. She loves meeting new people; she’s quite different from me that way, she’s much more outgoing”.

“Thank you; I’ll look forward to meeting her”.

“Tell Rick to ring me, okay? I need to talk to him about dates”.

“I’ll do that. Well, son, I should let you go; you’ve got schoolwork to do”.

“I’ve got a pile of photos sitting here waiting to be sent to you, Mum; I’ll get them packaged up this week”.

“Good, I’ll look forward to seeing them. Take care, Tom; I love you”.

“Love you too, Mum; ‘bye for now”.

At the time, I didn’t see these events as milestones on the road toward our marriage – at least, not all of them. They were just things that happened, or things that we did, and for the most part they came and went without me realizing their lasting significance. But looking back now, I can see that they were very significant, not just in themselves, but in what each of them ushered in. And so, for instance, Joe and Ellie’s wedding was not only significant because as a couple they figured so highly in the life Kelly and I had together; it was also important because it was the first time Glenn and I talked about his personal life and his divorce, and it ushered in a new openness in our relationship, an openness that, in the years to come, would be extended to Kelly as well.

My growing friendship with Rob, also, was multi-faceted. It included our ongoing conversations about Christianity, his patience and his willingness to answer my questions as best he could and to accompany me on my spiritual journey. Even more significant, it led to the beginning of my life as a regular churchgoer. This was a brand new experience for me, and I had no idea on that first Sunday of how important it was going to be on the road to faith. Meeting week by week, singing songs and hymns of faith, listening to Rob’s thoughtful and challenging sermons, hearing people share their prayer requests and relating the Christian message to the daily challenges they faced as human beings – all of this helped me to see Christianity as more and more plausible.

The singarounds that we started also continued to be a regular feature of our lives for years to come. Every couple of months or so, either at Joe and Ellie’s or, later, at our house, we would call around to some of the people we knew who were musicians and invite them over for an evening of songs and friendship. At these events I learned to participate in many different kinds of music, thus broadening my own musical horizons. This included not only the music Kelly liked and which I learned to play to please her – especially some of Bruce Cockburn’s songs, which she was especially fond of – but also the bluegrass and mountain music that Ellie, Will and Rob enjoyed, and some of the old time country and classic rock songs that were very popular amongst musicians in Meadowvale.

The night of that first singaround, when Kelly and I had our first tentative discussion about a possible life together – a discussion about a possible name for a child, a name that would be incredibly significant for us before too many years had passed – led to many other conversations about what a shared life together might look like for us. We talked about what sort of house we might like to live in, whether we would both want to work full time if we were married, and whether we would see ourselves as continuing to live in Meadowvale or moving elsewhere. Gradually, the word ‘marriage’ became a regular part of our conversation. Kelly, characteristically, was very up-front about it; “I know you haven’t asked me”, she said, “but I’m not sure how we can make a decision about that sort of thing if we haven’t had some conversations first about what it might look like for us”.

“I agree”, I replied.

These conversations accelerated when we passed the third milestone, the news that both Owen and Rick would be getting married the following August. Kelly was both excited and apprehensive about it. “Go to England with you?” she exclaimed when I asked her about it; “Are you kidding me? Of course I want to!” But a few minutes later I heard an uncharacteristic note of apprehension in her voice. “What’s it going to be like staying at your mom and dad’s? Especially with you and your dad never really having talked since…”

“I know. And things are still really awkward between Becca and me”.

“Maybe we can do a little travelling too?”

“Well, I’m guessing that Rick and Alyson’s wedding will be in Edinburgh, so we’ll certainly be making at least one trip to Scotland”.

The upcoming weddings, and our commitment to attending them, gave Kelly and me a concrete shared future to look forward to. And they also raised another question in my mind, one that, at the time, I didn’t mention to her: if and when she and I decided to get married, how would we fit our own wedding date around this trip to England next August? Would we get married before the trip, or after? And how close should our date be to theirs?

All summer long, work on the Meadowvale Special Care Home had been proceeding at a tremendous pace. It was clear by the end of the summer that they were going to easily meet their target of opening up at Thanksgiving. And so came the fourth milestone on the road to our wedding day: the evening in early September when Kelly called me from Jasper. “I’ve got the job,” she said, with a quiet satisfaction in her voice; “I’ll be starting on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving”.

“Fantastic!” I replied. “Wow, that’s close!”

“Yeah, there’s a lot to do”.

“Will you stay at your mum and dad’s?”

“Maybe; I’m not sure yet. I might rent a place of my own for a while – not a long term lease, of course, because you never know…”

“No”, I replied with a smile, knowing instinctively what she was talking about; “You never know what might happen in the next twelve months or so”.

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