Rewind: “God’s Providence and the Envelope”

I promised I would tell how “she” started writing him in the first place. 

You’ll remember that her church made it their mission to ensure that every serviceman and woman who went out to serve their country from this church would receive at least one piece of mail each month from someone in their church family. Several pre-addressed, stamped envelopes were distributed to the teachers in the various adult Sunday School classes. The high school class also participated in this letter-writing endeavor. 

Garfield Baptist Church in Wauwatosa, WI (now Spring Creek Church in Pewaukee)

Each month her Sunday School Superintendent (Mrs. Grace Barron, her youth pastor’s wife) would hold up two of these pre-addressed envelopes seeking volunteers to write a letter. “She” was accustomed to volunteering to write a random recipient each month, but, as was mentioned in an earlier account, had selfishly decided that she was no longer going to volunteer. 

Pastor Bob & Grace Barron

Her reason? Simple. Because they didn’t write back! 

Pretty selfish, wasn’t it? If she wasn’t selfish, at least she was a bit naive. It never dawned on her that it sometimes takes months for mail to reach someone serving in the armed forces. It also never dawned on her that some of the recipients might be in a foxhole dodging the enemies attack somewhere in Viet Nam. 

On this day in early January, while sitting in class waiting for the Sunday School pre-session to begin, she saw the familiar air-mail envelopes sticking out of Mrs. Barron’s Bible. To further strengthen her resolve, she whispered to her best friend Cindy that she was not planning to volunteer this month. 

Mrs. Barron held up the two envelopes and, with her characteristic deeply dimpled smile, asked who would like to write one of our servicemen this month. The reluctant writer avoided looking at Mrs. Barron, but could somehow still feel the teacher’s eyes imploring her to write. But, no one would volunteer. 

“She” felt bad, but still stubbornly refused to volunteer, sitting on her fingertips, so as to remind herself not to volunteer. Mrs. Barron sounded disappointed and made her request one more time, this time looking straight at her usual volunteer. The reluctant writer didn’t budge in her resolve – though something inside of her really wanted to. 

So, without a single volunteer, Mrs. Barron opened the class in prayer. The now guilt-ridden reluctant volunteer bowed her head in prayer too, a little bit ashamed of herself. 

Then a really unbelievable thing happened. As Mrs. Barron raised her voice in prayer invoking God’s blessing on the students and their class time in God’s Word, the reluctant volunteer felt the Bible that was sitting in her lap move. She looked down and underneath her hand, the cover of her Bible was being raised and one of those envelopes was being slipped into the flyleaf of her Bible. Mrs. Barron never paused or missed a beat in her prayer as she cunningly executed the drop. The disinclined letter writer looked up at the praying pastor’s wife and made eye-contact. Mrs. Barron’s eyes were saying, “Please?” The hesitant writer nodded in reluctant affirmation…she would do it. Still praying, Mrs. Barron’s eyes smiled a “thank you.”

After the “Amen,” the involuntary volunteer looked at the name written on the envelope. She had no clue who this Wayne L. Winquist was…but Cindie Boyles would soon find out.

Next up: “He Meets She”

Rewind: “Her Crazy Little Letters”

He looked forward to receiving her weekly letters so much and one day sat down to put his thoughts about their letter-writing friendship to pen and paper.

Your first note came five months ago
And although it was quite brief
It had a lot of meaning
Like the Spring’s first light green leaf.
It wasn’t very polished
And you seemed a trifle shy
But I must say that didn’t matter
You were a new friend saying “hi.”

After one year on this island
(A paradise to some)
I had lost a lot of interest
And my world was too hum-drum
Still your “crazy” little letter
Though I cannot explain
Gave me words I never had before
And made my days less tame.

Your cheerful, lovely person
Has traveled all these miles
In little paper envelopes
And brought me many smiles.
Your thoughtfulness and kindness
And spiritual uplift
Removed a lot of darkness
And slowed an aimless drift.

Each letter that I open
Contains some new surprise
– when the paper changes color
– when your thoughts across them fly
Though my poem to you is heartfelt
It never can proclaim
The friendship I extend to you
Even though it should be plain…

She loved the poem and read it over and over again. The last line in the poem puzzled her though. It seemed an awkward way to end. What did he really mean? Was there more to their friendship than she knew? Was this the beginning of something more?

He was right – as awkward as the last line felt, the relationship that was just beginning would turn out to be anything but plain.

Rewind: He Wrote Back!

My first letter to Wayne

Crazy as this sounds, long before the world wide web was invented, people sometimes actually met through the U.S. Mail. I promised I’d tell you more about Wayne’s and my introduction to one another through letter-writing. Here’s the second installment in “Rewind,” my series of short stories originally posted 10 years ago on Facebook.

It would be five months before the two letter writers would have the opportunity to meet in person. In those long months they would learn quite a bit about one another in their rambling letters. Even in the early 1970’s, letter writing was a bit of a lost art; it was (and still is) so much easier to let Hallmark do the talking and just sign your name. For them, the letters would serve as a solid foundation for the unique friendship that was in the making.

She, in her very first letter shared that she was in high school (but didn’t tell him how old she was), that she loved the Lord and enjoyed sharing the gospel with her friends, and that she was taking voice lessons from their music pastor on Saturday mornings.

He was amused by something in her first letter. She naively asked how he liked San Francisco (his envelope was addressed “FPO San Francisco”). He set her straight by gently informing her that the mail for all naval personnel in the Pacific area went through a fleet post office (FPO) in San Francisco. Then he proceeded to tell her how he liked being in Oahu and a little bit about how he spent his time while stationed on that Hawaiian island.

She loved writing letters to him and eagerly anticipated receiving his letters in the mail. Now, almost 40 years later, when she re-reads her own letters she laughs (and is embarrassed) at her obvious attempts to impress someone she didn’t know and the not-so-subtle way she stretched the truth about quite a number of things. In her letters she was on the church volleyball team (she did play volleyball almost every Monday night at youth group, but it was hardly a team…if it were a team, they certainly would not have picked her to be on it!). She was honest about her Algebra grade though…it wasn’t worth mentioning!

He shared quite a bit of introductory information about himself in his first reply letter too. He told her he was 21, had blonde hair and green eyes, wore a mustache, was 6’0″, drove a ’71 Gremlin, and that he attended Lanakila Baptist Church in Oahu.

She made it very clear in her first letter that she didn’t think much of her own physical appearance and was reluctant to send a picture because she thought she was ugly.

He thoughtfully countered by replying,

“You don’t do yourself justice by calling yourself “ugly” even if you meant it in a humorous way. First of all, anyone who writes me I consider beautiful. Number 2 is that beauty is in the “eye of the beholder” and 3 is that, whether or not a person is “beautiful” on the outside, he or she may still be ‘beautiful’ where it counts on the inside. How’s that for a 3-point sermon?”

She read that page so many times that the page itself is smudged with dirt, a muddy footprint on the page, a reminder of the time she dropped the letter while reading it for the hundredth time on the crowded city bus ride home from school.

He listed his hobbies as being numerous: stamp and coin collecting, swimming, fishing, body surfing, snorkeling, matchbook collecting, music, books, poetry, math, ping pong, pool, Milwaukee Bucks, etc.

She read the list over and over again desperately looking for something they had in common. Nothing! Unless…of course, she could mention that she had gone fishing on two or three occasions with her dad and she did like it. Exaggerating the truth once again, she wrote, “I always loved going fishing with my dad when I was a little girl. I’d love to try it again. I had fun until it came to cleaning them.”

Little did she know that she would have to eat those exaggerated words (and the fish) once she finally did meet him in person.

Next Up: “Her Crazy Little Letters”

Rewind: A Letter From Home

February 9, 1951 is the day that God chose to bring my future hubby into the world. Though I would not arrive on the scene until 1957, I recognize that Wayne is truly a gift that God prepared for me. Ten years ago, before my blogging days, I began writing and publishing my stories on Facebook. In honor of Wayne’s birthday, I thought it might be time devote the next few blog posts to retelling a few of those stories. I marvel in thinking that this story of God’s providence took place a little over 46 years ago…

She was 15 years old; a nice, quiet, kind of shy high school freshman.

He was two weeks away from being 22; a sailor stationed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

She belonged to a church that made it their mission to have someone from the church write each and every serviceman or woman from their congregation each month. They would solicit volunteers from the high school and adult Sunday School classes to write letters, and she was one of many who would faithfully volunteer to write a letter each month.

He was one of those servicemen from the church, and he didn’t particularly relish receiving those letters. Most of them were dutifully written by one of the “older persons” in the congregation on the customary sheet of church letterhead included in the pre-addressed and stamped envelope provided for the convenience of the letter writer and, by his own description, “usually general and impersonal.”

She would take home the pre-addressed stamped envelope every month, open the flap of the unsealed envelope, slip out the piece of church letterhead, and dispose of it. Being a teen growing up in the 70’s, that just wasn’t her style. Instead, she would reach for a sheet of colorful lined theme paper (usually neon or pastel) and then sit down with a blue ball-point pen to pour a little bit of herself into the note before popping it in the mail.

He would notice the familiar letterhead envelope from the church in the mail each month, but rarely rush to open it. He knew that it would probably be the same as last month: a rather impersonal letter with a church bulletin and maybe a Sunday School paper or two enclosed.

She had decided one particular Sunday, rather selfishly, that she was not going to volunteer to write another letter. In her experience (short as that was), no one had ever bothered to write back. On this particular day, no matter how she tried to avoid volunteering to write yet another serviceman, she was encouraged…no coerced…into doing so yet another month. (That’s another story for another time.)

He, being properly trained by his mother, would always write everyone back – no matter how boring or impersonal their letter had been.

She really didn’t want to write this month’s letter. Being a bit annoyed that she had been volunteered against her will, she didn’t even bother to dispose of the letterhead this time. She just pulled it out of the envelope and started writing. Oddly enough, once she got past the introductory paragraph, she rather enjoyed pouring herself into another letter to yet another serviceman she didn’t know.

He was the one to whom this letter she wrote was addressed, and he had no idea what was in store for him when he opened this month’s letter from home.

She apologetically and shyly told him in her letter that he’d probably think she was a “nut” for writing because he certainly wouldn’t know who she was. She also told him she would understand if he didn’t answer her letter.

He read the letter on the familiar church letterhead, but this letter was different than the rest. He wrote back and told her, “First of all, let me thank you for the beautiful letter – maybe it didn’t seem so beautiful to you when you wrote it, but it meant a lot to me.”

She didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the beginning of two and one-half years of letter-writing that would change the entire course of their respective lives.

He didn’t realize it either.

To be continued…

What Splashes Out of My Cup?

Lest anyone who regularly visits ‘Barefoot Lily Lady’ think that I’m living in an Alzheimer’s caregiving utopia where we are always sweet to one another and I always execute Pinterest-worthy caregiving ideas at every opportunity, let me share a slice of reality.

If you had a little window into our world, yesterday wasn’t pretty. And today I wasn’t exactly setting the best example either.

The fact is, I make mistakes in caring for her daily.

Let me confess that I am sometimes not very kind and respectful in my dealings with her – especially in the wee hours of the morning or after a night (or several nights) with little to no sleep.

Right now, as I am composing this post, I am viewing her via the camera in her room and she is ripping her blanket off the bed. I don’t think I have fingers and toes left to count the number of times I have put her bedding back in place today so that she can be warm and cozy. This gathering behavior is common in this later stage of Alzheimer’s where they derive pleasure from manipulating and touching things.  (Here is a very helpful summary of what renowned Alzheimer’s expert, Teepa Snow, calls the “Gem Stages” of Alzheimer’s. My mom is “Amber,” heading into “Ruby” territory. You can request a free DVD or download on this subject on this page.)

The truth about myself is, I often hear my tired and groggy self barking out requests like a drill sergeant giving orders. Last night it was “Please STOP taking your blankets off the bed!” The “please” was moot given my obviously frustrated (and angry) tone of voice. I sometimes forget that the truth about Momma is that she just does not understand what she is doing and she cannot stop this tactile behavior.  Alzheimer’s has eaten away the part of her brain which helps her understand my words and discern how to implement any instructions I give her.

Every day I am as sad for her obvious anxiety and anguish over knowing something is wrong with her brain as I am frustrated with her inability to follow simple instructions.  In those times of frustration, I am sometimes mortified by what comes splashing out of me. As I whipped the blankets off of the end of the bed for the umpteenth time, it certainly wasn’t godliness, love, or the Word of God splashing all around me when life’s cup was jostled.

Today, as I reacted in frustration, God brought to mind a lesson one of my Awana teachers gave years ago (MANY years ago). I am recalling her poignant illustration for life. Our Bible teacher entered the room carrying a cup filled to the brim. Each step was taken slowly and carefully so as not to spill a drop. Just as she reached the front of the room, another teacher abruptly stood up and bumped our Bible teacher’s arm, sending the beverage splashing all over those seated nearby. Yes, it was all staged, but the teacher used that moment to remind us that water came out of her cup. Not coffee. Not soda. Not milk. Water. And the reason that water came out of her cup when she was bumped was because she had put water into her cup. My teacher used that teachable moment to help me understand that if I want godliness to splash out of me when I get bumped in life, then I need to grow in Christ by spending time in prayer and in His Word.

When the bumps of life come along, what spills out of me? 

Lord, please help me take time to fill my cup to the brim with your Word. When Momma bumps me next time, may she be splashed with your compassion in my attitude, loving-kindness in my actions, joyfulness in my countenance, and grace in my words. 

My Mother, My Friend

Momma and Me – a favorite picture

Momma and I sat in her bedroom talking tonight. I couldn’t help but notice she was being extra sweet and using the tone of voice one sometimes reserves for meeting a new friend. As I helped her get ready for bed she eyed me keenly, then said, “I don’t believe I know your name.”

I moved a little closer to my sweet mom and then replied, “My name is Cindie. What is your name?”

“Well, I’m Charlotte. I’ve always been Charlotte,” Momma replied matter of factly as she flashed one of her lovely smiles.

Putting my hand atop hers, I gazed into her brown eyes and proffered, “Pleased to meet you, Charlotte.”

“It’s nice to meet you too, dear.”

I’ve sort of dreaded this day, knowing Alzheimer’s would eventually snatch away my identity from her brain. I imagined that I would be utterly and completely heartbroken. Oddly enough, I wasn’t. For some reason it didn’t sting as much as I thought it would.

Today I wasn’t the daughter, as much as I was a new friend helping another friend.

Where?

Late to the party, but I am joining (on a Monday) the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung, for our weekly writing adventure. Please click here to learn about Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt is, “Where.”

Where Am I?

Momma asks this question every single day. Every. Single. Day.

I usually answer, “You’re at my house, Momma.” She will then peer about the room with a furrowed expression, and say, “Where?”


My sweet mother is hard of hearing, so I often must repeat what I said. However, it really does no good to explain to Momma where she is or why she’s here. But I do anyway. While she will soon forget, and it really doesn’t matter to her, it matters to me. When I tell Momma that she is here because I love her and want to take care of her, I need to hear myself say that even more than she does. In saying it out loud, I am reaffirming my purpose in my heart.

She will ask again. And again. And again. Each time as though it were the first. It’s at times such as this when I must I remind myself that Momma truly feels lost.

“Where is my purse?”

Where is my money?

“Where do I buy food?”

“Where is the bathroom?”

“Where are the kids?”

“Where are my shoes?”

These, and so many other “where” questions lurk in the worry corner of her mind. Lately, one of her most frequently asked questions is

“Where is my family?”

When she asks this question, she’s really not thinking about me, or her other children, or even her husband. Momma wonders when her parents are going to come and get her and take her home. It accomplishes nothing telling her that they’re already in heaven. If I do that, she stews and is angry that no one told her that they died. Instead, I say, “They’re not going to be able to come today.” Then, I answer her question with my own question, “So, what was your favorite memory with your Dad?” I absolutely love it when she reaches way far back into her cache of childhood memories and pulls out a special one.

While it is heartbreaking to hear Momma struggle with all of the where’s in life right now, I know she has a hope for a future “where.” A place where every tear will be wiped away, every worry and fear erased, and where pain and earthly sorrow will be gone forevermore. Momma is looking forward to her heavenly home – where no more memories will be lost to Alzheimer’s.