MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM CHUCK AND CONNIE


Chuck and Connie at Moosewood, 2008

Greetings from Chuck

A. D. -- Anno Domino -- Year of Our Lord -- 2009. It has been a year in which we have been very conscious of God's presence.

Let's start with one day: Thursday, August 20.

We were spending a week with Lea and Ken, Connie's friends, who have a summer home on an island in a lake in Maine. In the morning I went to Augusta to do research. Connie and Lea took a tour of jewelry stores in the area looking for just the right ring.

A few weeks before, Connie told me she was "ready." I had been ready for some time, but didn't want to "pop the question" until Connie was ready to freely give the right answer without feeling any pressure.

Next we needed a ring. I didn't want to get a diamond because of many questions about the unethical circumstances in which it may have been mined. Besides, we don't want to be like everyone else. Connie liked tourmaline, the Maine state gem.

We had lunch together, the three of us. The perfect ring had not been found. Connie knew of one more place, the Winthrop Mineral Shop, she had once before visited. I phoned and got directions.

You need directions to find the Winthrop Mineral Shop. The proprietor, a pleasant, plump man, well into his eighties, answered the doorbell. He could have been Santa Claus on summer vacation, without the beard. The shop - a garage attached to the house - was a large square room, containing within it a square of display cases, with boxes of assorted rocks along the walls.

Yes, he did have tourmaline rings - here, there, and over there - scattered though the display cases.

Everything was dusty and tarnished. Connie selected a few possibilities, but couldn't tell what they would look like clean. Yes, of course he would clean them for her.

The proprietor's wife appeared at the edge of their laundry room, at the top of a few steps leading into the shop. She moved slowly with a walker, her shoulders bent over with osteoporosis. One could sense in the way they spoke to each other, a once young love grown old, but still young. The proprietor went into the house with the dirty rings and soon returned with clean rings. He was puffing, out of breath from the steps.

Connie made the selection. The proprietor gave her an old post card picture of the mine in Maine from which the stone came. I made the purchase and put the ring in my pocket. Connie tried to forget what it looked like.

Lea motored their small boat, carrying us back to the island, then she went off on errands.

We took a dip in the lake, a short nap, then went for a walk around the island.

We sat on a bench looking over the water. I gave the short speech I'd been rehearsing for a year: "Connie, I love you and I'd like us to share the rest of our lives together, in love, in faith, and in joy. Will you marry me?"

Yes. YES YES!!!

The ring fit perfectly. We kissed, and as we looked at the lake, a loon emerged from under water right in front of us. We believe God sent that loon to give God's blessing on our engagement.

The following weekend we invited all of Connie's family for a picnic, and gave them the news.

But when could we get married? We want all our children and grandchildren there. We needed to consult my family in Minnesota and North Dakota. Labor Day weekend we flew to the Twin Cities to see Andy, Brenda and Henry. We enjoyed playing with Henry; over a year old, healthy and energetic. Sunday, Dave, Chris, Matt, Alex and Bekkie drove over from Fargo. After a wonderful family day of picnic and beach, we made plans:

Saturday, June 26, 4:00 pm
Gwynedd Friends Meeting
Rt 202 and Sumneytown Pike
Gwynedd, PA
Be there!

The blessings keep rolling in. We've weathered the recession - so far. We have meaningful work. My college lecturing has joys, and pay the bills. I had supply preached through the year and am now interim minister at Skippack. I finds in regular preaching a spiritual discipline filled with surprises from God.

Many a summer day we have breakfast on our back porch. We see the vegetable garden - my pride and joy and source of spiritual nurture. We see the clothes line, where Connie feels freedom in closeness to the God of nature. We watch the bunnies playing bunny games; the squirrels scurying about; birds of various descriptions swooping down from the yew hedge. Are we in a Disney movie? Are those seven dwarfs coming down the alley? No, it's a man and his children on bicycles.

We don't have to die to go to heaven, we've found it in Lansdale.

We look forward to 2010 with anticipation and excitement, but we've already received enough joy to last a thousand lifetimes.

Greetings fron Connie,

At the annual Silent Retreat at Gwynedd Friends Meeting yesterday I had a chance to look back over my journal this past year. The first entry I read was Jan. 2, 2009. I had written about my experience of spending Christmas day out in St. Paul Minnesota with Chuck’s daughter-in-law Brenda’s family. Our hosts were kind to me, including me in conversations and making sure I had food and drink. I felt tired and had a headache from the flight out from Philadelphia in the morning. I was quiet, getting to know this new family. Chuck and I went for a walk in the newly minted snow. I realized I was feeling sad. I told Chuck I felt like a stranger in a strange land. For the twenty-eight years of my marriage, Christmas had unfolded with an almost predictable family. Since my divorce four years earlier I had struggled to hold onto that stable family unit in whatever way I could.

Now here I was with a new man I loved, in a new place, with a new family. I felt their empathy and reaching out to know me. A couple who had also been through divorce recognized the sad confused air about me and took me under their wing. They had been there once too. My experience since divorce has been that, wherever I was, love would find me. I wouldn’t know when or how, but it would show up.

As I read through the pages of this year I saw that gradually I had been finding a new family. I also recognized that I needed to learn to let go of my expectations of how that family would look. People disappear. Babies are born. People move. People reappear with new spouses. In every moment my family had always been shifting and changing. The old gospel song came to me in a new way, “No more an orphan girl”.

Here are the small events that have shaped our family here at 724 Derstine Ave: In February I received a letter from the State of PA announcing my court date with a criminal complaint filed against me for failing to force a client to finish their construction project. I was touched by the many friends and family who said they would come visit me in prison. Fortunately I was able to avoid doing time.

Chuck and I have a guilty pleasure of watching past TV episodes from Netflix. The winner is 7th Heaven. (I hear my children groaning). Where in the world would I find a man who shares my passion for watching a minister, wife and seven children wrestle with moral questions? (Hint: Thank you Dr. Warren for founding eharmony.com!) The show coming in second is Ballykissangel about catholic priests in an Irish town struggling with moral questions. (Do you sense a theme here?)

A large part of our free time has been spent being entertained by Wesley (5) and Eleanor (1), my two grandchildren. We heard tales of Wesley’s imaginary friend Charsel’s Mind who lives in the basement. When I went to visit I remarked how small he was. Wesley indignantly told me he’s as tall as the ceiling! I must have seen someone else. Wesley likes to spend the night. Our ritual is: I read him Anna’s old Ocean magazines about octopi and squid by flashlight while he takes a bath. Then he rolls out his sleeping bag next to our bed and gives us three “Eleanor” songs to choose from. We fall asleep to love songs for his baby sister.

Eleanor is following in the footsteps of her thespian mother, Katharine and Aunt Anna. Lansdale has an annual Mardi Gras parade in November (!?) to usher in the Holiday season. Wesley and Eleanor were invited by their school to ride on the float in the parade and be part of a nativity scene. Wesley donned his shepherd costume and leapt onto the back of the truck. A sheep costume was put on Eleanor and she immediately began practicing her lines. When she saw a fellow small sheep on the truck she went over to greet him face to face. Never leaving character she stood staring at him and then uttered her line, “Baa”. Utterly exhausted by all this improv work, Eleanor promptly fell asleep in her mother’s arms and slept through the entire parade. Her photograph appeared on the front page of the local newspaper. (It’s a small town).

Spring brought garden time. Chuck and I hammered together four 4’ x 8’ boxes for our new raised bed garden, filled them with a truck load of mushroom soil and manure and put our little seedlings into the ground. Happy rabbits ate a row of bean plants in one night. We put up a rabbit fence. Every evening we watched the Rabbit Patrol hopping around the fence looking and waiting for their chance to sneak in. Not going to happen (siwy wabbit). We were just as successful with the cabbage moths. I bought Chuck a butterfly net as an Easter present. While eating on the porch he would suddenly disappear from the table. I would spy him in the next moment shouting and swiping with his net as the moths settled on the 100 cabbage plants. One hundred cabbage plants survived. Would anyone like some cabbage? How about butternut squash? Friends and family have stopped visiting for fear they will be handed a bag of vegetables.

Along with the garden theme, Chuck and Connie volunteered for the New Lansdale Farmer’s Market. We got up at 6:00 AM every Saturday morning to help the venders get set up and to close the street where the market was located. What two people would thrive on volunteering in this way? It helped that there were two trucks filled with baked goods for breakfast. Along with all this healthy eating came the added pounds that needed to be taken off. Connie introduced Chuck to Weight Watchers. We spent the rest of our free time filling out intricate forms on filling foods and counting points for the ones that put the pounds on. We both managed to lose a total of 28 pounds. (I’m not saying who lost how much). We also managed in the fall to gain every one back. So now it’s back to Weight Watchers, maybe, next week?

The green theme continued in our clothesline adventure. Chuck and his son David put up a 100’ rope around the trees and over to the porch. We unplugged the dryer and started spending time in nature with the squirrels chattering in the trees, hoping for dry weather. Did you know you can dry clothes even when the temperature is under freezing, if there is sun and a breeze. The clothes will be hard as boards, but actually dry. Tough to wear though.

One of our favorite past times is doing exegesis with bible passages during the week while Chuck is thinking up his next sermon. For some this would not be the road to love and a stable relationship, but for us it’s heaven. (See 7th Heaven above). Last year when Chuck and Connie met, one of the first requirements was that Chuck learn to ride a bicycle. He has made tremendous progress, which includes learning by falling. We spent time in Alexandria with Anna and her new boyfriend Michael trying out the bike trails to Washington D.C. and Mt. Vernon. Chuck, when faced with the situation of a steep down hill on gravel with someone coming the other way on a 2’ path, slid off the path, and ripped his jeans open. Blood poured out of wounds, but he gallantly made his way back to Alexandria. (Thank you Dr. Warren!)

We had our first camping adventure together in Cape May NJ. The first day it poured all day. We rode our bicycles around the town until drenched and then watched the movie UP to get out of the rain. In the evening we cooked chicken and dumplings in our electric fry pan. The rain stopped for a while. We had a fire and then snuggled down in our tent. Around 12 at night we heard crashing, clanging and clanking at the cooler filled with food (which Connie left out). It started to pour. Water seeped into the tent. Connie was terrified by thoughts of a loch ness monster ripping through the thin fabric. Chuck, ever gallant, raced to the car to turn the headlights on. We packed everything, including the tent, in about five minutes. That’s when we knew our relationship was meant to be. In the morning at home we looked in the cooler and saw that the pan of chicken and dumplings was missing. What kind of animal could open a cooler and walk off with a 9” x 12” pan? (Answer: Loch Ness Monster)

Part of Chuck being a minister and Connie being clerk of her Quaker Meeting means that not much worshipping happens with them together. On one rare summer morning when both were not committed to other responsibilities, we got to worship together at Chuck’s church (where he can never go because he is working) St. John’s in Lansdale. It was communion Sunday. Connie became a Quaker because she never quite got the communion experience. But on this morning as we approached the railing and received the bread and wine we were both struck by love in our hearts. Back in the pew we cried silently together. Grace had found us.

You are all part of our wonderful family and we wish you joy during this sacred season and for the year to come!

With love from Connie Lezenby and Chuck Maxfield


Sheep sleeping through parade


Four generations of Lezenby women


Chuck, Andy and Henry


Chuck in the garden