© Copyright 1998 by Roi Allen
Chapter 11: Love's Impact
It was the second Sunday of January. Robert attended the St. Leon Friends Meeting in the morning, singing and worshipping in his normal fashion. During the quiet time immediately after the Quaker-style prayer, he rose to his feet as a signal that he would like to give a few words of personal testimony. The pastor nodded toward him as a sign of recognition.
“I just wanted to say a few words. I don’t testify as much as many of you do, probably not enough, but I’m feeling something this morning and want to share it with you.” He paused to gather his thoughts, looked at the hymnal in his hand and then continued. “This song we sang a few minutes ago, In The Garden, always does something to me. The last verse in particular, though all three verses are really full of meaning, is my heart’s cry today. It says, ‘I’d stay in the garden with Him though the night around me be falling’. Friends, sometimes I wish the prayer time could go on and on, even longer than it does here. I really do enjoy being on my knees in prayer with Christians around me as we commune with God. Maybe that is the type of Christian service which God will call me to, I don’t know. I’m ready, though. I’m about through college with a teaching degree. I’m contacting Christian organizations about service. So far, I’m getting nothing which I feel is God’s leading for me. If I’m to be a prayer warrior, I say, God’s will be done.”
Several of the folk in the congregation uttered rather quiet ‘amens’. Knowing smiles were on the faces of some of the older saints, suggesting their understanding of Robert’s emotions. Some of them had been in Christian service in younger years. They found it easy to understand this earnest young Christian.
In the afternoon, Robert went to Bill and Beulah’s to see Penny. True, he could have waited until the evening service, but he knew she was spending the afternoon at his uncle’s house so he assumed it was acceptable to go visit with her.
Penny was taking an afternoon nap, but she got up when she became aware that Robert was waiting in the living room. Her big smile evidenced that she was pleased that he was there.
“Did you come to take me to the other Lewis farm? I’d like to see your parents and Kerry.”
The suggestion was an encouragement to the young man who had come to doubt that she had any interest in him at all.
After visiting with Lila, Chauncey, and Kerry for a while, Lila suggested that Penny stay for a simple supper with them before church time.
“Oh, is Robert going to my church tonight?” asked Penny with a grin. “I had heard that he seldom attended Lester Chapel any more.”
“Yes, you heard correctly, Penny,” said Robert. “However, I could be persuaded to start back there if the right person were to ask me.”
“Am I the one who should ask?” Penny teased. “OK, Mr. Lewis, I am inviting you to return to Lester Chapel, at least on First Day nights. Isn’t that how you Quakers refer to Sunday?”
“That’s how we have been saying it traditionally,” answered Robert. “But some are saying Sunday more often now, even me.”
“By the way, did you know that our new pastor at Lester Chapel is a Friend, too?” asked Penny. “It’s kind of strange how it happened. He’s a student at the Bible college, just like most of the pastors they’ve had. He tried out, and they gave him a call for a year. No one had thought to ask about his denominational history.”
“How to you know he’s a Quaker?” asked Lila.
“Well, Beulah told me around the lunch table today that he accidentally said something a few weeks ago during a sermon, something about “one faith, one Lord, and one baptism”. As he spoke more about that phrase, he said the baptism he referred to was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I guess the church board met with him the next Thursday night after prayer meeting to get his views, and he told them,” explained Penny.
“That’s bad for him, isn’t it?” asked Robert. “They really don’t like Quakers, it seems.”
“No, not really,” said Penny. “They have always prided themselves on not being like the Quakers. However, everyone just loves Brother Fleetwood. His messages are so deep, and he seems to godly. I think they just asked him to not even mention from the pulpit that he’s a Quaker. They’ll keep him, at least for the contract year.”
During the evening service, Robert and Penny sat together again, just as they had done four years earlier, before Penny moved to Texas. Nothing was said about her not playing her clarinet although it was lying on the front pew where she had placed it after playing during the morning service.
The last song which the chorister announced for the congregation to sing was from the hymnal. Robert’s eyes spoke the feelings of his heart as he saw the title of the song, In The Garden.
“He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing, and the melody that He gave to me, within my heart is ringing,” sang Robert. As they sang the chorus, he could no longer hold back the tears. Penny smiled as she noticed the tears coursing down Robert’s cheeks while he tried to sing, “...and He tells me I am His own, and the joys we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”
After the service, Penny mentioned Robert’s tears. “You seem to be a crier,” she said. “I don’t mean that in a wrong way, just that God seems to bless you during the singing, and that you cry as a means of expressing the blessing.”
“I guess that’s right,” an embarrassed Robert confessed.
“Oh, don’t feel bad about it,” said his friend. “It’s good, very good. I know that it means that you have a very good devotional life. I respect that, a lot.”
Robert reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze in both of his hands.
Robert found himself attending the St. Leon Friends Church on Sunday mornings and Lester Chapel on Sunday nights and Thursday nights now that Penny had returned.
“May I come to Adrian and take you to dinner on Valentine’s Day, Penny?” Robert asked a couple of weeks later.
“Why on Valentine’s Day? Something special about that day?” smiled Penny.
“Not necessarily,” he replied. “Just that it’s a good occasion for flowers or candy, and I’ve never bought either of those things for you in the past. OK if I come over that evening? We can find a nice sit-down restaurant and enjoy a little quiet time together.”
“Sure, but let’s make it the day before Valentine’s Day, if you don’t mind. See, Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday this year. I don’t really want to eat out on Sunday, not do I want to miss church that night.”
“Great with me!” exclaimed the young suitor. “I hadn’t realized that it was on a Sunday. We’ll make it Saturday night then.”
Robert asked Penny to pick a restaurant for their Valentine date. Upon arriving at the restaurant, she asked for a table near a window. That particular table had a red carnation in a white vase as a centerpiece.
“Isn’t this just like the flowers you brought to me tonight, Robert?” she asked. “I like red roses.”
“Well, it’s red, but this one’s a carnation. I gave you roses,” explained Robert. “Roses are better than carnations. At least, I think so.”
“But the roses have thorns, right?”
“Yes, roses have thorns, but their extra beauty is worth the risk of a little thorn prick.”
“I guess you’re right,” she acknowledged.
Clearly, they both enjoyed the fine meal and the relaxed atmosphere of the evening. Smiles seemed to be so easy to manufacture throughout the leisurely enjoyment.
Robert became a little nervous after the check was placed on the table. Clearly, something was on his mind. He could not hide his preoccupation.
“What are you thinking about, Robert?” Penny finally asked. “You seem so nervous or something the last few minutes. Is something wrong?”
“I hope not, Penny,” he responded. He cleared his throat, looked around to see how near the nearest occupied table was and decided to ask her.
“Yes,” she answered after he remained silent for an uncomfortable amount of time.
“Penny,” he started again. “Remember, before you went to Texas?”
“Well, do you remember that I had an idea one day?”
“I remember one time that you had an idea that I didn’t want to think about at the time.”
“Yes, I think we’re both remembering the same idea I had,” said the young man. “Well, I still have that idea. The other time it was to keep you from going to Texas. Now, it’s just to keep you. Do you know what I mean?”
“Possibly I do, Robert. Why don’t we pay for the meal and go outside to talk, maybe in the car or somewhere more private than this restaurant.”
“Good suggestion,” he agreed.
The moon was shining through some pine trees which surrounded the restaurant. Through the windshield of the car, the couple could see the warm-looking moon. Robert started the car to let it warm up although it was a rather warm evening for February.
“Where should be go to talk?” asked Robert.
“This is a nice view here,” she replied, her warm smile removing whatever chill was in the air. “I’m warm enough, and enjoying watching the moon through those willow trees.”
“Pine trees,” he corrected.
“Oh, pine trees. I’m not much of a biologist.”
“That’s OK.” He reached for her hand. She slid toward him and allowed him to hold her left hand in both of his .
“Your idea?” she reminded.
“I think you know what I’m thinking, Penny,” he began. “I really did not want you to go to Texas, you know.”
“I know. I knew it then, and I know it now, but it was a good experience for me.”
“I’m about to the place where I can be free to travel, with my college graduation in just four months. I’ll have a teaching degree, and not many bills to catch up. If God would call me, I could go anywhere to serve Him.”
“Are you beating around the bush about something, Robert?” she asked him. “Just tell me what you’re thinking. You don’t want me to have to say it for you, do you?”
“No, I need to say it myself. I just need more courage than I seem to have.”
Knowing that her big, open smile often made situations easier for people, Penny allowed her face to bring a more relaxed state to the atmosphere.
“Thanks,” offered Robert. “That smile does so much to help me feel more at ease.”
“I know, Robert, and it is yours.”
“Does that mean that it is mine because you are mine?” Robert asked. “That’s not the speech I rehearsed but...”
“That’s what it means, Robert Lewis. That’s exactly what it means.”
“This makes my next question a lot easier. You’re so good a making me feel at ease.”
She responded with the contagious, beautifying smile.
“Should I say something before I ask?” Robert asked himself aloud. “Or just ask? I guess I’ll say something first.” Pausing for an instant, he looked into Penny’s eyes and said, “Penny, I feel sure that I love you very much. I’ve never said that to you before.”
“I’m aware of that, Robert,” she replied. “It would have been the right thing to do, even a long time ago. I’ve felt sure about your love even though you lacked the courage to tell me.”
“Well, then,” sighed Robert, beginning to gain confidence. “Since you know that I love you, and you know that I’ve loved you for a long time. Also, since you know that I’ll be a college graduate in June so I could support you, Penny Spangler, will you do the honor of becoming my wife?”
Her big smile was teasing him. She smiled for several seconds before speaking. “Mr. Lewis, since you expressed it so well, and because I believe you are a sincere and godly young man, and because I came back to this area with the hope that we could become serious, I accept. I want to be Mrs. Penny Lewis.”
They decided to wait until noon the next Sunday to tell anyone. They wanted Robert’s family to be among the first to know of the wedding plans. Robert decided that he would have Penny come to his home for lunch the next day.
“Mom, Dad, Kerry, we have something to tell you,” said Robert after the table grace was finished. The dishes of food continued to circle the table, always ending at Chauncey’s place as he still refused to place food on his plate before everyone else had been served. The usual table noise accompanied the peaceful Sunday lunch until Penny made an appeal.
“Would you all just stop and be quiet for a minute!” she demanded although her beaming face revealed that her demand was made in a spirit of peace. “Now, listen to Robert. It’s kind of important!”
“Wow! I’ve never seen our lunch table become so quiet before,” said Robert. “This really is important. Don’t be shocked but...”
Seeing that Robert had reverted to his tongue-tied state of the evening before, Penny continued for him, “We’re planning a wedding! He couldn’t say it so I said it for him.” She was beaming, her smile seeming to reach from ear to ear. She raised her hands above her shoulders and squealed, “We’re getting married!”
The kitchen remained very quiet for a few more seconds. Then, Lila clapped her hands and rose to her feet. Then, she walked toward Penny, who was still standing after having made the announcement, and the two women hugged each other.
Chauncey had a big, toothless smile and raised his eyebrows as he looked toward Kerry. Kerry seemed somewhat unsure as to what he should be doing so he simply said, “That’s great, Robert!”
“We want you to be in the wedding, little brother,” said Robert. “Our plans are not all complete yet, but we do want you and Ben in the wedding.”
“And Julie!” said Penny.
The excited atmosphere became quiet. No one had expected that statement.
“Really?” asked Robert. “You want Julie in the wedding?”
“Yes, I want to call her tomorrow, now that you all have been told. I want her to come and walk down the aisle with me if she’s able.”
“That sounds great!” said Robert, putting his arm around Penny’s shoulders. “And your dad, too? He should walk you down the aisle, you know.”
“We’ll discuss that later, Robert,” Penny’s smile had faded somewhat. “Probably, though, he won’t be there.”
No one wanted to touch that statement. So the topic of discussion changed to the when, where and how questions concerning the wedding.
“We’ve discussed it, and we decided to ask Brother Fleetwood to perform the ceremony. He’s the new pastor at Lester Chapel.”
“Then, you’re having the ceremony at Lester Chapel, Penny?” asked Lila.
“No, now here’s another surprise,” squealed Penny. “Lester Chapel is not an attractive church, and it’s harder for people from out of town to find it. We decided to have the wedding in the St. Leon Friends Church. It’s a new building, easy to find.”
“Really?” Lila asked incredulously. “That will be nice. I think that will be the first wedding in that new church house.”
“Yes, we already checked, and there have been no wedding in there yet. Ours will be the first,” Penny said. Looking toward Lila, she added, “Lila, I was wondering about where to have the reception. It’s kind of bold of me to ask, but I hoped we could have the reception here.”
“Here? You mean in my house?”
“Is that asking too much?”
“Not at all! I’m honored,” said Lila. “It will be like a family reunion and wedding all in one.”
(See the sequel - - Some 2000 Sundays coming soon.)
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