|Mom, as a Harding coed.|
That was her name when we first met at Harding College in the fall of 1946. I don't remember when we met but I do remember the tall, graceful, pretty and most pleasant Christian young woman. She was a 20-year old junior from Nashville, Arkansas. I was an all-of-17-year old from Flint, Michigan. She wasn't the kind who drew attention to herself, but her modest, quiet and caring quality spoke for itself. She was one of the most respected persons on our 600-student campus.
When I arrived at Harding I thought that I had come to an outpost of Heaven. Four years later at graduation I had not changed my mind. Now 60 years later that four-year period of my life is remembered in the light sepia-colored tones of a favorite memory-filled old photograph. I wouldn't take anything for that life-directing experience.
Being at Harding for a boy who was sure that one day he would find a wife among all the lovely Christian girls at a place like that was like being in a candy shop--with his dad's credit card in his pocket. Except that there weren't any credit cards back then. During my freshman and sophomore years I dated dozens of girls, usually for church or Wednesday night service or Monday night meeting or special lectures or club banquets. A few I liked a lot. Not all of them liked me that much. I knew that I couldn't afford to get too serious because I couldn't ask a girl to wait three or four years for me until I graduated. My brother, Monroe, Harding class of '45, found Julia in his junior year and they married shortly after their graduation. That was for me, therefore, the way it was supposed to be done. That, of course, was God's plan for my life, too.
So when I went back for my junior year I was sure this was the year in which I would find the girl. In fact it was my avowed intention to find me a wife, and of course we would marry in the summer of 1950. Not only that, but I had her picked out before I got there, only to find out she was not available! Oh, well, keep looking.
I was an English major and so was Nelda Chesshir. She had stayed out during my sophomore year to teach, so now she was a senior. I was glad to see her back at Harding and we began to sit together in Romantic Poets class. She had such a sweet smile and pleasant disposition. I began saving her a place in class and in the cafeteria line. Then before we knew we were "going steady" (as people used to call it). Lack of money dictated that most of our dates are like those listed above. I first held her hand at a Halloween spook house. What a thrill that was! We talked and talked and found that we had similar values and similar aims for serving God. This was "The Plan" unfolding. In April of that year I asked her to marry me. She said "Yes" so we set the date for just after graduation one year hence. Then we thought, why wait? So we moved it up to Sunday, Christmas Day, 1949.
There is so much more to tell. But this much needs to be said in retrospect: I do not believe in mere luck and I do not believe I was smart enough or experienced enough at the ripe old age of 20 to have picked out such a wonderful life-long partner. Therefore, my only possible conclusion is that God with his grace was smiling on me big-time. It must have in fact been His Plan, not mine that was at work. But isn't that true of our whole experience when we submit our lives, our selves, our desires to Him and His will?
Now 56 years later my Nelda is now in the mid to late stages of Alzheimer's. We can no longer carry on a real conversation. I am her full-time caregiver at this point and the future is in God's hands. Everyday without fail I thank God for the gift of Nelda Chesshir. But I also thank God daily for the challenge he has given me, for we are told to give thanks in all things. In the process He has taught me so much. In fact he is remaking me.
If Steve will let me--and he better!--I'd like to share more in the future about Nelda Chesshir Hawley and how God has used her to help make a better man out of me.
Applicable quote of the day:
"I notice that you have quite a few real letters in this annual. It's because you have so many real friends. I hope that I may be classed as one of your friends, too...If it's the Lord's will I hope that we will become much better acquainted next year.... "
Roger Hawley (a prophetic note in the back of Nelda's 1947 Petit Jean, the Harding yearbook)
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org