Like Those Who Dream: Chapter
12, Grandma’s Secret Surprise
-Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow
As your Shepherd, the Lord is—
You are never forgotten…
And always loved!
junior year Charlene and I dated (Once I got to know her better I started
calling her Char). I found many things about her attractive, but her
sensitivity to the Lord, her quiet ways, and her strength of character
attracted me the most. I was falling fast!
I was still
young in the Lord, and I looked upon people who sang in the choir as being
closer to God than others. Since Char was in the church choir, as well as in a
girl’s trio, I thought she dwelt among the angels.
There was a
time, much later in our relationship, when I thought I had actually become more
spiritual than she. We had attended a citywide missionary conference in
downtown Minneapolis that attracted hundreds of young people in the area. The
speaker that day was very dynamic and I was deeply challenged by his message.
At the end, he put out a passionate plea for all young people in the audience
to stand if they wanted to give their lives to missions. I immediately stood to
my feet. To my shock, Char did not budge. I watched as young people from all
over the auditorium rose to their feet. Char remained quiet and unresponsive in
“I don’t get
it,” I thought, “why isn’t she standing? I thought she wanted to serve the Lord
as much as I did.”
meeting ended I was still troubled by her lack of response and felt like I
needed to challenge her.
you stand up at the invitation,” I asked in a bewildered and disappointed tone.
“I didn’t feel like I needed to,” she confidently replied.
“What do you
mean,” I challenged back.
that issue a long time ago with the Lord, and I didn’t sense it was something I
needed to repeat.”
I was blown
away by her calm assurance and embarrassed at my lack of trust in her
As a student
working on campus, I didn’t have much money. Students received no income for
the time spent at work. The school provided the student with free tuition, housing
and meals. The money that got me to Bethany came as an answer to prayer, and
every dime I was to receive during my school years would be provided in the
same way. If I needed toothpaste, shampoo, a shirt, or a pen, I saw God meet my
needs, and often in the most unusual and unexpected ways.
Most of my
dates with Char were low-key and low-budget. There were no trips to the movie
theater, no visits to theme parks or ballgames, no dinners at fancy
restaurants, and no outings to concerts or plays. Our dates involved walks
around campus, lunches at her Aunt Esther’s house on Sunday afternoons, and
outings with other couples.
The more we
dated, the more we were surprised by our growing love for each other. We
couldn’t have come from more opposite backgrounds. I was born in New York City
and raised in Los Angeles; Char was born in Northwestern Minnesota and raised
in a small farming community called Rollag, population 30. I went to school
with hundreds of other kids; Char went to a one-room schoolhouse through the
eighth grade with only one other student in her grade. I was raised in a Jewish home that was
divided by divorce; Char was Norwegian and raised in a secure Christian home. I
was wild, rebellious and unruly; Char was a good girl who faithfully went to
church, obeyed all the rules, and honored her father and mother. I was raised
on kosher food, food to go, and canned food; Char was raised on roast beef,
mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables from the garden, and milk straight from the
cow. I was in a social club; Char was in her church youth group; I was
outgoing; Char was reserved; I loved to do things on the spur of the moment;
Char liked to think things through. I was adventuresome; Char was
practical. We were truly a match made in
Things were going
great for us most of the year and then we hit a major crisis. From the time she
enrolled at Bethany, Char had a strong interest in going to South Korea to work
in an orphanage. I had no leading from the Lord to go to Korea.
I knew I was
called of God to serve Him, but I didn’t know where or what that would look
like. The differences in our understanding of God’s calling became a giant
barrier we could not work our way through. Char felt it was best to end our
It was hard
for me to let her go. I had been so sure that God had brought us together and
now it seemed as if we were going in opposite directions. I walked around
campus in a fog, feeling miserable, and not knowing how to move ahead.
As a teenager
I did a lot of dating, but as a believer I had only dated one girl before
meeting Charlene. I met her shortly after I gave my life to Christ. She was
also a new believer and we were growing in our faith together. She attended
Bible studies with me at my dad’s house and we were both baptized the same
night in Eagle Rock Covenant Church. We were growing close when I made the
decision to attend Bethany. She was one of the reasons why it was hard for me
to stay at Bethany when I first arrived. When the Lord told me to “unpack my
bags” at Bethany and lay everything in my life at the foot of Cross, my
relationship with the girl back in Los Angeles was a part of that surrender.
Even though it was a struggle, I knew God’s answer for me in that relationship
was “no”… now, here I was eighteen months later, wondering if God was saying
“no” once again.
time I sought the council of a staff member I respected and trusted.
“How do I
know if Char is the right girl for me? ‘Did I get it wrong?’ ‘What do I do
now?’” were a few of the questions I asked him as I continued to struggle.
was simple and straightforward, “How would you answer the following questions…
“Can you see
yourself living without her?”
believe you can serve Christ more effectively with her or without her?”
As I thought
about his questions the answers became very clear.
couldn’t see myself living without her, and yes, I believed I could serve the
Lord more effectively with her.”
didn’t change anything in my circumstances. Char and I were still separated and
I knew I had to wait on her as she waited on God. Thankfully, I did not have to
wait a long time…
A week later
we agreed to talk. I was nervous when I arrived for our meeting. I knew she had
heard from God, but I didn’t know the answer. On the one hand, I was wrestling
with anxiety at the thought of her telling me she would be going to Korea…on
the other hand I was excited at the possibility that our relationship could be
I got right
to the point. “What has the Lord shown you about our relationship?”
“I don’t see
Korea as being a part of my future,” she said, “for me, it’s you or it’s no
I was elated!
It was the best news I could have heard.
recall what else was said that day—the fact that we were back together was all
I needed to know. From that day on, our relationship moved along at a faster
and deeper pace. We started talking about marriage and our future together…
“I want you
to be my wife,” I said, as we sat outside a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis.
“I don’t have anything materially I can promise you. I have no money. I can’t
promise you a house, a car, or fine things, but I can promise you my love. I
can’t even afford to buy you an engagement ring.”
said without hesitation, “I don’t need anything else but you.”
A short time
after our unofficial engagement, I returned to Los Angeles for two weeks of
vacation. I made the usual rounds, seeing old friends, greeting people at Eagle
Rock Covenant Church, and visiting family. Wherever I went I shared the good
news about my love for Char. While visiting my grandmother, she got me aside
and asked, “Roy, this girl you have met in school, are you sure she is the
right one for you?”
grandma, I am very sure.”
are sure, I want you to come back tomorrow. I have something I want to tell
grandma, I will be here tomorrow.”
grandfather, on the other hand was not so gracious. I could feel the coldness
from his heart as he spoke.
you want to marry, is she Jewish?”
she is not Jewish. She is Norwegian.”
“I do not
want you to marry her,” he firmly replied.
you what I will do. Promise me that you will not marry this girl and will wait
until you find a Jewish girl to marry. If you make this promise, I will go to
the bank today and put $1000 into an account in your name. It will be my
wedding gift to you.”
I cannot do that. I love Charlene and I want to marry her.” My grandfather had
nothing else to say to me.
day I returned to my grandparent’s house and sat down for a visit with my
grandmother. During our conversation she got up and left the room for a few
minutes. Upon her return she approached me with something in her hand.
you and Don were little boys I set aside these two diamonds, one for each of
you, to give to your future brides at the time of your engagements. I want you
to go with me to the jewelry store and pick out a setting for this diamond. I
also want you to pick out a wedding ring to match.”
overwhelmed by her offer and had no idea this gift was a part of my
inheritance. I knew that if it had been up to my grandfather, I never would
have received the diamond engagement ring and matching wedding band my
Grandmother gifted me with that day.
I returned to
Minneapolis with the rings burning a hole in my pocket. I couldn’t wait for the
moment when I could show them to Char.
There was a
school rule stating that students could not become engaged until the completion
of their senior year. Char had graduated that spring, but I still had another
year of classes before graduating. I went to the Dean of Woman to ask for
special permission to become engaged. When I arrived in her office I told her
the story of my grandmother’s gift and my desire to give the engagement ring to
Char before she left campus. The Dean’s heart quickly melted and I was given
permission to become engaged.
On a sunny,
warm afternoon I asked Char to take a walk. We followed the country road in
front of the campus until we came to a dirt pathway that led to a high bluff
overlooking the Minnesota River. We sat down at the edge of the bluff, enjoying
the view, and the pleasure of being together.
Slowly, I put
my hand in my pocket and took out a little box that held the engagement/wedding
ring set. I took out the engagement ring and put it on her finger. We sat there
for a long time, enjoying the moment, and being overcome with wonder as I
retold Char the story of my grandma’s secret surprise.
Sadly, six months after my visit to California my grandmother
died. She never had the opportunity to meet the bride I would bring home to
meet my family after our wedding in the summer of ’64.
(Join us next week as we continue this journey of Roy's memoir, Like Those Who Dream. The book is available through DaySpring and Christian retailers everywhere.)
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