“Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”
Thus began a letter received by Maggie Moyer from her girlfriend Sue Denlinger, written on January 2, 1900. Maggie and Sue and other young adults corresponded with each other between attending Bible conferences together or working short stints at city missions.
Maggie Moyer eventually married Irvin Derstine and became my maternal grandmother. Since she died young, I never met her in person. So I was thrilled when in the 1990’s a cousin made available a stash of letters between Maggie and her young adult friends. They told me much about Maggie and about the church era in which she lived.
Here’s the whole quote from Maggie’s friend Sue in 1900:
Hitherto hath the Lord helped us, and during the year in which we have just started may we realize more and more that He is All, and in All.
There is something sad isn’t there about the dying year? How many things have happened to each one of us since the first of January 1899. What joys have been ours and again there were times when we cried out ‘Oh dear Lord, help us in this trial, or I will have to fall.’
And now we are in the last year of the century. Who knows what will be our portion in this year? None but God.
I deeply connect with what Sue Denlinger wrote in a spirituality typical of 1900.
It’s certainly fascinating to see the particulars of the disasters people wrote about then, and to compare them to our own time. For instance, in the letter Maggie read about two Lancaster, Pennsylvania people killed by trains, and another person who died months after being bitten by a cat.
Now, 119 years later, we’re concerned about climate change, and about people being killed in school or synagogue shootings. We assume we’ve greatly improved rail safety in the intervening years, until a tragedy like Lac-Mégantic in Québec comes along. In Canada people rarely die from being bitten by a cat. Cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases are the health scourges of the western world today.
Yet this letter to my grandmother still speaks to me as the calendar turns over 119 years later: For “who knows what our portion will be in 2019? None but God.”
As I move further into the unknowns of cancer decline in the year ahead, at least two things in particular nourish my soul:
- I’m still bathed in the music from four acoustically wonderful venues during Advent: The Messiah at Centre in the Square, Menno Singers at St. Matthews Lutheran Church, Advent Jazz in the Conrad Grebel chapel, and the Christmas Eve lessons and carols service at Rockway Mennonite. When I told an old friend that I stopped singing a few times on Christmas Eve so I could just absorb the music, she indicated that she had too!
I enter the new year both consoled and energized by having heard and sung the music of God with us once again.
- In our Christmas letter to folks geographically far away, Sam and I named a stance which nourishes my spirit as we move forward:
“We want to graciously receive each day we are given, and be open to whatever it brings. I hope to keep blogging as long as I’m able, while enjoying Sam, family, and friends from near and far. The rest, as always, is in God’s merciful hands.”
Here is a mandala I colored last week, which I called “Graciously Receiving the Day.” Gazing at it, my spirit finds nourishment and rest. Unfortunately, the restful colours haven’t reproduced as well as I’d like.
Questions for Reflection:
- What does the turn to 2019 mean for you?
- How do you relate to this question and response:
“Who knows what our portion will be in 2019? None but God.”
Whatever your situation, may you graciously receive each day.
And may your spirit be nourished in 2019 in ways expected and in ways astonishing….
Next week: TBA