“In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” Albert Camus
Tomorrow is noted not only by every Hallmark Store, but most folks as Valentine’s Day. Without respect to how you may feel about the contrivance which is the modern observance of the holiday. Tell the ones you love how you love them, do it well and do it often.
Below you will find what might be one of the most enduring love letters I have ever read.
Sullivan Ballou volunteered to serve in the Union army when the Civil War commenced. A week after writing this letter to Sarah, he was killed in the Battle of Bull Run. One has no doubt he loved his wife.
July the 14th, 1861
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days-perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure-and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing-perfectly willing-to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows-when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children-is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death-and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and “the name of honor that I love more than I fear death” have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me-perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar-that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night-amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours-always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.
1. be writing
If there is one part of my work at proclaiming the Gospel that I like the least it would be writing. Once the words are inked to the page, that’s it! No tinkering with the prose, no slight shift in method or a second go round to make sure you are being clear. Last year I was able to complete a number of written projects and this year I want that to grow even more.
“But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.” Ecclesiastes 12:12 (NASB)
2. be flexible
Jill is enrolled at Tennessee Tech as lower division nursing student. (She expects to be enrolled in the nursing program in the spring of 2013) Over the years I have found a great advantage in my solid and steady schedule. I am learning to accomplish as much (or more) than before, but without the routine. It’s odd that I can spend the same effort and time on a project but when you shift around the schedule even a bit from what is comfortable it changes more than you thought it would. (sometimes in unexpected ways for the better) Learning to reach beyond that should leverage my productivity in a way to make her success and our families far less stressful.
I love that she has such amazing goals for herself and will do all I can to help her reach for them.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” Ecclesiastes 4:9 (NASB)
3. be simple
Society is increasingly complex, full of messes of monumental proportion. In the midst of that doing more with less will be an uncommon choice. Given some of my other goals this might seem counterintuitive. I have slowly been inching this way in small bursts and hope to make this path full blown for the year.
“9 That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So, there is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB)
4. be fit
“A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace. What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?” Ecclesiastes 3:8-9 (NASB)