Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Saint on Strawberry Cove: Part 1

It was not surprising to me that this was her address when I saw the return label on her envelope about 14 years ago.

#10 Strawberry Cove, Magnolia, Massachusetts.

Of course that's where she lives.  It's perfect.

I couldn't believe she had written me back.  I reached out to Elisabeth Elliot, widow of Jim Elliot, shortly after moving to Massachusetts.  (You can read a bit more about her here.) A woman I had recently met at a homeschool conference in Connecticut told me that Elisabeth lived in my new home state, and that she herself, along with her daughter had met Elisabeth and taken her to lunch one day.  I was mesmerized by her story.  This hero of mine since college days (Passion and Purity, anyone?) was living within 100 miles of me ~ just north of Boston. I knew I had to let her know what an influence she had been in my walk with Christ.
Elisabeth holding her beloved Lars's hand at their home on Strawberry Cove just last week.
I don't remember exactly what I wrote in my letter, but I know it included gratitude for her mission work and her ministry of writing and speaking.  In fact, I had gone to hear her speak at a conference in Connecticut not long before that and got her to sign my The Shaping of a Christian Family book, so technically I met her then as well as her third husband, Lars, who was referring to himself as "Jim Elliot, the Third." He's a funny one. (Elisabeth lost her second husband to cancer.)

My letter also included the fact that I was leading a Bible study for women at Smith College called The Five Aspects of Woman, and that the Lord was working in the lives of women for salvation and also for the embracing of biblical womanhood, a topic on which Elisabeth has written and spoken much.  Her return letter included praise for those things (at Smith College of all places!?) and gratitude that I had taken the time to write.  I wish I'd have framed it immediately, because now, for the life of me, I can not find her handwritten note. I had used it as a bookmark in her book Discipline: The Glad Surrender, but I've looked there a million times, and it never appears.

I also gave Elisabeth the times and location of a woman's retreat I would be organizing for the women of my church out near Boston.  I said if they were available, I'd love to meet them for lunch.  When the retreat weekend began, I still hadn't heard from them, but during free time on the Saturday afternoon of the retreat while walking around Walden Pond (yes, Thoreau's) and after touring the Alcott home (yes, Louisa May's), Lars called and said they would love to have lunch after church on Sunday afternoon at a restaurant in Hamilton, MA.  I could hardly contain my excitement and disbelief, while at the same time lamenting that I had not brought a skirt or dress to wear!
Lars took this picture of our giddy group after lunch circa 2001?
(Elisabeth is very tall!)
I invited a few others to go along to that lunch, partly because I knew they would never forgive me if I went alone, partly because we had to work out car rides back to Amherst, and partly because I really did want others to share in this great privilege.  I sat directly across the table from Elisabeth that Sunday afternoon, and felt so honored to look into her steel blue eyes and trace the deep, deep lines on her face ~ every one of them telling a story of heartache and sanctification and joy in Christ, I remember thinking.

My favorite memory from that lunch is the discussion I had with Elisabeth about the book Stepping Heavenward.  I told her I have a little joke about not being able to be friends with anyone who does not also love the book.  She looked at me, smiled, and said, "Well then, you and I can be friends."

Elisabeth Elliot, the courageous missionary and forgiving servant to the Ecuadorian tribe who speared and killed the love of her life was now my friend.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember your excitement after the lunch meeting! What a lovely memory!