Three Years Later
Jeffrey sighed. “Oh, I have so much to learn, Elspeth.”
Elspeth, in her quiet and gentle manner, slipped her hand into his and looked up at him. “Then let us learn together,” she said.
“Aye, we must.” He agreed. “Together, the two of us, and the Creator.”
She let her head fall onto his shoulder. “It will be hard, but good.”
Jeffrey smiled down at his fiancée. He had, on bent knee, asked her to be his beloved bride earlier that day, and now they stood looking outside the window of Donagh’s bookstore, watching the sun go down.
“Where will we go?” Elspeth asked, reading Jeffrey’s mind. Both understood their calling to take the Word and Law to the world.
“Where do you want to go?”
“Take me to the places you love.”
“Tilkah,” he said. “And once we’re done there, we can go to Minarea.”
“And then Panatea.”
Elspeth laughed. “And everywhere in Edaled.”
“But for now, I am content to be here with you.”
“Doing the Creator’s work anywhere is enough to make me content,” Elspeth said. “And the added blessing of helping you makes me even more joyful.”
Kianna watched them quietly from across the room, where she had been dusting shelves. She sighed quietly. She loved both Elspeth and Jeffrey dearly, and knew that the Creator would do mighty things through them. And I am satisfied to serve Him here, just as I am. He is my beloved, even if He does not send an earthly lover for me. The Creator quiets me with His love, that is enough, and it is all that I ask for.
Over the past three years, Kianna had gained much of her strength back, but still could not participate in physical exertion without coughing. When she wasn’t aiding Timothy and her brothers their ministry in the city, she helped Donagh in the bookstore. Jonathan and Archie had journeyed to Stargonia the year before to continue the work of the Creator there. The parting had been sorrowful, but everyone understood that both groups were doing the will of the Creator, and that they would be reunited someday, even if not on Edaled. Liam was growing in both stature and knowledge of the Creator, and enjoyed sharing the Creator with everyone that he met. Jeffrey had grown to know Elspeth deeply since she had come to live with them and his admiration of her faith and character had only grown since the night when he had noticed her quiet strength. When Jeffrey told his father of the inner workings of his heart, Timothy nodded and said, “I already know.” After conferring with Donagh, the two young people entered into the phase of courtship, which had ended only that morning, upon their engagement.
Two months later, the day of the wedding dawned clear and cool. Everyone in the little house rose early and worshiped the Creator together before final preparations began. The ceremony was to take place in the field behind Donagh’s bookstore. The whole town was invited, but a smaller group of friends and followers of the Creator was invited to a meal in the bookstore afterwards. Liam, Timothy, and Donagh spent the morning setting up for both events. Jeffrey joined them later. As he confided to Timothy and Liam, he had never been so excited or so nervous in his life. After the wedding, the couple would stay the night in Timothy’s house, and leave the next morning to journey to the islands. But for now, Jeffrey’s mind was filled with last minute tasks that Timothy gave him to fulfill.
Back at the house, Kianna helped Elspeth get ready.
“You look gorgeous,” Kianna said after carefully pinning a few flowers in Elspeth’s hair.
Elspeth did look gorgeous, in a simple but elegant white dress that Kianna had labored over for hours, and a veil that Elspeth had made. She was barefoot, for nothing else would ‘be Elspeth,’ as Jeffrey had said. Kianna had pinned up Elspeth’s hair, adorning it with small pale pink roses that she had planted when they first moved into the house. The excited flush on Elspeth’s cheeks mirrored the color of the flowers as they prepared to journey to the bookstore. A few minutes later, Liam drove up in a cart – though a much nicer cart than the one that had carried them from Wyan to Bonnar – to pick up the women. Elspeth wrapped herself in a large shawl to keep dust off, and then Liam helped them into the cart.
“All ready?” He asked, grinning.
“Aye,” Elspeth said.
“Well, then we’d best be off – I think that Jeffrey would go wild with apprehension if we kept him waiting any longer.”
Liam prodded the oxen onward and the cart rumbled across town. He pulled the animals to a stop outside the bookstore. Jumping off the cart, he opened the door and then helped Elspeth and Kianna down. “Jeffrey’s outside in the field. Don’t get too close to the far window, or he’ll see you.”
Timothy entered the shop as Liam was taking the cart away. He joined the two women where they stood in the middle of the room.
“They’re ready for you out back, Kianna,” he said.
Kianna nodded, gave Elspeth a long hug, and then walked out toward the field.
Timothy looked down at Elspeth. “You look so beautiful, Elspeth.”
“Thank you, father.” Although Elspeth had never called Timothy “papa,” it did not seem strange to her now to call him as her father.
“I am so blessed to have had you under my care, Elspeth. The Creator has taught me many things through you.”
“And He has taught me so much more through you. I am thankful that He led me to one such as you to be my guardian in these past few years without my papa.”
“And I am now thankful that He is allowing me to give you in marriage to my son. I can think of no one better for him than you. Your softness calms his wild side, but his boldness encourages you to be less reserved – and the love you both have for the Creator is so great. I remember when Caithlin and I were first married, that it was hard to help each other work through sin. We want our spouse to be perfect, and so when they sin it disappoints us. Having already lived in the same house as him for a time, you know how Jeffrey responds to trying situations. Even still, when he disappoints you, remember the unfailing, unchanging, constant love of the Creator.”
“Aye, I will. I pray that Jeffrey will remember the same.”
Timothy offered his arm to Elspeth. “I think it’s time now,” he said. “Ready?”
Elspeth nodded, and then smiled up at Timothy. “Thank you for everything,” she said.
“You are most welcome.” They began walking outside. “I will miss your smiling face in our house, but I know that you will be blessing Jeffrey and many others with it.”
They were now in view of the field and their guests. Jeffrey stood at the far end of the field, and Elspeth had eyes for no other, but joyously walked – though it was almost gliding – down the aisle. She hugged Timothy, who then turned her over to Jeffrey.
Jeffrey held her hand tightly in his sweaty hand. “You look beautiful,” he whispered.
She blushed, but said, “Thank you,” then turned her attention to Donagh, who was doing the ceremony. However, she remembered almost nothing of what he said, only the vows, and the songs that they sang – Elspeth’s favorite, “Him Serve With Mirth,” and Jeffrey’s favorite, the one sung at Ben’s execution. It brought tears to Elspeth’s eyes when she heard it, but she joyously clung to every truth in the song. And then Donagh said, “You may now kiss the bride.” Jeffrey lifted her chin, then bent and gave her their first kiss.
“I now pronounce you man and wife,” said Donagh jubilantly.
The crowd cheered as Elspeth and Jeffrey turned to face them, walked back down the aisle, and entered the bookstore for a few moments of solitude before the rest of the guests joined them.
“I can say it now,” Jeffrey said, hugging Elspeth. “I love you.”
She looked up into his eyes and smiled. “I love you, too.”
They stood hand in hand, watching water cover the sand. “Now that we’re finally here, what do you think?” Jeffrey asked. They had arrived on the islands the night before. Jeffrey quickly found old acquaintances, who gave them a place to stay for as long as they needed.
“It’s beautiful here,” she said. “I can see why you love it so much.”
He sighed. “It has changed. Even though the followers of the Creator have been busy at His work here, Daron’s grip has grown stronger. Thirteen years ago, it was visible on Siela, but not here on Ocadem, or in Tilkah.”
“The Creator’s love is stronger,” Elspeth reminded. “So we have no need to worry.”
“No, we never do. He is always so good to us.”
The Creator continued in His goodness toward the young couple over the next few months. Then something happened that required Elspeth not to doubt His goodness, but to trust it more. She could not see the Creator’s plans clearly, and so spent much time giving over to the Creator her worries in prayer.
Daron’s men began searching Ocadem, finding followers of the Creator and either deporting or executing them. Jeffrey was very active in telling people of the Creator and His Law, and was one of the first that Daron’s men came to. As they had come to James before, they came knocking on the door one afternoon.
“I’ll get it,” Elspeth said, laying down her knitting and opening the door. Startled to see Daron’s men at their door, she drew back. “How may I help you?” she asked when she had regained her wits.
“Does a Jeffrey live here?”
Suddenly Jeffrey was beside her. “Aye, I am Jeffrey,” he said. Elspeth laid a trembling hand on his arm. She remembered when the soldiers came to take James away, and shook still more. Jeffrey drew her close.
“You are under arrest, by order of the Island Council.”
“What for?” Jeffrey asked, though he knew the answer.
“For high treason against Daron, spreading lies, pushing your beliefs on others, and misleading children.”
So now I am not only a traitor’s daughter, but also a traitor’s wife, Elspeth thought.
“I have done nothing of that sort,” Jeffrey said.
“Defend that to the council,” one soldier said roughly. “They have much evidence against you.”
“Tell your wife to move away, unless she would like to come, too.” The leader commanded.
Jeffrey bent to whisper in Elspeth’s ear. “Do as he says. Come see me as soon as you can. I love you, Elspeth.” He paused, and then added, “trust the Creator. He is good.”
“I love you, too.” Elspeth moved away slowly.
The soldiers seized Jeffrey and took him away to the gaol.
“Oh Creator!” Elspeth cried when they were gone. “Jeffrey, too?”
They would not let Elspeth see Jeffrey for a week, and by that time, they had decided his fate: execution.
“I was able to tell them many times of the Creator, Elspeth,” Jeffrey said excitedly. “I don’t know what else the Creator has purposed to do through this, but if I were to die even so those few could hear, I am content. I prefer it, Elspeth, to go on to the Creator rather than stay on this earth. Were it not for you, I would go unhesitatingly.”
“Go unhesitatingly just the same,” Elspeth said. “On our wedding day, father reminded me to place my greatest love in the Creator. I have done so, and I now understand how much that has prepared me for now.” She ran her fingers over the cold bars. “But oh, Jeffrey… I feel as if this has been the story of my life – visiting those I love in the gaol.”
Jeffrey reached out and stopped her fingers, holding her hand gently in his own. “Don’t think that way, my love. Your life story has been doing the glorious work of the Creator.”
She trembled. “Jeffrey… I hesitate to tell you this …”
“What is it?”
“I am carrying our first child.”
Jeffrey glanced upwards. “Oh, must it be so? Must I now leave not only a wife, but also a child behind me? I wish there were a way, Elspeth,” he said, turning his gaze to his wife, “to get me out of here. But the Creator’s will be done. If He desires that I should live to see the birth of my child, so be it, and He will provide a way of escape – though I see none now. But if He has chosen that I will die, then I am just as joyful to do His bidding. Our good and gracious God will provide for you, whether I am beside you or not.
“Raise this precious being to know and love the Creator. In the short time I have left here, I shall pray that our baby will do great things for the Creator, and will serve and worship Him alone, with no other idols distracting it.”
“I will try, oh, I will try.” She paused. “If it is a boy, I shall name if Jeffrey, after his wonderful father, who cared for me so well, and who died for the glory of the Creator. If it is a girl, I shall call her Caithlin.”
Jeffrey smiled. “Thank you, Elspeth. For both names.”
“And I will tell our child that I want it to be like its father – loving, kind, constant, humble, honest, gentle… and most importantly, a servant of the Creator.”
“Do not forget to tell it to be like its mother – meek, tender, modest, virtuous, faithful, steadfast, supportive, servant-hearted, and one who served the Creator even though it was difficult.”
Elspeth pressed her head against the bars. “Oh Jeffrey, I shall miss you so much.”
“I would say the same for you,” He said. “But it would not be true, for I shall be with the Creator – but I long for the day when you will join me there.”
“As do I.”
“Trust Him, Elspeth,” Jeffrey said earnestly. “I don’t know what He has in store, but I know that it will be hard at first. Remember the many times that you did not know what He was doing, but each time He revealed Himself to be reliable and His plan perfect.”
“’Though trials come and sorrows be,’” Elspeth whispered, “’His triumph we will ever see.’”
“Those words are so true. I know that they brought much comfort to Kianna long ago, and have done so to many others. Seek consolation in the Truths written in the Word and Law. Meditate on them day and night. Never forget to be joyful, Elspeth.”
“Not happy, joyful,” she said.
“Aye. Always be joyful. I know you will be, you always are.”
“Alright, out for the night,” the guard said.
Elspeth looked at Jeffrey longingly. “Goodbye,” she whispered.
“Goodbye – for now,” he corrected. “The Law says that our lives are but a passing shadow, a vapor. I will see you soon in a world better than Edaled.”
“Aye,” Elspeth choked as tears began to roll down her cheeks. “Die well, Jeffrey.”
He held her hand tightly. “I love you, Elspeth, my beloved bride.”
“I love you, too.”
The guard drew nearer, and Elspeth tore herself away from Jeffrey. As she left the cellblock, she cast a glance back at Jeffrey’s cell. He was watching her leave, and waved her onward.
“I love you,” she whispered, and then was gone.
Jeffrey stood still as the soldiers piled wood around him. The ropes were rough on his bare wrists. But before long, there will be no more discomfort! He reminded himself. I will be free, and with the Creator!
He surveyed the crowd that was gathered on the docks to watch his execution. Let my death be a witness to these people, he prayed. There was Elspeth, standing beyond the barrier. She was not crying, but stood bravely, even regally as she watched. A daughter of the King, he thought. Thank You for giving her strength.
As the soldiers lit the fire, Elspeth remembered two other deaths – Ben’s, three years ago, and one much longer ago than that – Adan’s own. Jeffrey’s death would be painful, but Elspeth thought of Adan’s, during which He suffered the wrath of the Creator. The wrath of the Creator for my sin. She looked to Jeffrey. His eyes closed as the flames rose higher, and Elspeth knew that his mind was dwelling on the glories of the Creator that he was drawing nearer to each second. “Who dieth thus, dies well,” Elspeth murmured.
He may appear to be struggling, his life ending, Elspeth thought. But his life in eternity is just beginning, as he gazes on the fullness of the glory of the Creator. Oh Creator, grant me this victorious faith that has caused my husband to die so well. Strengthen my trust in You so that when it comes time for me to die, my only thought will be of You, though my body be in anguish, my soul will be rejoicing, because though trials come and sorrows be – You are victorious!
Thus my grandfather died, and was joined to the Creator in Eternal Glory. My grandmother cried, and everyone who knew him cried. But then my grandmother remembered something grandfather wrote in a letter to my grandfather on the day of his death:
“When I die, I want no one to cry. Death is the tool of the Creator to take His followers from suffering and into the greatest place imaginable. Death means that I have gone to my Lover. Know I love you, my darling Elspeth. The Creator has blessed me beyond words by your friendship and love. You are a faithful wife. But there is one I love still more than you, and I am being taken home to Him. Do not weep for me, but rejoice. I love you.”
My grandfather died because of his great faith. As Adan said, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Grandfather Jeffrey had great faith in the love that Adan had in taking the wrath of the Creator in order to grant us life – the great hope of grandfather.
It is now year 1000.
Each day we long for the return of the Creator, and the hour when we shall be taken forever to our Lover. For now, we must learn to be content in every circumstance, yet long for His return. Each day it draws nearer. Our faith sustains us until that day with the ever-present hope of His arrival.
Perhaps He will come today.
His servant forever,