Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 45)

It was easy enough to tell my mom that I was engaged, and Joseph's parents took the news well, but I was dreading telling my dad.

My mom didn't even want to tell my dad. I let a few weeks go by of nail biting before I finally decided to suck it up and send him an email.

I know, I know. Email is the weenie pants way out, but it's what works best for my dad. Whenever I decided to leave the country, I told Dad via email. If I got a new pet, I told Dad via email. If I took out a new loan for college, I told Dad via email. Email is perfect because he can have his giant emotional  reaction before I talk to him. The news has a little time to sink in. He can talk to his friends at work who will remind him that his kids are adults now and studying abroad or getting a new pet is not the same as juvenile delinquency.

An hour or two after I sent the email, my phone was ringing. It was Dad. I stared at it until it stopped ringing, and then forced myself to call him back.

"Hi Dad!"


"So... didja get my email?"


"Are... you... okay?"

"I'm on drugs."


"I got your email, and then I had a dentist appointment. So I went in and said to the dentist, 'My daughter is getting married. Can you give me some drugs?', and he did."

"So... you're fine?"

"No! My daughter is getting married! Of course I'm not fine!"

"I love you, Dad" I laughed.

"I love you, too. Congratulations. Or whatever."

I knew my dad. He would be excited, truly happy about this, only after we were actually married. He would accept it, then. But he would have to see it happen. There would be no eloping for a couple of fools in love like me and Joseph.

One more thing happened to further endear me to this ugly ring. As Genevieve had us all noticing hearts that happened accidentally or naturally and thinking of them as reminders of the Father's love for us displayed all over His creation, she also got us in the habit of acknowledging very simple eye shapes that occurred at random. To us, those had become a reminder that He is with us. Watching. Not in a creepy way, mind you. It meant that He is attentive to our lives.

So, when I woke up one morning, saw my ring, and in my half awake stupor thought to myself "Ack! It's looking at me!", the thing took on a little more significance. Now, not only did it represent our mountains, our home, but also the Lord's attention to our lives.

Joseph hadn't noticed the eye when he had purchased it.

It wasn't just an eye out in the world somewhere, it was right there in my engagement ring! Our Poppa was watching our relationship. He wasn't leaving us on our own. He was coming with us. 

All of this was incredibly reassuring to me at the time I discovered it, because I was having a few doubts about the state of my fiance's soul. It was nothing I could put my finger on. He was doing all the "churchy" things that Christians are "supposed" to do, and I was pretty sure that that time on the mountain when the sun came back up was a salvation type moment for him. 

Even though I don't think salvation is always a moment for everyone. Having been raised Catholic, I couldn't remember any exact moment when I chose to give myself to God. Sure, there had been little moments along the way, but no all important alter call or prayer with a fellow believer requested. I had always just known Him. 

At a Baptist camp, once, when I was an early teenager, there was a pastor who scared the everlovin' snot out of me with an emotional alter call. I thought I should go up because he was pleading so intensely, but at the same time, I didn't want to because I felt like it would be a lie. To say I didn't know the Lord. 

That night in the cabin, I tossed and turned all night, stressing out and asking God if that pastor was right - that if we didn't remember a time and a place, that we weren't "saved". 

In the morning, I trooped down to the chapel with the other campers, and plopped, exhausted, into a folding chair. The pastor took the floor, and the very first thing he said was, "I have to apologize to you all. I made a mistake. Last night, when I told you that if you don't remember a time and a place - a specific moment that you got saved that it never happened, I was wrong. I was convicted when I got home, to tell you that sometimes it can be a process. It is different for everyone, because it is a personal relationship. "

Giant sigh. I was relieved. 

A friend of mine nowadays likes to say (when he is asked when he was saved), "2,000 years ago and every day."

So my thoughts on salvation have always been a bit complex, and I gave up trying to guess about Joseph. Something still felt off, so I prayed for confirmation. Or something. 

He had these new age-y books. One was about aliens, a few others were about the power of positive thinking or how drugs take you into a more spiritual realm. Normally books about things I disagree with don't bother me in the least, but it seemed that every time he cracked one of them, he would spend the next few days flailing about in a sea of doubt. 

Music is a thing that I generally like or don't like based on how it makes me feel. I didn't have a problem with Joseph's playlist as it was, but something happened when he listened to certain bands. Like a cloud hung over him. Sometimes he said he felt heavy. Like he wanted to barf.

It was all confusing, and now we were engaged. Something had to give. 

One cold, icy evening, Joseph asked Genevieve if they could talk. He said he believed, but it was like he was holding onto something that he needed to let go of. He wasn't sure what it was, and he wanted to let go. Once and for all, he wanted to be sure that he belonged to the Lord. 

Genevieve asked if he had ever been baptized. He said that he had been christened as a baby, but as an adult, he wasn't a believer until recently, so ... no. 

"Maybe you should think about being baptized." Genevieve suggested. 

"Okay... well, could I get baptized like, right now?" 

My fiance was like the eunuch in Acts, chapter 8! The eunuch had met up with a man named Philip, who explained the Gospel to him. As soon as he understood what it meant, and who Jesus was, he had asked to be baptized on the spot. He said something like, "Look! Here is water! What is there to stand in the way of me being baptized, right here and now?" 

Jim had come down stairs to see what everyone was buzzing about. Yes, it was sleeting outside, and yes, it was 11 o'clock at night. But we knew of a river not too far away. What was there stopping Joseph from being baptized? Nothing, that's what! 

As I thought about it, I had never really been baptized either. Well, maybe I had been. I had been christened as a baby, like Joseph. There were protestant churches every now and then that I wished I could have been a little more involved in, as a teen, but they all required membership. For membership, they required that one have been baptized as an adult, in the way they believed was Scriptural. 

For Catholics, there is a sacrament called confirmation, which (spiritually) is basically the same as protestant baptism. Just without the symbolism of the water. It is standing before your church and stating that now that you are of an age to make your own choices, you are freely choosing this faith. This God.

I had been confirmed. To go through the formal ceremony of a baptism in a protestant church, I feared would break my momma's heart. I didn't want her to think I had totally rejected Catholicism. That wouldn't be accurate, either. 

And there was that one time that I had been riding back to school with Grey, Christmas, and our friend Lael a few years back. There was a sudden downpour and we all got really excited and wanted to get out and play in it. Grey stopped the car on the side of the road and we commenced frolicking. 

I discovered that we were right next to a river, so all three of us doffed our shirts and jumped in. The current was intense, but we were having so much fun. Grey had shouted, "Sarah! Let's play baptism! Can I baptize you?" I was totally game, and I secretly prayed that maybe God would make that count. 

I wasn't sure if it did, though. Because my friends thought we were playing. 

As Genevieve and Jim put on waders and Rosie, Josh, and Kentucky all bundled up for the van ride to the river, I quietly asked if maybe I could go ahead and be baptized, too. Since we were already about it. I explained that I wasn't sure that I really had been, and to have officially done it... would feel really solid. 

I believe that God gives us tangible things to do when we hit a milestone with Him because He (having created us) knows that we are physical beings who live in a physical world. It is tremendously reassuring to be able to look back and say "I did that. It happened. I committed to Him, and I know it for sure because I was freezing cold and sopping wet." 

At the river, we piled out of the van and climbed over the gate (that may or may not have been closed and locked at nightfall). We all ran through the sleet and into the water. Well, Genevieve and Jim ran into the water with Joseph and I. Rosie, Kentucky, and Josh stood on the shore in their raincoats. 

We talked about what it all meant, and then we were baptized. 

And it was so cold it knocked my breath out. Later on, I told Grey about it, and she looked a little sad. 

"But... I thought I baptized you?" 


I told her that I had secretly asked God if that time could please count. I must have underestimated my prayers. I had thought my friends were only playing, but Grey is a perceptive one. Turned out she knew all along. 

So for me, this baptism was technically a little redundant, but it was still a treasured thing in so many ways. 

For Joseph, however, it was a turning point. When we got home, the first thing he did was go get those new age-y books and throw them in the fire place. They would torment him no more. 

He then went into his room and deleted the bands that made him feel so heavy. 

That was the last time I felt disconcerted about where my dear one stood with God. I knew exactly where he stood. 

Safe and secure. In the Father's hands. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 44)

I was happily munching on chocolate chip cookies when Joseph came through the door and said we'd been invited over for dinner at Banjo and Scarlett's apartment.

"Oh! I would love that!" I exclaimed, "Want a cookie?"

"No thanks! I would love one, but I decided to fast chocolate."

Joseph had been trying to figure out what to fast for the last few days. Star was going through some things, and we love her, so Joseph decided to fast and pray for her situation to improve. Chocolate was his very favorite indulgence.  I was really touched that he was giving up chocolate for a while because he cared for my best friend so much.

We could feel the familiar bliss of friendship the second we walked into Banjo and Scarlett's living room. Their eyes all alight and jubilant.

Banjo and Joseph made themselves busy in the kitchen, and I sat down with Scarlett on the sofa to catch up. We could hear the guys giggling (yes, giggling) over who knows what until they came forth from their laboratory bearing plates brimming over with spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread.

It is a priceless thing to break bread with dear friends.

When dinner was over, Banjo offered us chocolate pudding pops. I accepted enthusiastically, just before I remembered that Joseph was fasting chocolate. I remembered he was fasting chocolate because he said, "No thanks, man, I'm fasting chocolate."

Joseph asked if I wanted to go up to the parkway with him to watch the sun set. I did want to.

Banjo came running out with a blanket and said to take it with us to snuggle in, and then asked if we wanted thermoses with hot chocolate in them, too. Simultaneously, I shouted, "YES!" and Joseph shouted, "I'M FASTING CHOCOLAAAAAATE!" which immediately caused Banjo to dissolve into laughter and offer us coffee instead.

We hugged them goodbye and took off for the parkway.

Evidently, we weren't the only ones wanting to watch the sun set that evening. Waterrock Knob was a mess with vehicles and families and motorcyclists.

We took our blanket and sat on the edge of the mountain. The sky was perfect. All the fire-y oranges and reds changing into pinks and yellows with the slow passage of time. We sat in silence, just taking it in.

All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, everyone who was there started to leave. The sun set was still totally brilliant when the last motor cycle sputtered off down the mountain, and we were alone. It was nice. Really nice.

The first star came out and I spotted it.

"Hey, Joe, the first star! Make a wish!"

"Will you marry me?" He didn't miss a beat.

I looked over and saw him holding a ring. It was a ridiculous ring. It looked like costume jewelry! I wasn't sure if he was kidding, or not? I was totally off guard.

"Where did you get that?!" I blurted, started to explode with laughter and then stopped myself.

He was serious. His eyes said so.

"I mean, it's pretty! Where'd you find it? I mean Yes! Yes, of course I will!"

Fortunately, he was too busy cracking up at the fact that everyone had gone away to dwell too much on my first reaction to the ring. He explained that he had silently prayed that we could be alone for this, but he didn't really think everyone would pack up and leave like they did!

So the ring was totally not my style. It was too big, it was yellow gold, and it had diamonds in it. But his explanation of the meaning he saw in it was too sweet for me to hold it against him in any way.

The way the metal curved along the lines that held the diamonds in reminded him of our mountains. The diamonds, of our stars, and the sapphire in the middle, of the night sky. It represented our home. Our mountains where we read Job with our church family, where we met God in times that troubled us, where we went to celebrate the very beginning of our relationship, and now... where he had asked me to marry him.

At that point, honestly, I could care less that the ring was kind of hideous. I had the most thoughtful fiance in the world!

Out of his coat, he pulled one of the secret reasons Banjo and Scarlett had invited us over. Their green laser pointer.

We stayed up on the mountain for hours, drawing stories in our stars.

(Continued here)

The Restoration of All Things (Part 43)

When we came home from that Chattanooga trip, we decided we needed a diversion. So we sauntered into my very favorite kind of silly diversion: a pet store.

In that pet store, we found something I truly didn't expect to see. Teeny, tiny baby turtles.

We knew we had to have one. 

The little old man at the cash register rather looked like a turtle himself. As we purchased the turtle and a tiny dish with a plastic palm tree to keep him in until we could afford a tank, I noted that I thought it was illegal to sell turtles in North Carolina. 

"It is." stated the little old man. 

"Oh... Well, you're not going to get in trouble, are you?" 

"Absolutely not! I don't sell turtles! I sell turtle shells. Just so happens the turtles come with 'em." 

Joseph and I were cracking up. 

The old man crossed his arms with an enormous grin on his face and added, "Besides, I'm 98 years old! What are they gonna do to me?" 

He certainly had a point. 

We went home and set the little dish up with it's palm tree on the dresser in the living room that we shared with Kentucky. She said she didn't mind adding a turtle to our set up. We all wondered if that little dish would keep the little turtle safe, but Turtle Man had assured us it would be fine until turtle got bigger. 

We named the turtle Ieyose, because that was how Adelaide pronounced the word "little" and were quite satisfied with ourselves. 

A few days later, though, I came back from class and Ieyose wasn't in his habitat. I dumped the water out and picked through the pebbles. I dumped the pebbles out. No Ieyose. 

I scanned the floor, looked under the carpet, through the dresser drawers, unfolded all my clothes and shook everyone's shoes next to my ear. Still no Ieyose. 

Kentucky ambled in, asked what was going on, and then joined me in my search. We pulled books from their shelves, unmade our beds, pulled the cushions from the couch and then lifted it up to see if he was under it. It was to no avail. 

Genevieve heard us throwing things around and came over to see what was the matter. I was on the verge of tears. I knew that a water turtle could only survive for so long in such a dry environment, and we had been at it with the searching for hours. 

She helped us look a little more, and then finally just put her arms around me and prayed that God would bring our sweet little turtle out into the open where we could see him. And that he would be unharmed. 

There was nowhere else to look. We gave up. 

A few days went by. Then a week. 2 weeks. 

Joseph and I decided to go get another turtle from Turtle Man and a proper tank this time to go along with it. We would just name it Ieyose and pretend we had never lost the first one. 

In this tank, we put pebbles, river stones, and buttons. We set it up with a filter and stuck a big rock under the filter so it made a water fall and threw in little plastic floating lillypads. It was a magical land of hope and wonder. This turtle would stick around. 

The very next day I came back from class to a surprise. 

When I peeked in to check on Ieyose... there were two turtles! Both perfect and healthy! I was dumfounded. Where did this other one come from? 

I went looking for Kentucky and found her in the kitchen. 

She told me what was up. Earlier in the day, she had been vacuuming our little shared living area, and suddenly, there was a turtle in the middle of the floor! He was all dried out and gross and crusty. She thought he was dead. His tongue was even hanging out - which was something neither of us had known was possible for turtles. 

As a hope against hope, she had picked him up and placed him in a bowl of water, hoping he would re-hydrate. And he did. 

It was miraculous. He was good as new. Joseph came home, and we renamed him Heavy (Adelaide's word for big). 

He was our little prodigal turtle. We were so happy to have him back. 

The Restoration of All Things (Part 42)

It wasn't long before Joseph and I were back in Chattanooga visiting Star again.

The night that we all traipsed over to Star's elderly neighbor's house to play with a brand new litter of puppies was the same night Joseph and I stayed up late talking about marriage. More specifically, we were discussing when we should get married. First we thought maybe in 5 years. That sounded reasonable. But why wait that long? How about 3 years? Then we'd both be graduated, and ... that made sense. Right?

I lay awake on the couch after we said goodnight, thinking about how sweet it had been relationshipping with him.

I was remembering that time we went with Kentucky and Rosie to see a favorite band (Flatfoot 56) play in South Carolina. The whole lot of us had gotten there early and killed a few hours wandering around town, and then settling into a parking lot to color and fly kites.

At some point, we had allowed ourselves to get a little too lost in the aroma of a honeysuckle bush. I think it actually came alive and tried to eat Joe.

There was that other time when everyone caravanned all the way to Charlotte for a worship service. Dustin even came and Joe and I rode in the backseat of his car on the way there. 

And on the way home, I rode in the bed of a friend's pick up truck with Rosie so that we could sing our everlovin' lungs out and watch the stars. We learned 2 things on that trip. The first was that the bed of a pickup truck in the middle of the night for 3 hours is freezing. The second was that screaming the lyrics to Flatfoot's "Same Ol' Story" all the way home with a dear friend makes possible hypothermia 100% worth it

I finally dozed off thinking about how sure I was that I wanted us to be together for always. And how we wanted all the same things for our lives.

In the morning, we sat on the porch with Star, sipping coffee and filling her in on our musings. 

"You want to wait 3 years?" She arched an eyebrow at us. 

"I mean... I guess?" I noncommittally suggested. 


That was a good question. Joe and I looked at each other. We didn't know the answer. It seemed like we should wait because... it was more socially acceptable? Well, that wasn't a good reason. We had to wait until we graduated? But why? We were at the same school. Wouldn't it be easier in so many ways if we were married?

Yes. Yes it would. 

The more we talked about how practical it would be, and how much we cared for each other, the more we realized that waiting years and years was a ridiculous idea. 

Besides, in Scripture, Paul did note clearly that it's better to marry that to burn with passion. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 41)

As the semester progressed, naturally I was finding more interesting things to delve into than school. Star and I became obsessed with cob houses. We spent hours pouring over books like The Hand Sculpted House and saving pictures from Google images to our computers to send each other later.

The free flowing form of a house that can literally be sculpted with one's hands had a serious allure to our creative and rule abhorring tendencies. 

Joseph easily and happily dove into this indulgence with us. We would daydream about building cob houses together, drawing up floor plans, discussing how to create a waxed earthen floor, and working out how to find supplies for as little cost as possible. 

The three of us and little Adelaide even took a day when Joseph and I were in Chattanooga to visit a commune of hippies who lived in cob houses, just to see how it was done and to stand in a few and look around. 

These were some seriously all or nothing hippies whom we enjoyed immensely. Our tour guide's name I do not remember, but we all remember that he had a colleague named Patrick who he routinely disagreed with but was, "too laid back to care". 

Star said that if he mentioned one more time how laid back he was, she was going to ask what was stressing him out so much. 

One kind lady who was straggling along behind everyone with us told our troop of her morning outdoor shower. A caterpillar had crawled onto her foot, leaving her first in astonishment at it's perfection and beauty, and then in awe of it's self defensive powers. Within minutes, it had caused her foot to swell to twice it's size. It was some kind of freak poisonous caterpillar. 

She gazed off happily into randomness and said, "I just thought how amazing it is that such a tiny creature was able to use it's gifts from nature to make such an impact!" 

Star and I looked at each other, concerned for this poor woman's foot. We hoped secretly that she would get it looked at. 

I went to Indiana again to be with my family a little on a long weekend. I sat on the living room floor talking to Joseph on the phone. 

"So... When I build my cob house, and you can help, and I can help you with your cob house..." I was so confused. How should I be conveying that by the time I had a house I hoped it would be one that we would have together? 

"Of course I'll help you build your cob house!"

We discussed specifics and design while hemming and hawing around any bushes that represented a future together or apart until finally Joseph just softly stated, "You know... for now, I think it's safe to say 'our cob house'. Ya know, just for conversation's sake. If... if you want." 

"Okay", I grinned into the receiver, "Our cob house. For conversation's sake." 

Fall break found us together at Joe's parent's house again. Late into the night, we whispered about the future. 

"I hope we don't ever break up" I confided, "It would just be too sad!" 

"Oh Sarah," Joseph smiled sweetly, "you know that won't happen! In fact, I can't picture us not getting married!" 

"HA!" I buried my face in a couch pillow to keep as quiet as I could. I didn't want to wake up the family! "That does not count as a proposal, mister!" 

"I know. Oh, I know." he countered, with an up-to-something expression on his face. 

The Restoration of All Things (Part 40)

Kentucky and Genevieve had painted the walls in the room I was staying in with a shade that looked like peanut butter on their fingers, and the inside of a gold nugget on the walls.

I moved into the gold nugget, and Joseph moved into the newly acquired RV out back.

I was holding onto Joseph's egg-crate foam mattress thingy and waiting for him to come grab the other end when I noticed a long blond hair. I felt a little woozy.

"Joseph? Did... um... " No, I couldn't ask him that.

"What's up?"

"Never mind."

He stopped what he was doing. "Sweetheart, what's wrong? Please tell me?"

I paused for an unreasonably long time and finally blurted, "Did Azalea spend the night in your room? In your bed?"

Joseph turned so many shades of red I thought he would be purple before he finished blushing.

When our day was almost done, we took my mexico blanket and laid it under the giant tree in the Hanwell's backyard. That is where Joseph and I processed our pasts, every evening for the next week or two. I had a few emotional connections to guys, and he had... oh, all sorts of connections to girls. We worked through how we felt about it all and let it go a piece at a time.

Kentucky came in one morning and declared that she had stepped on a leaf on the way to class and it was crunchy. That she was convinced it was crunchy because it was the first day of fall. Yesterday she stepped on a leaf and there was no crunch, but today it was fall, and leaves were allowed to crackle.

Glorious fall deepened with pumpkin flavored things, apple cider, and deliciously crisp mountain air.

Joseph and I came through the front yard one afternoon, telling secrets on the way home from class. I looked up and caught my breath.

Eddie Kindle was in the driveway, unloading the last few pieces of firewood from his pickup truck and stacking them on the porch. There was an axe and a chopping block in the yard, indicating that he had been at this for a while.

Genevieve and Rosie were on the porch, looking serene.

I said hi to Eddie, awkwardly, and introduced him to my boyfriend.

After a silent moment or two, Eddie asked Joseph what shoe size he wore and then went to his truck and pulled out a pair of skate shoes (perfectly Joseph's style) and asked if he wanted them. He said they just didn't fit him right, but they were a sturdy brand.

Joseph gratefully accepted the shoes, thanked him, and just like that, Eddie was gone again.

Genevieve and I sat on the couch and she told me of what happened in our absence.

This is what happened, as related to me very recently, in Rosie's own words:

Eddie randomly showed up with a load of wood, and I came downstairs to him chopping it. One of the pieces actually turned out to be an "R" shape which my mum has a picture of. 

Anywayz, I had made up my mind to not talk to him about anything. I was just going to sit there and read Velvet Elvis [by Rob Bell]. 

He came up to me and said that he loved that book and my response was something like, "Hmm."

Then my mum came in and made "What are you doing with your life" small talk. Then she said, "Rosie Grace, is there anything you'd like to say to Eddie?"

Yes. Some examples would be, 
"Why aren't you talking to us?" 
"Where were you your last semester that was so important that you couldn't visit?" 
"Do you know how many people you've hurt?"
"Do you value us at all?" 
"Did you ever value us at all?"
"Why are you so bad at being a real person?" 

Instead, I replied with a docile, "No, it's okay." ... Total BS. 

Mum blinked at me, and she said , "Well, I'll just talk for you." 

She proceeded to tell Eddie how I considered him a brother, and how she considered him a son. Then she told him that when he left, my enthusiasm for ministry plummeted. I had figured that if ministry was a source of hurt, I wasn't willing to risk it anymore. 

I had eventually come to terms with the risk involved with being in relationship with people, and was willing to give it a try again, but it definitely took time. 

During this seemingly eternal explanation, I had started crying. I could see Eddie looking at my mum, then at me. We brought up all the things he had/had not done, and he couldn't remember any of it. 

"What about the time I kicked you in the shins?" I demanded. 

"I do not recall that", he simply stated. 

My mum finally stopped, and we sat in silence.  Then, he looked at me. 

He said, "There's a Scripture that says something like, 'Better to have a stone tied around your neck and be cast into the sea than to cause a little one to stumble' ... I caused a little one to stumble. I'm so sorry." 

Hugs then ensued. Then he cried. I cried. We prayed for him and he started to remember all the things from the past years. 

Then he said, "I'll be right back, Rosie, don't leave." 

He came back with bright red yarn, and we did a yarning, and I do believe he stayed for dinner. 

Before Eddie left, Genevieve snapped a few pictures of Eddie and Rosie. They were silly in one and sweet and somber in the other, but in both of them, Rosie's eyes glistened.

Rosie has been one of my biggest heros since the first night I stumbled out of the cold and into the wood stove warmth of the Hanwell's house. Rosie is legendary.  She broke through Eddie's walls just by existing. Well, her precious eyes and a healthy dose of Momma love. 

I believe that this restoration for Rosie was a restoration for Eddie, too. 

Regardless of whether all was made perfect in this moment or not, one thing is for certain. 

This girl will move mountains. 

(Continued here)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 39)

Joseph and I had worked it out so that I would be driving to his family's home to pick him up at the end of the summer. It would serve a triple purpose. I would get to meet his family, visit my little brother who lived near Joseph's family, and Joseph would have a way to get back to school.

His family lived on the other side of the state from our college, so it was to be quite a drive on the way back. The way there from Indiana didn't seem so terribly much longer, though.  When I parked my car and looked up to see him for the first time in almost 3 months, it felt surreal.

I got out of the car and we stood in awe of each other for a few minutes before soaking in the the glorious tangibility of one another with a heartfelt welcome-back type hug.

As we made our way across the yard, Joseph's little 6 year old sister, Nadia, came sprinting across the grass and leaped into his arms. She hung on his back like a little monkey while he unloaded instruments and the like out of my car. He let her piggy-back as he went to and fro the car effortlessly and unbothered. 

Joseph is one of five siblings. His older sister is a few months younger than me, and her name is my name. Spelled the same way and everything. Joseph is next in line, followed by John, Mark, and then Nadia.

His mom and dad were sweet people. Down to earth and familiar.

I met his grandmother on that trip, too. Incredible lady. I wanted to stay near her and exchange knowing glances. 

I went with the family to her apartment for a combined celebration of Joseph's sister Sarah's (whom Joseph jokingly referred to as Sarah_001) new engagement to her fiance Braden, and Nadia's 7th birthday.

For a while I sat on the floor with Nadia and Mark, learning from them how to fold a paper cup. Mark was laughing at a time when they were a year or two younger and Nadia had tried to drink out of her paper cup. Water had spilled everywhere, much to Mark's amusement and Nadia's annoyance. Nadia may have only been very newly 7 years old, but that did not make her too young to deal her older brother a well-timed eye-roll. "Come oooooon, Mark! I was, like, 5 years old!" 

"She has a point, you know." I winked.

Mark asked Nadia if she wanted to show us her seashell collection. She brought it out in a pail and poured them all out on the floor. She picked up each one joyously to show us, detailing specifically what it was about every individual piece that made that particular one special to her before placing it back in the bucket.

"This one is red! And this one has a little chip in the side! And this one has coral stuck to it!" On and on she went, her eyes gleaming at each one.

I couldn't help but imagine my Jesus whispering to us, "So do I love you..."

Suddenly it was time to go eat. This meant I had to go sit at the table with more grown up people. Sarah_001 and Braden seemed very sweet, but they also fit the bill for the sort of people that I just flat out don't know how to talk to. Whether he was actually in a fraternity or she was actually in a sorority, I may never know. But the clothing as well as the vibes all leaned sharply in that direction.

Obviously, not all sororities or fraternities are the same. And not all people who join them are chronically pretentious. I have known a handful of greek-clubbers who were sparkly-eyed and engaging. I, however, have a bad habit of judging people for my perception that they are judging me.

I should work on that.

As it were, it was a bit daunting when their stories of the trip they took to Sandals, Jamaica as a celebration of their engagement, how much they loved their brand new cars, and what they were planning on for their wedding were followed by, "And Joseph and Sarah, what have you two been up to?"

I tried to make conversation, sort of, but I couldn't find their eyes.

When the food had ended and everyone dispersed back into the living-room and then outside for family pictures, I would have A) felt horribly left out or B) been that girl who just follows her boyfriend around because the atmosphere is making her insecure, if it wasn't for Joseph's grandmother.

She is the sort that makes one feel conspired with. I could hang out on the sidelines and family-watch with her. Mischievous, yet loving. 

On Sunday, I got to experience church in Joseph's house. His dad summoned everyone into the living-room and handed us each a hymnal, a Bible, and something like a program that had the order of operations for church that morning on it.

He began to explain it all to me, but I cut in to inform him that having been raised Catholic, I knew the drill. Catholicism and Lutheranism have a lot in common. I thought we could have a little camaraderie over that, but apparently he had too many beefs with Catholicism to be even remotely amused.

I had a moment of excitement when he said we'd be reading from Ephesians and blurted, "Ephesians?! I love that book! It's one of my favorites!".

All enthusiasm was curbed, however, absolutely immediately as he peered over his reading glasses at me with a face that said I had to be some kind of irreverent heathen.

Okay, man, I get it. We sit up straight and do not discuss in church. No wonder Joseph was inclined to run screaming from it.

I could see and hear from the well thought out and typed up sermon he was reading to us that he was trying very hard and his heart was for the Lord. Somewhere, though, there was a disconnect. A misunderstanding. It was a hard service for me to get through. I imagined it must have been infinitely harder for the little ones.

When it was over, Joseph and I went outside to play frisbee with John for a while.

In the afternoon, we loaded up John's drum set and Joe's bass and went to watch those two perform at a coffee house.

By the time Sunday evening was upon us, Joseph and I decided we just wanted a little time to hang out together. We hopped in the car not knowing where to go. Randomly, we pulled into a church parking lot and went for a walk that ended deep in a grove of smallish pine trees. We sat down close together under one of them to talk and talk.

For the first time, our faces were awfully close as we shared secrets and musings. I thought I was going to maybe kiss him. Maybe...

A downpour burst through the tree cover and soaked us to the bone immediately. Up we rocketed to sprint through the driving rain back to the car, but before we were even halfway there, we realized that running was pointless. We were already sopping wet. Might as well enjoy it.

We lay down on the pavement laughing and soaking it in (literally) until we thought Joseph's parents might be worried about us.

Back in the living room, safe and dry, we prayed for the weather the next day, as it was to be our first beach trip together.

As we'd hoped, it couldn't have been more perfect. We played in the dunes on Jockey's Ridge and ran down the edge of them to the bay where we laid on our bellies with our chins in our hands, watching the hermit crabs scramble about comically.

It ended with a heat lightning storm that scared almost everyone away, leaving us with the beach to ourselves and a perfect stormy sky, exploding over the ocean with a show of vivid colors and lightning sparks.

Because Joseph's mom is a master of recipes and all things delicious, there was an abundance of magical food stuffs awaiting us upon our return back to Joe's family's household. The night before such a giant drive back to school we ate well and slept like rocks.

The afternoon of the following day, we loaded up my car, hugged the whole family goodbye and headed home to The Whee.

It was beautiful to know that when we got back we wouldn't be moving into the dorms again.

A new chapter of adventures with our beloved Hanwells was on it's way.

(Continued here)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Resoration of All Things (Part 38)

Two more things happened before spring faded into summer.

The first was that the Hanwells opened up their home in a phenomenally gracious manner. They invited Joseph and I both to come and live with them in the following semester. I would live in Kentucky's room again, sharing a bunk with her this time. Joseph would live in an RV out back. Except the RV wasn't there yet. They would find one for him before we came back after summer break.

This family never ceased to give. We worked out an arrangement in which we paid a teeny tiny rent and tried to chip in on some utilities. I was happy for that, so we wouldn't feel quite so free-load-y. Mostly I was beyond excited that I would be living with my dear friends again.

The other thing was that Joseph came home with me for Spring break and met my family.  He and my mom got along famously right away. He and my dad, though, not so much.

I think Dad was secretly hoping for the crazy-old-lady-with-an-alpaca-farm option. Then he would never have to witness the absolute horror of his only daughter falling in love with a guy. A guy who was a guy like he had once been a guy. Terrifying.

Dad and I sat on the couch and he looked at my 23 year old self and said, "Well, your mother tells me that you and Joseph aren't even kissing. So. Good. It's platonic. You're just friends. I can deal with that."

"No Dad, he's my boyfriend. We're in a relationship."


"No Dad. I didn't kiss him yet."

"Oh. So, it's platonic. And you're just friends."

"No Dad. We're not kissing, but we are in a committed relationship."

"Well as long as you're not kissing and you're just friends... "

And when Joseph and I went downstairs to watch a movie, Dad came storming down every 45 minutes yelling, "YOU TWO BETTER NOT BE PRONE!!! I'LL BE DOWN AT RANDOM INTERVALS TO CHECK ON YOU AND YOU WON'T KNOW WHEN I'M COMING! YOU'D BETTER BEHAVE ACCORDINGLY!"

It was all I could do not to holler back, "Dad? You do know that 'prone' means 'face down', right?".

Hearing my pops use a word incorrectly was like happening upon coleslaw that doesn't taste like crap. It never happens.  He must have been really frazzled over this business of me having a boyfriend.

Most of the time, my brother joined us for the movie watching, anyway. We were glad of the company. I missed Weezle, and I wanted him and Joseph to get to know each other.

I took Joseph to Fox Island during that trip to walk on the trails through Indiana marshland. We thought it would be fun because I had gone with my mom during the winter and we managed to see some cool wildlife.

Unfortunately the warm weather combined with wetlands created the perfect concoction for giant apocalyptic swarms of mosquitoes. We had gotten through the grassy field that separated the trails from the parking lot and a few yards into the first path when we heard the faintest buzzing. That faint buzzing turned into a massive black cloud headed our way at frightening speeds. One of us screamed "RUN!" and we took off for the car at a breakneck pace and didn't stop until we were safe inside. We frantically killed the few mosquitoes made it in with us, and watched horrified as hundreds more smashed themselves onto the windshield in their bloodthirsty quest to end us.


Sometimes I toy with the idea of getting a tattoo. I don't want a stupid tattoo though. I want a pretty one with deep meaning.  For quite some time I wanted the sweet symbol our church was always drawing of the treehouse and the heart and the hands and all that. I wanted it to remind me that one of my biggest heart's desires is to be a safe place for the people God sends into my life.

I asked Joseph to draw something like that on my back where I wanted the tattoo so I could think about what it would be like if it were to be there forever.

So he did.

And I liked it. But maybe not forever. Not that exact rendition anyway. I also found out when Dad noticed a root sticking out from under my shirt that he might actually freak out a little if I got a real tattoo.  I figured I'd better hold off for now. 

Back in Cullowhee, summer came upon us swiftly. I helped Joseph move out of his dorm room after I moved out of mine. It was a grueling process that found me asleep in Joseph's closet before all was said and done. 

Goodbyes were harder this time than they had been for Christmas break. We knew we would be apart longer. Joseph was excited, though, because he was about to spend two weeks in Europe for study abroad. 
I hugged him goodbye quickly in the parking lot where he was meeting his group for the trip and we parted ways. 

I went back to Indiana and spent the summer with my sweet family. 

Joseph was first a hastily typed European coffee-shop email and then a slightly more bearable, but still somewhat melancholy cell phone or instant message chat box.

I missed him again. But I reveled in priceless time with my family. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 37)

As our relationship progressed, so did the seasons.

We made our way through winter with Aqua Teen Hunger Force, contra dancing, and dreams of warmer weather.

Still,  Joseph had his doubts. It was the one thing that stressed me out. It was such an important matter to me. I knew the command. Do not be unequally yoked.  Besides that, I knew what I wanted out of my life. A non-believing husband wasn't in that picture. And a non-believing boyfriend could only become and non-believing husband or a non-believing ex boyfriend. 

There was one night when it snowed that I couldn't get my car up the hill to my dorm, and I went back to Joseph's room when I was too tired to have walked back. I fell asleep in his bed by accident. Sort of. He sweetly took my shoes off and tucked me in.

The next morning I woke up panicking. I told him we couldn't do that. I didn't want us to be in a place where we were tempted to cross physical boundaries. Not that I really thought we would seein' as how I was conflicted about whether we should be one of those couples who doesn't kiss until the alter, or if it would be okay to kiss him if we were engaged. But I really didn't want to be that couple that wasn't even kissing, that other people assumed were probably doing more than kissing! I didn't want to look like a big fat lying hypocrite - especially if I wasn't even lying!

Bother. How did people do this relationship business anyway?

One thing was precious.  Joseph wasn't the sort to pressure me in any way. "If you want to wait a year before we kiss, Sarah, I will wait! If you want to wait 3 years! I will wait!" He would proclaim.

Banjo once chuckled that Joseph had jokingly told him, "I will wait for her to kiss me if it takes 5 years! But after that, I'm goin' for it!"

When spring arrived again in all it's glory, we went hiking. We went on trips to Chattanooga and then on a trip to Boone so I could meet Joseph's old friends. They were a high-spirited lot.

By the time spring was nearing it's end, I was so stressed out over the thing where Joseph wasn't fully embracing my faith, I was starting to lose hair over it. I prayed and prayed and prayed.

Finally one afternoon, I threw up my hands.

"You can't force him to choose You! It is his choice through and through! So why do I pray for him?! Did I hear wrong, Lord? Am I not supposed to be with him?!"

Suddenly I knew something I hadn't thought of. God is the author of time. He could see if Joseph was going to choose Him in the end or not before He told me to be with him.

If that's really what He told me, that is. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe I was only supposed to tell Joseph my feelings for him but then not get into a relationship. I didn't know. Nothing made sense.

How I wished God had a cell phone.

All I knew was that if Joseph didn't choose Jesus, we would have to break up. I didn't believe in "missionary dating". In the meantime, it was comforting to know that God knew what the outcome would be. I felt peaceful about remaining in the relationship until further notice. To be honest, I believed that Joseph was going to have a resolute change of heart very soon.

It wasn't a few weeks after that when Joseph and I took off up the mountain for an afternoon picnic. We pulled off at an overlook with a jar of mandarin oranges (our joke was that my mandarin orange compartment is never full) and some string cheese and threw a blanket down.

After some lighthearted conversation and banter, I noticed that the sun wasn't quite so high in the sky anymore and yawned. I told Joseph that I would rather like a nap, and if he wanted to use that time to go for a walk or something, I wouldn't mind. He liked that idea. He said he wanted to spend some time with God.

So he got up and ambled off and I fell asleep almost immediately.

When I woke up, it was to Joseph jostling me and exclaiming, "I have to go get a notebook! I have to write this down!"

Confused, I rubbed my eyes and asked him to explain.

Joseph had responded well to some of my carefully worded stories of the supernatural. The freckle story, for instance. That one went over well with him. Sometimes, though, it had been too much for him.

"That heart shaped patch of snow is not God saying He loves us. There's no way. Doesn't it seem silly to think so?"

And I would argue, "All of His creation is Him saying that He loves us! Isn't it silly to exclude that perfect heart shaped patch of snow?!"

"Sounds far fetched, to me" he would say, shaking his head, "I can't imagine that if God is real, He is anywhere near that concerned with how we feel or what we think about Him."

I would just sigh.

This evening, though, that same Joseph's eyes were shining.  He said he had walked to another overlook, where the mountains looked like the ocean. I know that one, it is so pretty there.

When he got there, he was still for a while. Finally he spoke. He said, "Jesus, if you came here... and gave Your life up for me... Then it only seems right that I should give up my life for You. I want to live for You."

He had been watching the sun set as he spoke. When the last word left his lips, the sun stopped going down. It then slowly began to come back up! It stopped again and rested for a moment right at the point where it cast perfect golden rays everywhere that Joseph could see. Then it went back down and continued on it's usual path.

Either it really happened, said Joseph, or it was a full out open vision.

We got in the car and made a beeline for the nearest note-book selling store. Joseph wanted to be sure to write down what all happened before the memory faded and he convinced himself that it was never so.

I was reassured.

No, God never forces us to choose Him. But He can and does pursue us. He woos us. He doesn't have to. But He does.

(Continued here)

The Restoration of All Things (Part 36)

Christmas break was over, and I made it back to Cullowhee in record time.  Despite my lead-footed tendencies, however, it wasn't until nightfall that Joseph and I were before each other once more.

We smiled shyly at each other, not sure what the protocol was for the newly relationshipped after a month or two of separation. It seemed star gazing and catching up would be the most appropriate things to do, so we sneakily laid down in the just-as-delicously-springy-as-they-look juniper bushes that Kentucky and I had spent our summer of greenhouse work attempting to sneak a lounge in. Kentucky and I always got hollered at not to just before we thought we were home free.

Hooligans? Yes, we were being hooligans. If you ever get to lay in a juniper bush, though, I bet you will notice that you are just a little too comfortable to care.

It was a lovely place to be still, discuss leisurely, and re-establish.

I suddenly became abundantly aware that Star and Joseph hadn't yet met. Agreeing that we should remedy this as soon as possible, we made plans to drive to Chattanooga.

That trip was one I surely won't ever forget.

Joseph and Star had an instant connection. Everything went beautifully.

Star, though, having seen me hurt in the past couldn't resist letting Joseph know that he had better not get out of line lest he suffer the best friend wrath.

She sat him down on the sofa and looked seriously into his eyes. "I don't believe you will hurt her, Joe.", she reassured, "But I am giving you fair warning right now that if you do, I will take four forks."

Star paused for affect. "And I will stab them into your testicles." She didn't even crack a smile as she said this. I was biting my lips trying to refrain from outbursts of inappropriate laughter.

Joseph didn't flinch. He gazed back at her tenderly and took her hands. "I promise you I will do everything in my power to never hurt Sarah. I care about her very much and I never want to see her hurt, especially not by me."

"Okay. I'm glad we had this talk." Star then hugged him and asked if we wanted to watch The Office with her. We did. It was beautiful to hold hands with Joseph and feel legal about it.

Since it was a long drive, we were staying for the weekend. The next morning was Sunday, so we got up early and got ready to go to church.

I love Star's church.  It is called The Vineyard and it's just hip enough for me to feel at ease while not being too hip for me to take seriously. It is a safe church with a congregation that has a heart for the poor in their community and a hearty understanding of Grace. I loved that Joseph was getting to come with us and experience it.

Joseph's experiences with church were limited to our home church and the way his family did church.

The way his family did church was in their home with his dad as the pastor. For whatever reason, it had been quite some time since Joe's family had participated in any other kind of church service.

Those living-room services were somber and a bit stern - so careful was Joseph's dad to maintain a reverent atmosphere. Joseph never knew that God was more than a religion, or that church was meant to be a fellowship of believers all trying to learn and grow and love together. That God is not only the God of stern, reverent settings, but the God of the day to day. God is there in the mess of our lives. In homes with unwashed dishes and 4 month old great dane puppies who haven't yet learned not to jump on visitors. In offices where bosses condescend and coworkers have affairs. He is with students who walk to class and arrive with sweaty armpits and a realization that they have once again forgotten their homework.

He never knew that God doesn't only listen to organ music. That we serve a God who sings and dances over us. So mightily pleased, is He, with His creation. So mightily in love.

I feel it necessary to inform you that the pastor of Star's church is named Bucky Buckles. And his wife's name is Becky. I kid you not. Bucky and Becky Buckles. I have very much enjoyed the words and actions I've seen flow from those two thus far.

After church, we were promised a visit from Grey if Joseph and I could swing just one day of skipped classes and leave Monday night instead of Sunday night. Nothing important was going on (never let a professor hear you say that), so we stayed.

 Monday afternoon, Star made us some mustard pizza and we sat on the floor and scarfed it down with extreme gusto. That stuff is good.

When it was all gone, Star went outside on the porch for a cigarette and Joseph followed to keep her company. 
Grey and I had a heart to heart. I told her about Azalea and how it all went down, ending my story with the final message I had received from her.

"I'm a broken, leaky pot, Grey!" I pouted.

Grey took my hands (we do a lot of this in our friend circle, if you haven't noticed) and declared, "That is the best thing to be! And I will tell you why." 

She then passed on to me a favorite story of hers. She said once there was a pot that sat amongst all the other pots on it's master's shelf. The other pots were whole and perfect, but this pot had cracks in it, and it knew it. It felt a sadness every time it's master reached for it because it knew how ineffective it was, due to it's brokenness. 

Finally, a day came when the pot could contain it's hopelessness no more than it could the water that spilled from it's cracks on every journey home from the river. "Master!" it cried, "Throw me away! I am of no use to you! I leak water all the way home!" 
It's master's eyes looked on it softly and he said, "I could never throw you away! You are my favorite pot! You are the one that waters the flowers." 

I could not ask for better friends. It is a serious treasure when you find such people who will not only forgive you your wrongs, but will also help you forgive yourself. 
(Continued here)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 35)

Despite Azalea's message and the absence of my brand-new-first-ever boyfriend, I was in a good place. I was home, with my family. And it was Christmas.

We all piled into the living room for a ridiculous family photo before Christmas Eve Mass, and it went just about how picture taking with our family always goes. 

We put the camera on it's timer thing and set it on the top of the couch. This meant that whatever blanket Mom had tossed over the couch would be in the forefront of the photo. Naturally. 

Once we were all in front of the Christmas tree, somebody noticed that the tree was leaning slightly to the right. Dad said we should all lean the other way and then maybe nobody would be able to tell in the photo, so we all commenced leaning. The camera flashed right about the time my little brother exclaimed, "You idiots! You're all leaning the wrong way!" 

And another of our usual family portraits was born. In which my dad looked like Uncle Fester doing jazz hands. My dad doesn't usually look like that. For the record.

It used to be that church was the only place my brother and I didn't get along. He would fidget about and shake his foot until the whole pew was vibrating. It drove me ballistic. I would hiss at him to "Please, for the love of waffles, STOP!", and he would hiss back that he had a condition that couldn't be helped. He would then shake his leg harder just to prove his point. 

Inevitably, it ended in me tackling him and Mom frowning disapprovingly at us and shaking her head no. A few times she sent me to sit in the crying room to play with the babies just so that Weezle and I would quit causing a ruckus. 

Weezle and I, being adults in our twenties, no longer fought in church. We did, however, find our A.D.D. tendencies hard to combat when note passing and the tiniest giggling whispers seemed so inconspicuous.  

This Christmas Eve Mass, Mom had been seated in a pew across the room from us. Just perfect glaring distance. 

The thing is that my mom's really not the glaring sort. She is kind and pleasant and understanding. When she attempts a glare it just kind of looks... unnatural. Like she's trying really hard to look like she means it. 

So when we looked up from our prayers and saw Mom glaring and shaking her head no at us, we tried not to glance at each other. We knew that if we made eye contact, we would lose it. Until then, we had actually been still and quiet! We had no clue what she was saying no about. Too late. I heard my brother snort and I peeked over. 

That was it. We were done. The harder we tried to stop laughing, the more impossible it became. It didn't help that every time we caught our breath and looked up, Mom was there scowling harder, trying to look more and more cross. 

After an elderly lady turned around to take a swing at us with her purse, we snuck out into the fellowship hall to compose ourselves. 

Mom joined us shortly and I asked her what all the glaring was for. 

"I don't know", she chuckled, "but some old lady in front of you was giving you guys looks, so I thought you two were up to something!

"She would have knocked us flat if our reflexes weren't so awesome!", Weezle was still trying to get ahold of himself. 

"She sure offered us one heck of a sign of peace, huh?" I managed, holding my sides.

So goes Christmas with my family.  And I love it. 

I spent the rest of the break helping Mom paint over the gray walls that whoever had lived in their house previously had left behind. Sunflower gold in the master bedroom to combat white Indiana winters, and orange-y red in the room I was staying in. Weezle chose a navy blue paired with a soft yellow/green wheat grass color for his room. I thought it looked pretty good.

Joseph was a telephone in my hand. At night I crept downstairs to sit on the floor and talk with him for hours. We didn't hang up until we were on the verge of falling asleep on the phone. He was resisting the temptations to smoke weed with his friends, and I was proud of him for that. 

Missing each other immensely, we made up a game we could play online. I would leave a comment on his Myspace that would just be some words or a phrase, and then he would creatively illustrate it on paint and post it back to me on my wall with a word or a phrase for me to creatively illustrate. 

So, I sent him the words, "Old shoe" and he sent me a picture of a shoe that was smoking a pipe. He had flowers growing out of himself, a beard, and bushy old-man eyebrows.

And then he sent me the phrase, "Never ever make me a sandwich", so I drew him a picture of a T-rex handing him a human-sandwich. Humans on bread with lettuce. 

I said, "Probably not" and he made a picture of a dude with a mug of hot chocolate telling a Christmas tree salesman he was likely not interested. 

Then, I responded to his phrase, "Whooped my tuckus in chess" with a picture of a knight kicking a pawn off a chess board. 

As much fun as this game was, I couldn't wait for Joseph to be Joseph again. Instead of an instant chat box, or a telephone. 

I was no stranger to missing. 

My little brother was missing his long distance girlfriend, too. And she wouldn't be at his school when he got back. 

We sat on the couch missing our significant others together. 

Drinking hot cocoa and watching Firefly. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 34)

Since I couldn't see Joseph over the break, I did a lot of the two next best things. Phone conversations and day-dreaming.

Before he left for Rhode Island with a friend of his, we had stood on the Hanwell's front porch to say our few-week farewells. He had asked Genevieve for prayer because he just knew that the group he was traveling with would be smoking weed in the back of the van on the way up there, and he didn't want to join them. He knew it would be tempting, though.

There were things about this relationship that I knew would be challenging. Namely: the way we began (with the Azalea mess), his pot smoking tendencies, and (most importantly) the fact that he hadn't totally accepted Christianity. He was still riddled with doubts and concerns, unable to fully put himself in Jesus's hands.

As for the way we began, the only thing I could really do about that was to try to make amends with Azalea. I had mixed feelings about marijuana use, depending on the person and the circumstance, but until now my feelings about it had all been irrelevant anyway. The only person whose choices I was responsible for were my own. On second thought, I was still only responsible for my own choices, regardless of how the other person's choices effected my life. My choice was whether to stay in this relationship or not.

The Christianity issue was the same deal. I knew that if he never fully embraced it, and it came down to him or God, I would have to choose God. We are not to be unequally yoked. I could never marry him if I carried my Lord's yoke and he carried the world's.

As I was thinking all these things, I was also deciding that he couldn't know that he would lose me if these changes didn't occur. I would never tell him. Because then the changes wouldn't be real. They would be forced. To keep me.

I remembered the night I first driven him to contra. I had given him one of my favorite stories. A dear friend of mine (BestfriendDavid's wife) had noticed a freckle I have on the bottom of my foot and showed me one that she had in the palm of her hand.

In a split second of ultimate human silliness, I had thought to my Lord, "I wish I had a freckle in the palm of my hand!". Later that night, I glanced at my hand and lo, there was a new freckle! I thought it was a speck of dirt, so I tried to rub it off. It wasn't a speck of dirt. It was a permanent reminder that He cares tremendously about even the tiniest and silliest of our heart's desires. That He listens in rapture to us when we talk to Him. I couldn't help but believe that this was something He didn't want me to forget.

When I related the freckle story to Joseph that night, he had shouted, "NO WAY!" and grabbed my hand to look for said freckle. I glanced over to see him looking awe-struck and incredulous as he whispered, "That's amazing!"

He was seeking. I knew that I would have to just wait and see how things went. I would pray for him, and I would hope. I would try to stay tuned in to the Holy Spirit's nudgings  as much as possible.

Oh, life. I was never great at navigating it.

I fell asleep one night over the break restlessly thinking about all the things about Azalea that were endearing, kind, and good. Sure, she had accomplished a few villainous capers, but that wasn't who she was. She had done those things out of fear and hurt. I could hardly blame her. It's a particularly raw part of humanity. When we act out of hurt or fear, we make choices that have potential to cause more strife in the people around us. We've all done it. Chances are we'll all do it again.

I dreamed that night that I saw her at contra. My heart leaped. I ran to her and took her hands, looked her in the eye and told her that I was so sorry for every time that she hurt. I meant it. I meant it from the depths of my soul. I then proceeded to go on a tirade. I told her about this one time that had happened in real life that I remembered. It was after dancing when she knew I was about to take a long, tiresome drive home, so she said to me, "Get something caffeinated! And WARM! Make sure it's warm!". In the dream, my heart missed her. I told about how priceless and irreplaceable it was that she cared so deeply about people.  How she, as a person reminded me of all things comforting and warm. Coffee and scarves. Autumn leaves, pottery clay, dancing and freedom. I couldn't help myself. I just went on and on listing everything about her that had touched my life in such a short time of knowing her.

Even though it was a dream, it was all drawn from life. How gentle her eyes looked when she talked about the elderly ladies at the group home she worked for and her passion for life in all that it is. I woke to find myself in tears.

As much as I wanted to hide behind the few catty things Azalea had done and the human limitations that she possessed. As much as I wanted to believe that I deserved to be in a relationship with Joseph and that she got what she had coming, it wasn't true. Not at all.

She wasn't all that different from me in a lot of ways. A girl with hopes, dreams, and a heart that longed for someone to love.

That's what Joseph had seen in her, too. It just hadn't been the right relationship for him. They weren't as compatible as she had hoped.

I pulled my laptop over and wrote her a message on Facebook. I related the dream to her as best I could because I wanted her to know that she was valuable. I knew how rejection felt, and I couldn't imagine that she wasn't experiencing pain over it at that moment.

It was an awkward, long, rambling, apologetic message. I clicked "send" hoping we might be friends when all was said and done, but doubting it very much.

Her message back to me was a rough read. She said that though she was touched, had forgiven and forgotten, and harbored no ill will or angry feelings, she didn't want to be friends again. She saw me differently. She absolutely wished me well, but I had broken her trust.

Broken pots, she noted, once glued, were still broken.

To be fair, we hadn't exactly been the closest of friends to begin with. But if I thought back on it and tried to see it from her point of view, I probably had given her false hope that I could be trusted with her boyfriend.

Those words took hold in my heart. I was a broken pot. Never to hold water again.

(Continued here)