only help my unbelief


The pros and cons of growing up
January 19, 2009, 2:53 pm
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“I can’t believe we’re going to buy a car,” Christian said Saturday while we drove to Greenville.

“I know; it’s such a grown-up thing to do,” I affirmed.

As it turned out, we’re not quite the grown-ups we thought we were. It hadn’t occurred to us that the sellers wouldn’t want to take a check, so we drove to the nearest gas station and took out fourteen hundred dollarsin $20 bills.

Christian was blocking the view of my vest pocket where I was stuffing the wads of cash as we took money out of the ATM, $200 at a time.

Buying a car was fun. We may have fumbled a bit here and there in the process, but we made it back to Columbia with one more car than we owned on the way up there. It runs, it’s in good condition, and my time spent driving to hang out with Christian is going to decrease drastically.

There are other things, though, that aren’t quite as fun about growing up. Paying taxes is at the top of my current “Why-I’d-rather-not-grow-up” list. I’ve done my taxes by myself for the past two years, but this year they’ll be more complicated than last year. I’m going to help Christian with his taxes, too, and his will be even more complicated.

Getting married is a good part of growing up, and in the last couple weeks I’ve discovered that getting married has perks beyond the actually getting married part. Our wedding registries are modest – we only asked for things we really, really needed – and so when I got a package that included a comforter, bed skirt and kitchen utensils, and then another package today with a CrockPot, I could hardly contain myself. If all I have is a a wonderful husband, a warm, cozy bed and the ability to cook to my heart’s desire, I’ll be content for the rest of my life.

Another con – answering questions about what I’m “going to do with my life.” Lately I’ve been listening to the song “Have Thine Own Way” over and over again, and I wish that I could play that song as a response to that question. So far, my plans only go as far as April with a whole lot of specificity: Get married. Then the plans become vague and ambiguous, mostly having to do with pursuing Christ in such a way that I can be an excellent wife and prepare to have and raise godly kids. But somehow, that’s just not enough for everyone.

When I was 10 or 11, I made a list of “all” the things I would do when I got to college, which was my way of listing all the things I could do when I was old enough to decide what I did. The List: 1) Each month, make a bowl of brownie mix and just eat the batter; 2) Eat a bagel every morning for breakfast.

If only life were so simple.

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Sometimes a Blog Comment Surprises [Love and Limeade Slushes III]
January 7, 2009, 10:01 am
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Every week until we get married, I’ll be posting a short installment of the story of me and Christian. They’ll all be compiled at Love and Limeade Slushes as I write them.

On the way to Moe’s on the Thursday before spring break my sophomore year, my friends and I ran into someone we knew.

“What are you guys doing for break?” he asked.

“Getting my wisdom teeth out,” I said, making a face.

It wasn’t exactly my ideal way to spend my week off school. My freshman year, I had gone to Washington, D.C., with my National Security and Intelligence class to visit the CIA Headquarters. It was going to be hard to top that, anyway, but getting my wisdom teeth out? Not even on the same wavelength.

I spent the days before the surgery on the Internet, catching up on blogs. I was writing on my own, commenting on the blogs of those who were in some of the communities I had joined.

The surgery was uneventful. Within hours of getting home, my mom was going to go by Sonic and asked me if I wanted anything: a milkshake, a slush, etc. I insisted I wanted some mozzarella sticks, despite the fact that four of my teeth had been removed earlier that day.

Apparently I had a delayed reaction to the surgery, because the next couple of days were pretty painful. I was taking oxycodeine, which was supposed to ease the pain and calm me down. It did ease the pain, but it was much more of a stimulant than a depressant.

What follows next did not stick out in my mind at the time; in fact, I remember very little of it. But I’ve gone back to my and Emily’s Xanga blogs over the past two years and reminded myself of the turn of events.

At the beginning of March, some guy on Xanga started commenting on Emily’s blog. He was impressed by Emily’s maturity and love for Reformed Theology. They found out they had a fair amount in common, and so were commenting on each other’s blogs. I was following the interchange with much amusement.

I didn’t comment too often on Emily’s blog because I normally just told her in person what I thought, but I guess at some point in early March, right before spring break, some comment I made on her blog caught the eye of this guy, who had the username christianhcrouch.

And so, on the night of the day I had my wisdom teeth out, when I was very, very awake due to the medicine I was taking, christianhcrouch left this comment on my blog:

So, I don’t know you or anything, but your header is only quoting one of William Cowper’s greatest hymns. And it’s so good, only Derek Webb could be able to perform it on an Indelible Grace CD. And you’re reformed.

Good ’nuff. Friends?

He was referring to a quote from a song I had at the top of my blog called “Sometimes a Light Surprises.” It was on a CD by Indelible Grace, a group that takes old hymns and sets them to more updated music. Their CDs are compilations of sorts, in that a lot of different musicians contribute. That particular song was sung by Derek Webb, which endeared it to me even more.

You can imagine how enthralled I was by his comment.

I had already caught his sense of humor from Emily’s blog, but after that comment, I realized even more how similar we were as we commented back and forth on each other’s blogs.

At some point I went to bed, but for the next two days, the blog comments continued. I think at one point one of our blog posts had about 34 comments from the other person.

After several days of this, though, I was a little tired of going back and forth through the blog posts. At the same time, my experience with Mississippi Guy was fresh in my mind. Did I really want to get to know another guy over the Internet? Did I want to have to tell my friends? Did I really want to put myself through that agony again?

I don’t remember convincing myself of anything, but apparently I did, because late one Friday night, I sent an instant message to christianhcourch (Side note: Does anyone still use AOL Instant Messenger? It used to be my entire life. I suppose Facebook is the king now).

Conversation ensued about Disney movies, music and ceiling fans.

I went to bed sometime around 4 a.m.



Here we go, 2009
January 1, 2009, 8:00 am
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So I’m not a huge fan of pointless New Year’s resolutions, but I think that it’s always good to take stock of where you are and see areas in which God still needs to grow you. After all, even the Psalmist prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me, and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

In order to keep myself accountable like I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’m gonna stick these resolutions over in a page on the right sidebar. I’ll check back in once a month and see where I’m at.

I haven’t included anything like “Read the Bible more” because 1) that’s something hard to measure and 2) I don’t want to treat my relationship with God like I treat my workout plan at the gym. He’s eternal and holy and precious, and if anything else, I want to pray more that I would be like Jesus. But that’s not going on this list, because I want that to be the cry of my heart.

Spiritual

  • Finish memorizing 1 John before our wedding
  • Start memorizing a longer book of the Bible (maybe one of Paul’s epistles; Philippians?) and finish it before the end of the year
  • Write Lisbet, the little girl I sponsor through Compassion, at least one letter a month
  • Work with the children in my Sunday School class to memorize the rest of the first 10 questions of the First Catechism (we can do it, Lee!)

Physical

  • Compete in a 5-10K race
  • Lose 10-15 pounds before our wedding
  • Lose 25 pounds by the end of the year
  • Avoid soft drinks and other sugary beverages / no soft drinks until after the wedding

Financial

  • Have less than $7,000 to pay off of Christian’s loan by the end of the year
  • Plan a budget for each month and stick to it
  • Save up enough money throughout the year for next year’s Christmas presents
  • Stay within our wedding budget

Miscellaneous

  • “Compete” with Christian to see who can read the most books (more about this another day)
  • Pursue more freelance editing opportunities and other forms of alternative incomes

I feel like all of these things are do-able, mostly because some of them I’m already in the process of doing; I just want to continue them in the new year. For example, Christian and I have both been sticking to a budget for the last three months. We’ve both stayed within a few dollars of our budget each month, which has been an awesome discipline. As far as Bible memorization, I’m about 1/3 of the way through 1 John, and it is a joy.

I think the hardest part will be the physical things. I purposefully didn’t say anything like “work out four times a week,” because that’s destined to fail in the face of busy schedules and unexpected engagements. Losing weight isn’t all about working out; it’s also about eating healthfully, so I think that it’s definitely attainable – it will just require a lot of sacrifice.

What are your New Year’s resolutions? I promise not to make fun. 😉



Pictures in which we are engaged
December 30, 2008, 8:00 am
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The Curious Tale of Mississippi Guy and Derek Webb [Love and Limeade Slushes II]
December 29, 2008, 8:00 am
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Every week until we get married, I’ll be posting a short installment of the story of me and Christian. They’ll all be compiled at  Love and Limeade Slushes as I write them.

I’ve always loved to write, but it wasn’t until I started my blog that December that I began to enjoy the experience of writing in community. The blogging platform Birth Control Emily and I used, Xanga, included user-created groups that allowed you to find others with similar interests. Within a few days of joining Xanga, I was in a group called Xanga Calvinists.

There was a strange camaraderie among the people in that group. If you said you were from Xanga Calvinists, there was immediate rapport. When I got bored over Christmas break, I would read through others’ blogs. Within a few weeks, there were several people I’d gotten to know fairly well through what they’d written.

One of them was a guy who lived in Mississippi. He was in seminary at the time, studying Hebrew and Greek. He loved to read, as did I, so we had a lot in common from the beginning.

We started out talking over instant messenger, then occasionally sent e-mails. I remember the first night we talked on the phone. It was weird, because when you talk to someone only through words and computer screens, you kind of forget that what they say is devoid of all tone or accent or dialect.

I had no idea what his voice would sound like, and I think it sounded different than what I expected. I do remember him saying he thought I would have a much higher voice, like a cheerleader or something, and he was pleasantly surprised that I don’t sound like that at all. I’m actually glad I don’t sound like that, too.

One of our favorite things to talk about was Derek Webb. I had the first two of Derek Webb’s CDs, but hadn’t listened to them in a while. Mississippi Guy recommended his then-new CD, Mockingbird, and at his bequest I ordered it immediately. To this day, when I listen to any song on that CD, I think of January weather, driving to Atlanta, and the new pair of black shoes I bought the weekend we spent hours talking over instant messenger.

Derek Webb was going to be playing at Mississippi Guy”s school in March, and he was on the planning committee for the event. We talked about it a lot, and the more we talked and the more time that passed, the more I started to feel like maybe he wanted me to come to Mississippi.

It was a ten-hour drive, though, and I was pretty sure my parents wouldn’t be too thrilled. Birth Control Emily, who was aware of all that was going on, offered to go with me, though, and so I tentatively started to plan the trip.

We knew, though, that meeting in person would be awkward. And so we decided to try to meet before the March concert. Derek Webb would be playing in Georgia at the end of January, so that become our goal. We would go to the concert, which would be in a public place to assuage any concerns on anyone’s part that we were each meeting some kind of Internet stalker.

I started thinking about what I would wear. A white button-up shirt, my new rainbow scarf. My favorite pair of jeans.

At this point, I was pretty much head over heels, even though I didn’t want to admit it. It seemed like we were a match made in heaven – here was a guy who loved Jesus, hymns and languages, and he actually though I was funny (in a good way, of course).

As the date of the concert in Georgia came closer, though, Mississippi Guy started to act strangely. He wouldn’t really talk about the concert much, and our conversations beat around the bush when it came to talking about whether we were excited to see each other.

I remember tears and prayers, prayers and tears. The previous fall a relationship with a guy had ended for the third time, and although I’m not sure I recognized it at the time, I was still reeling from that. My heart was fragile, and so the prospect of a guy who seemed to care about that and who provided dependability and assurance was like, in the words of the great philosophers Sister Hazel, a junkie to a rush.

I wasn’t trusting God. I was just hoping that if I tried hard enough and showed this guy I cared about him that it would all work out. And so I grew more clingy, more needy, more desperate for this guy to be a part of my life, to know him and to be known.

I don’t know if the straw that broke the camel’s back was something I did directly, or if God was just gently taking him away, but there came a day when Mississippi Guy finally said that he didn’t think we should go to Georgia, that he was kind of talking to a girl he had previously dated, that he had loved talking to me, and maybe if we were just a little bit closer, things could have been different.

He ended whatever it was we had in the best possible way, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Swallowing acid might have been less painful.

And so, for the entire month of February, I pretty much shut down. I went to Moe’s with my girlfriends, I went to class, I blogged. I went to the gym all the time. Anything, pretty much, to forget the previous weeks.

Derek Webb stayed.

Baby, don’t give up
‘Cause we’re the kind of folks who will always live
Right around the corner from something big
So baby, come on home
You can be the girl on my telephone

But what I thought was the death of a hope was really just God making room for me to come alive. In spring, in March, in the first weeks of warm South Carolina weather, Mississippi Guy would fade into a dream and someone else would show up, with Derek Webb still playing in the background.



Birth Control Emily starts a blog [Love and Limeade Slushes I]
December 22, 2008, 8:00 am
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Every week until we get married, I’ll be posting a short installment of the story of me and Christian. They’ll all be compiled at  Love and Limeade Slushes as I write them.

It used to be that when I heard of someone meeting their significant other online, I flinched. Maybe it was because I was highly engaged in blogging, instant messenger, Facebook – and I was afraid that if I ever met someone online, no one would really be surprised. I wanted them to be surprised, to be happy for me, to get to know him along with me.

Sometimes when I would meet a guy who was particularly good looking and charming, I’d try to remember those first moments of conversation, because one day when we were married, I’d want to be able to say, “Remember that time when we first met? How delightful!” And we would spend every day together, and all of my friends would love him, and my parents would invite us over all the time to hang out with them. And then we would get engaged and married, and what could possibly be better than that?

It didn’t happen like that at all. It actually resembled less of a romantic comedy and more of a trainwreck.

The story really begins long before I ever actually spoke to Christian. It all began in the first weeks of my sophomore year of college. Every Thursday night, me and a few of my best girl friends – Roommate Emily, Katie, Katelyn and Arielle – would eat dinner together. We used to do it at the student union, but once we were sophomores and much more mature, we expanded to the Moe’s that was a few blocks from campus.

One Thursday night, someone invited another girl who would soon come to be known as Birth Control Emily, because  few people, including Roommate Emily, wanted to be mistaken for the Emily that wasn’t planning on using birth control.

I was intrigued by Birth Control Emily. She was quiet and fairly introverted, but if you got her talking about something about which she was passionate, she was no longer so quiet and you’d never know she was introverted at all.

She also called herself a libertarian, but I had no idea what that was.

Every Thursday night for that fall semester, me, Roommate Emily, Katie, Katelyn, Arielle and Birth Control Emily ate Moe’s together. After the first few weeks, though, no one was about to bring up birth control.

Birth Control Emily was an enigma to me. She really didn’t talk that much. We had a dance party once at our apartment, but she just sat on a chair in the corner while Katie and I choreographed Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” I wanted to be friends with her, but I didn’t know how.

But late in the semester, Birth Control Emily (who I know referred to as simply Emily)  invited me and the other girls over to her house to watch a movie and hang out. I don’t remember anything about that night, including who was there or what we did, except for when Birth Control Emily and I started talking and she asked me if I had read any good books lately.

Let me interject and say that I have a very difficult time engaging in conversation of the “How are your classes going?” variety. Of course, I know how to be socially appropriate, but I always feel empty after a conversation that never gets past that point.

Birth Control Emily immediately endeared herself to me with her question.

“I’m reading a book called What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul,” I said.

Turns out Birth Control Emily was reading that, too, and so for the rest of the night, we talked about that book and what we were learning about the five points of Calvinism and infant baptism and church.

Our friendship was sealed.

One day, Birth Control Emily told me that she was going to write a blog. I had used LiveJournal some to chronicle my daily goings-on, but I’d never actually tried to write something that other people might read. She said she was going to write about theology and birth control, and that because I liked to write so much, I should start a blog, too.

And so, following in the steps of Birth Control Emily, I did.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Which I will recount, in detail, another day.



I really should be in bed
December 21, 2008, 11:24 pm
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Today was a full day.

I woke up this morning and got to church early to greet the kids in my Sunday school class. Almost all of them were there, which is rare, and we had a special craft to do courtesy of Lee – picture frames to decorate, with pictures of our class that we took last week. The kids loved the pictures, and decorating the frames took an incredibly long time, which was actually great. I loved sitting there helping them put the stickers on and talking about the pictures.

After church Christian and I drove back to my house and ate a delicious lunch. Then my mom took us over to her friend’s house, where her friend and her friend’s daughter took some engagement pictures for us. I don’t know how they turned out yet, but we did have a good time making each other laugh and feeling somewhat awkward at trying to look like we weren’t posing.

That only took about an hour, so we came back to my house and relaxed with my parents until it was time to drive back to church.

We were in the 2- and 3-year-old nursery tonight, so it was the same kids I have in Sunday school. They were super sweet tonight, wanting to sit in our laps and read books and take silly pictures. My heart was full of them when we left.

After that we went to a Christmas party where we got to fellowship with friends from church. It was a really relaxing, joyful time, and we felt refreshed when it was over.

We drove back to church to pick up Christian’s car.

I dropped him off and was about to drive off, but I waited because he didn’t have his cell phone with him. God was so gracious.

Christian’s car wouldn’t start. Even though a couple weeks ago it was in the shop for two weeks. And we paid almost $1,000 to get it fixed.

We were able to jump it, but we still don’t know what the problem is.

We have a lead on a car someone is trying to sell before they go on the mission field, so we’re going to call them again tomorrow to see if that’s a possibility, but we know it’s all in God’s hands.

If you think about it, please pray for us. It seems kind of like we’re drowning. There’s the wedding to plan, and we’re still looking for an apartment, and now we need to find a new car as soon as possible. We know God is big enough to handle all this and more, but our faith is being tested, and we know that God hears the prayers of the saints.

Honestly, though, I’m thankful for these trials. Tonight on the way home the song “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” came on my iPod, and it was just what I needed to hear. I don’t think there’s ever been a Christmas when I wanted Jesus to come and overshadow me more than I do this year.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel