only help my unbelief

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.


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.

Behind the scenes
December 16, 2008, 11:15 am
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I think I probably shed my first tears over my relationship with Christian within the first week. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but it was probably the overwhelmed-ness of having found someone so wonderful but who lived what seemed like forever away. Even after two years, six hours in the car each way for a three-day visit was a long time.

There were more tears after that. The first summer we were dating, my emotions ran the gamut of being thrilled to have someone who loved me so much to being terrified that he would leave. He wasn’t always the best about returning phone calls, and as that was our only way to communicate, there was more than one night when I thought his car had probably gone careening off the side of a mountain.

When I’d call him already in the throes of sobbing, he always said the same thing. “I love you. It will be OK. One day, we’ll look back on this and laugh.”

I never believed him. I knew that there would come a time when maybe it would seem like a distant dream, all those tears. Most of the time I got mad at him for being so idealistic.

Since May, when Christian moved to South Carolina, the tears have been less common. Other things make me cry (like Cheaper by the Dozen – the scene where Steve Martin finds his red-haired son on the train – I’m ashamed to admit), but there haven’t been as many shed over him being so far away.

In the past several months, most tears have been tears of frustration over whether or not we would ever be able to get married. In fact, I would venture to say that the months of October and November were my teariest ever.

On November 29, when Christian proposed, and he told me that he had figured out my ring size in September, and that he had spoken with my dad on Halloween, I was first amazed at his preparation (he’s not known for doing things in advance).

Aside from the fact that he kept it all a secret even when I was crying my hardest, I have been amazed to think that all those times, there was no need to cry. Christian had everything orchestrated to propose. When people would ask about our relationship, I would quickly respond that we were working on it, even though I wasn’t sure that we were.

It’s amazing to think that’s how God looks at us. He sees our tears, and He knows why we’re crying. He catches our tears in a bottle, even though He knows there’s no reason to cry.

And in the middle of tears, sometimes, He blesses us with things that we don’t deserve.

After the last tear falls, there is love. – Andrew Peterson

The greatest of these
November 15, 2008, 11:37 am
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I read this week that one of the best ways to destroy your blog is to say something like “Sorry I haven’t posted in so long.” So I’m not going to say that.

But it has been a while.

This past week has been busy in ways that I like being busy. I don’t like the kind of busy that results from me wasting time in front of my computer screen. I’ve spent time with my family, gone to the library, started teaching myself a new language, and actually read real books for fun. And work and eating and all that.

I’ve also listened to a lot of sermons on my iPod, most of them from 1 Corinthians 13. While I’ve read that chapter of the Bible hundreds of times, it is finally beginning to penetrate my soul.

As I look back on the last several years, back through college and high school, I see a lot of things. I see pride. I see self-confidence and self-reliance. I see perseverance without kindness. I see insecurity.

I don’t see love. And when I think about all the things I struggle with now, I’m realizing that love is the solution.

Not love as some sort of ethereal concept that doesn’t have real implications, but love as a choice, love as something powerful, love that comes from God, who calls Himself Love.

All my fears of others’ rejection would cease if I believed that God loved me, and that loving other people doesn’t mean being loved in return.

All my worries about the future would end if I believed that God loved me, and that Christian loves me, too.

All my little annoyances with people would go away if I just truly believed that they’re made in the image of God, and that I do more than annoy God a little, and yet He loves me anyway.

Love means asking others questions about their lives before you butt in with everything you want to say.

Love means saying hard things, honest things, if it will speak truth into someone else’s life.

Love means sacrificing everything you want and think you deserve for someone else’s well-being.

Love means speaking well of other people, even when they’ve hurt you deeply.

God has been slowly starting these things in my heart this past week, and I haven’t succeeded at any of them, really. But it is making me watch my tongue, and stay in prayer more, and want to read my Bible more.

And I think the biggest realization was that all of the things I do that I thought were loving are no more than what Paul describes at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13. It’s possible for me to teach the three-year-old Sunday School class and be completely devoid of all love. It’s possible to spend an evening with Christian, enjoying his company, but do it without loving him at all. It’s possible to sacrifice time and energy to eat dinner with a friend, and not love her at all in the process.

It’s not very encouraging to look back at my life and see such a lack of love, but it gives me great encouragement to realize that through all of that, God never stopped loving me. And He will keep loving me as He teaches me how to love.