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.

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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.



In which Christian and I realize that we’re actually 82 years old
December 18, 2008, 12:00 pm
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Every Christmas, for the past three years, Christian and I have always done the same thing: seen Behold the Lamb together.

I am absolutely in love with the music, the people, the entire idea behind the show. You can read the Wikipedia article to which I linked, but I’ll give you a rundown of what goes on.

Basically, Andrew Peterson and a bunch of his friends (like this guy, this guy, this girl, this guy and this guy, and sometimes this guy and this girl and this girl) play some of their songs for the first half of the show. There’s an intermission, and then they come back and play through all the songs from Behold the Lamb, which basically tells the story of Christmas from the Old Testament until Jesus dies on the cross (which, actually, is the story of Christmas. Not just the innkeeper part.).

If you’re still dubious, let me just give you this line from the song Labor of Love, which describes the night Jesus was born from Mary’s point of view:

Noble Joseph at her side, calloused hands and weary eyes.
There were no midwives to be found on the streets of David’s town in the middle of the night.
So he held her and he prayed, shafts of moonlight on his face,
But the baby in her womb, He was the maker of the moon,
He was the author of the faith that could make the mountains move.

It makes me weep EVERY TIME.

Last night, Christian and I both got off work early. He drove to my house and got in my car to scoot up to Charlotte. We made it just in time for the show and found our seats.

The “in-the-round” portion, where all the members of the tour play their own songs, was great. I knew most of the songs that were played, mostly because the members of the tour basically make up my top ten favorite musicians, which made it even better. I love singing along (no feedback yet on whether the people around me loved my singing along).

During the intermission, we went up to the tables, realized we already had all the CDs they were selling, and sat back down. Then they started playing the songs for Behold the Lamb. It ended with everyone at the show singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

As soon as the last strain of the last song faded, I picked up my purse.

“Are you ready to go?” I asked Christian.

“Oh, but didn’t you want to see Jill and Andy?” he said. Jill and Andy are married and are good friends with Christian’s former youth pastor. They’ve played several times on Christian’s church youth retreats. The last time we saw them, they remembered him and it made his day.

“Well, I do, but if we leave now we’ll beat all the traffic,” I responded. It was at this point that I realized I had become my father, who always used to make us leave sporting events before they were completely over so that we could “beat the traffic.” When I told my mom about me saying this, she was horrified.

“There’s going to be traffic anyway,” he said. “Let’s go see if they’re up there.”

At this point, I almost started crying, because I was so tired, and I said a variety of incomrephendable things like “I’m sure they’re not up there” and “They won’t remember you.” In case you’re wondering, yes, I was being a complete jerk.

So we wandered up to the stage, where some of the tour people were putting away their stuff. Of course, the only people not putting away their stuff were Jill and Andy. So we stood off to the side and joked about talking to the other Andy. I lamented the fact that I hadn’t made him double chocolate peppermint cookies, because he had commented about them on my Facebook status, which made my day.

We waited for at least 15 minutes. Still no sign of Jill or Andy. We went out to the merchandise to see if they were there. Nope. We came back and saw Andrew across the room. It was the first we’d seen of him, so we wondered if Jill and Andy were with him. They weren’t, but we decided to say hi to Andrew and remind him of some stories he told us a few years earlier.

We waited until we could talk to him, and he was friendly as always. Christian brought up the stories.

“Hey, Andrew, you probably don’t remember us, but a couple years ago we saw you in Knoxville and you told us about this time when you played in Columbia and my fiance saw you, and you were playing a song called ‘Mary Picked the Roses’ and you passed gas during it.”

Andrew laughed and said he often regrets the stories he tells.

“Yeah, and then another time, you told us that even though we were in college, we should get married, because you got married in college and you said it was awesome because you got to be in college but it was OK to have sex.”

Andrew laughed with us some more, and we told him that if they ever made a documentary about his life, we would be happy to share those stories again. I think he was really appreciative.

On the ride home, we discussed what we might talk to him about the next time we see him in concert, and decided we are actually no longer able to approach him, because what are we going to say? “Hey, Andrew, you probably don’t remember, but last time we saw you we told you about how the time before that when we saw you  we told you about the time before that when we saw you and you told us these stories…” It could go on forever.

Anyway, after we talked to Andrew, we spotted Jill and Andy. They were in the one spot we hadn’t yet surveyed. Happily, they remembered Christian and so the entire 30 minute wait was worth it. At least for him. They also spoke to me very kindly, telling me I look like the wives of one of the other guy’s on tour, which is always kind of awkward, because you don’t realy know what to say.

And with that, we left, and this is when it become readily apparent that we are no longer in college. When we first planned to go to the show, we knew it would be on a work night, but we figured we could just shake it off the next day. We left Charlotte around 10:15 p.m. for what was essentially a 2-ish hour drive. I normally go to bed at 11 p.m.

We stopped at Sonic around 11 because neither of us had eaten dinner. It took forever, and they gave me a cherry slush instead of a cherry limeade slush, WHICH IS NOT EVEN KIND OF THE SAME. My onion rings, however, were delicious.

Once we got done there, Christian was driving and trying to eat and so we got on the wrong interstate. This took about 10 minutes to correct. At this point, it was about 11:30 p.m. and we were still approximately one hour from home.

“Are you OK to drive?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah,” he said confidently. “I can definitely make it home.”

I dozed off for about three minutes.

“Are you sure you’re OK?” I asked again.

“Actually, can you drive?”

And so we pulled over and switched.

“Just let me know if you need to switch again,” he said, and then he promptly fell asleep.

And so I kept myself awake by singing along to the Hairspray soundtrack.

I stumbled into bed around 12:30 a.m., only to wake up less than 6.5 hours later for work.

When the alarm clock went off this morning, it was abundantly clear that I no longer possess the on-demand adrenaline-laced blood that pulses through your veins when you’re up all night with friends and have an exam at 8 a.m. the next morning. Even worse was the realization that I couldn’t just go to work for a few hours and then come home and nap.

My 97-year-old great grandmother, though, apparently sleeps until 1 p.m. every day, though, so maybe it’s not so bad to grow up.



Chelsey’s life: A mid-December rundown
December 17, 2008, 8:00 am
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Most of my daily conversations are not exactly as enthralling as I would like. For example, I wish someone would ask me something like, “What are your hopes and dreams? Please answer using as many metaphors as possible.” Imagine something like the scene from Never Been Kissed, when Drew Barrymore is in the cafeteria with the popular girls. Except I’m Drew Barrymore, not the popular girls. I have, truthfully, never been one of the popular girls, but thankfully, middle school is long gone.

But if you’re reading my blog and you don’t know me in person, you don’t have the joy of asking me the more mundane questions, so I thought I’d answer some of the most recent questions I’ve been asked.

When/where are you getting married?
The Big Day is April 18, 2009. We’re getting married at our church. The Big Day, incidentally, is six weeks after one of my best friends is getting married and two weeks after my college roommate of three years is getting married.

What are you going to do after you get married?
Probably most of the same things I’ve been doing before I got married. I suppose the biggest difference will be Living In The Same Domicile As Christian. Other than that, I’ll be working, cleaning, cooking, and praying for my very own chubby babies. Christian will still be working at his job, and things should stay that way until we pay off all of Christian’s student loans. Once that’s done, we hope to be headed to seminary, where, as of this writing, Christian will study Hebrew and Greek in preparation for Bible translation, and I will hopefully be raising aforementioned chubby babies (who may, at that point, no longer be babies).

How’s your job going?
It’s going, and I still have it, so I’m thankful. I may only have it until the end of December, and if that’s the case, I will probably babysit and nanny until I find something else. Once we’re married, we will be able to live (very, very frugally) on Christian’s income, but I don’t have a whole lot else to do, so I’m hoping to at least work part-time.

What are you doing for Christmas?
My family is doing something new – we’re eschewing spending the holidays with our extended family and sequestering ourselves in a cabin in North Carolina. Christian is coming with us, and it looks like Christian’s family may meet us there for a day to be introduced to my parents. I’ll be sure to let you know how the 2008 Initial Parental Contact goes.

What are you doing tonight?
OK, so no one asked me that, at least not today. But I asked myself that so I could tell you that Christian and I are driving to Charlotte after work to see Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God show, and I. am. beyond. excited. This will be the third year we’ve gone together (for those who are counting, that’s every Christmas we’ve been dating).

Any other burning questions? E-mail me (chelseykarns [at] gmail [dot] com) or leave a comment. Especially if they’re of the Drew Barrymore variety.



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



Free book, more Indie music
July 4, 2008, 8:09 pm
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Keeping in line with yesterday’s post about free music at NoiseTrade, I wanted to let you guys know about another free offer.

ChristianAudio is once again offering a free book this month. Last month it was Pilgrim’s Progress. This month it’s The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Laurence. I’ve always wanted to read that book, so I’m really excited about being able to listen to it while I’m working out.

All you have to do is go here and proceed as if you were going to pay for it. You don’t have to ever enter your credit card information, although you do have to create an account. When it asks for a coupon code, use JULY2008. Voila! Free audio book in any format.

Christian informed me later yesterday that Matthew Perryman Jones also has music available at NoiseTrade. If you don’t recognize the name, Indelible Grace fans will recognize the voice: He has written many of the IG tunes and also sings on a lot of the albums.

I had planned a Fourth of July post, or something at least a little patriotic. Alas, all I can come up with is free stuff, which is kind of related to freedom, I think. Sure. I’ll take it.

As for my Independence Day celebrations, I spent the day packing up stuff at my apartment, making homemade pizza and watching Pan’s Labryinth with Christian. There’s not too much to say about the first one, but the latter two will definitely turn into blog posts next week. Three words: barbecue chicken pizza. You better come back.



Seven of my favorite CDs
June 28, 2008, 9:00 am
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I guess CDs are a little outdated in the iPod age, but I tend to download whole albums on iTunes when I do buy songs, so I’ll let it stand.

I love music. I love finding out about new music. And I especially love good music written by godly people. Here’s my top seven, in no particular order.

1. The Builder and the Architect – Sandra McCracken
Christian gave me this CD after we saw her in concert on our first real date. It’s a collection of hymn-like songs. Some of them Sandra wrote; others are old classics. I love this CD because even though the songs are hopeful, Sandra has a really melancholy feel to her singing and songwriting. Kind of like how life is, sometimes.

2. Redemption Songs – Jars of Clay
I like most of Jars of Clay’s albums, but this one is my favorite. It’s all hymns, but most of them are really upbeat and, thus, a part of my working out playlist. I think my favorite song is “God Will Lift Up Your Head,” which is a poem written by Paul Gerhardt. It’s awesome.

3. Mockingbird – Derek Webb
Derek Webb is probably one of my all time favorite musicians. I know that a lot of people think he’s all liberal/hippie now, and sometimes he seems that way, but it’s clear from his music that he loves the Lord and the Church. Also, a lot of people think this is his worst CD, but it’s my favorite. The musicality of the songs is good, and some of the lyrics are incredibly brutal – but true. My favorite song is the title track; in fact, that’s my ringtone.

4. Indelible Grace I, II, III, IV, V – Indelible Grace
I couldn’t pick just one. I just couldn’t. But probably IV is my favorite, what with “Who is This?” and “Beams of Heaven” both on the same disc. If you’ve never listened to Indelible Grace, don’t do another thing before you go to their website and listen to clips of their songs. The music is incredibly God-exalting, and most of the songs are really well done.

5. Radiate Eric Peters
Christian gave me this CD two Christmases ago, and while I liked it then, I love it now. The lyrics are honest and real, coming from a guy who struggles a lot with doubt (like me).

6. 40 Acres – Caedmon’s Call
They are my all-time favorite band, and while I love all their CDs, this is one is generally recognized as their best – for good reason.

7. The Puffin Mix – Christian Crouch
No, Christian didn’t really record a CD (although that would be quite entertaining). But the first summer we were dating, he made me a mix CD that I still listen to. From U2 to Selah to David Crowder, it’s pretty much the best CD ever created.