How We Met Part 1

Someone posted their relationship stats on FB and it got me thinking about "our" story. How Tuan and I met and the really remarkable and wonderful ways that the LORD worked to bring us together. I've wanted for some time to write it all out, because as time goes by, I am forgetting more and more--and I surely do not want to do that. I think it may be encouraging for those who have had the doors to their plans shut firmly by the Lord and are wondering what in the world the Lord is doing and how can he possibly work things out or do better than "my plans." I know I felt that way.

The first day I laid eyes on Tuan was late June or early July 1998. I had been asked by a pastor/camp director to come and work a week as a counselor at Harvest Ministries in wee little Carson, MS. I remember sitting on the porch of the Lodge/Dining Hall on an early Monday morning, totally unsure of what was going to happen and wondering who all those people were. I have a vague recollection of Tuan sitting there, too, but I was much more pre-occupied with his best friend, John, who in my wild imagination, I determined was a Pearl River Community College baseball player. I had something against baseball players in those days (no rational reason) and was kind of set on not liking him. In fact, I was sort of grumpily hostile toward John on the inside, until I found out he was NOT a PRC baseball player.

If you had asked me a year earlier what I would be doing summer of 1998, I would have told you this:

"Well, I'll be working at Twin Lakes for the first time as a counselor, then I'll be getting ready to start Belhaven College in the fall and I will study English and minor in Spanish and Art, go to RUF and work at Twin Lakes every summer and then I'll meet my husband at Twin Lakes my junior year, we'll get married and then he will be a camp director at Twin Lakes and we'll have twelve sons all named after the twelve tribes and I'll make GREAT biscuits. "

Seriously. That was MY plan. The summer of 1997, I went to RYM and took a class called, Making Sense of the Struggle. That was the first time the gospel became real to me. Truly, through the teaching of a man named Joey Stuart, God opened my eyes big time to His astounding holiness, my wretched sinfulness and the greatness and glory of the cross. I understood for the first time that Jesus lived for me the life I could not and died the death I could not. I still get giddy thinking about it.

At the same time, I was learning about what it meant to be reformed and was so excited about graduating, working at my beloved Twin Lakes and getting to be at Belhaven with all these godly people and going to RUF. I loved Twin Lakes (probably too much), had been an LIT every single year possible and all my best friends were my LIT buddies. I was determined to not do what everyone else from high school was doing (Jones County Junior College) and I wanted to get away from my home town and be with "real Christians." I had grown up in a small PCA church with few kids and was excited about being at Belhaven.

In spring of '98, I walked to the mailbox every day, because I was waiting to hear from Twin Lakes. I had applied and interviewed and felt great about it all. The day I got "the letter". I tore it open to find not welcome but REJECTION. Utter and total rejection. Twin Lakes did not have a place for me on staff. It was a pretty terrible time of tears and grief.

At the same time, the doors to Belhaven closed. There simply wasn't enough money for me to go. The doors to JCJC, however, were flung WIDE open. I decided to go to JCJC, but I did it with the resolve of, "Okay, I'll go to JCJC and suffer for two years, but it will be a spiritual wasteland and there will be no fellowship, but maybe I can go to RUF at USM? And then, after two years I'll transfer to Belhaven."

The last semester of Senior year was great and I made some great friendships with folks I'd never gotten to know--so thankful for that! Although I still had kind of a gaping wound from the rejection, I was kind of giddy with life and graduation stuff. I remember a warm spring evening, standing in my bathroom curling my hair and preparing to go to a play. An ambulance went past our house with it's sirens wailing. Absentmindedly, I wondered who it was and kept getting dressed. Minutes later, someone knocked on our door. It was my grandparent's neighbor and she came to tell us my grandfather had had a heart attack and was at the local hospital. We all rushed to the hospital. I remember praying and weeping while they worked on him and the horrid grief that descended when we found out he had died.

I think everyone has significant markers in their lives and losing my beloved Papaw is one of mine. I came into the summer grieving and in retrospect, being at Twin Lakes all summer after that had happened would have been very hard.

But viewing things in retrospect and living them is quite different. That summer, I had a lot of "whys?" going up, for sure.

I was asked by a pastor friend to be a counselor at a denominational camp that had moved from Twin Lakes to Harvest Ministries (I was like, "where?") and went for a wonderful week. Some really cool relationships were built and my cousins and sister were able to be campers. I also met a young man named Joey who would one day marry one of my favorite people in the world--Elizabeth! The director of Harvest and his family were around that week and I had the privilege of getting to know them. He told me that Harvest ran their own camps, had one more week of day camp to go and would I be interested in working the next week? Absolutely I would.

So that is how I found myself on a porch at a little camp on a summer morning, unknowingly sitting near my future husband. Part II to follow--naturally!


Gracie said...

Oh Paula, I loved reading this and I'm dying for part 2!

Anonymous said...

I am waiting on pins and needles to see what you think happened next, love ya

Joey and Elizabeth said...

Hahaha :) The PRCC baseball player thing CRACKS ME UP!!! That's just hilarious!
Can't wait for more :)

Caroline said...

Most of the externals I know, but I'm embarrassed that I didn't realize how much you wanted to go to Belhaven.

How anybody could be grumpily hostile toward John is hilariously baffling!