How We Met Part 3, or this, dear madam is a faithful account of all my dealings with Mr. Willoughby and Mr. Churchill

Walking down this memory lane has been fun for me--so many details to recall and think through. This post, however is quite long. There was no easy way to break this time period into segments. I should have majored in English.

To re-cap, I was about to start my Freshman year at Jones County Junior College. God had closed the doors to Twin Lakes for that summer, he had closed the doors to Belhaven and I headed off to JCJC with a peace that this was God's will for me, but it wasn't going to be pretty. After all, in tiny little Ellisville Mississippi (where one friend sagely warned me that the only fun thing to do was to go to McDonalds), there would be no reformed, godly people--only the same folks I'd gone to High School with. There is a reason they call it 13th grade!

Again, I was resolved to put my time in, and go on to Belhaven where I would meet a godly guy and get on with MY plans!

So Jones. The dry desert wasteland--so how did I find myself on a brisk fall evening sitting in the conference room of a local cabinet door manufacturing company called Morgan Brothers drinking coffee and discussing C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity with five reformed guys?

I think it is because God has a great sense of humor and knows how to meet our needs and direct our lives in ways better than we could ever dream!

When I got to JC, I joined the yearbook staff and somehow the photographer who was this cool dude (no better word than dude applies here) named Eric somehow discovered I liked C.S. Lewis and was Presbyterian/Reformed (while it appears reformed guys numbered at least five at JCJC, reformed girls were MORE scarce). I was promptly invited to join their discussion group/book club that met on Thursday nights.

And that's how I found myself hanging out with the likes of this guy named Eric, and his friend Nathan and meeting all these random reformed baptist guys who were at JCJC, too.

At the beginning of the school year, I had contacted the RUF campus minister at USM hoping to become involved with RUF, but providentially he never returned my e-mail. I ended up being drawn into the Baptist Student Union in all it's glory.

I cannot say enough about the growth and grace experienced during my two years in the BSU at JCJC. God used that time in deep, wide and wonderful ways. I was constantly challenged to defend and explain my faith and positions when differences arose, yet we were all under the oversight and loving pastoral concern of our BSU director, Brother Larry Goff. Brother Larry was one of the godliest men I've ever known. He was Biblically sound, a truth speaker and a gifted discipler.

My freshman year was a time of great fellowship with Eric, Nathan and this girl named Christy who I'd known about my whole life (she lived down the street from my Grandmother), but had never met. Nathan took a group of us through a Bible study on the doctrines of grace that was pure scripture and was just food for my soul.

It was a great year. We were all sort of intoxicated with the romance of life and learning and fun. That spring, I had the privilege of seeing Nathan and Christy fall in like and love and begin a sweet relationship. "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer was a big hit and kind of captured the sort of blissful feelings I was having and towards the end of the spring semester, I found myself head-over-heels and mutually attracted to this other Reformed fellow who was hanging around the BSU.

(okay, Reformed guys were coming out of the woodwork at JCJC that year. I kid you not. Reformed girls were outnumbered. It was the best kept secret in all of reformed-dom.)

So, school ended and romance was blossoming for me and I was all excited because for the first time ever a great guy seemed interested. A great guy who was reformed! A great guy who was cute! And in a Band! And Tall! I mean, how much better could it get? Plus, the camp director at Harvest had invited me back to work around four weeks of camp that summer--whoo-hoo!

In the weeks leading up to camp we had a date or two and sweet e-mails and didn't I say that "Kiss Me" was playing on the radio all the time?

We kissed.

I have to share this part because of the importance of this before and later on.

All through high school, my three best LIT buds and I had sort of all made this promise that WE WOULD NOT KISS A GUY BEFORE WE WERE MARRIED. It was a big deal. I truly don't believe that this is something that is applicable to everyone, but it was a real personal conviction for me. And breaking personal conviction=sin and sin has consequences.

I remember immediately after our first kiss I said something along the lines of "i wasn't going to kiss a guy until I was married to him, but now I don't care."


So I headed off to Harvest for another summer of camp and I was giddy and not a little bit obsessed with this boy back home. Tuan was back at camp along with several folks from the previous summer and we were all having a fantastic time working together.

Tuan and I were once again paired up as co-counselors for part of that summer and the first week our team sent out into the woods to get a spirit stick to represent our group.

Tuan La does not deal in twigs and I know that now, but I was amazed and utterly dissolved into laughter when Tuan led our group to a cucumber magnolia tree that stood at least ten feet high and chopped the ENTIRE tree down to serve as our spirit stick. I was laughing so hard, I nearly--well. This is on a tangent, but our group named the stick Billy and carried it so proudly into the Dining hall before we were ordered to reduce our spirit stick size. It was shortened, painted to look like a coral snake and renamed "Raul, Son of Billy."

While I was simultaneously amazed at his antics, I was frequently silenced and put in my place by Tuan's comments. I remember blabbing about something and saying, "Tuan, you don't talk much do you?" He promptly replied, "if you don't talk so much, people think you are smarter/wiser than you really are."

Gulp. I was silenced!

One late night, we were on mopping duty and were mopping the kitchen. In our conversation, I started talking about my little romance that was going on and confided that we had kissed. Tuan, in his wonderful way shot back, "I'm not going to kiss a woman until I'm married to her."

Gulp. Talk about conviction!

Camp ended and I was still crazy about this boy, but had not seen much of him. The director of the camp threw this huge party on the Fourth of July for the staff and we spent the entire day on the lake, riding Jet Skis and swimming. Tuan and I laugh about riding on the Jet Ski and watching the sun set that evening--and neither of us had a single romantic inkling!

In the weeks after camp, the phone calls and e-mails stopped. I was struggling with denial that this spring fling was ending. Any doubt was eclipsed when we went with some of his friends to a concert in Jackson that turned out to be a night of zero interaction. At IHOP for a post-concert meal, I went to the bathroom and when I flushed the toilet, water flooded the bathroom. It was the fitting end to a terrible night and foolish relationship. It was so over.

In the weeks leading up to school starting, Tuan was set to have ACL surgery. The day of the surgery, I very randomly sent him flowers. He says they were the first thing he saw when he woke up and I was the first person he called.

Our camp director's family was a lot of fun and they were really great about getting us all together. Several times after camp, we did some fun outings. I always had fun with Tuan, but never gave him a second thought.

He went off to LSU and I was back at JCJCJ. It was an interesting time because I was really struggling over the very-unexplained rejection from this guy who had been my very first anything and simultaneously having a blast with other BSU buddies and my incredible room-mate, Tina. It was a real time of growth and dependence on God. I remember praying every day for grace to deal with seeing him and struggling as he and a friend became involved.

Once more, there were a lot of "why, Lords?" going up.

During that time, I kept reading Hebrews 12

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

I felt so acutely that the heart pain I was experiencing was the consequence of so recklessly breaking my convictions. Please note that I didn't feel like I was being punished--I knew without a doubt that I was completely and utterly forgiven! It was, however, a time to cling to Jesus and take heart because God was treating me as his daughter!

When I look back at JCJC it was a spiritual greenhouse of growth and good friendships and one of the happiest times of my life. I was busy, involved and giving not so much as a thought to this fellow named Tuan who was hours away at LSU.

Our camp director's family called up one crisp fall weekend and invited me to a camp-out at Tuan's. A group of us gathered with both families and had a rollicking time. I remember sitting beside Tuan, watching the fire with the great starry sky overhead as he told me all about this wonderful girl he had met. She was so cool and blah, blah, blah. Great, I thought and went on with my life.

I really did not think about Tuan much that year. Every now and then he would call my dorm room around midnight, but he would always call through the internet to save money (that is so much like Tuan, I have to laugh) and it was such a terrible connection that I got off the phone ASAP. "Why is he calling and can't he use a regular phone?" Those were my unromantic thoughts.

We saw each other at the Christmas staff reunion and got in trouble with the camp director for being out too late. We were innocently running all over camp and looking at the stars and talking (it sounds so romantic, but so was not). I remember the camp director finding us and asking what we were doing. "Playing!" I replied. "What kind of games were you playing?" He grumpily asked. Granted it was two in the morning and I totally understand his position--now.

As spring came, thoughts turned to love one more and I had my heart utterly crushed and stomped on. It was horrible and uncomfortable and if it weren't so integral to the story later on, I'd leave it out completely.

I was hurt far more than over the previous spring's fling. I had given my heart completely away, without reservation and very foolishly. As a consequence, I was absolutely broken and bruised. Daily, I had to cling to the cross for grace to make it and for a lot of grace to be forgiving.

Forgiving was very hard, but God gave grace beyond expectations along with a very kind friend who came alongside me during those first hard days. And gradually, things improved.

In those days, I felt like a singleton amongst what seemed like a thousand people who had found their soul mates. Life was like an endless E-harmony commercial. I was convinced that I was the perpetual friend-girl who boys would hang out with, but never like. I was also a bit gun-shy about even getting into another relationship again. Eventually, my prayer came to be, "Lord, if you want me to get married, please do not let me be in a single relationship ever again until it is with the right guy."

The last weeks of school were bitter and sweet. The incredible JCJC days were ending and I was all set to transfer to Belhaven--finally! And, I was going back to Harvest for another summer. I just knew it was going to be great!

I was editing the yearbook, taking art classes and doing a work-study for our Public Relations Director. One day toward the end of school, she said, "Paula, you should really think about studying graphic design instead of English."

And just like that the Belhaven door closed. This time though, it wasn't difficult. It was shut gently and locked, while the door to USM, along with a change in major opened wide and welcoming.

So, another summer at Harvest and on to USM in the fall.

I came to camp so glad to have gotten away from everything. Tuan came to camp somewhat bruised and broken hearted. The wonderful "blah blah blah" girl had not worked out.

And they had kissed.

And so, we were even.


1 comment:

Joey and Elizabeth said...

This totally cracks me up... all your meetings & time with Tuan but with NO romantic emotions attached! I love seeing how God is writing your love story and you didn't even know it!
And "playing" at 2 am, that's hilarious :)