“Well” he sighed, “I think that just about does it.” Heartache laid thick in the air and altogether it had been an emotional day.
“I don’t think I can do this guys! What was I thinking coming so far away?” My mom hugged me tight and showed me grace and strength that can only be grown over thirty years of motherhood. “You can do this. You’re supposed to do this. And it’s going to be fine…” Her reassurances were interrupted by the ring of my cellphone.
“Hey Beth, I just wanted to invite you to a birthday party for one of our friends tonight.” Nervously, I gathered the details and finished the call. Was it really that easy? That my needs would be so easily provided for? I looked over at my parents who seemed to gather some peace from the perfectly-timed call. I looked at their faces, loving and supportive, and couldn’t help but wonder how we’d gotten to this place. How we had come back full circle to such a close relationship after it seemed ours had been damaged beyond repair. I said a quick, silent prayer and thanked God for His healing.
When I’d finished my freshman year of college three years ago, I couldn’t believe going home for the summer meant traveling north to Upstate New York. Home had become a fluid place as my father’s job relocated him once again. I thought of how I’d chosen a school so far away from everything. Somewhere in the mountains, six hours away. I thought of how I’d filled my time so completely with art and soccer. How I’d gotten scholarships for both. Those scholarships told me I could do it on my own. I could work at things I wanted, work hard, and my work would be rewarded. But it was lonely without the closeness of my family.
And I smiled. New York had brought us back. The hours spent shoveling snow and hiking through its waterfalls and gorges had brought us to a new place. A place of love and trust: our new adult relationship. And it was glorious… So why had I decided to come so far away?
I remembered sitting on my bed with my mom’s arms wrapped around me the night before we left. “Is this where you believe God is leading you?” “Yes. There are parts of me that don’t want to go, but there aren’t any parts that feel like I shouldn’t go.” She smiled and hugged me tighter. “Well, I think that’s your answer. You have to trust that if God is bringing you to this place He is going to provide for you.”
And here we were. The last piece of furniture had been put together and there was nothing left to do but say goodbye. These two people who had spent a lifetime showing me what love was would be driving the thirteen hours back to their home and I would be here, in the middle of the country, on my own. We said our goodbyes and wiped away tears. Their smiles told me I was ready for this, but I’m pretty sure that was only in response to the fear they saw in my eyes. Well, fear and a little bit of nervous excitement.
Alone in my new space. Living on my own, well, with barely-less-than-stranger roommates. There was nothing left to do but get ready for the party and steel my nerves. I dressed and spent the rest of my time trying to straighten my long, unruly hair. I thought of my dad and the Arabic genes he’d passed on that gave me this thick, wiry mane. “See”, I told myself, “they’re still here.”
I found the address easy enough, and sent up a silent prayer of thanks for a wide space to pull my Jeep into. At least I wouldn’t have to practice my parallel parking tonight. I sat there in my car, working myself up to being more extroverted than my personality naturally fell when my phone rang. “Hey Beth, I know it’s your first night in town and some of us are going to welcome thing on campus if you want to join us.” I made a mental note of where to meet this new friend and hung up the phone with more confidence. As I walked towards the house I was greeted my two smiling faces. You’re not alone, my child. I am with you always. Like the flowers of the fields, your needs will be met in Me. His promise fluttered across my heart.
Introductions were made and the three of us returned to the party. “Oh my gosh, it’s him!” My heart screamed. I recognized the guy instantly. Our online journals had crossed paths when I joined an online group for Christian students before I came. “Wait” I thought, “Does this mean we’ll have to tell people we met online!? Oh my gosh, how embarrassing.” We passed through the house to a deck where the rest of the party-goers were already gathered and I sat beside this guy who was both familiar and mysterious.
“So,” I tried to open the conversation, “you spent your summer in Alaska. That sounds awesome. How was it?” “Good.” he replied. Um…okay. Not what I was expecting from the articulate writer who I’d come to know by reading his online journal entries. My mind flashed back to the night, still in New York, when I’d called my best friend Jessica.
“Oh my gosh, I’ve been sitting here crying for, like, an hour reading this guy’s journal.” She giggled at me a little, I’d always been the more dramatic one in our relationship. “Why are you doing that!?” she asked and I could hear the smile still lingering on her face. It was 2 a.m. and she was manning the phones of a women’s shelter back “home” in the town we grew up in. I told her about the guy. All that he had shared and how it had woven its way into my heart. “I just can’t stop reading” I told her. “Something about him is… Gah! I don’t know!” We spent some more time recounting what was happening on our favorite tv shows until our call was interrupted by a call to her line. Those calls were always a humble reminder of how sheltered we were.
I tried not to stare at the blond-haired, blue-eyed guy. Jessica and I only called him by his online moniker “anewpunk”. A thought ran across my mind, “I’ve honestly never seen someone so handsome in real life. And I’m talking to him. Well, sort of.” The conversation seemed hard. Was he trying to act cool? Did he not have anything to say to me? I continued on, “So, what kinds of things did you do there?” “I worked in a lumberyard. I drove a forklift.” “Me too! Well I work in a factory. But I drive a forklift, too.” The more we talked, the more he ever so slowly began to open up.
I glanced down at my watch and realized it was nearly time to leave if I was going to make it to the campus event. I said goodbye to the new friends made and walked back towards my car, feeling like a sliver of my heart had been left behind. Inside the safety of my Jeep, I immediately called my best friend. “I MET HIM! I MET ANEWPUNK.” “And, what was he like?” “He was… gorgeous! And kind of shy and awkward, which surprised me. But, and I know this is crazy… I feel connected to him. I feel like I’m supposed to be here. And I was supposed to meet him. I think this is the beginning of our story… and that kind of scares me.”