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Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Love Story, Part 10

It was the worst month of my life. I missed my best friend. I missed sharing my life with him, missed calling him at the end of the day just to chat. My grades suffered and I all but abandonded my social life. My heart was hurting so badly. I was disappointed in God. While my belief that God had been the creator of our love never faltered, I couldn't get over the distinct feeling that something had gone very wrong.

One day, in mid-October, Sky showed up at my house in town. I sent the kids off to play and we sat down.

Taking my hands in his, he started, "Before you say anything, I have an apology to make. I haven't told you I loved you in a long time, too long, and I'm so, so sorry. I love you, from the depths of my heart, I love you."

I started crying, but he wasn't done.

"I hurt you, I know, but I felt like I had to do it. I had to know that our relationship was what God wanted for you, for me. There were so many other voices telling me I was wrong that I couldn't hear God's. I let them tear us apart, and I'm sorry. Will you forgive me, my love?"

I couldn't speak, couldn't breathe...all I could do was throw my arms around him and weep.

That was the turning point in our relationship. We recommitted our lives to each other and never looked back. We decided that we needed to get married and couldn't wait for my parents any longer. It's very difficult to be passionately in love for so long without threatening purity. It was time, and we knew it. I didn't know how my parents would react but by that point I just didn't care any more. We had God's blessing and that had to be enough.

The first night of our church Christmas play, Sky said he was coming over because my dad asked him to. We wracked our brains to figure out what we might've done to prompt another "talk".

Settling down in my parent's room, we all looked at each other...me, defensive and worried, Sky, composed, my parents, unsure. My dad cleared his throat and started, "We were informed by someone tonight that you two were seen holding hands at the church skating night last week."

I looked at Sky in disbelief. That's it?? We were "seen holding hands"? This was getting ridiculous.

Dad went on, "Do you really think that's OK? I mean, obviously you do, but I want to hear it from you guys. You know we wouldn't approve. What do you think is OK physical contact? "

Sky cleared his throat, "Sir, we're planning on getting married, you know that, though you've been ignoring it. We love each other, are committed to each other, and I don't see anything wrong with holding hands and I really don't care who sees us."

My dad nodded, distant, thinking. Suddenly, he and Mom stood up and said "We'll be right back."

They fled the room and we were left, confused. What in the world?

They came back in and we braced ourselves for more critisism.

"We've decided that you have our permission to marry. Obviously you aren't going to change your minds, so you have our blessing."

We sat there, stunned, silent. Dad cleared his throat, "Well...aren't you going to say to anything?"

We couldn't...we were too shocked at the turn of events. Sky kept opening his mouth but nothing came out. I started laughing and crying at the same time. Dad smiled at us and I looked at my mom who was smiling through her tears. I don't remember what else was said or done after that. It's all a blur to me. I know we settled on a July wedding, outdoor, and in my parent's large back yard.

When Sky went to leave, I wasn't sure what to do, what was now acceptable. My mom prompted me, "Go see him out." Gladly! We stood on the porch, alone for the first time that crazy night. I threw my head back and laughed, joyously, the weight of the last three years rolling off my sholders. Sky laughed too and we stood there in each other's arms for a long time, in wonder of life and happenings.

"Can it be that this whole thing is over? That we're finally getting married and our dreams are about to come true?" I wondered aloud.

"I keep pinching myself to see if I wake up," Sky laughed.

"I love you, Sky" I looked up into his blue, blue eyes.

"I've always loved you, Darcy," he replied as he gazed into the depths of my soul.

At least two people didn't get a wink of sleep that starry night.

Conclusion: The Wedding

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Love Story, Part 9

The auditorium was dark, the only light shining on me and the concert piano. Beautiful strains of a Chopin waltz rolled off the tips of my fingers. I couldn't see the audience but I felt their presence. My family was out there in the vastness, somewhere, and so was Sky. Knowing that gave me comfort. All my focus and energy was on those piano keys and the music flowing from my head to my hands, pouring out on the beautiful instrument before me. With one final relish, the waltz came to a conclusion, and I stood, amidst thundering applause. As I bowed gracefully, cheeks flushed, I turned to walk off the stage. Suddenly, a shower of roses were around my feet, being tossed onto the stage by Sky and my brother, Jake. It brought down the house. And was the talk of all the music students for weeks.

College was an amazing new experience for me. I loved learning and being surrounded by people in all walks of life, whose one thread of common ground was their love for music. I flourished in the classroom setting, something that had been lacking in my home education. I met many good friends, most of whom were also homeschool graduates. We did everything together, Sky often coming down out of the mountains to join us for a movie, dinner, ice skating, concerts, and other activities. As a vocal and piano major, I performed in many concerts, and Sky never missed one of them.

The two children I cared for were a delight. Their dad was in Iraq and their mom was a surgeon so I was their primary care giver. After a few weeks, she let me take them home with me on weekends. You'd have thought they died and went to heaven. My parents doted on them and they loved all the animals at "the farm" (as they called our place). They also looked forward to the weeknights when Sky would come around for dinner. They'd drag him around the house and outside, showing him all their toys and treasures.

We never told my parents that we saw each other during the week. But I'm sure they guessed. I had come to the point where I had to make a decision: follow God, or obey my parents; listen to God telling me I was in His will or they telling me I was not. I hated that they required this of me. It wasn't supposed to be this way. No parent should ever make their child choose between them and God. It was heartbreaking and discouraging. I kept going home on weekends, hoping that they would change their minds. But I was only met with more manipulation and disappointment. Sure, they welcomed me...but they made their disappointment in me very obvious. Sometimes, they never even mentioned Sky at all...just pretended that he didn't exist. They asked me about guys I met at school and if I'd been asked out on a date yet. I told them, yes, but I was taken and not interested.

I bought a whole new wardrobe with my paychecks. I started dressing stylishly, though still modestly, and I loved it. For the first time in my life I felt attractive and cute instead of outdated and frumpy. I embraced my beauty with honor instead of fearing it. My parents started complaining that my younger sisters wanted to dress "immodestly" because of how I was dressing. I offered to wear skirts when I came home but they said "if you're dressing immodestly in your heart, you might as well do it on the outside." I was relieved since pretending to be something I'm not has never been enjoyable for me.

I begged Sky to elope. I thought my parents would never give us their blessing. Sky was stubborn and refused to get married without it. I think he proposed to me once a week that summer. I always said yes. He was persistent in not letting much time go by without once again asking Dad for his blessing. He was always refused. But Sky was hopeful because he was about to get a job that would make him secure and ready to support a family. He hoped it would be enough to convince my dad that he was capable of talking care of me.

When school got out for the summer, I stayed in town to care for the kids, taking a month off before school started again in the fall. It was wonderful being out of the city for a little while. I missed the silence of the mountains, the beauty of the simple life, communing with God in the woods. Sky bought an engagement ring that summer and wore it around his neck on a chain. I wasn't supposed to know about it, but no one in his family was very good at keeping secrets. He had a special smile, reserved just for me when he thought no one else was looking. We could be in a crowd and know what the other was thinking just by a look.

One night, Sky called me to ask if we could talk. I told him after I put the kids to bed would be perfect. So he came and brought Jesse with him (we tried to never be alone anywhere, for our sakes and to remain above reproach before my parents and his). I knew it was serious but I had no idea what was coming.

It was a warm autumn night as we sat on the porch, Sky despondent and me afraid.

"The job fell through" he stated flatly. Sighing he went on, "Maybe...maybe God is trying to tell us something. Maybe what we want isn't His will after all. Maybe, like your dad keeps telling me, we just want to be together so badly that we aren't really listening to Him."

My body started to go numb. I couldn't breathe. "Are you...are you breaking up with me? After everything we've been through??"

His face was tortured. "Darcy, this isn't what I want. I want nothing in the world more than to be your husband but I just don't know anymore! What if your dad's right..."

"He isn't," I interuppted.

"...and we're really not listening to God...we've somehow made a mistake and the fact that nothing is working out is Him trying to get through to us?"

I was too stunned for words.

"I just think that we need to back off and not see each other for a while. I need to let..." his voice faltered,"...to let you...go, without hope of ever marrying you and let God have His way. I need to be able to say 'if this isn't God's will, then I don't want it' and I can't say that right now." His voice broke, head bowed down to hands, and the tears gave way.

I should have been dismayed, terrified, as my world and future was crashing down around me. But for some inexplicable reason, all I felt was peace.

"Sky," I put my hand on his sholders, "I don't know how or why or how any of this is going to work out, but I know, without a doubt, that our love is from God. I know that no matter what you decide to do, God will make a way. I can let you go because I know the ending of this story. What scares me is the in-between pages. When you decide you can see the way clearly, I will still be here...waiting for you."

We decided to part, he would still talk to me, but as friend, not as my love. He had to let go completely and have no claim on my heart. We prayed for a long time, crying, and committing our way to God...even if that meant the distruction of our dreams.

I sat out under the stars for a long time after they left. As I looked up into the vastness, God seemed very near to me. My tears were spent, for now, and I just listened. I considered a future without Sky in it and I thought I couldn't bear it. But once again, the Creator of the stars I was gazing at heard the cry of my heart, and came down to hold me up. "Don't cry, Child. This is something he needs to do. I have your heart and his in the palm of My hands, and will keep them safe. I love you so much more than you can ever imagine. I will give you the desires of your heart, if you trust and delight yourself in Me." I felt like a beloved child, engulfed in the love of my Father.

For the next month, true to his word, Sky didn't say "I love you" once. We barely spoke to each other and when we did, I could tell from his voice he was suffering. Yet I was at peace. Heartbroken, scared, lost....but at peace.

Part 10

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Love Story, Part 8

When, after a few months, it was evident that this wasn't a silly "phase" that would go away, my parents' attitude suddenly shifted and a cloud started to pass over our lives. Mom gave Sky the book Boy Meets Girl, by Josh Harris, highlighting all the places where it said that waiting and ignoring love was the best idea. Or that we can't trust our hearts. I got many "talking to's" about how I "let them down" and was "lowering your standards". I stubbornly held onto the knowledge that I was in the will of God, and never backed down from it. Sky asked about once a month to marry me and my dad always said no. My mom told me I should "give your love to God", which, in her mind, meant I should forget all about this foolishness. I told her I already had, many times, and He always gave it right back to me. She got angrier and more unreasonable as she became more desparate to change my heart.

She lamented "But you always wanted to be a missionary!"

I replied with cool disdain, "Yes, but you wouldn't let me. So why now, all of the sudden, when I'm ready to take another direction in my life, would you even bring that up?"

The verbal abuse and attempts at manipulation just kept getting worse. They were losing control of me and they didn't like it. I was becoming an adult, studying the Bible and forming my own beliefs about things. As I look back, I realize they had no idea how to transition from parents of a child to parents of an adult. My relationship with God grew in leaps and bounds as my relationship with my parents got continually worse. Whenever one of my siblings did something wrong, it was always my fault...I was "being a bad example by being so rebellious".

"I just can't believe you would forget everything we taught you," my mom told me. "Ever since you've met Sky, you've been lowering your standards in music, dress, and how you behave." I tried to explain that my standards were changing because I was realizing for the first time that their standards and God's seemed to be two different things. That really didn't go over so well.

She even questioned my salvation because I refused to give up my love for Sky and was therefore being rebellious.

Dad told me that I couldn't marry Sky because "He's such a nice guy you'd walk all over the top of him!" I told Dad that Sky's gentle spirit made me want to listen to him, to honor him, caused me to respect him, and that other guys I knew who strongly asserted themselves ticked me off. To my dad's credit, he laughed at that.

I got annoyed as they kept introducing me to or talking about young men who were usually in ATI or at least were of that type. It was obvious what they were trying to do. And the hurt I felt as they dismissed my heart in such a manner was too deep for words.

They did send me away for a while. My sister and I were sent to my cousins' house to help them for a few weeks in their family business. Unbeknownst to Mom, my aunt was very sypathetic towards me, always being a bit of a romantic, and she and my uncle had no problem with me using their phone to talk to Sky every few days. I got back from their house just as much in love with him as before.

By the time summer came, I knew that I couldn't stay in their home much longer. The constant assult was killing my heart and ruining my health. I lost weight and was sick often due to the stress at home. I begged God to change their minds. He kept telling me "Run, and don't grow weary".

Throughout this time, Sky's parents were very supportive. When they found out that I loved their son, they were overjoyed. But my parent's seeming rejection of him for me put a strain in their relationship. The S's gently and kindly tried to talk to my parents about how they were treating me, but Mom and Dad wouldn't listen. I spent many hours crying my heart out to Sky's mom, Linda, and knowing they were fighting and praying for us helped immensely. There were other authority figures in mine and Sky's lives that we kept ourselves accountable to, and gleaned wisdom and help from during this time.

I started college that fall in town. Because it was an hour drive, I found a job as a live-in nanny that would allow me to earn money, live in town, and go to school. My mom was very much against it. My dad seemed undecided. I told him it was something I needed to do. That I couldn't live with my mom anymore and still be OK. I wasn't running away; I promised to come home every weekend. I think he was as tired of the constant conflict between me and Mom as I was. He couldn't afford my gas money anymore and if I didn't get a job I would have to quit school. So there were practical reasons also. He gave me his blessing, and I left home to start my new adventure as a single college girl.

The day I was to start my new life, a bunch of us decided to go hiking. It was a beautiful spring day and I drove my little Honda, packed with all my belongings, while everyone else piled into our suburban. We hiked up a mountain where Sky had been working. There were wildflowers everywhere, and the sky was so blue. The top of the mountain was a huge rock overlooking the river. We could turn one way and see the hills of home, turn the other way to see the city. We broke off into little groups, exploring, laughing, knowing that life was about to change for all of us. Sky and I sat, side by side, on a rock looking down at the river winding it's way below us. We were sober. Sky was about to start a job up north and I was moving to town several hours away. We had no idea what the future held. We only knew that our love grew stronger every day.

Looking into my eyes, he took my hands and said "Will you marry me, Darcy-girl?"

I smiled back and said "With all of my heart."

It was the first proposal of many to come.

Part 9

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Love Story, Part 7

"We need to talk," they said.

Uh-oh, I thought.

I would came to hate hearing that phrase over the next couple of years.

Vacation was over and my parents had decided to get down to business. We settled nervously in their room, I preparing for the worst.

"We've decided that you and Sky are spending too much time together. It's not good for either of you. He's obviously attracted to you and we feel we need to guard your heart so you don't end up giving it away to the wrong person at the wrong time. I know you're good friends and we'd like to keep it that way so we feel like you shouldn't spend so much time together."

Dad was about to go on when I blurted out "It's too late!"

They just looked at me while I gathered all the courage I had and declared, "I'm in love with him."

They looked at each other and my mom sighed dramatically. "This is exactly what we were trying to avoid. It's OK," my mom patted my lap. "We're in this together and we'll help you get through this."

"I don't want to get through this" I said quietly. They looked at me in silent shock. "I have some things to say so I need you guys to just listen before I lose my nerve, OK?" I laughed shakily.

Then I told them all. Everything. I bared my heart to my parents in a way I had never done before. They reacted better than I thought they would. But I knew they didn't understand. "Don't you think," my dad said, "that if this were God's will for you, that He would tell me?"

"Maybe, maybe not", I replied. "Maybe He wants you to hear it from me. Maybe part of growing up is learning to listen to God on my own."

"You know," Mom tried, "sometimes we can want something so badly that we think God is telling us something that He's not. This could all be coming from your own heart. Our hearts are deceitful, after all."

"Mom," I said, "do you believe that I have a strong relationship with the Lord?"

"Well, yes," she replied.

"So why is it so hard to believe that He would speak to me and show me the direction He wants me to go in my life?" I asked earnestly.

The answer was pretty much what I thought it would be: because the direction God was supposedly showing me was not the direction they had planned. I came away from that talk with the impression that they thought this was just a phase that would run it's course. Once again they proved how little they knew me and how little they really wanted to.

Sky came the next day and had a talk with my dad. He told dad he loved me, believed that it was God's will for us to marry, and asked for permission to court me. Dad put him off by saying that we were too young (we were 18 and 20) and that "maybe, in the future, we can discuss this again". But what was unspoken was very evident in his tone and manner: Sky didn't have a chance in hell.

Life was easier for a while after that. At least my parents weren't trying so hard to keep us from falling in love. They watched us like hawks, though. We were enjoying the fact that we didn't have to pretend we weren't in love anymore. I could smile at him without Mom getting anxious (though her disapproval was clear) and we could talk to each other in an easy manner instead of halting and fearful of showing what was in our hearts. We were able to be friends, while resting in the knowledge that we were so much more.

It was the calm before the storm. The biggest assalt on my heart was about to begin.

Part 8

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Love Story, Part 6

Another long winter rolled around. I turned 18 that January and was trying to finish school so I could graduate in the spring. Sky and I continued to be friends, our relationship budding without either of us saying a word about what was in our hearts. But some things can only be hidden for so long.

My parents left to go visit family in the Seattle area. I was supposed to stay behind and keep the animals fed and the house warm, then travel with friends to meet them later. Forest stayed with me at our house so I wouldn't be alone. I was weary and needed time away from my family to collect my thoughts and pray about what my next step would be. I wrote in my journal:

"I've decided, by the Lord's prompting, to tell my parents exactly how I feel about Sky. I feel like a total hypocrite and I'm tired of living a lie. Things have been getting pretty testy around here lately and Sky's been getting the brunt of it [because of his obvious attraction to me]. By me not speaking up, I've not been fair to him or to our parents and I can't stand it any longer. I have to say I'm deathly afraid of doing this. I'm afraid of my parents anger, afraid they won't understand, afraid they won't approve and may try to separate us...afraid of...I don't even know what. But I know that this is not faith and it's not trust. God's will WILL be accomplished in my and Sky's lives no matter what. I just need to remember that."

One night, Sky came over and we made dinner and watched a movie together. We were sitting around, gabbing and enjoying the evening, when an uncomfortable silence settled over us all. Sky cleared his throat. "There's something I need to tell you...something we really need to talk about before I explode."

My heart felt like it would beat out of my chest. Forest suddenly disappeared.

"We can't go on like this anymore," he started. "We can't keep pretending we're just friends. I'm in love with you. I have been for a while now and I know you love me too."

I started to say something and he nervously held up his hand. "Wait...just let me get this out."

And as he spoke, the tears started flowing. Tears that had been held back far too long.

He told me that when he met me, I was like no girl he had ever known. He often prayed that God would give him a wife just like me. It took him a while to realize his prayers had changed to "Lord, let her be my wife." But he'd fallen for girls before only to have it blow up in his face. He so badly wanted to know that these feelings were not just in his own heart, but put there by God Himself. He begged God to take away the feelings so he could have clarity to follow God's plan for his life. He even went to Colorado to get away from his feelings and me so he could think straight. It didn't work. His love for me only grew while we were apart. He said it felt like part of his heart was missing. He thought it was an impossible dream...that I, a talented, educated city girl, could never fall for a backwoods country boy like him. He was sure my parents would never approve of him marrying their daughter. Finally, after wrestling with himself for months, he attended a retreat for our youth group (of course, I wasn't there..wasn't allowed to go). He went for a walk around the lake to be by himself and talk with God. As he cried out to God, he heard a voice, almost audible, and the words "Child, don't fight this. This love you feel for Darcy is from Me. Trust Me, and let me guide your paths." Sound familiar? Then, right in front of him, a bald eagle swooped down and caught a fish out of the mountain lake. His favorite verse, and mine, came to him: "They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings as eagles; they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint."

I got goosebumps listening to his story...so very much like my own struggles and affirmation from God. I shared with him these things, including the dream I had, and he was amazed. We were both amazed. Never had I felt with such assurance that God loved me enough to show Himself to me with such power and clarity.

But we were afraid, especially me. I knew what my parents expected of me and this wasn't it. They had often said how they wanted me to marry someone musically talented like I was, who made good money and had the same standards as we did. Not to mention that I was going against all the rules of a proper courtship. But Sky was determined to honor my father and do this his way. I wanted that, too, but was afraid of how they would react. Sky reminded me of our verse. "They shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint." That's what God was asking of us...to walk the path He had clearly set before us, without growing weary, and let Him work out the details.

We prayed together, each of us pouring our hearts out to a God we knew loved us, asking Him to direct our paths and renew our strength. I felt so completely enveloped by God's love and peace. We knew God made us for each other and He was the One writing our story. If God be for us.....

As Sky left that night, our hearts were lighter than they had been in a year. That was the first time Sky said "I love you" and my heart soared.

Part 7

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Love Story, Part 5

That was a long and confusing spring. As I look back over the pages of my journal, I can see the conflict in my heart:

"I tried, but I couldn't quite banish the lonely feeling that's seemed to hang on me all week. Oh, how I wish life could be what it was before any of this foolishness creeped in!"

"[when Sky gets back] I pray to God that he won't notice a difference in my attitude towards him. I would almost rather die than for him to suspect what's in my heart. The Lord has definitely been helping me to lean on Him during this time. I'm not mad at myself anymore, just wondering why it would take something like this for me to learn to 'lean not on my own understanding'".

"Sometimes I miss him so much that a dull ache seems to settle on my heart that just won't go away. I just don't feel like myself. It's not that I'm not cheerful or joyful; it's just that, behind my cheerfulness seems to be this sadness that I can push out of the way but can't quite get rid of. I just wish...I could go back to being myself again. And yet, something tells me that it won't ever be the same again. Growing up is so confusing."

You see, I just knew that I had let my guard down and dishonored God and my parents by falling in love. I wanted it to go away, and everything to go back to how it was. Life was getting too complicated for my 17-yr-old heart to handle.

I didn't need to worry about missing Sky that spring. It seemed he came up with an excuse to drive the 1600 miles home about every 6 weeks or so. Which made everything even more confusing. I loved seeing him, and hated myself for loving it. Part of me wanted him to stay away and part of me couldn't bear the thought.

Meanwhile, I was enjoying life. I had other friends and we were busy just surviving. There was a bit of competition starting between Sky and his best friend, Jesse, and it amused me. I'd never been fought over before. I admit it was flattering. I laugh as I read these words from a journal entry:

"[while hiking with a group of friends during one of Sky's visits] I seemed to aquire a whole bunch of wildflowers that I didn't pick. I think Sky was making up for Sunday when Jesse gave me a whole bouquet of tulips. Boys are soooooo strange! I wonder if it ever crosses their minds that we girls know exactly what they're doing and why?"

Sky finally got a phone so we were able to talk to each other every weekend. I'm still surprised my parents let me, but I think they were afraid to make a big deal about it. We were good friends, so there was nothing unsual about wanting to talk on the phone. We managed to say a lot without saying anything.

Around June of that year, I came to a place where I couldn't take it any more. I was so tired of fighting what I thought was my flesh; tired of thinking I was displeasing God by my attraction to Sky. One day, home alone, I sat on my bed and cried out for God to take away my love for Sky. I begged Him, over and over, please, God, take it away. As I cried, tears falling on my bed, I felt God's presence wash over me. Then, with a voice so clear it startled me, I heard Him say "Child, do not fight Me. This love you feel in your heart is not of your own doing...it is from Me. I have a plan for you, and you must stop fighting against it. To fight this love, is to fight Me. Rest, and let Me guide your life." Instantly peace flooded my soul, and the striving ceased. I suddenly stopped floundering and felt solid ground under my feet for the first time in months. Yet I was afraid I was only hearing what I wanted to hear, so I asked Him again. Again, He gave me the same answer.

He then brought to mind a dream I had had several times when I was about 14. In my dream, I was at my wedding rehersal. Surrounded by my brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, we were practicing for my wedding. When I walked up the aisle, I looked up into the face of my groom. I saw a man I had never met before, and his face was seared into my memory just before I woke up. It was in that moment of recalling my dream, that goose-bumps suddenly covered my entire body. The face in my dream had the bluest eyes I had ever seen. That face belonged to Sky.

I had no idea where to go from there, I only knew I was in God's will and that was enough for me. I was scared about what my parents would say, scared of what this would mean for the next few months of my life, scared of territory I knew nothing about. But this I did know: if God was for me, who could be against me? A verse that had always been my favorite suddenly popped into my head: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint."

I've often believed, looking back, that God made His answer to me so sure and certain because I would need it so desparately in the battle to come.

Part 6

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Love Story, Part 4

I stood there, blinking in dismay. Did he really just say what I thought he said? No, I must've heard wrong. But he was still talking.

"It's a really great opportunity. I've never really been anywhere else, I hear Colorado is gorgeous, and it's only for the summer. Besides, I need a job." Sky was talking, but the words were hitting a hollow place in my head. I just couldn't process them. I thought I was choking...there suddenly was no air in the room.

I realized he'd stopped and was waiting for me to say something. "Um...well...that's great." I said flatly. "When are you leaving?"

"Next week, I think," came the reply.

Now I really couldn't breath. What was wrong with me?? Why did I suddenly feel like I was falling into a large, black hole? Others came into the room and they all started talking about Sky's decision to move to Colorado. In relief I sat in the nearest chair while the room chattered and spun around me. My heart felt empty and I didn't know why. I wasn't sure I wanted to.

I went about the next week with a heavy heart, though I tried to pretend nothing was wrong. We had a going-away party for Sky that Sunday. From the pages of my journal:

"I hate going away parties! Especially when the one who's leaving is one of my best friends. I really hate to admit this, but the thought of spending all summer without Sky isn't a very pleasant prospect. I didn't think I'd miss him this much. There! I wrote down what I hope no one ever finds out! Why I hope this, I'm not sure, except that it's kind of embarrassing to admit, even to myself, that maybe I've broken my track record by liking one guy a little more than all the others."

As we were leaving, the weight on my heart got heavier. One by one, my family members hugged Sky and wished him well. Not knowing what to do, I started to get into the car. He opened his arms and said "Don't I get a hug from Darcy?"

I gulped, gave him a quick hug, and jumped cheeks aflame into the car. He took off towards the house with a silly grin on his face, forgetting he was supposed to be feeding the horses.

I cried a lot that week. I snapped at my younger siblings more than usual. I was confused and sad and I didn't know why. I so desparately wanted someone to talk to but was too ashamed. I was afraid, so afraid, to look into my heart and see what was causing this upturning of emotions. This... this....whatever it was was disrupting my in-control, comfortable, perfectly-planned-out life and it made me angry and unsettled.

A few nights later, Meadow and I were out on the porch, gazing at the stars. She asked me what was wrong.

I tried to ask surprised. "Wrong? Why, nothing."

She glared at me.

"Well, OK, I guess I'm just a little depressed." I hoped that would settle it for her.

She kept glaring at me.

"Oh, I don't know!...it's just so...so...embarassing...and I wish....Oh, I don't know!!" I wailed.

She then burst out laughing.

I bristled "This isn't funny, Meadow! You have no idea what a terrible couple of days I've had!"

She just kept laughing.

I threw my hands up and wailed "I'm so depressed and I'm mad at myself for being depressed, and I'm so confused I don't even know my own mind and how did this happen??!!"

She smiled at me, grabbed my hands and said "He'll come back."

And I burst out crying.

Part 5

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Love Story, Part 3

Summer and Fall of '00 passed in a blur of hard work, fun times, and new experiences. I never thought living in the boonies could be so much fun! We learned how to harvest morrells, pick huckleberries, wildcraft herbs, hunt and fish. Thanks to Sky and Meadow, I could skin and gut a deer, change a tire, and travel from one town to the next without ever touching pavement. We spent many a hot summer Sunday at Horseshoe Lake with Sky's family and other friends, swimming, hiking, waterfall-climbing, and roasting marshmallows around the campfire.

There was a whole group of friends now that I did everything with. We were all homeschoolers and all involved in our youth group. I was the only one not allowed to go on mission trips, leadership camp, or any other activity which took the group away from home. Even though Pastor Dan and his wife were big courtship-advocating homeschool parents, my parents said that I couldn't go because that would take me out from under the "umbrella" of their authority. Though I think the real reason was because they were watching me bloom and watching the boys in church take notice. Being the oldest, having a teenage daughter was new to them and I don't think they quite knew how to handle it. I was always upset that they didn't trust me. I'd never had a crush on a guy, wasn't flirty, had very high standards, and was too absorbed in my music and school to care much. I had a perfect "good girl" track-record but they didn't think it was good enough.

Winter came again, and with it my 17th birthday. We were finially in our house. Though it was very unfinished, at least it was big enough for us, warm, and dry. We were attending a home-group weekly Bible study at the S's house (Sky's folks) that winter. I was pleasantly surprised to get there the night of my birthday and find a cake and presents.

After the party, Sky quietly handed me a little box. "Happy Birthday," he said, blushing slightly.

I opened it to find a small, nickel pendent with a red heart in the middle, and the words "Jesus Loves You" around the heart. My heart lept strangely at the sight and I managed a smile and a "thank you". Because I was pretty sure that accepting gifts from young men was taboo, I didn't show it to my parents. But you can bet I wore it under my clothes all the time. I still told myself he was just a friend, a very good friend, and that I wasn't falling for him because I was waiting for "The One" who would be sanctioned by my dad and show up in my life when I was ready to get married at around age 25. We would then proceed with a courtship under the authority of my parents, get engaged, then marry. "Falling in love" was against the rules. Especially at 17.

But I did enjoy his company and his friendship. We'd talk for hours about anything and everything. We'd all go for horseback rides through the woods, laughing like we hadn't a care in the world. I knew he was falling for me, but it was such a new sensation to be admired like that that I didn't know quite what to think about it. I knew my parents would've freaked out if they'd suspected and that was to be avoided at all costs. I still think that the only reason my parents didn't notice the growing attraction is because I did such a good job pretending that nothing was happening. I was very good at giving off an "I could care less" air. And I believe I really was trying not to like him. I'd read the courtship books, I knew what was and what was not supposed to happen. I honestly believed that "guarding my heart" by purposefully not noticing a guy's attraction was honoring to God. And that "liking" someone was not. "Emotional purity" was such a popular catch-phrase that I was terribly afraid of the spiritual consequences I would suffer if I allowed myself to fall for someone. Besides, "the heart is deceitful" and I couldn't trust mine with something as important as the person I would marry. I couldn't even imagine the fal-out that would hit me if I ever told my parents I was in love with someone. So pretending, ignoring my heart, and lying to myself and everyone else was just easier.

Until the day my happy little world shifted.

Part 4

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Love Story, Part 2

It was finally spring. I breathed in deeply, taking in the scents of budding leaves, wet ground, and lingering snowdrifts. Walking down the dirt road, my thoughts wandered back over the long winter.

Around Christmas, my parents realized they were in over their head. The snow just kept coming and our house still didn't have a roof over it. Our trailer looked like a snow cave...we actually had to dig our way up out of the drifts to get out the door. It was all we could do to keep warm at night by leaving the little oven open. We'd still wake up with our pillows frozen to the thin walls. Finally, another ATI family who had a huge house, kindly offered to take us in for the remainder of the winter. We were so amazed. Here we were, a family of 8, and they hardly knew us. But we were to discover that in rural places, kindness and generosity were the rules folks lived by regardless of religious affiliation. They were necessary to survival.

I discovered that Sky was the brother of two girls who had befriended me at church. His older sister, Meadow, was sunny and friendly. Forest, his younger sister, was creative and loved having fun. We became good friends that winter. Their family (also homeschoolers though like no homeschoolers I'd ever met!) lived in an old cabin on the mountain with no power or running water. They had lived that way for 20 years! It was my first experience with "off the grid" people. And they didn't live like that because of any religious reason...they just wanted to. We spent many cozy nights at their house, playing games at a table lit by lantern light, and talking about the Lord. They were fairly new Christians and had never even heard of Bill Gothard. We were as different as we could be. Yet our families hit it off from the start. We spent Christmas at their house and joyfully sledded our way into the year 2000 together (the year the world didn't end).

I started going to the mid-week youth Bible studies that winter, always with one of my parents accompanying me. At our old church, we didn't have a youth group. They were considered products of "denominationalism" and therefor unBiblical. Besides, the sad truth of the matter is that by the time most of the kids got to be in their teens, they usually wanted nothing to do with church or God. They paid lip service to their parents until they were old enough to leave home and go their own way. I didn't even really have friends my own age at that church. I wasn't very popular with the friends I did have from our homeschool group and ATI either. I just didn't fit in and always felt awkward and different around them. I learned that no one really wanted to know what I thought so I kept my mouth shut. So imagine my delight when I started attending the youth ministry at our new church and suddenly became the most popular girl in youth group. It was there that I found my voice. For the first time in my life, I was invited to speak my mind. We dug into the scriptures in ways I never had before. I was allowed to disagree and debate and to consider doctrines that were always called "heresy" in our old church. And I had never, ever discussed scripture and spiritual things with a group of people my own age who were just as eager to learn as I was. I couldn't get enough of it.

And so passed the winter we thought would never end. It was May of '00, and we were back up on our property now, living in two trailers. I shared the trailer we affectionately called "the peanut trailer" with my brother, Jake. I think we both needed the space from everyone else. Sky and his dad, John, came over often to help us finish our house. Sometimes Meadow and Forest would come too and we'd all gather around the campfire after it got too dark to work. Those were the nights that will forever stick in my memory. They were so full of joy and laughter and friendship. Dinner was cooked in a dutch-oven and eaten under the stars in paper bowls. Our little clearing in the woods became a gathering place for all our new-found friends. I had never felt so accepted in my life. These people didn't care about what I did, what I believed, or which "standards" I lived my life under. They just loved me for who I was.

It was the year of grace and new beginnings. It was also the year I started to leave my girlhood behind. For the next few years would require the strength, endurance, faith, and heart of a woman. If I had known then........but I believe it was God's grace that I didn't know what life was about to bring me.

Part 3

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Love Story...Part 1

My parents were officially crazy. I mean, I always suspected it, but now I knew. Here I was, in a tiny trailer in the middle of nowhere, trying to cook for a bunch of men. We had no electricity, no running water, and the table that doubled as my bed was really too small for my culinary needs. As the oldest child in my family, I did most of the cooking. Not because I had to, but because I actually enjoyed it. And I was really good at it, if I do say so myself. I even enjoyed the challenge of making meals out of nothing and cooking over camp-stoves and open fire pits.

But this particular day, as I gazed out the tiny, fogged up window at the snow pouring down around us, the craziness of our situation was evident. My mom and sisters had gone to town for supplies, leaving me to cook lunch for the men who were helping Dad build our cabin. As I piled cookies on a plate to take out to the freezing guys, I looked forward to seeing Jesse, the young man my age who was helping Dad. He was fun to tease and blushed every time I spoke to him. He was also the first real friend I'd made since moving to this God-forsaken mountain. At the tender age of 16, I'd never been interested in guys and didn't plan to start now. After all, I was a good student of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and committed to my parent's plan for courtship. It was just nice to have a friend since I'd left all mine behind in Seattle.

Pulling on a heavy coat and boots, tying a scarf over my braided hair, I trudged through the deep drifts toward the building site. Arriving in a huff, I yelled up to Jesse to give me a hand. A hand reached down and grabbed the coffee, then reached down again to help me up.

Laughing, I started to say some snide remark when I suddenly looked up into the bluest eyes I had ever seen. It took me a minute to realize that I was staring into a very handsome face who was staring right back at me, amusement in his eyes. I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. I was suddenly very aware of my sodden skirt and hair that hadn't been washed in days. I thrust the cookies into his hands saying something to the effect of "Umm...cookies?"

I then excaped as quickly as I could. I don't remember hiking back to the trailer. But once there, I collected myself and was suddenly angry at how stupid I must've looked. I've always prided myself on being calm and in control of every situation. What in the world had come over me out there? Well, I decided, it wouldn't happen again.

As I chopped veggies for the soup, I couldn't help but see in my mind those blue, blue eyes. Who was he? I didn't remember seeing him at the little church we'd visited for several weeks now.

I was brought back to my task when, with a yelp, I sliced the end of my thumb off. Looking in horror at the blood going everywhere, I grabbed a towel and went about bandaging my wound, all the time calling myself names for not paying more attention.

I did finally get lunch finished...just in time for 5 very wet and cold guys to come trooping into the trailer. There wasn't even room to walk around them, but I managed to dish out the soup and sandwiches. Noticing my bloody bandage, my dad asked me what happened. I nonchalantly told him, brushing it off and trying to look tough. I was also trying very hard not to notice the presence of Mr. Blue Eyes, but not being very successful. Jesse introduced him to me as "my best friend, Sky". Sky, huh? A fitting name for one with such blue eyes.

As they filed out to get back to work, Sky turned and quietly said, "Thank you for lunch; it was very good."

"You're welcome," I replied with my signature smile.

"I hope your thumb's OK," he said.

"Eh, it'll be fine," I brushed off his concern.

He left, but as I cleaned up after them, I couldn't help but think of him. He seemed nice. Quiet, but nice. I wondered if I would see him again. Not that it mattered, I told my sister's teddy bear, who was looking at me mockingly.

That day, I made up many excuses to visit the building site.

To Be Continued.....Part 2

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

My life lately is so full of conflicting ideas and beliefs. Half the time I think one thing, and the other half of the time I think the opposite. Beliefs that used to be so firmly rooted in my head are being doubted. One day I wonder if God cares what happens to me, the next day I know He does. Part of me holds on to the belief that prayer makes a difference and part of me wonders if I'm praying to a brick wall. I am alternately thankful to God and angry at Him. Just when I believe that all things have a purpose, I throw my hands in the air and declare that life-happenings are purposeless. Sh*t happens.

The thing is, this doesn't bother me. Should it? I feel at peace, even in the midst of the turmoil in my heart. Like there are Truths that never change, regardless of what I see and how I feel. Like there is Someone Whose existance cannot be threatened by my doubting or unbelief. And He is what is keeping my heart, the Keeper of my soul. Wandering I may be...but not lost.

It is enough for me right now to just know that there is nowhere I can flee from His presence. There is no darkness that can hide me from Him; no doubts that can take me out His hand. I guess I'll just have to rest in that assurance for now. Because I'm tired of trying to work everything else out in my mind.

Don't worry about me. I know my faith is still there...there are roots too deep for the frost to touch. This is just where I'm at, where I'm resting, waiting. Listening to the rumblings of a heart not quite whole yet. Perhaps here, in my doubts, anger, brokeness, and fears, is where God wants to meet me. To purge once again everything that is keeping me from trusting Him. Lord, I wait for You.....

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

The Fellowship of the Ring
by J.R.R. Tolkien