Saturday, August 22, 2015

159: almost 30

Well, it's been almost a month since I posted!

School starts in a week and a day. The teachers are back, and I have a teacher blog now!

I turn 30 years old on Tuesday! I've been anticipating this birthday for three years, and now it's almost here! I'm so busy getting ready for school though. My mom and a family friend took me to Santa Cruz at the beginning of the month.

garlic fries!

We're celebrating my niece's 16th and my 30th tomorrow as a family, and then next month, after school calms down, I'm getting together with my group of girl friends for food and coloring (hey, we're random).

What have I learned being in a relationship these last 5 months? That I am a sinner, and no manner of idealism can mask that fact. That I'm slow to be sanctified, and there's a reason why Proverbs mentions the dangers of a contentious woman so often: criticism and "drippiness" is a super easy pit to fall into! You can tell yourself your actions are a choice, but you cannot anticipate the emotions that will slam into you and convince you utterly that you are subject to them. I have learned that God has given men an amazing ability to forgive and keep loving.

What would I say to myself a year ago in preparation for being in a relationship? I'm not sure. There is only so much you can do to prepare yourself and so much that you just have to learn through experience. I really don't know if I could learn any of what I'm learning without confronting myself head-on.

I used to wonder when God kept saying "no" to other relationships--I wondered if He would always say no, or if I was misreading Him, if it was me, not Him. I have discovered that, no, He WAS saying no, not because He would never give me a relationship, but because He had something different in mind for me than what I thought was perfect at those times. He was exercising His infinite wisdom.

We serve a God who actually speaks with us. I serve a God who has been with me for some 25 years, Who has put His Spirit within me, who is constant in His presence, and faithful to guide me if I seek Him. Is this not an amazing thing?

I am very content with my life right now. I enjoy living at home, I am excited about teaching, and I have a boyfriend who is God's gift to me.

I suppose this is a good way to begin my 30s.

P.S. Angela Hunt's new book Bathsheba is on its way to me to review! Esther was so good, so I expect this one to be good too!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Not by Sight by Kate Breslin

5 out of 5 stars eeeeeasily!

This novel, for me, was the equivalent of starting a TV show you really like and want to come back to to find out what happens.

Set during World War 1 in England, it stars a girl who is so patriotic that she crashes a ball/dinner party to hand out white feathers of cowardice. She specifically wants to give one to playboy and coward Jack Benningham. Naturally, as soon as their eyes meet there is chemistry and sparks and all that. He kisses her hand, and she leaves in his palm the white feather.

Unbeknownst to her, he is actually not a coward; he helps catch spies. And her father ends up being one of his top suspects.

I won't give all the plot away, but she ends up joining the Women's Forage Corps and learning how to do all sorts of farm work, during which time she runs into Jack Benningham. While they are connecting, secrets unravel all around them, and then, near the end, the author reveals another secret that I did NOT expect, and everyone lives (we hope) happily ever after.

I loved the historical setting. The main female character was a little too self-focused at times, thinking she was at fault for other people's choices. But that's real life, right? All the characters were interesting--and thankfully, the author did a decent job in helping me keep track of who was who because I could not remember which name went with which girl!

I stayed up late reading this book, and when I came to the end I noticed the author For Such a Time. If it's as good as this one, no wonder my friend recommended it!
had written another book a friend of mine highly recommended,

I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The book hasn't even come out yet. Wheeee! :D

Monday, July 13, 2015

fiction (vii): the life and loves of a homeschooled girl

My prayers that night after the dance were off kilter. I tried to pray, but trying to talk to God was like trudging through mud. I couldn’t think of anything to say. And what I did say felt lifeless.

Even though it was late, I opened the Bible and shined my reading light on the words. In my daily reading I was in the book of Mark. As I read about Jesus feeding the five thousand, my mind strayed to lines of young people dancing under a starry sky.

I became frustrated.

“Lord God—”

I hesitated. I sounded so . . . fake.

“Lord, why can’t I pray?”

I closed my Bible, put it on the side table, and turned off the light.

I snuggled under the covers. Immediately, as if on auto play, came thoughts of Michael. Two minutes in, something jerked me back to the present.

Fantasizing about Michael had become so automatic. A nightly ritual. It’s how I fell asleep.

Wait. Was I lusting after Michael?

The thought horrified me.

Surely not! I didn’t lust after guys. I guarded my heart. I hadn’t even ever mentioned Michael to Luanne in casual conversation, and Jen didn’t know about my secret feelings either.

But then I thought about the California Waltz and how our arms had brushed as we counted the beats. I thought of his hand on my waist.


He was standing before me, holding out his hand, the dark of the night creating a 5 o’clock shadow on his already strikingly handsome face.


But I couldn’t. Thinking of him was my normal. And now I could replay something that had really happened.

I fought my imagination. I fought my memory.

Tears pricked behind my eyes because holding back thoughts of Michael felt like holding back a tsunami. I didn’t want to stop.

Didn’t I know Proverbs 4:24 by heart? I lectured myself. What if Michael doesn’t marry you, Trisha? Don’t you realize that maybe Michael will marry someone else and that he doesn’t belong to you? My throat constricted. No, he couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine him with someone else. He was mine. Wasn’t he, Lord? No, You hadn’t promised him to me, but surely, surely You would give me this good gift. Please, Lord. Give me this good gift.

For the next week, every morning and evening I prayed my repentance. And dreamed. And prayed harder. And dreamed still. And felt guilty. And found myself thinking of him even as I prayed that I would stop thinking of him.

It’s not easy to change the direction of a heart that has been focused on one thing for years.

The dance, that lovely, romantic night, morphed into a horrible shackle.

“Dear God,” I’d say on my knees before my bed. “Help me stop imagining life with Michael. Help me stop obsessing. Help me surrender him to You.”

Because wouldn’t it be better if I let God work everything out instead of clinging to my dreams of life with Michael so very hard?

But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

In my prayers, I reasoned with God. Wasn’t it okay to like a guy? Isn’t that how You designed me?

Was I lusting? What did that even mean?

I began reevaluating my prior definitions of purity and lust.

Was imagining talking with Michael lusting?

Was imagining how my hand felt in his lusting?

Was lying awake conjuring up imaginary images of him looking at me with love in his eyes lusting?

I didn’t know.

Dear God, I didn’t know!

What had once been a lovely infatuation had turned into something painful and ugly and heart-wrenching. A battle to break a habit I, frankly, did not want to break.

fiction (vi): the life and loves of a homeschooled girl

Two weeks later found Jen and I dressed up respectively in a denim ruffled skirt and brown broomstick skirt and driving up to the Kellar’s house.

“Oh, look, Trish! Isn’t it romantic?”

The Kellars had strung white Christmas lights from the top of their barn to the fence several yards away. Hay bales for sitting were scattered throughout the area, and stalks of corn were tied to the barn and fence. Bonfires were lit in different parts of the field for warmth and ambiance. An old Virginia flag hung from the barn window.

Several teens were meandering around, drinking hot apple cider from a large thermos set on a barrel nearby. I spotted Michael standing with one of his sisters.

I was half exhilaration, half guilt over feeling exhilarated.

“Lord, is it okay to be excited?” I prayed. A gust of breeze billowing my skirt was the only answer I received. “Please bless this time,” I concluded.

My sister and I hopped out of the car.

I took a deep breath.

It was going to be a glorious evening.

I found Luanne standing by the snacks table.

“Are you excited?” I whispered.

She gave a half smile. “I don’t know. I’m kinda nervous!”

“Nervous? Whatever for?”

She nodded to a group of boys gathered around one of the bonfires. “Because the boys have to ask us to dance!”

“They do? Are you sure we don’t just like all line up and whoever is standing across from you is your partner?”

“No. I heard Sarah Jane—she’s one of the callers. She told someone that even though they are group dances, the boys have to ask the girls to be their partner. That’s how it works.”

“Oh!” In P.E. we had never paired up like that. I wondered what Mom was thinking. This was going to be a lot more couple-y! “Um, I’m nervous now too!”

We stood there together, looking out at the sea of young people ebbing and flowing around us. Part of me was more excited because this was much more romantic than anything I had ever experienced in real-life and part of me drew back with the same kind of dread I felt when we had played basketball in P.E. and Mr. Courtney had let the team captains choose who they wanted on their team. I had been picked last. Luanne and I now stood before the great unknown like Frodo and Sam entering Mordor.

“All righty, folks. Let’s get this dance started!” yelled Mr. Kellar.

Everyone gathered around the dance floor as Sarah Jane took the microphone. She explained that for every dance one of the callers would teach it before we would do it. In between dances people could help themselves to something to eat or drink, and she pointed out where the bathrooms were.

“Now fellas, grab yourself a partner for the Virginia Reel!”

Luanne and I tried to visually strike the balance between available and nonchalant.

“It’s a nice evening, isn’t it?” I said to her.

“Oh yes, very nice.”

We giggled.

I felt a hand brush my arm.

“Would you like to dance?”

Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as I turned to see who was asking. It was Luanne’s brother Joey. How could I be nervous about 14 year old Joey? I glanced at Luanne, unwilling to leave her vulnerable. Joey held out his hand.

Luanne nudged me. “Go on,” she whispered with a slight smile.

I looked up into Joey’s freckled face. Seeing his hair neatly combed and his green eyes looking so serious made me want to laugh. He was so out of his element. And I was so ready to show that I was in mine.

“Sure!” I said with a grin. I ceremoniously placed my palm in his, and he led me to the dance floor.
The dance floor was a slab of cement under the string of lights. The caller directed the couples to stand a couple feet apart from each other, facing each other. Almost out of habit, I looked to see where Michael was. He was escorting Jen to the floor. The soft lighting accentuated his dark wavy hair and made him look like he had a 5 o’clock shadow. My, he sure was handsome.

I looked up at Joey, and at last, he smiled.

“How are you this evening, Miss Anderson?” His eyes twinkled, and he bowed slightly.

I tilted my head in acknowledgement. “I am quite well, Mr. Sparks. And you?”

“Quite well, quite well.”

I laughed, which made him laugh. Then he winked at me.

I was taken back. Maybe in his family it was normal to wink at people? He was just a kid. He probably didn't know better.

Other couples joined our line and Sarah Jane came through on the mic to begin walking us through the dance. Our set of dancers were lighthearted and enthusiastic and no one knew what they were doing! At one point, I was laughing so hard I was bent over, almost crying in hilarity.

“Now we’re going to do it with music,” said Sarah Jane.

Joey’s eyes met mine, and he lifted his eyebrows mischievously.

“You ready for this?” he asked, wiggling his eyebrows expertly.

I laughed, wiping the tears in my eyes. “Why not!”

The music started. Joey and I were next to the head couple, so thankfully we could watch their example through the first set. After they sashayed down the line and back again, weaved, cast off, and made the bridge, all the other couples followed, scrunching down under their outstretched hands and taking their new places in line. Joey and I scooted to the front, becoming the new head couple. I looked at him wide-eyed.

“It’s our turn!” I mouthed.

He grinned and winked again.

Maybe this was his element, and I was the fish out of water.

We waited for the beat, and then each couple circled ‘round their partners with one hand, then the other, then both hands. One last dosey-doe before I looked up and grimaced nervously. Joey offered a huge smile, grabbed my small hands in his clammy ones, and together we pranced unevenly down the line like a pair of wild horses. Or rather, he was like a wild horse. I was doing all I could to just keep up!

Halfway back up the line, he twirled me around. I couldn’t stop laughing, and I could barely breathe from all the exercise. At the front of the line he again spun me around, and then we started weaving back and forth between the couples. It was so confusing! Half the time Joey had to pull me to the next guy, and half the time I had to push him to the next girl. Then we sashayed back up the line, pretending to look dignified with our noses in the air and our backs straight. Little Joey Sparks trying to look dignified. Oh, that was I sight I’d never forget!

We cast off, the girls following me and the boys following him. At the end, we clasped hands, forming a bridge, and all the couples paraded under our outstretched arms. The dance started all over again with the new head couple.

I loved it.

When the dance was over, Sarah Jane instructed the gentlemen to escort their partners off the dance floor. Joey offered me his arm and led me off the cement slab towards the refreshments table.

“Thank you for the best dance yet,” he laughed, bowing.

“It’s only the first one,” I countered.


I giggled. “Well, thank you too, sir,” I said and curtsied.

As Joey walked away to join the other boys, Luanne came flying back from her time on the dance floor.

“Oh!” she breathed. “Wasn’t that fun?”

“Magnificent!” I said. I was a little out of breath too.

“I stepped on my poor guy’s foot though!” she said. Then she burst out laughing.

“Why are you laughing? Poor guy!”

“Because he was a little kid, but he was all dressed up in a Civil War uniform, and when I accidentally stepped on him he said, ‘You stepped on my foot!’” Luanne’s voice mimicked a high-pitched, squeaky, indignant one.

I laughed.

“So how did my brother do?” Luanne asked. “I hope he didn’t completely act like a boar.”

“A boar! No,” I replied with a slight British accent. “He was quite the gentleman. Though he did wink at me. Twice,” I added.

“Oh really now?” Luanne’s eyebrows raised. “Well, despite that slight aberration, he has become quite the gentleman.” She smoothed her skirt. “But then, I have been working on him for 15 years now so I would hope he knows how to behave in polite society.”

I put my hands on my hip. “Oh, so I have you to thank for not being treated to the miseries of an uncouth boar, do I?”

Luanne smiled. “Yes, it is all my doing. I have transformed him from the boar of his birth to the gentleman you see before you today.” She swept her hand in the direction of Joey and his friends and then turned and nodded in satisfaction.

My shoulders shook from unreleased laughter.

“Wait,” I said, calculating something in my head. “Fifteen years? I thought he was only 14.”

“He turns 15 in January, so it’s been practically 15 years.”

“He’s two and a half years younger than me? I thought he was three years younger.”

“Nope,” said Luanne.

It didn’t make much difference, but when you’re young, even 6 months can make a world of difference. For example, if Michael had been 6 months younger than me rather than a year older, he would have lost almost all appeal in my eyes.

“So what now?” Luanne asked, looking around.

New dance, new partner. Suddenly I jerked back to the present. The dark sky made it harder to see who was who, but the white lights cast friendly glows on all the faces. I looked around for Michael. I couldn’t see him anywhere. Jennifer, his last partner, was talking with another boy with a few strands of mustache decorating the skin under his nose. I grimaced and turned away. Still no Michael.

“Let’s get a drink,” said Luanne.

“Ok,” I replied, absentmindedly, still looking for him.

We waited in line before the water thermos and then filled our Styrofoam cups.

“Mmm, I needed that!”

Sarah Jane announced the next dance, and a fellow came up and offered Luanne his hand. Then Logan, a stocky guy from our co-op chemistry lab came up and asked me. He also was wearing a Confederate uniform and a very serious expression. I almost refused, thinking I should hold it open for Michael, but Mom had told us in the car that it was considered rude to reject one guy for another. If I wanted to refuse a partner, then I needed to sit the dance out so that I wouldn’t be rude. Unwilling to do that, I accepted, and he walked me back to the dance floor.

As we stepped onto the cement, I caught sight of Michael escorting a strawberry-blonde girl to the line across from us. He was smiling at her.

Like a dart, jealousy pierced through my happiness. Was he going to enjoy dancing with her? What if he liked slim girls with long red ringlets? I thought back to my own frame. A little on the chubby side, but not bad. My hair was brown and wavy, sometimes frizzy on the top. I didn’t have any cute freckles, but a good smattering of pimples, depending on the time of the month. My ears stuck out. My forehead was too large. I frowned.

“What’s the matter?” Logan asked, peering across at me from underneath his bushy eyebrows.

I sighed. “Nothing.” I forced a smile and attempted cheerfulness. “Nothing!”

“You dance very well,” Logan said, after the music began.

“Thanks,” I said, a bit absentmindedly.

“Have you ever been to a Civil War ball before?"


"They are pretty similar to this, except people dress much more formally."

“Oh.” I snuck a glance at Michael and his partner down the line.

When the dance ended, Logan offered me his arm and led me off the dance floor. I thanked him, then set off to find Luanne.

The rest of the night was like a rollercoaster of emotions. Fun while dancing, restrained if I saw Michael with a pretty girl. Desperate loneliness in between dances, waiting to be asked by the man I loved.

Yes, loved. I did! I loved Michael. Goodness, I wanted to marry that fellow! And really, I was 17 years old. Realistically I could marry him next year. And to see him enjoying himself with other girls. It frustrated me to no end.

But then, as other boys asked me to dance with them, it did feel good to be noticed by someone. Sometimes, if my partner was especially attentive, and the dance especially fast, I would almost forget about Michael and have a grand time. Some dances you didn’t even stay with your partner but were passed from person to person. A couple times the song lasted long enough for me to have a turn with Michael. Those moments were wonderful! But they were just moments before I’d have to move on to the next person, not sure whether I was still on the high of having danced with him or if I was on the low of having left him.

The last dance of the evening came. The “California Waltz” I think one of the callers dubbed it. Luanne had already been escorted to the floor by a father who had taken pity on her, and I was about ready to take a seat on a hay bale and try not to let the night be ruined by my disappointment.

They say that when you give up, your dreams come true.

Just as I had found my hay bale and sat down, Michael approached.

Even in the dark, he had never looked handsomer.

“Lord God, help me!” I prayed as the butterflies threatened to fly up my throat.

Would he really--? Was he going to--?

“May I have this dance, m’lady?” he asked, bowing ceremoniously and holding out his hand.

Shy, I averted my eyes and looked down at his hand. It was a man’s hand. Larger than mine, fingers long and stubby, palm thick and meaty.

“Yes!” I squeaked.

The moment had come. I put my hand in his, and he led me to the floor.

My senses came alive. My hand pulsed with the feeling of his callused skin. The breeze felt sharper. The smiles on everyone’s faces brighter.

I looked up. The moon shown in splendor, and the stars winked down at me. My heart felt like it was going to burst.

I grinned. This was it!

James, one of the other callers, explained the California Waltz to us. We all started in a circle holding hands and walked four steps into the middle and four steps out. Michael was supposed to then take me in his arms—oh, be still my beating heart!—and we would waltz two steps, sorta tango-style, into the middle, where he would twirl me, and then waltz two steps out. That would repeat, but without the twirling. Then we would waltz around in a circle for 10 counts before he would spin me to the fellow on my right, and the pattern would start over. It seemed fairly easy after you got the hang of it.

The music started. My left hand held Michael’s as the circle walked in and out. Then we turned and faced each other. Michael deftly placed his hand on my waist and took my right hand. Heart beating wildly, I lifted my left hand to his shoulder. Our arms brushed. I could feel my ears turn red, and goose bumps broke out on my arms.

In, one, two, twirl.

Out, one, two.

In, one, two.

Out, one, two.

Then circling in each other’s arms, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. In all, the set encompassed a full 18 counts, not counting the twirling, and for all 18 beats I was in Michael’s arms—my Michael’s arms—his hand cupping my waist, my hand resting on his shoulder like it belonged there.

This must be what paradise feels like.

And then it was over, and he was passing me off to the next fellow.

But paradise stayed with me. I didn’t even think about what I was doing as I was passed around the circle, waltzing in, out, and around.

It was almost 11pm by the time Jen and I stumbled into the car, exhausted. Behind us the white lights still glowed across the enchanted dance floor. The moon had risen higher and flooded the fields with moonlight even as the bonfires were dying out.

“So did you girls have a good time?” asked Mom.

“Definitely!” said Jen.

“What about you, Trisha?” Mom asked, peering at me through the rearview mirror.

“Lovely, just lovely.”

I sat back in sheer satisfaction and watched the evening landscape sweep by.

I would never forget those 18 counts of the California Waltz. Not if I lived to be a hundred.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

fiction (v): the life and loves of a homeschooled girl

“The Kellar’s are hosting an English country dance behind their barn in two weeks,” said Mom one day in late October when I was 17. “How would you girls like to go?”

"Really?" Jen asked.

"You and Dad are okay with it?"

Sure, my parents had allowed us to learn English country dancing in P.E. But they had always kept a careful eye on the proceedings to make sure it was solely aerobic fun and no romance.

Mom smiled. "We think you girls are old enough to behave appropriately. And it will be with like-minded families."

“Who all’s going?” Jen asked.

“The whole homeschool group is invited. I know the Walker girls are going and the Sparks and the Bakers—”

“And Michael?” The words burst out before I could check myself. My face flushed.

“I think Mrs. Anderson said he wasn’t working that weekend, so I would think so.”

Michael had graduated that summer. Immediately he had started community college summer classes and an internship with one of the men at his church. Jen and I hadn’t seen much of him since graduation day five months ago.

I could feel the adrenaline starting in my toes and spreading upwards. I felt inexplicably giddy.
I looked at Jen. She smiled.

“Yes, we want to go!” we said.

I ran outside and spun around and around in our small suburban backyard. I would have run to the moon and back if I could have. I would have shouted and laughed out loud, but I was afraid someone would hear me and get suspicious. I was going to a English country dance, and the whole evening Michael would be there!

“Aren’t you just a little too excited?” came a voice inside me.

“This is Michael, we’re talking about,” I replied, all my emotions pouring into the thought.

For the five months of summer and early fall, I had been living on old memories. Memories of the wave of his hair, the Greek god-like profile, the firm jaw, the rare words exchanged. But for five years or more I had been living on make-believe memories. Of him smiling down at me. Of him standing close to me and tingles running up and down my spine. Of him choosing to come sit with me on the park bench while I watched the others play. Of him running up to me as I walked down a country road, of him peering into my face, seeming truly interested in what I was thinking, and maybe, when I was very much losing the battle of guarding my heart, I imagined him reaching out and—

But this was real. I was really going to a country dance and Michael would really be there.
I was 17. He was 18. We weren’t children anymore. Things (like courtship and marriage) could happen.

“What if Michael doesn’t show up?” came the voice inside. “Will you still be able to enjoy yourself?”

I stopped and chewed the inside of my lip. Enjoying the dance without Michael would be hard. I would be disappointed. I really didn’t know if I could enjoy myself if Michael wasn’t there. He was the reason why I wanted to go.

“Lord God, I pray that Michael comes. I really want him to come.”

Again, the tug-a-war of flesh and spirit.

“Lord, please help me enjoy the dance if he doesn’t.”

I pushed the thought aside and ran back into the house to work on math. The thought of math always sobered up any romantic thoughts.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

fiction (iv): the life and loves of a homeschooled girl

The flower girl began her march down the aisle. Dark red petals fell in clumps as she double-timed it to the front and was scooped up by her dad in the front row.

The music faded and the wedding march began. Everyone rose.

Then came Jennifer, leaning on Dad's arm.

My sister. Getting married.

The bridesmaid next to me sniffed. I glanced at the groom. Yup, he was tearing up too.

I couldn't help it, my eyes started to water.

Who cared if I had wanted him? This was a somber, serious, life-changing, grand, divinely-stamped moment.

My sister was getting married.

Actually married.

I sniffed, wishing I had a tissue.

“Who gives this woman to be wed?”

“Her mother and I.”

Just as practiced, Dad lifted Jen’s veil and carefully pushed it behind her head. He kissed her on the cheek, whispered something in her ear, and sat down with mom in the front row. I couldn’t see her face, but I could see the face of her husband-to-be. He took her hands in his, and I was right, he looked absolutely smitten.

“'And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.' Marriage is God’s idea,” the pastor said to the people gathered to witness the ceremony. “It is not a social construct. It is not a cultural phenomenon. It is divine in its essence. The uniting of two--a man and a woman--into one unit is God's holy design.” He focused on the couple before him. “God has given you two as a gift to each other. Treasure that gift. Recognize its source. "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord." Michael, you've found a good helpmeet in Jennifer. She's committing to stick by you through thick and thin. That won't always be easy."

I could see the groom glance at my sister and wink. My stomach flip-flopped involuntarily.

"And Jennifer, you have found a man who is committing to love you as Christ loved the church. That is no small task either. Both of you now have an awesome responsibility. The way you two live out your vows will be a testimony to the world of the goodness of God's design. In Malachi the Bible says, 'Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.’”


When I was 13, I wrote another entry in my little pink journal. “Walk in the Lord, focus on Him always and God will bring the right young man for you.”

Those words “young man” sent shivers up my spine.

Who needed Prince Charming? I wanted to be courted one day by a fellow with a button up plaid shirt tucked into blue jeans that came to my dad and said, “Sir, I’d like your blessing to court your daughter with the intention of marriage.”

I was so hopeful. I was only a young teen and, like so many other homeschool girls at that time, I wasn’t thinking about getting a boyfriend someday. I was planning on a husband.

When I was 14 I wrote Michael’s name for the first time in my journal. The Joyful Noise parents had hired a professional art teacher to come do a 6 week class for our group. As I related what happened the fourth Tuesday in, I subtly inserted his name amongst a list of who drew what.

“Jen tried to draw a 3D flower but it didn’t really work. Luanne drew a house with bushes in front. Michael drew a red caterpillar crawling across a leaf. (He did a really good job.) I drew a house too but my windows were crooked.”

I felt rather daring putting his name and mine so close together. Tingling while I re-read my entry, I wondered if someday if someone accidentally found my journal and read it if they would guess how I felt about Michael.

“Lord, is it wrong?” I prayed, ready to cross out the entry if I was focusing on boys too much.
I took a marker and scribbled hard across the parenthetical remark. I kept scribbling til not even a professional decoder could have deciphered the words underneath. There, that should be safe.

When I was 15, Jen and I were invited to a monthly praise and worship night for highschoolers. My parents discussed the idea.

Generally, they were skeptical of gatherings of teenagers. “A company of fools,” my dad had said when we had asked if we could go to our church youth group. They had let us try it for a couple months, until we told them about the upcoming movie night. The movie was a PG-13 adventure flick Dad had seen before. He told Mom it had language and sexual innuendo, and there was no way his young daughters were going to be exposed to that. Mom agreed with Dad right then that youth group wasn’t necessary to our spiritual well being.

But a monthly praise and worship night was different. And besides, many of our homeschooled friends were going.

Dad said ok.

I loved going. The music was led by teens, some that I knew, some I didn’t. There was a keyboard, a guitar, a bass guitar, and a few singers. The songs were more contemporary, so some of my friends weren’t allowed to attend, but they were songs that helped me cry out to the Lord. The lights were kept low to prevent distraction, and across the room hands raised in worship.

“Oh, Lord, You’re beautiful,” I sang. “Your face is all I seek.”

With my eyes closed I focused as hard as I could on that sentence. I would only seek His face. Because He was the only One worth seeking.

You see, from a very young age, I had had a relationship with the Lord. Sometimes I see children now and think, “All they think about is friends and playtime.” But it can’t be true. Because it wasn’t true with me.

I wanted to do God’s will. I wanted to do right. I didn’t want to watch the movie that our youth pastor thought appropriate if God didn’t think it appropriate. I didn’t want to wear tight jeans and spaghetti strap shirts if God wanted me to dress more modestly. I didn’t want to get caught up in admiring the hotness of one or another male friend if God wanted me to stay pure.

I wanted to follow God with all my heart.

“Oh, Lord,” the second verse continued, “Please light the fire that once burned bright and clear.”
And so I repented of the dreams that came in the night, warming my insides. I closed my eyes tight and rebuked myself for thinking of Michael standing a few rows back. I had snuck peeks at him before the lights went out. I reproached myself for noticing the many other young men in the room that were worshipping God with abandon, so attractive in their seriousness about God.

“Replace the lamp of my first love that burns with holy fear.”

After worship, we would head to the back of the room for “fellowship.” In other words, we’d divide naturally into groups of girls and guys, eat cookies, and inconspicuously flirt, or, in my case, watch others flirt.

One month I baked chocolate chip cookies and set them in the back before worship. Afterwards, everyone swarmed in.

“Who made these cookies?” Michael asked, grabbing his third.

“I did,” I smiled.

Michael groaned in exuberant pleasure. “They are so good!” He took another bite. “Yum! I love you!”

Immediately my stomach dropped, and his eyes filled with terror.

“I mean, I mean . . . .”

I laughed and waved it away. “I know what you mean,” I replied maturely.

He laughed nervously and inched away to join the other boys. I nonchalantly turned back to the girls.

He didn’t mean he loved me. He meant he loved that I had brought cookies.

But he had said it. He really had.

fiction (iii): the life and loves of a homeschooled girl

With infatuations came another personal conclusion. If you liked a boy, the appropriate action was to ignore him. Because the worst thing in the world was if a boy thought you liked him.

This conviction reached its zenith at a missionary meeting one spring when I was a self-conscious twelve year old. A man that had spent the last 10 years in Thailand had been scheduled to speak to our homeschool group at a local church. We arrived a little late, just as he was being introduced. I reached the pew first, and Mom motioned for me to slide in.

Midway down the pew, where I was being told to sit, was Michael, sitting with his family.
I wasn’t a girl to notice the color of his eyes or the kind of shirt he was wearing or the neatness of his hair. I never even talked to him in person, only in my head. But in my dreams he came unbidden, making me wake up happy until I realized that I had just entertained boy thoughts. Then the guilt wiped away my smile.

I couldn’t sit next to him. It would be sin.

I stepped back and tried to get Jen to step in front of me.

“Move!” she said impatiently.

I looked at Mom.

She motioned with her head toward the row.

A battle raged inside of me, and I froze. I couldn’t go in. I couldn’t sit next to Michael. I’m not sure what I thought would happen if I did, but I knew that was far too romantic. And what if our arms touched?

“Lord, help me!” I silently prayed.

But Mom was expecting me to obey her. The missionary was coming to the lectern, and my mom was starting to look more than frustrated.

“Trisha, go!” her words came in a forceful whisper.

Emotional tears pricked my eyes.

“I can’t!” I whispered back, lower lip trembling.

I glanced back down the pew and noticed Michael glancing at us curiously.

Mom pushed Jen forward into the pew, and I followed Mom.

The pressure suddenly released, the crossroads safely passed over.

My cheeks reddened in embarrassment. Did Mom think I had disobeyed her out of rebellion? And did Michael think I was some kind of weirdo for making such a fuss? My stomach flip-flopped. Did he know now that I liked him because I had refused to sit next to him?

Frustrated with myself and the complications of life, I wanted to cry.

Oddly enough, if I had been asked to sit next to a little kid like Joey, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Only eligible boys made me feel like I was in moral danger.