A Chapter of Our Story - Part 1
God's life-writing is my favorite. His sense of humor woven throughout His stories is overpowering. His descriptions are beautifully painted in sunsets and hands being held and deeps breaths and fireflies and long nights lying awake. His verbs aren't always what we would choose. Wait. Stay. Trust me. His pen travels places we didn't expect. It works in ways we didn't see. In ways we didn't see for years and years. In ways we still don't see and perhaps never will. His patience. Oh His patience! He develops us characters in ways we don't always like. We fight battles. Some we win. Some we lose. He so often writes "Christ's blood covers you" over us when the battle is lost and we lay in a gross heap of sins. He grabs us by the hand, pulls us to our feet, holds us in His arms. He forgives. He walks with us into the next battle we face. We are never alone in our battles. He's the author who never leaves our side.
The following is one of His stories. And it also happens to be mine. Christian and mine.
I've struggled with writing our story out, because parts of it are hard to explain. Parts of it I regret. Parts of it I love so much I'd rather keep to myself. So I may not write it all. But what I do share, I hope touches your heart and encourages you. God doesn't require perfect people to fulfill His perfect plan. His grace is unending. His forgiveness is free. His love is abounding.
This is not a typical love story. But is there such a thing? It's not the cookie-cutter example of what the perfect relationship should look like. But somehow, I wouldn't want that.
So this. This is our story.
We met when I was born. At least, I’m told we did. Not the exact day I was born, of course. But most likely a few days or weeks later.
I don’t remember it at all. Being a squawky, sleepy baby when I first saw him, it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. I probably closed my eyes throughout the whole meeting. And being two, he probably glanced at me for half a second and then toddled away.
At the baby shower our church had held for my mom, his baby brother, Calvin, stole the spotlight and got a ton of pictures taken with MY clothes being held up to him. Whenever I look through those pictures now, I shake my head. I guess Calvin and my teasing rivalry started before I was even out of the womb. Sixteen years later, it would be Calvin and I betting who would get their license first. I won, for the record. But to be fair, he won our long standing practical joke contest by dumping vinegar into my coke and causing me to spit it out all over the table in front of the adults.
I’m not sure where Christian was while Calvin was stealing the show at my baby shower. Probably at home with his dad. I’m told they used to eat dinner in front of the tv and watch Wheel of Fortune together when Mrs. Higgins was out. (basically the cutest thing ever.)
Sometimes I’m sad that I don’t remember meeting him. And my first memory of him doesn’t even come for a while. I remember vague details about our early years and play-dates, but most of them come from pictures and I can’t tell if I’m remembering or just imagining I’m remembering. I feel bad for not remembering him more. But that’s just how it happened.
Our lives were already intertwined, but not significantly enough for me to have noticed.
He was homeschooled from the very start. But I was sent off to public school. While he was learning at home & roofing houses with his dad & going on field-trips with friends, I was at school begging not to be at school.
For awhile, our lives were very different. And they would have only grown further apart if things hadn’t changed.
But they did change. All because I would cry about going to school.
Even in third grade, I would cry. It was embarrassing. None of the other students cried. But I couldn’t help it. And my parents didn’t know what to do.
Looking back, I don’t even know why I didn’t like school so much. I didn’t struggle with the schoolwork. My teachers all liked me. (One of my teachers even kept a picture of me up in her classroom for years and years afterwards.) I had friends. (And they were the best too. One of my friends was a boy from Denmark and we could barely communicate with each other when we first became friends. We spent a lot of time playing basketball together and slowly he learned more English. My other friend was a tall, hilarious, red-headed girl I thought looked like a Barbie doll. Her, the Danish boy, and I made the funniest three friends you ever saw.) I didn’t get picked on. But I wasn’t super popular either. I just sort of existed and tried to keep peace with all.
Due to my good grades and peace-keeping skills, I often got seated between the “bad-behavior kids.” Because I was supposed to rub off on them somehow.
Instead, they made it even harder for me to go to school. My third grade teacher would get so angry at them, and because I was seated between them, it often felt like I was getting yelled at too. The two boys I sat between would say all sorts of nasty things, and I would often go home and ask my mom what such and such a thing they had said meant.
Besides having a rough time with those boys though, I didn’t have any reason to hate school. And yet I begged and begged to be homeschooled. I see now that it was God all along. Because finally, at the end of third grade, God changed both of my parents hearts on the matter, and they pulled me out of school.
I still barely knew Christian. But now we were both homeschoolers going to the same church. Our parents had known each other since high-school, and our grandparents had known each other since they were new parents themselves. It would seem like our paths were bound to cross soon.
But then the Higgins had to up and go to Mexico to do missions work there. And I honestly forgot all about them.
Until one day they were back and we were having them over for dinner.
“How old are their kids, mama?”
That was a super important question as a child. The fun-ness level of the whole visit depended on the answer.
“They have three boys that are close to your age and two little girls,” mom had answered.
Boys? Oh boys. What was I supposed to do with a bunch of boys?
I had neighbor boys that I was super close with. But that’s because we had spent years playing basketball & getting muddy & imagining we had a time machine together. I knew them. I felt comfortable with them.
I didn’t know these boys. What if they liked legos or something equally frustrating? What if they were quiet and awkward and weird?
I didn’t want them to come. I dreaded them coming. I thought about how awkward it was going to be. And I wondered what on earth we would do.
But they came. And it was awkward. Because I was right… they were quiet, awkward, weird boys. What could we possibly have in common?
The adults wanted to eat outside and told us young ones to eat inside at the big dining room table. So we ate. And didn’t say anything. And avoided looking up from our plates lest we accidentally make eye contact and be turned to stone or break out in warts or something.
Mom came in to get something and commented on how quiet we all were, then left again.
Now Lauren is cursed with the desire to giggle during quiet situations. Especially when someone points out that it's quiet.
So she started to giggle.
And when she starts to giggle, I start to giggle.
And Caleb, well, he giggled too.
Suddenly we were all laughing. Hard. We were looking each other in the eyes now, and laughing at the other's awkwardness. Every time the laughter would start to die, and things would begin to get quiet again, someone would let out another giggle. And then we were all laughing all over again.
And that’s how true friendship is born. When you can laugh about absolutely nothing with someone for an entire meal.
I’m pretty sure we played a game that night. Because I remember Calvin helping me clean it up, and saying “Don’t you hate how your parents make you clean the house before guests come, and then the guests get everything dirty?” I couldn’t have agreed more.
By the end of the day, they weren’t just boys. They were friends.
Christian, however, was kind of old (I mean, he was like thirteen! A teenager! Practically in his grave!) & I didn’t know exactly what to make of him because he was pretty quiet and didn’t really notice me. Calvin was good-friend material. He was only a couple months older. He was snoopy like me & had all sorts of cool equipment we could use to make movies or spy on people. Caleb was three years younger. So he was slightly annoying and easy to fight with. But he was also hilarious. Him and I could (and did) laugh until we cried over the stupidest things. Once, we made up a story about a buck-toothed woman from Walmart and we still laugh about it to this day.
I didn’t realize how close we would all become. I didn’t realize how our friendships would grow. I didn’t realize that the oldest, mysterious Higgins boy would notice me one day, and that I would notice him back.
Flash forward a year or two.
We’re at a campground. Their uncle’s campground. Our little pop-up campers are set up & the parents are working on dinner.
One of the most important things about camping, is building a fire. It’s not important because you need to build a fire. It’s important because you want to build a fire. As a kid, it’s a contest and a way to show off.
I literally used to wake up as early as possible while camping, just so I could rush outside and be the first to build a fire.
That way (in my head anyways) everyone else would eventually wake up, come out of their lazy beds, see my roaring fire, and praise my super crazy impressive woods-woman skills. Quite possibly they would build me a throne made of oak and moss and bring me a crown of flowers and a cape of fur and all the little woodland creatures would rest on my lap and everyone would know that I was the best at building fires in all the land!!!!!
Christian, Calvin, and Caleb always beat me to it though. Joy killers.
They went fishing at unearthly hours.
The only time I actually remember succeeding at being *the one* to make a fire, was the time I built one in a neighboring fire-pit, forgot about it, went to the lake, and almost burnt the campground down.
Fortunately, someone saw it as the grass was catching on fire, and they put it out. Unfortunately, no one praised my fire making skills or built me a throne.
This particular camping trip stands out in my head though because of our hunt for firewood.
The five of us older ones went out on a firewood search-party. It was the best when people left free stacks of wood they hadn’t used behind. We would gather them up and proudly carry them back to our own fire-pit. Any large sticks & small dry twigs or leaves were added bonuses.
We searched for quite awhile, and finally found the jackpot. A whole pile of potential s’more-making wood stood stacked in a lonely, empty spot.
We didn't have a wagon with us, so carrying it by the armload was how things were going to have to go.
Christian began hauling his share away, while the rest of us gathered ours.
This next part gets a little confusing. It happened quickly, and being a child, I’m sure it was a lot worse in my memory than it would be if it happened to me today…
There was a man approaching us from across the campground lane. I remember him looking dirty. And dangerous. Dangerous in the sense that he looked like he wanted our treasure. And duh… there was no way we were gonna let that happen.
“Is this your wood?” he asked with a greedy smile mysteriously similar to Captain Hook’s. (or so I remember it seeming that way…)
“We found it!” we said challengingly. I'm surprised I didn't add an "aaarg!" It felt like we were dueling pirates now.
“Well I hope you don’t mind if I take some for myself.”
It wasn’t a question. It was a statement.
He picked Caleb right off the ground and moved him out of the way. Then started taking OUR wood!
Somewhat disappointingly, not much of a commotion followed. I was horrified. Some of us complained. But we were only a couple kids. So we gathered up as much wood as we could and ran back to our campsite.
We were angry at what he had done. I was angry that he had even DARED to touch Caleb! We were fuming that he had taken our precious find!
But obviously, It really wasn’t that big of a deal, and you may wonder why I even brought it up.
That was the first time I remember really feeling protective over my Higgins boys. Over us. We were a team. And we had all stuck together. I remember feeling SO CLOSE to them on that camping trip. The kind of closeness that has zero motives or reasons. I didn’t have crushes on any of them. I knew that they could be annoying. They knew that I could be annoying. But we were like brothers and sisters.
My desire for brothers suddenly felt appeased. I had the Higgins boys. They had us Smock girls. It was good.
The more years that went by, the closer we all grew.
We saw each other so frequently that occasionally we ran out of things to talk about because not much had happened since we last saw each other. In those instances, we would all gather round and watch movies together.
One of the most memorable movie nights was when we watched Fiddler on the Roof. Lauren and I hadn’t seen it before, but they all had.
We squished on and around the couch. I remember Christian singing “If I Were a Rich Man” in his deepest voice. I hadn’t seen him be so funny before, and I laughed my head off. We all laughed and talked through the movie. We passed around pillows and fought over blankets. And once again, I felt so close to them.
One evening we showed up and found Calvin and Caleb working in the backyard. They had built a miniature log cabin out of firewood. Complete with a fireplace and an actual fire and a roof and a door. It was close to dusk and the little cabin looked beautiful in the fading light. I remember being so impressed I could hardly keep my mouth shut. We played with the fire until Calvin became concerned that the whole cabin would burn down. He told me to grab a nearby bucket of water so he could put it out, and the magic of it all was just too much.
During this time, Christian was still that old, semi-mysterious person who didn’t really pay much attention to me. Sometimes, I spied on him with Calvin. because Christian often talked with the adults, and the adults usually had interesting things to say.
One afternoon, I sat at the kitchen table with Aunty Beth (as I called Mrs. Higgins) and told her that Christian wasn’t ever going to get married. She looked shocked but laughed and asked why. I explained that he didn’t notice girls and liked hunting too much.
“He would sooner notice a deer than a girl,” I said.
Mom joined in that the girl who caught Christian’s fancy would have to be wearing antlers.
We all laughed, but I really did believe what I had said.
Funny how it wasn’t long after that that our whole friendship suddenly bloomed. Funny how one afternoon at their lake house could launch us into becoming best friends. Funny how one summer of talking could propel us towards now. Towards forever.
to be continued….