The situation seemed all too familiar. The vans were being loaded and I stood and watched the frantic last minute details fall into place.
"It's too bad Brandon won't be on this trip." Micah sat beside me on the yellow painted curb. "We'll have to adopt a new quad member or something."
I took a drink of the gas station coffee in my hands and shrugged my shoulders as the lukewarm liquid rushed down my throat.
"Well, I know you wish he would have come for other reasons too," she said, nudging me in the arm.
"Yeah. I guess." My voice was weak and she picked up on my hesitation. Brandon and I had gone to prom together a little over a month ago. He had opened the car door for me, worn a tux, and even smelled good. I didn't have the heart to tell him then or now that it was not him I was interested in; that maybe his proximity to the one I did like had caused some confusion. But he was cute, and his interest was flattering and so we called each other occasionally and met up once or twice. We were semi-official, and as I sat in the humid air of that June morning I tried to avoid eye contact with the one that wouldn't go to Worlds of Fun with me. And even though Brandon and I were nothing serious, the butterflies in my stomach seemed like a betrayal.
Before Micah could question my disinterest, our leader bellowed out a roll call and we formed a circle. said a prayer, and loaded the vans for the long trip across Nebraska to our destination: Colorado. I pulled my backpack over my shoulders and made my way to the second van. I knew I liked the driver, and the backseat was empty. Perfect. Micah and I had stayed up all night with the plan that we would sleep during the trip. I was making the backseat comfortable when I heard his voice.
"Hey! Guess the quad is back together!" I shot a smile and acted like my pillow placement was very important.
"We can't be a quad without four," Micah, ever the science/math brain, informed him.
"Well that's why I've got Derek here with me," Brent retorted without missing a beat. They plopped in the seat in front of us and I knew I wouldn't be getting as much sleep as I had hoped.
* * *
I arrived in Colorado exhausted and elated. I had finally been able to catch some sleep, but that was after playing cards, being nicknamed "chicken skin," and having my hair put in frizzy pigtails by Derek. I shoved all of my belongings that were scattered about the backseat into my backpack and tumbled out into the crisp mountain air. I stretched my legs, and was twisting my neck when Brent walked past me. He turned around, his shaggy, long hair brushing the bottoms of his ears, and said, "Let's make sure the quad gets to ride together for the rest of the trip."
"Yeah, that sounds great." I tried to sound nonchalant as I reached my arm over my head to stretch it out. As he walked away, I hid my smile in my shirt sleeve.
* * *
Again we were split into groups for our day camps, and again Brent and I were in opposite locations. I figured this was for the best, as I was still trying to figure out exactly what I was supposed to feel about Brandon while in Colorado with Brent. So I busied myself with the kids. We did crafts. I read them Bible stories. We sang songs that had ridiculous actions. And in their presence there was no need for Brandon or Brent. I was loved.
I saw the way the kids looked at me and I felt compassion and kindness towards them, realizing how Jesus must feel when I loved him with childlike passion. I began to remember what it felt like to be in His control, releasing everything to Him. So I got out my pen and paper and, forgetting the boys around me, I wrote once again to the one God had picked out for me:
My companion and friend,
I rest in Christ right now knowing that I don't have to write the script because it's already been written by the master playwright. I rest in Him, but I long for you. I am satisfied in Him, but I want you near me, to hold me and love me and see me with the eyes that God intended only for YOU to see me with. I am secure in Christ, but I want your protection. I am happy, but I want YOU to make me laugh. I rest in Christ: I know all my needs will be met and He will provide us with so much more than either of our wants could dream up.
At rest with my Prince of Peace, waiting for my prince,
* * *
The days passed quickly and were packed with activities. One of our last days we were told we would have the chance to go to Estes Park, a beautiful and scenic state park. So we once again loaded the vans and began driving. Over streams and through bluffs and mountains we drove. I watched the rocks, green and slimy with moss, pass by my window. I was struck with the beauty around me.
More than an hour later, we poured out of the vans like liquid and marveled at the scenery. We chomped our gum viciously, trying to pop our Midwestern ears. We were instructed simply: have an adult in your group and be back at the parking lot by four o'clock. Lucky for my group, since she was in her fourth year of college, Micah was considered an adult. The quad and a few others took off on the nearest trail. We stopped occasionally for pictures, we talked, and at one point Brent even bent down and picked a light purple flower that was growing on the edge of the path. He handed it to me, no real intentions were evident, but I placed it behind my ear wanting to save it forever. We walked on and threw clumps of snow at one another, astonished at the novelty of snow at the end of June! How high up were we?
After passing a place we came to a clearing and got our answer: very high. There was a group ahead of us, and spotting our matching green shirts, they called us over. They were all staring at a rock face to the right of the path that shot up about 50 or 60 yards.
"I'm thinking this would be real easy to climb," Brett, one of the male leaders, told those of us standing around. Before anyone could object, he leaped onto the rock and was at the top in no time. Soon others followed. Since everyone made it look easy, and since Brent was at the top, I stumbled my way up. He's already got me climbing boulders for him? Oh, great! And I'm supposed to be playing it cool right now. Come on, Kels!
I brushed my pant legs off and looked up. I was frozen by the majesty that surrounded me. I looked at the others sharing this moment with me, and realized we were all speechless. Some stood, some sat, some looked dangerously close to the edge, but we were all silent. And then someone to my left began reading from the bible they had brought along in their backpack:
"You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall…for who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights…" [2 Samuel 22]
As I listened to the words the lines from the hymn, "The Wondrous Cross" sprang to my mind: Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. I realized in that moment that the God that made the trees, the mountains, the lakes, the birds, the rocks, the streams--all of it!-- would rather have me to worship and love Him. Someone started singing "Amazing Love" and as others joined I realized that the God that made the masterpiece around me surely had my love life under control.
We remained upon that rock until we knew we'd be late if we lingered any longer. We crawled back into the vans, refreshed and changed forever by our unique experience. Dusk was setting over the mountains around us, and as we dipped and weaved through the hills the darkness took away my view. With no more entertainment outside the window, I turned to the boy in the seat in front of me. I didn't ask why he had rejected my invitation to Worlds of Fun two years earlier, or what he had seen in Holly last summer on our trip when he wouldn't even talk to me, or why in the world he let me say yes when one of his best friends asked me to go to prom, but instead focused on what this trip had done for our friendship.
I leaned forward onto the speckled gray seat, "Isn't your head hot with all that hair you have now?" Lame. Lame. Lame. I reached over the seat back and tousled his long, dark mane.
"Oh, scratch to the left a little bit?" He said it jokingly, but I did as he asked. Before long he was nearly drooling. We were having a real conversation and he was putty in my hands, so I kept on scratching. And scratching. And scratching. My hands were coated in his hairspray as we pulled into the church parking lot. He thanked me profusely, and I assured him it was nothing. Fear crept up my back as I thought I had maybe laid my cards on the table too soon. He had to know I was interested now. I just couldn't convince myself to worry too much though, because I had had a great conversation and gotten lots of smiles from the quiet boy whom had first intrigued me two years earlier.
* * *
I shoved my empty duffel bag under my bed. We had gotten back the night before, July 3rd. The plan for today was to head over to the small town twenty minutes away, where my new favorite guy friends resided, to watch the firework show. Afterwards we would have a bonfire. My mind raced with a multitude of scenarios-- Brandon would be there. Brent would be there. I was supposed to at least sort of like Brandon, but I hadn't even heard from him since I'd been back. And then there was the hair tousling that had left me even more twitterpatted about the possibility of Brent.
I tossed my dirty clothes in the laundry basket, praying for the clarity I had experienced on the mountain top. The phone started to ring and Mom, my own personal caller I.D., picked up downstairs. "Kels! Phone!" She hollered up at me. I grabbed the phone and plopped on the cool tiles of the bathroom floor.
Brandon. My mind froze. Was he calling because he heard I had gotten closer to Brent? Was he calling to make sure I remembered the firework show? Had he missed me? Oh, I hope he didn't miss me too much!
"Yeah…" I stammered. "Sorry."
"How was the trip?" Was he trying to weasel a confession out of me?
"Awesome. Really. It was great. The kids were fantastic and the mountains…oh the mountains…they were beautiful."
"Yeah?" I could feel my heart racing.
"So… um… well, while you were gone I was thinking about stuff and well, this-is-just-weird-since-you're-too-much-of-my-friend." It came out in once jumbled sentence. If he were standing in the room with me, I could have hugged him!
I exhaled the breath I had been holding and, probably too excitedly, said "I was thinking the same thing."
"Well, cool! You should definitely still come to the bonfire tonight, though."
"Cool. See ya there."
And that was that. It was just what I needed: an easy conversation, no hard feelings, and no awkwardness between us.
I jumped in the shower. I needed to shave my legs and wash my face. I had a fireworks show to attend.