On the Romance and the romance

0072009 was probably the second worst year of my life.

The first worst year was when I was 7.  I had felt as though there was nothing I could do to win God’s favor, and I would lay in bed in terror at night thinking about what could possibly please God.

Second to that was 2009.  My life fell apart in 2009.  Bad family news, terrifying panic attacks, a new problem sleeping due to anxiety, the meaninglessness of my life, and an acute awareness that I felt on the other side of a boundary line from God made this year worse for me even than the two years my father has ALS and we lost him.

For one thing, I had been on anti-depression medicine when my father had been ill and died, medicine that numbed me and basically made me feel like nothing in life mattered much at all.  I had for years found hope in Yankees baseball games, saving up for items for my Neopets, reality TV, the Twilight series, Lord of the Rings, Pokemon, whatever Mario game was coming out next, and so on.

But the year of 2009, all those things seemed to fade away.  Lose their flavor.  In a way I had never experienced before, they weren’t satisfying.  I’d always known they were never enough and I continually had to have more make-believe, more entertainment . . but I’d never before felt they didn’t satisfy.  I wasn’t on the strong anti-depressant I had been on, and my life looked more meaningless, wasteful, and unfixable than ever.

Bad family news hit only a few weeks after a personal blow that already had me reeling.  My alliance, Gus the white dog, was broken when Gus died suddenly in his sleep at 2-years-of-age.  Dogs had been a god for me for nearly all the years of my life.  I loved dogs more than I loved just about anything in the whole world, including, usually, people.  At that time, for a hermit-like girl filled with anxiety, I could hardly imagine what to do next.  I got a sunlamp that was supposed to help me feel less depressed, and when I woke up at 3 o’clock one morning sobbing for Gus, I sat in front of the light.  It helped a little, but it felt like everything else did that helped–just a trick to keep me from remembering how hopeless I really was.


This photograph (summer of 2010) was taken about a year after I came to Christ. This was a fun picture to take because I knew my knight in shining armor might not come for me. I was, after all, far older than I’d ever imagined being without marriage (and without even a boyfriend). I was okay with it, because my Knight in Shining Armor had already come and saved me.

I believed God had taken Gus away from me because dogs had been gods to me.  Since childhood, dogs and video games had been my last stand in the world of sanity.  Earlier in 2009, I had stopped playing video games cold turkey (after several failed attempts) with the vague conviction that I had been wasting my time and probably not pleasing God.

I’d always thought I could function as long as I had a dog.  I’d always thought I could be a little bit happy as long as I had a dog.

Dogs and video games.  I had needed them so desperately for years and years.  Now I had neither.

The bright spot in my day was calling a friend on the way to work.  He was one of my last stops before insanity.  I knew he was praying for me and that he cared about the throttling waves of anxiety I was having.

A combustion of things began to happen in my life.  I could go through it all, but I’d really rather give you the simple tale: through a life of bondage to sin, I had sold myself to Satan’s auction, to be carted away by the highest bidder, and no puppy or Nintendo game could get me away from that.  There was a war for my soul, and every demon in Satan’s camp was bidding on me, but then God stepped up to bid.  He paid for me with the blood of His Son; He carried me off; and I fell in love.

To be truthful, I did not know at the time that this was what it was.  It was simply that for the first time in my life, I realized God loved me and I loved Him back.  It wasn’t until years later, when I fell in love with Ben (but I’m getting ahead of myself) that I realized, Oh!  That’s what happened to me with God!  I fell in love!

Teej Play

After a drama at church, 2011.

Sometimes very slowly, and sometimes very quickly, everything in my life was flipped upside-down.  Much of what I’d valued dimmed until it was mere garbage.  And much of what I’d scorned brightened until it was gems ablaze.

I walked out of make-believe–it still tries to grab me by the ankles and drag me back in now and again–and I gave up my obsession with dogs to sponsor children who live in high-poverty countries.  For the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to feel loved by God.

The next few years were kindled with change.  Sometimes, I’d backtrack.  Sometimes, it’d seem like I’d hit a dead end and there was nowhere to go but backwards.  Sometimes, I fell in holes.  But GOD loved me and always found me, wherever I was, and always gave me hope He still loved me, even after all my sin.  He kept reminding me that the blood of His Son had bought me.  So I kept following.

“Unsociable me” joined a drama team at the church that became my church home.  I made close new friends for the first time in a long time.  We had Bible study on Wednesday nights before rehearsals, and I discovered that my friends had insights about God I didn’t, shared struggles I had, listened to my testimony and what God was drawing my attention to in Scripture, and prayed for me.

Sunday school became another place to make friends.  As I’d never been very good at making friends my age, I ended up joining a class of mostly 50+ believers.  Many of them immediately–instantaneously, even–adopted me as an honoree grandchild and I thrived in their love.

Me and Petting Zoo

Makin’ friends at the Creation Museum in Cincinnati Kentucky. My mom and I went up for an Apologetics Conference with Answers in Genesis, 2011.

Later, on the second round of an invite, I agreed to try a Bible study that met on Thursday nights.  It was for only single, young women and I found that scary.  I had a self-designated stigma from people my own age, especially women.

That was a spring session.  That summer, I was on my knees in my house praying for the Bible study that was supposed to take place at my house in about 5 minutes.  I’d invited, oh, probably 50+ friends, and didn’t have a clue who would really come or how many.  I had one friend show up.  We talked, prayed, and almost at the end of the time, a second friend showed up.  We ended up as a pod of 4 in God’s garden that summer, and it was one of the sweetest times of my life.

That was July, I believe, and about one year later, I let the four women coming to the study at my house know that we wouldn’t be meeting on the 23.  I was going on a very short mission trip to Guatemala.  I was scared to be off by myself with a group of people who might chew me up and spit me out.  I still had fears about sociality.  But I wanted to meet Helen, an 8-year-old girl I sponsor in Guatemala.  So, I decided to go, but not make friends with anybody on the trip unless, of course, they liked me.

I was guarded, but I found people no longer perceived me the way I’d felt they did when I was a teenager.  I felt really frightened the night before we flew out of Miami, and very anxious our first night in Guatemala. What I didn’t know was that one of the women from my Bible study back home–all sneaky-like–was praying for me to find my husband on the trip.

Helen & Teej

Meeting my sponsored child in Guatemala on a Compassion International trip.  Helen shares my birthday.

It all started with us piling toys up on a table.  Our first night on the trip, my roommate Sarah and some friend she had named Ben sat at the table with me.  Afterwards, we were supposed to pool any supplies we had to give the children.  I brought my suitcase of goodies from Oriental Trading Company, the $1 jewelry store, and toys I had on stock.  I was piling them on the table when Sarah’s friend Ben started helping me.  Somebody said to him something like, “Wow, that’s a lot!” And he immediately said something like, “This is all Teej’s stuff.”

I was really surprised he gave me credit, I guess because of the way that he gave me credit.  He was humble–like he really wanted me to be acknowledged–and I found that startling.  I didn’t say anything about it, though.

teej ben arbor funny

One of our first dates together. It is very likely we were disagreeing about something.  Look at my sweet conniving expression and his ‘nuh-uh’.

Throughout the few days we were there, Sarah kept inviting Ben to sit with us.  I didn’t know why she kept on doing that.  One time I avoided going back to our hotel room because I knew they were out on the porch.  But, they saw me, and invited me down.  Ben seemed especially eager about it, for some crazy reason or other.

The day before last on the trip, someone astonished me by unabashedly trying to set me up with Ben.  You might remember that I came from the world of make-believe, where I controlled everything.  In video games, there really aren’t any variables you don’t know about once you’ve played the game a few times.  You can always hit the restart button or go back to where you last saved and start over.  Getting into a real, unrepeatable, unknown relationship was too scary for me.  I wasn’t ready.

Well.  I thought I wasn’t ready.  God apparently thought otherwise, because Ben and I wound up sitting together the last evening of the trip.  I began, very slightly, to fall in love.

Ben Teej roses

I didn’t remember why I had this sneaky expression on my face, but Ben did.  He reminded me that I was blocking his face with the roses as somebody was trying to get a picture of us.  😉

The next few weeks after the trip were a whirlwind–and not of romance.  Ben and I were tripping all over ourselves and each other, praying to God for help, and trying to figure out if this was a relationship He wanted.

Ben wasn’t easy for me to cope with.  He wasn’t like a puppy that didn’t talk back and fit comfortably in my arms and whose day was made by the sounds of a squeaky toy squeaking.  Ben was a lot more trouble than that!  For one thing, he didn’t always agree with me!  For another, he wanted to protect and lead me, not me lead and protect him!  And even more shocking, it was a lot harder to know what to do with him without a squeaky toy for props!

I began to see that real romance with a man is dynamic, like the real romance of falling in love with God.  It isn’t something that you test out in a game and practice over and over until you get it right.  Sometimes I’d say the wrong thing, and disappointed myself, and sometimes I’d say the really wrong thing, and really disappoint myself.  Sometimes Ben didn’t do what I wanted.  (Horrifying!)  Nothing really went like how I’d daydreamed it would and lots of times there was a whole lot more confusion and growing and terror and just plain hardness than I’d counted on.

Early on, time and time again I kept wanting to quit.  But I never did.  I prayed to God, begged Him to help me, and practiced trusting Him.  And as I started really, really falling in love, I realized that this felt very familiar . . it felt very much like when I met my God.

Teej Ben 8

I call him my earthly Boaz.  🙂

Now, I miss Ben like crazy.  He lives over 17 hours away from me.  I can’t wait to see him again.  I want to spend every moment of the rest of my life with him . . and it reminds me of how I feel about Him.  In fact, Ben’s loyalty, devotion, care, tenderness, compassion, mercy, and humility remind me of the traits God showed me of His nature when I fell in love with Him.

I am still almost in disbelief when I realize that the Love of my Life, Jesus Christ, introduced me to another child in His care to be the love of my life.  When I look back on the patheticness of my life, I am even more amazed that He has loved me so.

God works in different ways with different people.  There are Christians a million zillion trillion times more worthy than me who go through their life single.  God doesn’t always work in the same way.  I don’t know why.  But I do know that He loves us, and that the greatest Romance of our lives is always available to us.  It’s Him.  Even if Ben were to drop me like yesterday’s news, the Romance of my life would still be here.

I am still shocked at times that he loves me.  And I will be shocked for eternity that He loves me.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8, NIV)

Published in: on April 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. I saw your picture at the Creation Museum and I cheered! I’m so glad you believe in creation and reject evolution.

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