It was 1983, and I was just 18, and in my first semester as an art major at the University of South Carolina. I was commuting about 40 minutes from home to attend college during the day, and spent most evenings and weekends serving up Delicious pizza at the hut in small town Lexington. I had only been in the south for just over a year, as my father had been transferred the summer before my senior year of high school and my parents and I had made the move from the cold snowy dunes of western Michigan, to the buckle of the bible belt in South Carolina.
It had been a year of complete culture shock as even the "language" seemed foreign at the time. As the "new" girl in a high school where my graduating class had more students then my entire former school had, both Jr. and Sr. high combined, I received a lot of attention. My clothes were different, my hair wasn't as big, I didn't carry a "pocket book", and I talked funny! Everybody said "yes ma'm" or "yes, sir" when addressing any adult, the halls were a chime with "hey" instead of "hi", it was y'all instead of you guys, "pop" became "soda", and when they asked to "hold" my homework, they really meant copy it! I will never forget the first time my new boyfriend asked if he could "carry" me home, and I laughed and said "well,I guess, but that's a long way, don't you think you might get tired?".
Just a few weeks after graduation my parents chose to separate after more then 30 years of marriage. Because I had been so very self absorbed at this point in my life, the separation had come as a total and complete shock to me. I hadn't even suspected that things were not right between my parents. All of my siblings were miles away, and the heart break I was feeling over my parents had become overwhelming at times. Just a few months later my heart was broken a second time by the boy I had hoped to one day marry. I had invested most of my senior year to that relationship, and although many people knew me, I had failed to make any real close girlfriends. My parents had always provided a very secure and happy home for me. I was the baby of the family, and had enjoyed the pampering and attention that came with that role. I had never endured any kind of hardship or even real disappointment before, and I now I was feeling very, very, alone.
As a freshman in college, I was being pursued by a few different very nice Christian guys, but I was not particularly interested in any of them. I didn't really hold out much hope that I would ever find the man of my dreams, so I had stopped "looking".
Steve Boyd was my youth pastor at the time, and he and his sweet bride Kathy had taken me under their wings in recent months. They would invite me over to their lovely home to eat, or to play board games. They would often call and check in on me. I am sure from the outside they saw a young girl who was a bit lost, and beat down, and they were just trying to reach out, and minister to their little Yankee friend. They treated me as their equal, and not like a child, and that felt incredibly good.
Steve had a beautiful green eyed red headed sister, who was barrelling head first into the mission field of China, and they invited me to come to her "going away" festivities. Kathy had confided in me that she and Steve had met this great Christian man named Mike at a real estate project when they had toured some town homes recently, and that they hoped to introduce he and Steve's sister to one another that night. I remember her saying that just because of his demeanor, they suspected, and then asked, if he was a believer. He answered with a hearty YES, and after a few good conversations with him, Kathy said, she and Steve were both convinced that this man Mike, and Steve's pretty sibling (can you believe I can't remember her name?), were made for each other! Their secret plan was to invite the young man to the party, and happily watch the sparks fly, only to seal the deal so that the sister would soon be accompanied in far away asialand by a suitable mate, and they would "mission" together, and surely live happily ever after. They had it ALL figured out how the Lord would take care of the green eyed beauty.
Our small crowd met at a nice darkly lit restaurant in Columbia, with candles at every cloth covered table, and although I don't remember much else about that evening, I do remember that the mystery man never showed up. So the pretty red head flew off into the wild blue yonder alone, to the sound of our humble rendition of "friends" by Michael W. Smith, and I went back to delivering ice cold beverages to hungry pizza eating customers, and finding my way in the enormous sea of USC students, studying "art", with purple haired, classmates with earrings and tattoos, in my perfect Calvin Klein jeans and shoulder pads.
to be continued