So yes, I forgot to update yesterday. WHOOPS.

I am now, FINALLY, ready to tell some stories from Maranatha!

*later* This is SUPER, SUPER long. Feel free to skim. I just started writing about it and couldn’t stop!

August 6th

At 4:30 my alarm went off. Dad, sweetheart that he is, got up to take me to the (grandparent) Staley’s house. Right before we left, he swept me up in a hug and blessed me. I don’t remember the exact words, but I think I teared up a little bit. It’s a tradition I used to feel really uncomfortable with, but now I cherish it. It’s strange how many things I’ve come to appreciate now that I’m older.

We were pretty quiet in the car, as is the custom for Dad and me. I can remember many rides to and from church on Wednesday night where he would have the Royal’s game on. This was fine with me, I was usually reading. Whenever we did talk, though, he would always turn down the radio to let me know I had his full attention. Anyway, the back roads wound on, a hint of fog clinging to the fields of grass we passed. Some talk-show droned on as I sleepily pondered the trip ahead. I wondered how I should act around Mr. and Mrs Staley, if I would be a burden or a blessing. I wondered how stressful the music was going to be, and if I was going to have to play guitar. I wondered who the music staff was going to be, and if we’d get a long.

“Hello Melinda!” Mrs. Staley greeted me warmly as I rang her doorbell, a few minutes past 5:30. “It’s good to see you!”

I reciprocated the welcome, and stepped inside at her invitation. “Sorry we’re a few minutes late!” I apologized, walking through the house, swinging my violin. We chatted lightly while my Dad did the same with Mr. Staley, who was packing up the SUV.

I gave my dad a quick hug goodbye and jumped (literally, because the SUV is pretty high off the ground) into the car. I kept my little red pillow close to my chest, hugging it like a five-year-old would cling to a beloved stuffed animal. Much to my relief, the conversation with the Staley’s flowed easily, and soon we were on the road.

I knew from past traveling experience with the couple that they stopped frequently, and this trip was no exception. I slept on and off before we stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast at around 8 or 9.

“Would you tell this young lady that what she ordered is going to make her fat?” Mr. Staley told the waitress as she set down my plate of hashbrowns, baked apples and a biscuit.

“Absolutely not!” She replied.

I’m really glad that going into this I knew Mr. Staley’s sense of humor. While I didn’t necessarily appreciate it, I at least knew it was coming. I’m certain he never means it to hurt, but sometimes it’s a little too truthful.

As we ate, Mr. Staley read the paper for the first fifteen minutes or so as his wife and I talked. In the middle of breakfast, however, he abruptly turned to me. In his grim, questioning way he said “We might as well get this out of the way now. Where do you stand on politics?”

I laughed, a little nervously. “Well…I…must we talk about this?”

Mr. Staley laughed — at me, though not too unkindly. “How about this. How do you feel about Obama?” He spoke the words deliberately and clearly. He sat perfectly centered in his chair, finger on his mouth in a way that suggested while he was curious about what I would say, he fully expected it to be amusingly foolish.

I took a moment to choose my words carefully. “Well, while I don’t agree with most of his policies, I do believe that he is president for a reason. The Bible says that ‘the King’s heart is in the hands of the Lord’.”

Mr. Staley hmm’ed and moved on to telling me about a book he was reading. I promise I really do like and respect him, but the way he smugly lectures isn’t my cup of tea.

Let’s move on.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. I slept (“the whole time”, Mr. Staley joked, and I wouldn’t even wake up to hand him a water bottle), read the entirety of a Katie Weldon book, and listened to music. We stopped frequently, and there was a lot of construction, so the trip took about 15 hours. I can’t tell you how many times the joke “Melinda is SO MUCH TROUBLE” was made, both to me and people on the phone.

It was about 11:15 PM by the time we pulled into Maranatha.

I was a little apprehensive about seeing Josh. Thankfully, within the first ten minutes he mentioned that Jenna was coming to visit him. I instantly relaxed. He liked someone else! There would be no awkwardness, and no weird conversations with other staff about whether or not we were an item! HALLELUJAH. :)

He introduced us to some of the staff upstairs in Lebanon as they watched LOST. I’ll tell you more about them later, but Vienna, the other girl singer in the worship band showed me where I would sleep. I could tell I would like her. She had dark, curly hair, and was pretty tan. She made me feel welcome, but didn’t linger — she wanted to get back to LOST as soon as possible (I assured her I completely understood this, being a LOST fan myself).

After I had chosen a bed (the top bunk, much to my unvoiced disappointment) and made it, I stood in my room, unsure of what to do with myself. The last time I was here I was with Jessica. It was easy, then, not only to have someone else to talk to and discuss what to do, but also made it easier to be in contact with Josh. Boys weren’t allowed back in the girl’s dorm, and vice-versa. I wasn’t sure what to do for breakfast, what music stuff I would be doing, or even where to find him in the morning! Finally, Mrs. Staley came back and told me what the plan was, and I, too tired to be social with any of the girls, went to sleep.

I was still a little sick, and there were a few times that night I woke up and had coughing fits. Since it was one big room with about six other girls, I felt awful about this, and tried to muffle it as much as possible, but it still wasn’t so great of a night.

August 7th

I woke up feeling pretty tired, and also nauseous — something else that had come with this weird virus. For the first three or so hours of the day I had no appetite. …..NO IT WASN’T MORNING SICKNESS. :P

I met Josh out in the common area of Lebanon, and we drove to a local restaurant, much to my dismay. I had already used up a lot of the money I brought for food on the way up, and was hoping that I wouldn’t have to spend any while we were there. To increase my worry, Josh told me that lunch at Maranatha wasn’t provided.

Thanks for telling me that little detail before I got here, Josh I thought. He offered to take me to the grocery store later, though, which was sweet of him. In fact, he was a perfect gentleman all week, almost to a fault — opening every door for me, insisting on carrying things for me, etc. It was sweet. There aren’t many guys like that out there.

We talked about music, mostly, on the way to Toast ‘N Jam, the breakfast place.

After breakfast we drove to Grand Haven to stake out spots for the Coast Guard Celebration Fireworks Show that night. This part was good, I promise! Josh kept us laughing most of the way there. I got him to talk about Jenna, which was pretty cute. I love seeing guys talk about the girls they like. Once we’d found a place to save (a hilarious story in and of itself, involving a disgruntled sheriff, but I’m already rambling SO MUCH) Josh and I went exploring the town. There was a big fair going on, so we talked about Red Bridge friends while taking in the various spectacles. Part of me felt a little awkward — this was a very date-like thing to do. My discomfort reached its height when Josh offered to pay for a smoothie for me — but then, he said:

“Just a friend paying for a friend!”

Relaxing, I accepted. And oh my word, it was the best smoothie (“Just Peachy”, for the record) I’ve ever had.

After some more walking around at Grand Haven, we headed back to Maranatha.

Josh had a meeting to go to, and the Staley’s went to get settled in their hotel room, so I started for Lebanon by myself. I had walked for about a minute when I heard a man call “MELINDA!”. It scared me out of my mind – it was the last thing I expected. Sure, Josh had introduced me to a few people, but I really didn’t expect them to remember me! I turned around, searching for the shouter. I saw a bearded man waving at me, yelling my name again. It was Charly, the worship leader and pianist. He’s pretty tall, has about as much dark facial hair as you can imagine, and is pretty….well…foreboding. He’s really nice, but very intense. We exchanged pleasantries. He explained that he wouldn’t need me till 6 the next night, and gave me my meal ticket.

Then…I went back to Lebanon alone. It was weird. This was the point, I believe, when I sent Mel a desperate and pathetic email about how socially awkward I felt. I still hadn’t really clicked with any of the girls, who were all busy with different things. I’d talked to a few of them briefly in the bathroom, haha, but that was it.

Later in the afternoon I sat with a group of people, I don’t remember exactly who, but probably Vienna, Becky, Alex, Collin, Jasilyn, Gary, Mike, Alysson, Moriah, and Josh in the common room. It’s like a living room — there’s two couches, and four HUGE, comfy bean-bag chairs. On the wall in between the doors to the boys’ and girls’ dorms there’s a big flat-screen TV, a small kitchen area is on another wall, a big glass door leading to a porch on another, and on the last were three big windows.

“So Jenna is coming tonight, huh?” Vienna laughed, as Josh walked from the boys’ dorm with a new shirt on, looking rather nervous.

“Yes. PLEASE don’t make this awkward for me, guys.” Josh pleaded.

A gleeful round of laughter and joking followed this statement.

“Alright, Josh,” Collin, the bass player, said seriously. “Cologne on? Good. Now, breath check.” He said, sniffing near Josh’s mouth. “Ok, pits?” He said, and we all groaned as he lifted Josh’s arm up.

“That is a true friend right there,” Becky quipped dryly, blond, curly hair bouncing. “You should be grateful.”

Collin continued grilling Josh on personal hygiene. It was funny how much Collin (who was already pretty short) looked like a little curly-headed kid next to Josh. He was just barely 17, and, Josh warned me, an unrepentant flirt. I told Hannah later that he was pretty much a young Mr. Collins.

I got to know the other staffers by observing them taunt Josh.

Alex, the drummer, and also 17, was the classic surfer boy. Tall, blond, tan, quiet. Josh warned me that he, also, was a flirt — but was in “I like you, you like me, but we’re not going out” relationship with Moriah, a pretty 17 year old on kid staff. Actually, Alex reminded me a lot of Todd from the Christy Miller series.

Becky, who I think was in her early to mid 20’s, was on teen staff. She had a huge personality, and was always laughing and joking. Her curly blond hair contrasted with her dark haired sisters’ — Moriah and Alysson.

Allysson is 16 and sweet, she works on kid staff. I remembered her and Becky a little from the year before. We got to hang out a few times, including a friendly game of four-square with Alex and Mike.

Mike is 21, I believe. He’s a bigger guy, with glasses and scruff. He’s hilarious, and also really sweet at times. There was one night at a bonfire where he entertained a group of us for about an hour with a run down of the perfect dates for each season. It’s hard to explain how hilarious that was.

Jasilyn is about the same age as Becky, and also on teen staff. She has an adorably squeaky voice, an endearing laugh, and dark, straight hair. She just became a Christian a few years ago, and I got to hear her testimony after the bonfire I mentioned. We only hung out a few times, but she was so much fun to be with.

Then there was Gary. I had no idea what to think of him when I first met him. He has a shaved head and blue, blood-hound eyes. He was almost always in one spot on the couch, either writing, reading, or on his laptop.

I think I’ve introduce everyone…

Oh. My. Lands. I can’t believe how long this is. And here I couldn’t think of anything to write a week ago. *exhale*. OK. I guess I’ll continue this tomorrow.

Forget the senses thing. Frankly, I’m tired of it. haha.