I said goodbye to Grace, and then I went upstairs to my room. I sat on my bed for a minute, shaking with excitement. Tomorrow was Sunday, which meant time to go to church. When my dad had settled in with his new job, I was finally able to convince my parents that going to church was extremely important.
To me, church was no small event. Some teenagers wore their jeans and slept through the service. I, on the other hand, could not be more awake as our youth pastor spoke. I took notes in the special blue notebook, and I highlighted the verses that I liked in my Bible. I dressed up, too. And, no matter how many times I go to church, each time is exciting, because I never know what God will reveal to me.
So, I began my preparation for the next morning. I opened up my closet and sifted through the skirts I had hung on the hangers. My favorite green skirt was in the laundry, because I had worn it to school that previous Friday. After debating over which color of the rainbow I should wear, I finally settled on a purple one.
It had ruffles along the bottom that were a dark, rich purple. The fabric from the ruffles to the waistband was a pale purple with peach paisley designs on it. White embroidery outlined the peach patterns.
I laid out the skirt carefully over my desk chair. I put a white tank-top and a peach cardigan there as well. My outfit would be perfect. I loved looking nice on Sundays, because I felt like I was dressing up for God.
I walked over to my jewelry box, and I pulled out my silver cross necklace, a silver bracelet, and two small silver hoop earrings with diamonds on them. I set them out by my clothes, and moved into the bathroom. Luckily, I had my own bathroom, so I didn’t have to share with Ethan. Not that that would be a bad thing, but I liked my privacy sometimes.
I opened the drawer on the left of my sink, and pulled out my Ziploc bag of soft curlers. With quite a bit of difficulty, I managed to get the curlers in my short, brown hair. When I finished it, I took off my glasses, rubbed face scrub on my cheeks and forehead, and brushed my teeth. I popped my retainers in, which I have worn since I got my braces off in seventh grade.
After I rinsed off my face scrub, I put my glasses back on, and wondered when my mom would give in and let me get contacts. I slipped on a tank-top and a pair of comfy shorts. I pulled back the covers, and propped myself up with some pillows. My Bible was open on my nightstand, and I picked it up, ready to read Romans.
The beautiful, encouraging, and poetic words of Paul filled my soul with happiness. I loved reading about the greatness of our God, and it comforted me to know how much He loved me. My favorite book in the Bible had the answers to almost all my questions about my faith. God taught me so much through the words in Romans, and I loved knowing that He cared enough to give me peace.
When I was done reading, I turned off my light, and laid in bed on my stomach, careful not to mess up my curlers.
The next morning, I brushed my teeth, put on mascara, and lip gloss- I never wore much makeup. I put on my jewelry and clothes, and then I pulled out my curlers. Springy ringlets framed my face. I was perfect for church, so I skipped down the stairs.
Ethan was at the table, silently praying over his Pop-Tart breakfast. I smiled at his cuteness. Some people wondered why we didn’t fight. I guess because we are Christian, we know better than to waste our time on Earth with silly things like not getting along.
I opened the kitchen cupboard and pulled out a box of Cheerios, my favorite cereal. After pouring my bowl, I sat down at the table and blessed my meal.
Dear God, I pray that today can be a wonderful day. I am so excited to hear what you want to reveal to me at Church today. I pray that this cereal can give me the nutrients I need to have full attention on you. Amen.
“So how’d you sleep?” Ethan asked me.
“I slept wonderful! I was very excited for church today, but I managed to fall asleep pretty quickly.”
Ethan knew all about my excitement for church. I had talked to him about it a while ago. He shares a similar excitement, but his is a little more internal than mine is.
I scooped up my last Cheerio with my spoon, and then I noisily slurped my milk out of my bowl. Ethan arched an eyebrow at my poor table manners. I just shrugged and went back to my slurping.
My mom walked down the stairs at the same time that I put my bowl into the sink. She pulled her purse out from the cabinet by the sink and when on a search and destroy mission for her lipstick. She was pulling out everything from her purse, attempting to discover the small blue cylinder that held her lip color inside. When her purse was empty and her lipstick was not to be found, my dad walked down the stairs with said lipstick in his hand. My mom shoved the assorted objects that littered the counter back into her purse and took the lipstick from my dad. After applying and blotting, everyone was ready to go.
We loaded up the silver minivan that I thought was way too big for our family. My dad backed out of the driveway, and pulled out of the subdivision that we lived in. A car horn honked behind us, and I turned around and saw Grace at the wheel of her family’s highlander. She was practicing driving, and since she was an only child, their family had a smaller car. I smiled and waved, knowing I would see her momentarily.
When I first moved here, and talked to Grace about Jesus, she talked about how amazing her church was. I mustered up enough courage to ask my mom to go, and she said that we could. We followed her family to the small one room building that has now blossomed into a three building complex. One had the main auditorium, one had the nurseries, and the other one was the building with the youth ministries. I grew as the church grew, and the church was the only place I felt truly at home.
My dad pulled into a parking space in front of the main building, and Grace pulled in right next to us. I got out, linked arms with Grace, and began walking towards the youth building- it was a routine that we had started when we were younger, and it had never seemed to have gone away.
She opened the door for me and we went to the end of the front hallway, and up the stairs in the back. The first floor was for the middle schoolers, and the top floor was for the high schoolers. On the second floor, TobyMac was blaring from the speakers that the youth pastor had set up by the top of the stairs. Grace and I bobbed our heads to the beat of the song. Before we went deaf from the loud music, we went inside the high school worship room. I set my Bible, notebook, pen, and highlighter down on one of the chairs in the front row, and Grace followed suit. I walked out of the room and went to go mingle with the other kids.
I saw a few new faces and welcomed them to our church. I gave hugs to a few freshmen to know that I don’t consider them ‘fresh-meat’. We were all them once, right? I saw my youth pastor, Evan, and I gave him a hug, too. He had been a part of this church longer than I had. After saying hi to everyone, I went back inside and took my seat. It wasn’t long before everyone else filed in and the worship band came out to play.
They played amazing songs, full of passion and wonderment. I sang my heart out to God through Christy Nockels, Hillsong, and Kristian Stanfill’s songs. When the band had finished their worship, Evan came out and opened us in prayer.
“Dear Heavenly Father, we come to you this morning in hopes that you can renew our minds. In this world, it is easy to conform to sin and wrongdoing. We pray that you can show us how to no longer be shaped by such evil deeds, but instead, start fresh with the promise of eternal life through Christ Jesus. Please open our hearts to what you each and every one of us to learn this morning. Amen.”
I was in awe at how powerful words could be when placed in the right orders. My heart melted as Evan began to speak and read the Scriptures of Romans.
“Romans 12:2 says this, ‘Do not conform any longer to pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ In these words, God is calling us to make a daring step. He wants us to go outside our comfort zone. I know that many of you can be content with your video games and quiet shyness. But, that’s not living out God’s perfect will for us. He already has a plan for us, but if we don’t act like He would want us to act, then we will go down the wrong paths, and never get to experience his plan for our life. If we go outside our comfort zone- that may be sharing your testimony with a friend, or talking to your parents about the glory of God- then we our life will be filled with the perfection of God.”
My heart and soul were in awe of the words pouring from our youth pastor’s mouth. It was as if God had sent the words by mail, and Evan was just reading the letter. I listened intently, scribbling down notes of how I can take the daring step to renew my mind and live out God’s plan for me. I was overflowing with happiness as the sermon drew to a close, because I was excited to begin to take a few daring steps.
Our youth pastor closed us in prayer, and hit the button on the remote that turned on the enormous speakers. An undistinguishable song came on, and I had to cover my ears to avoid losing my hearing. I spotted Evan towards the back of the worship room and walked his way.
“I just wanted to thank you for delivering such a powerful message today. I realized that I like to stay in my own little bubble sometimes, and I look forward to being able to renew my mind by taking some daring steps,” I told him.
“You are so welcome, Ella. Conforming is something that God has really laid on my heart recently, because I see so many kids your age slipping off the path of good, and it hurts me to see them not trying to get out of the bad stuff.”
I nodded in agreement.
“Well if you need any help with some more personal ideas for your daring steps, just shoot me an email, and we can set up a time to talk,” he said to me.
“Thank you so much!”
I gave him a hug and walked out the door. My notebook nearly slipped off my arm, and I was looking down as I tried to avoid it falling. There were a lot of loose papers inside, and I didn’t want to risk losing them. I looked up from my arm a little too late, because I ran straight into someone. I had fallen backwards on the ground, my notebook had fallen, and the small loose papers were scattered everywhere.
“I’m sorry,” I said, without looking at whom I had run into. I frantically tried to gather my papers before someone accidentally stepped on them. I saw someone else on their hands and knees helping me pick up the papers.
“Here,” the person said, handing me what they had picked up. I looked over and saw a guy who I had never seen before at this church. He stood up and offered me a hand to help me up. I took it, and he held onto my hand a little longer than necessary. Blushing, he dropped my hand, and ran his own through his short black hair.
“I’ve never seen you here before,” I said, my own cheeks flushing. He was a rather attractive person.
“I came with a friend today, but I really like it here. I’m going to ask my parents about coming here again,” he told me.
I nodded, and for lack of other things to say, I introduced myself.
“Well, my name’s Ella. I’ve been coming here for a long time.”
“My name’s Ryan.”
He looked like a Ryan.
“Sorry I ran into you, by the way,” I said. “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.”
“Yeah, neither was I,” Ryan responded.
Neither of us knew what else to say, so we stood their awkwardly for a moment.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you around,” he said.
“Yeah. I guess so.” I guess so? Is that really what I just said? Why couldn’t I have said something better and less weird? Wait, am I really obsessing over what I said to a boy? I’ve never done that before.
“You okay?” he asked me.
I guess my obsessing over my words had probably given me a strange look on my face. Great, now he thinks I’m a weirdo.
“Yeah. I’m good. And, I’m not, like, weird or anything.” I would have slapped myself in the face if it hadn’t made me look even more strange than I already was.
“I’m glad to hear that,” he said, laughing. His green eyes sparkled when he laughed.
“Okay, before I make a bigger fool of myself, I’m going to go,” I said.
As soon as he was out of eyesight, I smacked my forehead. But, that just left me in pain, and feeling like an idiot for what I had just said.
“Are you okay?” asked Grace.
“I’m fine. Let’s just go shopping like we planned.”
She knew me so well that she knew something was wrong. Well, I mean nothing was wrong, per say, but I thought it was strange the way I was acting over this boy. It had never happened before.
I climbed in the passenger seat of Grace’s car when we reached the parking lot. My dad was driving Grace’s parents home, while we went to the mall to go shopping. I turned up the radio, and we were soon on the road to the mall.
Once we got there, we went straight to the smoothie place and bought the largest, most calorie-filled smoothies there were. Each with a smoothie in hand, we went to find a seat in the food court. I took one sip of my creamy strawberry, mango, banana drink, and I immediately felt like I was in heaven. I had almost forgotten about my strange behavior with Ryan… almost.
“So why were you acting so weird before we left church?” Grace asked me.
“You had to remind me?”
She arched an eyebrow, and I proceeded to tell her the story of my stupidity. I have never worried about what I said to people, let alone boys. I have never reassured other people that I’m not weird, because I know I can be a weirdo at heart, and I’m proud of that. But never have I ever acted so strangely.
“I know what is wrong with you,” Grace said in between sips of smoothie. “You thought he was cute.”
I rolled my eyes.
“I am not some crazy, hormonal girl who thinks guys are cute. I am perfectly content with my single status.”
“Well, then maybe your first daring step could be to get a boyfriend,” Grace joked.
“I definitely don’t think that is what Pastor Evan was referring to.”
“I know,” she said with a smile.
We sat in silence, finishing our smoothies. I got up to throw mine away, and I saw a rather cute purse in a display window close by. Before I knew it, I was running into somebody. My smoothie cups bounced across the floor, and I wondered why I kept running into people today.
“It’s a small world,” the person said to me.
I snapped my head around and saw Ryan standing above me. Now I wondered why I kept running into him. I started to get up, but my foot slipped on some of Grace’s smoothie that had spilled out of her cup when I dropped it. I nearly fell on my face, but Ryan caught my arm and gently helped me stand back up.
“Thanks,” I said. “And sorry I ran into you again.”
He laughed, and his eyes sparkled like they did earlier.
“At least you didn’t spill the smoothie on me,” he said.
I was about to say goodbye and walk back to Grace, in hopes that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself this time.
“Hey, is this your phone?” he asked.
I nodded, wondering how it got out of my pocket. I guess that happens when you run into someone and fall down on your butt. I tried to take it from him, but he was messing with the buttons.
“Hey! I hardly know you and you’re messing with my phone. Can I please have it back?”
“With what?” I asked, very annoyed with his awful behavior.
“There you go,” he said, giving me back my phone. It was open to the contacts page, and he had just added in his number.
Before I could ask him what he did that for, he started talking.
“I think you are really pretty, and really nice, even though you run into me a lot. So if you wanted to text me sometime or something, I would like that.”
Not knowing what to say to that, I picked up the smoothie cups, threw them in the trash, and walked back to Grace.
“Who was that?” she asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said