This story was put on the back burner while I made a quick trip to visit my mom who's been having some new challenges and difficult days. My wonderful husband took care of the boys so that I could go to Pennsylvania last weekend and spend some time with mom and dad and....the first little girl to be born into our side of the Slagenweit clan! She joins SEVEN grandsons....bless her little heart! So here it is (on our 10th anniversary no less!).
The more I write on this story the more I realize how MANY things were going on during this time in our lives. November came and I realized that I could not continue taking care of Mrs. Forrester and going to school. This meant finding a new apartment (and having to start paying rent - which was not in the budget) and looking for a job. God opened a beautiful door when he led me to Mrs. Barbara Tomlinson's home. She was a widowed, Methodist lady who had a little apartment off of her garage with a bedroom, bathroom and vanity area. I was able to use her laundry, kitchen and the rest of the home for $100 a month and we hit it off splendidly! That was a great step in reducing my stress load.
Christmas was approaching and near the end of November I had just shut my apartment door to leave for cantata practice at the church when I heard my phone ring. Since I had some time I decided to go back in and see who it was. On the other end was Mr. Philip Brown himself! Bob Jones had a Christmas vespers service (a service in which music, drama, and/or recitations center around a theme) that was required attendance but you could choose to attend from two or three times it was taking place. Philip had forgotten about cantata practice but he asked me if I was planning on going to vespers. Since we both had to go Philip asked, "May I join you?" Not, "can we go together, may I take you, etc." but rather a very carefully thought out plan to make this very non-date-like.
I'm not sure when (that's Philip's side to tell!) Philip began asking the Lord for permission to ask me to date but felt a very definite, "No!". Multiple askings over an extended time yielded the same answer until he began to think that it was not to be. Though there didn't seem to be an answer to why he couldn't ask, he followed the Lord's leadership and kept the relationship very informal and uncomplicated. What he could not have known was that God was looking out for me in a special way during this time. Having been very disillusioned with the whole dating scene, I was not about to jump into the foray again.
One evening he walked into his apartment and God told him, "You may ask her." It was so out of the blue that Philip couldn't believe it and spend the next half-hour in his walk-in-closet verifying that it was indeed God's leading! As soon as he knew that it was God's leading he picked up the phone and called - just as I was walking out the door.
So when he asked, "May I join you?" I didn't see any good reason to turn him down - we both had to go, might as well go together - it's Christmas after all and neither of us had family or close friends with whom to attend. So I said yes. As I walked out of my apartment again and shut the door it began to hit me what I'd done. I would be showing up at a major event on campus with a very eligible bachelor - it couldn't help but be noticed. It was bound to get out and I'd need to let me mom and dad know so they didn't hear it second hand. The absurdity of it all - I (elementary education major, farm girl, nobody) had a date with Philip Brown (PhD candidate, city dweller, everyone knew who he was - and consequently - watched)! And I began to laugh - and continued to laugh like an idiot the whole way to church. No one was going to believe this! I couldn't believe it!
We had a very enjoyable evening. I drove to campus, we met in the lobby and proceeded to find our seats. Philip had just finished reading, "Desiring God" by John Piper and shared his thoughts on the book. The vespers service was beautiful and definitely put one in the Christmas spirit. We had a few final interactions before I left to go home on Christmas break but there didn't seem to be any reason to contact each other over the holidays, so we went our separate ways.
Unknown to me at that time - this break was not to be a "break." Withing 24 hours of arriving home my mother was in the ER in horrible pain. We waited for hours and I finally went home only to wake in the early morning hours to hear my dad sobbing in his room. He had tried desperately to convince the doctor's that something was very wrong with my mom but they just couldn't find anything but he refused to bring her home until they did further testing. It would turn out that my mother had a blood clot in her mesenteric artery and within hours she was in the operating room. Needless to say, it was a very stressful time for everyone involved but we made some great memories in the hospital over that Christmas time.
Philip was not only my Sunday School teacher but also the assistant pastor at the Easley church. John Parker asked Philip to keep abreast of my mom's situation so he would call periodically or e-mail to see how mom was doing. After the first time he called, I walked into mom's room where she was hooked up to every machine imaginable and barely conscious and said, "Mom, you'll never believe who called to see how you were doing. Philip Brown called from South Carolina." She got a silly, drugged smile on her face and said, "I think I'm being used as an excuse!" After Christmas mom was released from the hospital and I began packing (at her insistence!) to go back to school.