Our church youth group used to put on these "coffee shops" where we would invite our friends, have live music, the Word of God, and just hang out. These coffee shops would usually take place in my parents' backyard. We had one in mid-November of '01 and I so badly wanted to invite Ben, but decided not to because 1) my ex-boyfriend and I had just broken up and didn't want to cause any drama bringing a guy around even if he was just a friend 2) he was much older and cooler than me, so why would he ever want to hang out with a 19 year old 3) I didn't even know how to invite a guy like Ben. He was too dreamy and just made me nervous all over!
But then a God-thing happened... the day before the coffee shop, while Ben and I were working the fitting rooms together, he told me that my ex-boyfriend (well, he didn't say ex-boyfriend then, but used his name) had invited him to the church event going on at my house and to talk to me about it! Aye carumba! You bet I was excited!!!
You may be wondering if Ben knew that guy was my ex-boyfriend and he did, not from me because I didn't dare tell him, but my ex-boyfriend had mentioned to him that I was his ex-girlfriend and that we may eventually get back together, yada yada... I told you, usually that relationship was a never ending cycle. Not healthy at all, but it is hard to let go and takes some time (or in my case, someone) to do so.
Anyways back to the story. I was so excited that Ben knew about it and not from me that I was totally playing it cool and saying things like "Yeah, you should definitely come!" Another God-thing was that Ben and I were practically neighbors. When he decided to move out to Southern CA he moved in with his cousin's family, who happened to live 10 minutes from me! Seriously, that was all God's planning, though we didn't really know it at that time. Thus, I was also telling him that it was so close by to his house, that he might as well come by! I even got bold and told him I would pick him up and give him a ride if need be. I figured hey! I didn't invite him, someone else did, so the least I could do is reach out and be courteous, right?!! Right.
Well, I wrote down my phone number and my address and I was so nervous while doing so. I wanted to make sure my penmanship looked fabulous, but was too giddy inside that my writing came out horrible. Then, he wrote down his info for me on a Gap business card. I remember bidding him farewell because I was off work before him, but still reminding him to come to the coffee shop.
The next day was pretty busy setting up my house for the coffee shop. There were lots of kids from the youth group cooking, practicing, and getting everything ready. But in the afternoon, amidst the chaos, I distinctly remember my parents saying, "Ruby! Phone!"
I yelled, "Who is it?"
They said, "Some guy named Ben."
Ahh!!! My insides melted. Oh. My. Gosh. He called! Then, I looked at them and said, "It's the cute guy! The cute guy!"
I tried to stay calm, grabbed the phone, and went upstairs to where it was much more quiet. Once I got off the phone, I declared to my friend Nina and parents that I was going to pick up "the cute guy!" His car had broken down and he asked if I could pick him up, so he could attend. I remember my dad saying, "Take Nina with you." but I didn't want to and said, "Don't worry, I will be fine." Oh, I am so sneaky.
I picked him up and was so nervous about my driving because I didn't want him to think I was a bad driver. He came, met a lot of my friends, listened to the music and message, met my family, came into the house and looked at the family pictures my mom had up on the wall (this part is important because my mom says that at this moment and the way he was observing our family pictures, she knew this was going to be the guy for me, but she knew we had some obstacles to overcome first). He is a very well-mannered guy and a really good listener that made him easy to talk to. Though, people do say when you talk to him it feels like he is looking into your soul that you almost have to look away, but I think it is those huge eyes of his and the fact he is really attentive. The end of the evening came and it was time for me to drive him home.
As we were leaving, my ex-boyfriend walked up to the car and reminded me that we were going to go to Denny's together with our group of friends (he had no idea I was totally infatuated with our co-worker) and that he would wait for me. He asked Ben if he wanted to go and Ben politely declined and then I just said, "I'll be back" and left.
Once we got to Ben's house, we started making out. Kidding! We really didn't. Actually, we just started talking. My car was still running because I thought we were just going to chat a bit and he was going to get out, but he didn't and we didn't chat just a bit, but chatted for well over an hour with my car running the whole time! I didn't want to turn off the engine because I didn't want him to feel obligated to keep the conversation going, but he never got out, so the conversation kept going. We were just joking a lot and I remember just looking at him while he was talking and ogling about his cute face inside my head! He finally did get out and I drove home.
When I got home almost 2 hours later, my best guy friend called me saying I was in trouble because I was supposed to go to Denny's with you know who and you know who was waiting a long time for me to come back. Oops! That night did start drama and talk amongst people even if nothing was going on, but it was bound to happen. It was funny too cause when I went into my bedroom that night, I noticed all the pictures of my ex had been put face down thanks to my friend Tiff who was trying to send me a subliminal message. It worked eventually, but drama was definitely involved for a few months.
Honestly, I was really attracted to Ben, but I really didn't think anything would happen. At that point, he was just eye candy and from my conversations with him, I didn't want anything to happen because I knew he didn't even believe in God. I never wanted to get into anything with someone who didn't believe the same thing as me, but I didn't mind hanging out with him since he needed Jesus after all, so someone had to tell him, and he wasn't so bad on the eyes...
I remember Ruby's ex-boyfriend inviting me to this "coffee shop," which sounded like a large number of people from their church hanging out and fellowshipping on a Saturday evening. It was a polite offering, but let's just say at the time it wasn't at the top of my list of things I really wanted to be doing on a Saturday night, even though Ruby had followed up his invite with an invite of her own.
I had gone out with a co-worker, and a group of his friends that Friday night before (a night that involved a limo, clubbing, and dancing on tables in LA). After crashing at his place in Long Beach, I was ready to head back home Saturday afternoon... to get ready for a night of hanging out with "religious people?" Heck no, I had plans to go out with an old HS buddy living in LA to a real par-tay...
And that's when God showed me He had different plans for me. As I drove off, there was this horrendous grinding and shaking coming from the engine. I was so rattled by the sound that no more than a mile into my commute back to Walnut, I pulled over and though it would be best to have it towed. (Turns out the problem was that the transmission needed to be replaced. Wow, God really didn't want me going to LA that night!)
Well, as you can imagine, I wasn't thrilled at that time. I got home, bummed I couldn't enjoy the Saturday night as I had anticipated. So, being grounded, I did the unbelievable... I called Ruby to see how I could go and hang out with a bunch of "church people!" (I present it this way as "church/religious" people not out of disrespect, but rather out of complete naiveté and ignorance.)
Looking back, if I was to label myself, I think I'd say I teetered between atheist and agnostic. Yeah, I know, pretty confused. But what I was sure about was that attending church or Christian gatherings, while fine and respectable for others, just wasn't for me.
So, if you knew me at the time, vehicle or no vehicle, for me to attend a function like this, on a SATURDAY night, was pretty inconceivable. Even as I write this, I still have trouble believing it. But, as mentioned in the previous post, I had a carefree attitude, open to trying new things. I remember thinking at the time, what's the harm in learning about another religion? All of this, evidences of God's grace and Him working in me and changing my heart.
I explained my predicament to Ruby and she kindly offered me a ride. When I arrived at her backyard I really stuck out. Completely innocent to the dramatics surrounding her ex-boyfriend, I thought people were peering because I was one of the only (if not the only) non-Filipinos present. I did feel as though all eyes were on me. (Remember in ScoobyDoo, when Scooby and Shaggy would be in a haunted house, and there would be a picture frame on the wall and the eyes would move and follow them? And then when they looked at the frame the eyes would cease to move? Kinda like that.)
I remember meeting Ruby's mom and dad, amazed at how young they looked. I was impressed with the spiritedness and effervescence of Ruby's mom; I could see where Ruby got all this from! I also got the pleasure of meeting the 4th grade version of this little cutie (now my sister-in-law); Ryan and Reinna weren't there for some reason; there is a funny story of meeting Reinna for the first time over the phone though!
After trying Boba/Thai tea for the very first time, and listening to this young guy with a shaved head, preach for what seemed like an eternity, especially after advertising he'd be doing it for just a few minutes (he's now my pastor, and I'm so blessed to be led by him now; the irony is that when he's done with an hour-long sermon, craving for even more I say, "That's it?"), it was time to go back. Ruby drove me back in her white Toyota Celica GT. We ended up talking and laughing in her car, with my door open and a cat lingering, for like an hour in front of my cousin's house. Were we flirting? Maybe.
read part one: when we first met...
read part two: the days after...