July 16, 1995 – Sunday – 11:06 p.m.

I’m back home from Fishnet.

Friday was a good day.  I went to most of the programs and heard many great speakers like Winkie Pratney and Josh McDowell.  Steve Camp was in concert that night.

We met two guys in their early 20s.  They were from North Carolina and their names were James and Jonathan.  They fit right in with us and we had so many laughs.

Then Saturday came!  Another great day!  Rebecca St. James sang that night.  I got her autograph for Kevin on a huge poster.

I let it all go that night.  I ran and jumped around on that Virginian hillside cathedral.  I shouted Hallelujah so loud!  I sang so many songs.  I smiled at the Lord and felt him smiling at me.

That night, last night, would be my last night for a while at Fishnet.  And I realized that, sadly.  But so many new and different things occurred after the service on that wonderful night.  We got a visit from a woman named Rhonda with two small children named Skinard, age 6, and Andrew, age 4.  They came over because lightning was in the sky and the wind was all of a sudden on a move.

Skinard fell asleep while we were all sharing what Fishnet meant to us.  Then he woke up crying.  His stomach hurt.  It turns out that he hadn’t used the bathroom in the past four days because he was scared to use the Port-O-Let.

Well, the wind blew harder and we had to take the tarp down.  I was trapped under it with the two kids.  They were scared and crying.  Everyone was outside and trying to hold the tarp down.  Skinard got so scared from the wind and the thunder that he finally relaxed his bowels and let the poop flow.

There I was, under a blue tarp with white lightning all around, holding two extremely tanned kids, one whose white butt was now covered with smelly brown crap.  A colorful evening.

I tried my best to comfort those two scared kids while their mom took down their tent so they could leave that night and return to their safe and warm Richmond home.  I tried to tell the kids some funny stories and jokes, but they just really wanted me to pray.  After I finished one prayer, Andrew immediately asked me to pray again.  I stayed with them for 30 minutes before their mom returned and ran them down to her packed car.

The rest of us piled into the van so we wouldn’t get struck by lightning.  The storm passed and some went to sleep in their tents, but others, like myself, slept in the van.

Morning came and we sadly packed everything up and left one of the most wonderful places on this planet.

Now, let me take the time here to continue the story of some of these individuals.

Lisa and I got along pretty well.  She is my high school buddy; one of the two or three that lasted.  There was a moment where Lisa and I hugged, our cheeks pressed tightly together, and I became very thankful for this girl whom I’ve known for the past five years.  You are a special friend to me, Lisa.

Kristen, my new-found-Fishnet-friend, my Forrest Gump-puke-attack-helper, and my dear friend for life, grew more this Fishnet.  She tries so hard to do what is right.  She is a good wife.  She has a good husband.  Her husband calls me her boyfriend.  She doesn’t understand though that life is a collection.  She loves Fishnet and wishes it would never end.  I am her buddy.  In her words, she would point to me and say, “Dag, I love that mug!”

Dana and I grew closer.  She is a very funny person and I hope that we can see each other more at school this next year.  Bradley, Dana’s brother, will be a freshman at ASU in the fall.  He wants me to come see him.

While at Fishnet, Bradley came up with some small poems I thought were hilarious.  I’ll write them in here to amuse myself later:

Wind blow

Wind blow

Sally Smith

And Joe Blow

What do you know?

Not much

Why?

Belly button

Belly button

That’s what I’ve been huntin’

I found it in my tummy

So now I feel like a dummy

I searched all my life

And it caused me so much strife

Oh my

Why?

He’s a funny guy and I’m proud to call him my friend.

Tony and Leslie, as well as Jonathan and James are some of the most unique individuals I know.  These past five days were the greatest and they helped make them that way.

Thank you everyone.

There were two others with me at Fishnet, but I’ll explain them to you in a minute.

Kevin picked me up from High Falls and I gave him the Rebecca St. James autographed poster.  He seemed to like it.  He actually hasn’t said much to me.

I came home to my Visa bill and a clean bathroom, but I prefer the dirty ones at Fishnet.  Jonathan is not here.  He has moved out.

Veronica and her family were at church tonight.  She doesn’t like my haircut and she let me know that.  I talked to her mom for the longest time tonight.  After youth group, there was a party for Pastor Steve and Nancy’s 15th wedding anniversary.

Shirley is the greatest.  She loves her family so much yet she is so concerned with my life; the way I wish my own mom would be.  I told her that it is sad that my home church feels like a different world.  In my world I only have two special faithful friends.  And they are not Jenna and Tenielle.  Of course, they will always be great, but Jenna only sees Sam these days and Tenielle, well, she is just too young to know.

Shirley said she was sorry that I was lonely and to keep my chin up.  I sure have missed Shirley this past year.

Veronica has grown up in body.  She was holding Jasmine and when she handed her to me, her breast ran down my hand.  That part of her sure has grown as fast as puppies grow.  And it hit me.  This little girl is less than a year younger than Emily when I first met her.  Emily has seen a different slice of life than Veronica has.  In talking to Veronica I discovered her maturity has grown as fast as rocks grow, which is to say not much at all.

I told Shirley that all of my true friends were not of this world.  These two friends are not of this world, but they were with me at Fishnet.

The first one’s name is Emily.  She seemed to be constantly with me.  It really felt like I could see her and talk to her.  And I did.  I whispered little things to her.  Every time I thought of her, a smile filled my face.

The second and greater one’s name is Jesus.  Not only did I talk to him, but I worshipped, praised, and adored him.  I told him so many things.  I was smiling every minute.

So there it is.

Fishnet is gone, but with me.

Deep Creek may not even happen after all, at least not this year.

And an eclipse will occur in 17 days.

I showed Emily’s “big smile” picture to Nate earlier today.  He said, “Wow, she’s beautiful.”

“Yeah Nate.  She is.” I replied.

“I mean really beautiful.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Then he said, “She looks like you.”

I laughed, but he repeated himself and was serious.

I looked at her picture again and saw it in a way, but I also didn’t see it.  Then I remembered that saying that I’ve heard people say my entire life, “People, especially couples, who spend a lot of time together, begin looking like each other.”

Are Emily and I already becoming one?

And how will we look as we begin to spend more time with Jesus?

April 23, 1995 – Sunday – 10:15 p.m.

Last night I went out with James and a girl named Syndi.  We ate at Pizza Hut and then saw Forrest Gump at a dollar theater.  The last time I saw Forrest Gump was August 13th, 1994.  That was before the storm.  It reminded me of the summer.  I felt like I was back home.  But it has been eight months and ten days since that night.  And now those eight months and ten days are gone.

I went to church this morning as I do every Sunday morning.  Jim’s sermon was awesome.  He is a wonderful teacher and preacher.  Clifton invited me over to his house today.  We watched Stargate.  It was really cool; I liked it.  Afterwards, Crystal took me horseback riding.  I had never been before so I was excited.  And since I am so easily amazed, Crystal was laughing at me the entire time.  She walked into the pasture and almost stepped in a pile of horse crap and I about lost it; I’ve never been around that much poop before.  It’s nothing to her though.

We just went for a short trot up their road.  It was cold and misty outside, but I enjoyed myself.  She said she would take me again sometime.  I’m looking forward to it.

I am supposed to be back here at school on the 15th of August.  Lees-McRae Summer Theater is putting on a production of The Secret Garden that I want to see.  It ends on the 14th.  I’m going to come up anyway on the 14th to see it.  Leslie, Clifton and Crystal’s mom said I could stay at their house that one night since I won’t be able to stay on campus until the 15th.  The 14th is a Monday, so that means the 13th, a Sunday, will be my last day at home.

August 13th, 1995.  That date sounds familiar.

Anyway, after our horse ride we watched Blue Sky with Tommy Lee Jones and Jessica Lange.  Great movie!  Church was great tonight as well.  We all went out to eat at the Country House afterwards.  Pastor Jim was there as well.  He asked me when I will be back in the fall, so I could start creating a drama ministry.  I told him August 14th.

Crystal is really excited about this.  She was disappointed when she found out I wasn’t going to be here for the summer.  She wants to work in film when she gets older as well.

When I walked out of the Country House tonight I was almost knocked down by the wind; it was blowing so hard.

I’m sure it will blow harder in about two and a half weeks though.

I got back to my room at around nine o’clock.  I sat on my bed and took off my shoes.  I threw them over into my closet and then I opened my top drawer of the dresser next to my unmade bed.  I pulled a precious piece of folded paper from out of it and gazed upon these precious words: “Please call me if you need anything.”

I grabbed my phone and dialed the most beautiful phone number on the planet.  And my beautiful Emily answered.  We talked for little over an hour.  We talked about everyday life.  She does so many things.  I knew she played a lot of sports and that she played bass guitar and piano, but tonight she told me that she also dances as well as does gymnastics and even kickboxing.  I asked her if there was anything she doesn’t do.

“Probably not,” she said.

She says that she will begin making the video for me soon.  I can’t wait!

She had had a wonderful time at the beach for spring break.  She gave me so many little details about what had happened and what she was thinking, etc.

After about an hour, we said our goodbyes and goodnights.  I hung the phone up and then turned and looked at myself in the mirror.  I looked into my own eyes and then I realized that I was scared.  I was terrified.

What have I done?  What am I doing?  Emily is so close, yet so far away.  I feel like she is slipping right through my fingers.  I am afraid to have her.  I’m even afraid to say it because I feel so much truth in it.  I feel like I’m living in a dream world.  Whenever Charlie and I are talking, I always mention Emily.  I talk about her all the time.  I talk about her like she is right next to me.

I am simply scared that somewhere along our journey in this crazed world, I will lose her.  Her world in Crestview seems so much larger than my small world in Banner Elk.  And who knows?  Who knows where her and I will be tomorrow?

As I listened to her voice over the phone tonight, there was something I wanted to tell her.  I wanted to tell her that I loved her, but I didn’t.  I couldn’t.  I couldn’t bring myself to say it.  But why?  I had told her that I loved her before.  Why is it different now?

Wait a minute.  What am I doing?  I’m trying to figure this out with my brain.  Emily said, “The Heart has eyes the Brain knows nothing of.”

I can’t see this in it’s right perspective with my physical eyes, I must use the eyes of my heart.

The storm that nearly knocked me down as I left the Country House tonight must have grown.  I just saw a flash of lightning outside my window.  There just went a another one!  Cool, another one!

On March 8, 1995 I wrote this: “There is no lightning in the air, but there is Emily’s letter on the dresser beside me.  Oh, how I wish a storm would blow me away to Crestview, FL.”

It looks like my wish has come true.  The eyes of my heart see absolutely nothing that the brain can.  Because my heart is not here.  My heart has been blown away by this storm of lightning to Crestview.  It cannot see anything here, for Emily has my heart.

Why be scared?  There is nothing I can do.  Lightning strikes.  I cannot stop it from striking me.  I cannot make it strike me.  I cannot make it strike anyone else.

So, I will just let it be.  I have been struck with lightning and I cannot pretend that I haven’t been.  So I will let this force inside me now grow.  I will not deny it.  I will not try to hide it.

I will believe in it.

God is this force.

God is love.

I will not try to understand.

I believe God knows the answers.

I believe God is the answer.

I believe love is the answer.

And I believe love will find a way.

So I will write it here:  Emily, I am in love with you.  How?  When?  Where?  Why?  I’m not going to try to figure that out.  God knows how my heart sees you, so I will give it all to him.  For he controls where lightning strikes.

Sunlight spilled out from the sky, until it was gone

And moonshine showered down on me, until I knew I was alone

Then I reached up to the sky, and the storm began to blow