She woke up especially energized that Friday morning, earlier than normal, and ready to be about her day. More than ever before, she anticipated his proposal to her. She had been pretty convinced in the first few weeks of dating him, that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with this man. That was five months ago, and her waiting was growing weary. Their weekend was planned, and though she wanted, nothing by her own conclusions pointed towards a proposal happening in the coming days. She feared the level of disappointment that awaited her bus ride Sunday evening as she was growing more confident that her waiting would be longer. In spite of what felt like the death of dream, she woke up surprisingly, at rest, and content.
Her day at the office was filled, ironically, with many conversations about engagement and the confidence she had in the man she hoped to spend her life with. Her work responsibilities had slowed down and become more stagnant as she stared at the clock as is typical on a Friday afternoon. It was nearing 3pm, the time where she tends to get a little antsy. The elevator dings, and from her lobby desk, she sees the figure of her young beau step out and in her direction holding a brown envelope.
“It’s him. What is he doing here? I’ve been trying to get in touch with him all day… Is this happening?” she thought frantically. He opened the door to her office with a smirk on his face, “I got bored and wanted to come see you” He said handing her the envelope, “I need you to validate my parking ticket and follow the directions on this card.” She stared at him, confused and insisted that she finish the email she was sending. Frazzled, she shuffled about clumsily, and opened the card he referenced. It read,
Get all of your possessions as if you are leaving for the weekend.
Don’t say anything to anyone who works here.
You may ask me one question while we’re in this building.
I’m going to ask you to hand over your phone.
She gawked at him, asked a few several questions and after much resistance, stood up, abandoned her desk, and followed him out of her office. The drive out of town was interesting…. She knew, he knew, she knew what was coming, but she and he both attempted to be as normal as possible. So they talked more awkwardly than ever before, him asking creative questions, her unable to articulate even the simplest answer. It wasn’t until they arrived at the coffee shop where they had their first date five months ago, that their nerves calmed. The shop looked a little different having been decorated for Christmas. They sat down to drink their hot peppermint mochas together, and considered their first date, what they felt, hoped, thought and wanted. Five months ago, they sat there for the first time, both on the brink of confidence then, of their choice of one another.
The drive towards camp was full of remembering and reminiscing. She recapped the wave of emotions that accompanied the various seasons over the past thirteen years as she traveled the road to Camp Travis, her favorite place on the entire planet. Pulling up to the front gate initiated the drive into camp where butterflies of anticipation overwhelmed her, just like they had many summers before. When they turned the last corner, he gave her direction to close her eyes until he stopped.
The day was damp, misty, foggy, cool, yet crisp… he lead her out of the car and through the woods to the guys side of camp. This was where they had ventured on the last evening of camp. They hiked down the ravine to the edge of the lake, where he had taken her that night, only a few weeks into their relationship. It was at this spot, where she shared her story with him.
She looked around, the sight was a different scene from the last time she sat with him there, months prior. The grass about her feet was lush and green, the dirt, muddied, the lake in the distance, not so dry… She noticed a mason jar at her feet filled with a scroll and a strong stemmed sunflower.
She looked at him confused. He directed her to pick up the sunflower, and to help him unravel the scroll. On it, a letter, he had hand written.
“Your story…” He looked at her and began to read it aloud, pausing every few words in an effort to hold himself together. Sparse droplets of rain were enough to dampen the page he was holding, but not enough to deter their focus, or distract them from the moment. She had always loved hearing him read his own writing, it’s one of the ways she felt most connected to him. He went on to describe that evening four months ago when she first shared her story with him. The sights, smells… His own thoughts and feelings, the weight of her story… He quoted something that her camp director told her the first time she heard ever heard her story, “Some man is going to love you one day, despite the shame in your story.” She always feared her story would deem her unworthy to be chosen, that no man would accept her with the baggage she carried… He proceeded to share part of his journal from the morning after this confession where he wrote to God, “I want to know if I am that man. Can I be that man? I think I want to be that man…” He then looked into her eyes and said, “Kara, I stand here today convinced that I am that man, that I will love you in spite of all this..”
They cried, and hugged and she thought to herself, “Here it comes, he’s about to drop to his knee..” But when he pulled back to look at her, he said, let’s go, and lead her back up the ravine, through guys side of camp to the next spot of significance, the slide tower.
The slide tower was a very special spot to their relationship, it was where he first shared his story with her the week after their first date, where they often stayed up talking well into the night after campers and staff had gone to sleep, it was where they adventurously watched the most exhilarating lightning storm over Lake Travis one very late Friday night. It was the highest point at camp, up there, they could see everything.
They got to the top, she noticed another mason jar, again with a scroll and a strong stemmed sunflower. Also strung across the slide were bunting flags, which marked evidence of her dearest friend, Hunter, who had played a significant role in her relationship with Jacob. Surely, this was the spot. She braced herself for what was next. She followed suit from the last scroll and sunflower, and he began to read…
“My story…” He painted the scene from that night perfectly, the way the shadow darkened her face, and the light shone on his. Similarly, he had feared that in the sharing of his story, he would be rejected. He revisited that evening, the questions she asked, the care she showed, his inability to hide and the compel to be transparent and become known in the way he had always feared. He shared the gospel he encountered that evening, and the many evenings since, as continually together, they have worked out their salvation through wronging one another, confessing and repenting. He thanked her for responding the way she did that night. She loved him then. Acceptance was non-negotiable. Again, they hugged and cried and just when she expected his drop to the knee, he looked at her and asked, “Are you ready?” She complied, and he said, “Well, let’s go” And at it again, he lead her back down the stairs and across the sports field to the barn swing.
The barn swing was another after hours spot they visited in their season of getting to know one another. Their interactions had to be discreet in the summer so as not to distract campers or staff from the mission and purpose of camp. So, in an effort to remain inconspicuous they lost sleep, lots of it, and their lost sleep increased their admiration and attraction of one another through conversation in this place.
As she approached the barn, she noticed even more elaborate decor, this time in addition to the mason jar, scroll, sunflower and bunting flags, tea lit candles created a scene around the bench swing that had become their’s last summer. This was it… This was the final spot. They sat on the swing and reminisced about the conversations they had had there on those hot summer nights… He picked up the scroll, opened it, this time, she noticed that there was a large letter at the bottom left corner, and that the previous two letters had one also, the first one, an “O”, the second a “V” and this one, an“E”…. She considered his last name, ‘Overby,’ and concluded there must be three more spots… He began to read…
“Our story…” The barn swing was a place where they often attempted to figure out our relationship, how it was supposed to work, their roles, what it was supposed to look like… They wanted to do it right. They wanted a formula, but didn’t have a clue as to what it was. In the letter, he shared how even in his attempt to do it right, they had both screwed it up from the start. Reflecting on their stories, it wasn’t about what they could do to make our relationship right- they had both blown it so bad before they even knew one another. He indicated that their story wasn’t about us, really, that they had no part in discovering the other, but when they were to really examine what brought them together- it was by God’s hand alone. It was His work in each of their stories that brought back to camp that summer. There was no explanation, except for His grace. She had shared an email she’d sent to one of her most respected friends describing their relationship, “What is being made right and restored is not a story I would have chosen, but it is a testament of Christ alone, and to that I can’t describe a greater joy.” He shared a dialogue he had had with the Lord about this statement and then, with confidence proclaimed, “Kara, this is our story. And this will be our story. And our story will point others to the bigger story being written- a testament of Christ alone, and to that, I can’t describe a greater joy.”
They stood up, hugged and cried, and then he began to lead her across camp, past the Outpost, through the Courthouse and to the back of the Rio (our kitchen/dining hall). This summer, she had worked as the Travis Crew Director, where she oversaw graduated seniors in high school serve as a work crew in the kitchen. He was the Program’s Director, making all the fun things happen at camp. The Rio, was where they re-introduced themselves during Bro Week, noticed one another’s work ethic, and had their very first very awkward interactions. Walking into the back of the Rio, he lead her to the Encouragement Board where he had written her notes throughout their dating relationship at camp. There, on the board, was a note labled ‘KARA” in the same handwriting as all the other notes he had ever that summer.
They walked back into the kitchen and before he began to read, she looked around, and there, she lost it. She couldn’t get over the reality that they were standing in the kitchen that held some of my sweetest and darkest of moments of her life. She uttered through sobs, “I love this kitchen.” That kitchen was a cherished place to her. Blood, sweat, tears, songs, dances and millions of memories. This one becoming her favorite. He read her one more encouraging note declaring her ‘the most beautifully messy, amazing woman in the universe’ along with all the things he loved about her, ending with a phrase that often concluded his notes to her this summer, “Thanks for showing up!”
Again, they cried, hugged and he paused for a moment, “Wait, here”. He ran around to the camper’s side of the cubbies (the cubbies that separated the two of them during meal times), and reenacted one of her favorite scenes of the summer, their ‘meet-cute’ moment for those familiar with ‘The Holiday’.
“Hey Kara,” he smiled, “could you grab me some yogurt.” and smiled again. (This summer, this was the first time that he looked at her in they eyes and smiled at her. It was the first moment of giddiness for them both.) In a hurry, she went into the ‘Walk-In’ (refrigerator) to retrieve the yogurt, and found her favorite bottle of wine. She handed him the wine, and he led her to the front porch of the Rio.
She noticed her cowboy boots resting alongside a rocking chair and lights strewn about to set the scene.
It took her breath away.
A quilt covered stump tabled two glasses, a lovely boxed bouquet of red sunflowers, one last scroll and a bottle opener.
He pointed out the last of four sunflowers, and directed her to add these to the existing bouquet of sunnies.
They sat in the two rocking chairs and looked out over a foggy lakeview. It was so quiet. Raindrops on the tin roof of the Rio calmed her nerves.
She bundled in a blanket as he poured them both a glass of wine.
He opened the last scroll, and immediately, I noticed the letter “L”, this really was the spot. “LOVE”….
He began to read,
“What is love?” The question he posed to 200 campers every other Thursday night this summer. He recapped the talk he delivered at camp this summer, reminding her what he proclaimed from that stage, and how he had defined love as, “actively thinking of others.” He shared that over the past few months in dating her, his understanding of love had evolved to understand more fully that God is love, and His expression of love was declared through the gift of Jesus. Therefore, love is sacrificial death, or, “the dying of the self for the benefit of the other, and this, is crazy, stupid, love, BUT it is true love.” He shared, looking more intently into my eyes words that he had never shared with me prior to that day,
“Kara, true love is only possible when it is promised, when it is not based on performance or emotion. Love is a choice. The dying of the self for the benefit of the other. Crazy, stupid love. Kara, I am in crazy stupid love with you. Kara, I love you, and tonight, I promise my love to you, love that is not based on performance and emotion, but love that I choose. I love you, Kara, and I will choose to love you for the rest of my life.”
(Insert heavy tears and hugging)
He then directed her to put her boots on and asked her to dance. His song of choice was “She’s Like Texas“, by the Josh Abbott Band. Don’t be fooled, this song, her favorite, had incredible significance also. It was a song she suggested, that he added to the Boot Scoot Playlist, (a most favorite dance that happens every Thursday night at camp). It was one of their (and his) first songs to dance to, and also, a song that articulately describes the beautiful mess that she is. They danced, laughed, and sang.
And after declaring her choice of love for him also, he got down on one knee….
And asked her, “Kara, will you marry me?” she said with a beaming smile, “I will. I will marry you!”
Then, they hugged, kissed…
Then, he put the most perfect ring in the whole world on her left ring finger, and they squeeled and smiled and giggled…
Sitting down they soaked in the moment, and she curiously asked if there was anyone else there.
Hiding in stealth were two photographers, two of her most cherished friends, his sister, Erinn, and Hunter, one of her heart and souls.
They celebrated, took a few photos, and in form, he said, “Well, let’s go!”
They stopped in the Outpost, and by the Rudy house to see Bob, and in making their way to Maudies (their first group date/hangout) for some Tacos, they both decided their tummies were too tumultuous for Mexican food, and settled most contentedly with a drive by Chick-Fil-A.
They ventured back to her Austin neighborhood, where he led her from her driveway, accross the street to celebrate with one of her other heart and souls, Smash, only to find so many of those that she dearly loves awaiting their arrival.
She looked around the room and from every walk of life, were those who had contributed to the story that was being written, and the story that will continue to point to THE story, the greatest love story of all. The story of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, and the gift of His crazy stupid love that gave his life for the forgiveness and reconciliation of our sins.
This story is not about Kara, it’s not about Jacob, it’s about Jesus. Join us in celebrating Him!