John 15: The real game changer

John 15. What an incredible weekend. Not only was it an opportunity to see my fellow summer missionaries again, it was also an opportunity to see Sarah again. This was the weekend to confess my feelings for her. This was the weekend to let go of the desires of my heart.  This was the weekend to be rejected. I mean, there was no way it would work, right? I didn’t want to cling to any false ideas of hope.

John 15. A weekend of retreat, joy, missionary love and seeing Glen. The thought filled me with anticipation and anxiety. I mean, I liked the kid but he obviously wasn’t interested. So I didn’t bother worrying about it too much.

I had my friend, Michael, walk with Sarah and I to the waterfall at Covecrest on the second day of the retreat. It is a popular scenic spot at camp.  He made an excuse to leave, and proceeded to guard the entrance to the trail. We finally had some precious time alone, and I wasn’t about to blow my chance.

HOW IN THE WORLD WERE WE ALONE FOR THAT LONG? I was freaking out. What do we talk about? Did I brush my hair this morning? Where is Michael? Finally, a group came and the tension was broken. After the waterfall I went right to my missionary sister to talk about how confused I was. I just wanted answers and I almost talked to Glen but the Lord led me to my dear friend and mentor, Ashley Farris, who told me to just wait and not force my plan. I felt so much peace in that and prayed that the Lord would do whatever he wanted with these feelings on His time.

Well, no real surprise, I blew it.  By the grace of God, I managed to pull back together and be ready to try again the same day. That night, in the middle of dinner while we couldn’t be eavesdropped upon, I said to her a girl’s least favorite words: “We need to talk.” We finished our meals, threw out our plates, and walked outside into the cold, starry night.

Well, let me tell you, that was the fastest answered prayer I’ve ever prayed. “We have to talk” what is this a movie? I knew it could really only be two things. He either knew that I liked him and wanted to clear the air or he liked me. I was excited and nervous and pretending to hope that he wasn’t interested because that would be “easier” but really hoping that God was about to move in a big way.

I looked deeply into her eyes, and I told her exactly how I felt about her. Silence filled the air, punctuated only by bursts of music from the dance party. “That was it,” I thought. “I’ve blown everything.” Our eyes met, and stayed locked together for what felt like an hour, but it was probably around nine seconds.

“You are the most radiant, captivating, gorgeous woman I have ever met.” WHAT? ALGJAIONVROIAGIORGHAOIVNROI my brain turned to mush. I couldn’t find words. Eventually I stuttered out a thank you and an I like you too and then we both breathed a sigh of relief.

Both of us then returned inside. I don’t think our brains were working correctly after that moment, because after a few minutes into the dance party, we looked at one another again, and proceeded immediately outside, where we talked about what had just transpired. We returned to our cabins filled with joy and thankfulness for the time that God had given us with one another.
The Lord had proven to be incredibly faithful but I was still on a dating fast and there was the issue of distance to deal with. We talked again later that night, and decided to continue discerning for the next six months. We wouldn’t talk much more than we had been, we would be conscious of what we were saying, and we would work on getting to know each other as friends. It was a hard decision but we knew it was right. And then, we learned a lot about  waiting.

The saga continues: camp, dating fasts, and God’s laughter

Well, I mean, it was a game changer. She made me feel like million and seven bucks. (If you’re wondering about the seven extra dollars, it’s interest.)  I made sure to smile at her whenever I could.

Woof, that smile. Ladies you would not believe. This kid could sweep an army of their feet. So, one day I dared him not to smile. That was worse. He was terrifying when he didn’t smile. So I just had to deal with it.

We were assigned to the same parish our first week and just when I thought I had broken camp rules again and acquired another crush, I found out she had a boyfriend. During our week we would spend most of our time together and God forbid, get to know each other better. It was an incredible week and we worked and prayed really well together but I knew she was off limits so after that I kept my distance.

Camp was transforming me. It was a beautiful experience to not have cell phone reception but it wasn’t ideal for my relationship. Then, the Holy Spirit came in like a wrecking ball: God called me to a dating fast. And not just a month long or six month long dating fast, we are talking a whole year of not dating. I knew I had to go home and end my relationship and begin working on my heart and my relationship with the Lord. It was a really hard decision for me to make but I knew I had to trust in God’s plan.   

“I’m going on a dating fast!” Oh, boy. At least she didn’t have a boyfriend anymore. A whole year? Woof. It was a really good thing that the Lord had helped prepare my heart for something like this at camp. What a place to understand patience, faithfulness, and self-control. I prayed for Holy Spirit to fill my heart with these fruits.

The last day of camp was a blur. There were letters exchanged and numbers put in phones and hugs and tears and planes and cars and home. Air conditioning, a real bed and no roommate. It was foreign and strange and I missed my buggy, muggy Hiawassee life. But I was learning how to love the Lord where my feet were even if that meant missing my new found family of summer missionaries. 

Upon returning home, it was difficult to adjust back to a regular lifestyle. So many things and objects that I had joyfully gone without that summer I now had again. One of the things I began to use again with regularity was my cellphone, and that was to stay in contact with newfound friends from camp and maybe one person from camp in particular. And that person (Sarah, if you haven’t caught on yet) was coming to visit for fall break (who has that anyway?) and I was excited, nervous and going to avoid her at any cost. I didn’t want to embarrass myself or say anything stupid, like I thought she was the most gorgeous woman on Earth or something.

Fall break: a time in the school year that no one else has off and your parents are working and going home is pointless. So: visit friends from camp, at least that was my logic. I went to Ohio and Florida and saw so many of my friends from the summer. I was excited to see Glen but I was also nervous to see what his life was like outside of camp. Honestly, he pretty much avoided me the whole week and I thought he really didn’t like me so I went home from the trip sad but with peace about the the Lord’s answer to my prayers to not like this kid anymore. And that’s where I thought our story was going to end.

God had other plans. 

This one time, at summer camp…

So, my roommate and I were sitting in our room one day and she asked me if I was going to apply for this thing called Lifeteen Summer Missions to go work at a camp in the middle of nowhere Georgia for 6 weeks. I said, heck no. Then, Jesus laughed at me. A few weeks later I looked up the camp and saw some pictures and immediately started my application. God had stirred in my heart and I knew that’s where I was supposed to be that summer, little did I know the many reasons why or what it was going to do to my life. 

I almost didn’t go to camp. It was past the application deadline, I didn’t think I was ready spiritually, and my friend kept bugging me about it. It was only after I received a call from camp I realized that God had bigger plans for me. A few days after that call, after much prayer, I accepted the last position at Hiawassee for Summer 2013. I had no idea how much this decision would affect my life. This was the beginning of one of my greatest adventures.

So, I got on a plane to Atlanta. I got to the airport, went to the atrium and offered everyone some cheese. (Yup ladies, that’s how you sweep them off their feet.) I met 30 of the craziest, holiest, most beautiful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Of course, in the airport all I knew was that they were crazy and fun and I was pretty nervous about fitting in with all of these future saints. 

“Do you want some cheese?” Words that floated through the air met my ears like water on parched soil. The source of these words turned out to be someone entirely unexpected. She was (obviously) from Wisconsin, and was small in size but not in sass. The other members of the quickly-growing group proved to be equally unique. This was going to be an interesting summer.

This was going to be an interesting summer. We got piled into vans and cars and headed to Camp Hiawassee. Camp was…camp-y. The rooms were small, we had no AC and there was lots of….wildlife. Long story short, it was an adjustment. We began with work week, a week devoted entirely to the atrocity that is bunk beds (ask Michael Stevens if you don’t believe me). The first night I had seen a pretty cute boy but we were under strict orders to be very vigilant about crushes so I stayed pretty far away until I saw him wearing a shirt from LTLC 2011, a retreat that we had both apparently been at. So, I said (stupidly) “were you at LTLC 2011?” DUH SARAH HE’S WEARING THE SHIRT. But hey, it didn’t hurt I guess. 

Honestly, I had a crush on another girl by the time that all of us got to camp. I mean, the girl was nice, but we were discouraged from crushing on other people, so I made a sweeping declaration that I wouldn’t fall for anyone at camp. That didn’t last long. During the middle of work week, a girl I had been assigned to bunkbeds with whom I never really talked to, asked about my shirt. I thought she was pretty cute. She also laughed at all my bad jokes and obscure movie references, so that was a game changer.

A game changer how? Stay tuned for more. 

Thanks for reading friends! Just a couple of disclaimers before you go: we are not perfect and we don’t intend to make anyone think we are. Also, we are dating. We aren’t engaged. We aren’t married. We know that God may change the course of our discernment at any time and that it’s a risk to write this blog but we wanted to share what the Lord has been doing in our lives. We felt there was a void in information about what Catholic dating looks like and we felt called to fill it, so here we are. Please pray for us and know that we are praying for you as well. Peace!