m y l o v e

Our first picture that we took together the summer we started dating

When I was 17 years old, I got a call from an acquaintance at a nearby camp that I had been frequenting since I was 13. This fellow offered me a job to work full time that summer, living and breathing and loving and serving as a summer staffer. It's a phone call I had been expecting and I was elated.

I had no conviction about college or any other jobs, except that I was supposed to be at this camp. I had a boy that I cared about that was far away, but I didn't feel like I was supposed to follow him to wherever he was, so I went forward with camp.

 My last few months of high school whirled by and I sensed doors shutting behind me on some friendships and I knew that childhood was coming to a close. So, on my 18th birthday, my family and some close friends gathered after church and we celebrated my birthday, my graduation, and the new chapter that was about to begin in my life: adulthood. At the end of our bar b que, I finished packing my car, kissed my parents, hugged my friends, peaced out to my brother, and drove an hour northwest to the camp that would become a part of my very being.

It was exactly what a summer should be. Filled with laughter and tears and growing pains. I made some lifelong friends. I met some intense and quirky people. I sweated and toiled and prayed and rekindled the flame that had been flickering in fear and uncertainty.

I would speak to my parents on the phone, giddy about where I was. They would pop up for a visit, walk around with me, bring the staff pizza. They supported me, even though they were a bit surprised by my deep (and crazy) love for camp life.

Then one hot Monday in July, a new camp had rolled in. Of course the first day of a new set of campers was (and still is) always thrilling. Fresh faces of kids and adults alike who were ready for a week of heat, of adventure, and of a resurrection of their dormant hearts. It's a beautiful, breathtaking season in their lives. I would often stand and wave at kids as they would arrive by the bus load and throw frisbees at them, grinning, and shouting, and completely in awe of what was about to take place in their life.

That evening my rotation for the night had been serving the meal (which to me was one of the best parts because you got to really interact with the kids as you flung corn or pudding on their plate). As the campers were moving along, there was a young guy with brown hair, brown eyes, and a goatee that came through the line. He had on a shirt that I knew my brother and only a handful of area college kids had, so I quickly pointed out "Hey! My brother has that shirt!" And he smiled and nodded and said "yea!" and was quickly ushered through the door with the moving line. I didn't think much about him again as the night progressed. After dinner we clean up, then head out to the tabernacle for worship and the teaching time.

As the week moved on, I saw this boy again and again (which isn't that difficult as it's a pretty intimately sized camp) We would talk and I discovered that my brother had actually told this fellow to keep an eye out for me and had shown him my picture. (Years later I would discover the picture BG had shown him was one from his wallet of me in the 9th grade. Ugh! hahaha) They were, in fact, friends and were in the BSM together at TAMUCC.

We kept up conversations briefly. He seemed shy. Kind of nervous. And wasn't really my type. Plus he seemed to be in a relationship, and I, myself, was still writing letters with another boy far away. So he wasn't in the forefront of my mind. He was just another cute guy who fell in with the rest of the cute guys who came through camp. (I swear, I wasn't there for the cute guys)

So then, one of the best summers of my life came to an end. I found myself home from my favorite place in the world. Ready for a new semester. And anyone who has worked at this camp can attest to the feeling of despondency that grows once you leave it's magical bubble of awesomeness. I felt that way. A little lonely, and missing something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. I started classes at the local college. Started tagging along with my brother to BSM events. Then one day, as I came home from school, this boy that I had met at camp was sitting in my dining room with a few girls and my brother, working on some poster. I stopped and stared. Then recovered and smiled. Then fled for my room. He sort of wandered by and stuck his head in and smiled. And I was smitten. I don't know how to explain it any other way. I couldn't stop looking at his puppy dog eyes. I was suddenly so unsure of myself, I quickly left the house.

As the weeks progressed, this boy would hang around my house waiting for my brother. He lived in a nearby town, so when he would come in for classes, he'd be here all day. So he got used to hanging around our house in between stuff. He would wait around for BG to get home from work, and I would sit and chat with him. Then we started playing HALO on the xbox together. We started it on easy then quickly discovered that Legendary was more fun when we played together. We would laugh and tease each other and suddenly we were friends. The first time we drove in the car together, we went on an ice cream run. He drove. I was so nervous and excited and nervous.

The first time we ate dinner out together with a bunch of his and BG's friends, was at TGI Fridays. I had just cut all my long curls off, and Dale, a guy that I would come to love, tugged on my hair and said I looked like a grown up now. I remember blushing and wondering what that cute boy with the brown eyes thought. I couldn't get him out of my head.

Throughout the fall and spring semester, I would find myself in crazy adventures with this boy. He became my best friend. He became the person I woke up thinking about, and went to bed thinking about. We would meet between classes. We would argue about our feelings for each other (DTR, anybody?) We would travel to California and back, go camping, go swimming, have bonfires, and play games together. We would invent games. We would tell stories. We saw the mountains of Colorado and all the land from here to there. We were inseparable. Even when we tried to stay away from each other for the sake of our hearts and any potential future spouse, we couldn't. We just were inseparable.

Then, after I completed my first year of college, I returned to camp for my second summer on staff. This boy missed me. He would come to camp to see me. He would call me. Text me. Email me. He simply missed me. He confessed that he found himself realizing that I was the girl he wanted to be with. He didn't want me meeting anyone else. He came to see me and we walked around camp talking. He hugged me. And I realized we'd been friends for 10 months and had never once touched. And I was shocked at the feeling of completeness that coursed through me as I hugged him for the first time. It was like I was home. I couldn't remember what it was like to hug anyone else but him.

Us, present day
Now, nearly 10 years after that first hug, I find myself married to this boy. We've added a few kids to the mix. We've somehow found our way back to the camp that we love, raising our children on holy ground. He's still my best friend. The one person on the planet who knows everything about me. And he loves me in spite of myself.

Sometimes, when he hugs me, I push him away. Simply because I'm human, and selfish. Or I've had a bad day and want to sit and stew in my grumpiness. But then I remember that hugging him is one of my favorite things in this world. So I find him and hug him and tell him how I've missed him as he's been at work all day.

I think about that one, sweltering July day, that one summer, when I was just becoming Jade. I realize I've changed more than I could realize from that day to this. And so has he. And as we continue to grow and live and breathe and raise our children, I can't help but be thankful that I got that call to work at that camp. Because even though, the odds of me meeting him were pretty good considering he was my brother's friend, I know that meeting him at camp was significant. It was at a time in my life when I was grieving the end of childhood, and welcoming with open arms the beginning rays adulthood. It's where my spirit was set free to pursue Jesus with my whole heart and to not be afraid. It's the place where I met him. And I'm glad that it worked out the way that it did.

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