I drove up to the Bojangles parking lot about 6 am to load a bunch of college students into cars and caravan 10 hours to Pass Christian, Mississippi. It was a whirlwind of Vera Bradley duffle bags and release forms, but eventually we joined the 10,000 other Cru students and staff in a town that had seen much devastation. The wreckage was an assault to all 5 senses. Total destruction and heartbreak. Something that leaves an indescribable impression on your soul.
While it was very satisfying to serve the volunteers, encourage the families and exhaust yourself with work, it was also HILARIOUS sleeping in a circus tent with 100 girls on cots. It was hysterical to watch all of us try to have good attitudes as we took showers in mosquito-infested make-shift showers that were in the back of 18-wheeler trucks and get up at 4 am to serve grits in God’s Katrina Kitchen. It was awesome.
Every night I’d try and corral our group back to the circus tent and get the propane heaters going–you know the outdoor, stand-up heaters? Yes, those things are awesome when you’re at trying to eat outside at PF Chang’s on a crisp fall evening, but those things are MIZZZ when you’re trying to warm 100 girls in a circus tent. Okay, so every night something would happen to our heater. The propane tank would run out or there would be some sort of glitch. So me and my glow-in-the-dark-retainer-clad self would peel out of my zero-degree sleeping bag and hobble over to the guys tent and beg someone to come help us…
And of course, who would NOT want to help a damsel in every item of clothing she packed, but still freezing distress? This very handsome, very reserved, very wearing Carharts and boots and dirty white Ole Miss hat, pulled down far enough to hide under, would roll off his cot and come help us.every.night.
He was the same guy I had randomly chased down the first day, because our group had showed up late and he had an info packet I needed to lead an intro meeting for our team. I’d heard him facilitate a compelling meeting with his campus, so without noticing his good looks, me and my 10-hours-in-the-car self, frantically asked to see the packet of info and for him to give me a run-down on what I was supposed to say. I now know that he was actually just a STUDENT who had been elected by the staff to help that week and he was totally just shooting from the hip…and I was the STAFF person that HE thought should know how to to this type of thing since I was getting paid to be there.
We were in early morning staff meetings together and we would occasionally pass each other en route to a job site, but it wasn’t until everyone went to a tent revival meeting that he jogged up to me *insert butterflies the size of bald eagles* and ask me what I thought of the speaker. We chatted about our spiritual background and about how our students were doing and that was pretty much that. (I’m sure there was some sort of late night retainer-clad rendezvous regarding propane, but nothing memorable.)
There were only about two other instances of running into the mystery man–one at 6 am when he turned down the grits I offered him in the God’s Katrina Kitchen cafeteria line (what Southern boy turns down grits? Okay, they were like war-ration grits, but still.) And another time when I was pointing out the Big Dipper to one of my students and he asked what we were looking at (I asked him last night if that was a romantic attempt and he just chuckled.) and that was pretty much it. In total, nothing too noteworthy.
But, for some reason, I was uber-distracted by the thought of him. I remember writing in my prayer journal, “Lord, I don’t know why I am so pre-occupied with the thought of this guy…wouldn’t it be weird if I ended up with him?” I told my best friend, Ansley, that she needed to keep me in check and encourage me to keep my thoughts on the true reason we were there in Mississippi…of course she was of NO HELP because as we all sat eating our sack lunches that afternoon, he freaking walked by with a huge chocolate birthday cake. CHOCOLATE CAKE! Not one of us had seen anything chocolate and sure not chocolate cake in well over 3 days. We were all silently drooling as he walked by…most everyone over the cake… :) of course. Wouldn’t you know, he stopped by our table and leaned in between me and Ansley to offer a slice, mind you, before the birthday girl had even gotten a chance. (Busted, Mr. Hurdle.) He small-talked and we were all like, “Oh no, we don’t want any cake.” Pretty.Little.Liars. Immediately after he stood up to leave and take the cake to the intended recipient, Ansley took both her fists and dramatically slammed them down on the table and said, “Now Kitty, THAT is the kind of guy you need to end up with!”
I just giggled and rolled my eyes. I thought this mystery man was just my flavor-of-the-week crush. You know, the kind you get at church camp? Who knew he would be my crush for life…You know, the one whom God had sovereignly ordained since the beginning of time to be my best friend, partner in crime and co-laborer in the Gospel. The one who would for better or for worse in sickness and in retainers. I am so glad God gave me Joel, the very handsome, very reserved, very Carharts and boots wearing, dirty white Ole Miss hat, pulled down far enough to hide under-wearing man who would humbly serve and care for me and my little people for the rest of his life. Praise God for his sheer goodness and undeserved grace.
This post is part of a monthly-long blog re-launch and series I’m writing entitled “31 Days of Following Him & Loving Them.” See all other posts in this series by clicking here.