Aaron and I first met when he was in 8th grade and I was a sophomore in high school. Yes, I'm a cougar, but to be fair- we're two years apart in school but only a year and a few months apart in age. Anyways, I didn't even know who he was, as I was way too cool to be thinking about dating younger middle school boys. We met at church, and he swears up and down that the first time he saw me I was up on stage singing and his mom leaned over to him and asked, "What's wrong with that girl?". His response? "Absolutely nothing."
|The "man-van plus Kelsie" on a church trip.|
Fast forward a few years to the end of college. I was finishing off my student teaching in Kansas City, and Aaron was finishing up at Maple Woods. He was actually transferring to Mizzou just as I was heading out. Our lives overlapped again at church, where we both helped with the youth. We sang together and lead retreats and other events. A healthy friendship started growing. He asked me out to dinner, and I said yes, but then realized it was a date, so I backed out. (Don't worry, I obviously got my head on straight eventually.)
For my grad party, I asked if anyone had a Mizzou flag that I could borrow. Aaron said he did, then bought one and let me keep it as a gift. (Clever, huh?) I hung it in my classroom at school. Aaron started texting me every now and then, just to ask about school. I didn't know this yet, but he had taken a year off of dating after his last break up, and the very day that he had circled on the calendar to start dating again, I had come back into his life. His patient pursuit had begun.
|My first classroom, complete with the Mizzou flag Aaron gave me.|
Then one week, Aaron received an anonymous letter from someone at our church. The letter told Aaron to take me out on a date, and $50 was enclosed to help him pay for it (you can't make this stuff up!). Aaron told me about it, I laughed, and he said that he would put it into his bank account and maybe take me out someday if I'd let him. At this point, I was scared to lose a friend, and didn't know what I was feeling. But he'd get his chance.
|Leading worship together in Aaron's pre-haircut days.|
Things really started progressing through February and March. For the first time ever, I knew what it felt like to be truly pursued (and ladies, you should always be pursued). No longer was I wasting time decoding text messages from prospects or dreaming up reasons to talk to a guy- Aaron was intentional about texting me, asking questions, and being real. Our phone conversations about church and worship turned into hour long convos about everything while I walked on the treadmill in our basement. A simple question about my day turned into a two hour exchange about our life goals and dreams (separate, though aligned). Safe to say, the Lord was doing a work in my heart as I saw a man that I looked forward to speaking to and being vulnerable with. One who truly cared about me from hours away in Columbia. One I grew to long to talk to and be with.
|A Group of our Kiddos at the Dare to Share Conference 2012.|
That St. Patrick's day, Aaron and I were both attending the Dare to Share Conference as leaders for our church. The trip was taking place in St. Louis, so I was coming from KC after school, and Aaron was going to be picked up in Columbia. I knew this was a make or break it thing. We had been talking so much that this was either going to be incredibly awkward or incredibly perfect. As we both sat in a leader meeting together, I had my arms folded. Aaron did too, and when his hand accidentally brushed the back of my arm, tingles shot down my spine. I knew that I could be, and was, attracted to Aaron. On the way home, I may have gotten pulled over in Columbia after we dropped Aaron off because I was so caught up in emotion that I forgot to turn on the mini-van's lights. Oops. Needless to say, I woke up the entire van of sleeping kiddos. The secret was out. I was falling for Aaron. I cancelled a triple date I had been set up on a month before, and Aaron asked to take me on a date in KC over his spring break so that he could officially ask me out in person. I agreed.
Our first date was March 28, 2012. It was everything a girl could've dream of. We grabbed dinner at Bo Lings, bought our journal, and slow danced in the rain before heading to the midnight premiere of Hunger Games. The next morning, I took Aaron to the airport so he could fly to Texas with his grandma to get Tori (the car we recently said goodbye to). We started our long distance relationship of journal writing, Skype dates, and talking on the phone. I loved falling in love with someone from a distance- hearing his voice made me melt, nothing was based on the physical, and it was always so exciting to actually see each other in person.
|Our first boyfriend/girlfriend picture, on Easter.|
Pretty much right away, I knew we were going to get married. We'd been very intentional about the start of our relationship, and wouldn't have been dating if we couldn't see ourselves getting married. That April, my childhood neighbor was getting hitched and I was going to be a bridesmaid and sing in her wedding. I was able to recruit Aaron to help sing, partly because I think we harmonize well and partly because I wanted a reason for him to come to the wedding. (And who doesn't love a guy who can sing?). At the reception, we slow danced together, and for the first time, I knew that this was what it felt like to be in love. For the first time, the guy I was dancing with couldn't take his eyes away from mine. For the first time, I felt like I was right where I was supposed to be. That night, people asked me when we were going to get married. I told them we'd only been dating for a month. But when you know, you know.
|The night I knew, without a doubt, that I would marry Aaron.|
The next eight months were a whirlwind as Aaron moved to his grandma's for the summer, and then to Independence to student teach. We found out what dating in the same city was like. Being only 45 minutes away was way better, but I still hated every goodbye, and dreamed of a time when it would be good night instead. As each month ticked by, Aaron stuck around, and I stopped worrying that I was going to mess things up like I'd always seemed to before. That November, we made it through my grandma's death and funeral, and Aaron was my shoulder to cry on. Little did I know, he'd already planned a big surprise engagement with my best friends, asked for the blessing, bought a ring, and kept my grandma in the loop before she passed away. But how Aaron popped the question is a story for another day. For now, just know that it was perfect.
|Visiting the Alamo on Aaron's birthday, while on a Non-Stop YL trip, just a few days before he proposed.|
I've heard it said before: "Run as hard as you can towards the Lord, and then look around to see who's there with you." That's our story. Aaron and I both were running towards the Lord, while pursuing kids and leading others in worship. Then we looked around, found each other, and realized that we were in it together. To this day, we're still in it together. We fight together in the trenches for our YoungLife kids to know Jesus. Few things in life bring me more joy than praising God together in song, or feeling my heart melt as I watch Aaron love kids well. I am so blessed to have a godly man who leads me and loves me with more grace than I'll ever deserve. He'll say I'm a catch, but he's wrong. He's the catch. And I'm so thankful that he chose me, and continues to do so daily, despite my stubbornness and imperfection. It's the most beautiful picture of loving me like Jesus does.
|He liked it, so he put it a ring on it. And the rest, my friends, is history.|