Paul and I met in the summer of 1994 at ropes course training. It was definitely NOT love at first sight. Paul was new that summer, and I thought I’d be kind and reach out (mostly) in the spirit of Christian friendship and sit down next to him and introduce myself. But before I could even manage a nervous “hi”—he said, “Um, it’s really hot out here. Could you please move over?” Okay. Wow. Sure, I could move way over. And hide under a rock. It was 105 degrees in June. But, still. Ouch.
We didn’t speak for almost a year. The following spring I visited my friend Elizabeth at Sewanee—because that’s how camp friends are: flying thousands of miles to see each other; picking right back up from where you left off…and Paul was there. We all hung out. It was as if the weirdness of the previous summer was gone. We were friends, and it was good, and soon after that we were back at camp.
Even now, twenty years later, that summer seems like magic. Time was not the same—it was camp time. Everything was magnified. There were so many significant moments like looking down at Paul from the top of Goliath and seeing his smile and thinking I have to jump NOW. Our first kiss was in a canoe between Pebble Beach and the waterfront at Echo Valley. Our first “date” was at Pampell’s in Kerrville. We left our laundry drying at the Laundromat and shared a chocolate shake with two straws. That entire summer was incredibly romantic to us and probably super cheesy to everyone else. Regardless, all those moments brought us to a place that by the end of that summer we KNEW. We both knew that this was IT. This was love and it was forever. We just knew.
I was twenty and he was twenty-one. We were looking at two years of long-distance dating—real long-distance, in the days before email and cellphones and Skype. The beginning of our relationship, which was drenched in Jesus and small miracles and the beauty of the Canyon grew deep enough in just one summer to last all those many months apart.
The next summer, Paul was at camp, and I was busy trying to finish classes and graduate ASAP. I was heartsick for camp and was finally able to visit Paul on his day off. We sat at Antenna listening to Roundup songs echoing off the bluff. It was incredible. Finally I turned around to say something to Paul, and he was down on one knee with a ring. YES, YES, YES! ALL THE YESSES!!!!! We got engaged at Antenna. I know. I can’t believe it either. It was my absolute ridiculous dream fantasy as a junior high camper and it actually happened.
Now we have three sweet kids and a seventeen-year-old marriage that has been full of heartache and even more deep laughter. We still make it out to camp every year. Paul is a Pastor at Ecclesia in Houston, and we have led our church retreat out to the Canyon for the past ten years. We have loved introducing hundreds of people to the most beautiful place on earth. Our daughter Katie was a first-time camper at Singing Hills last summer and had the time of her life. (“I’m not sure I should tell you this, Mom, but we SNUCK OUT!”)
Camp is home for us. We can’t imagine a more perfect place for our love story than the place we have both felt completely immersed in God’s love.