On June 9th, 2017, I moved to Beaumont, Texas after graduating 2 weeks prior from A&M with a degree in civil engineering, and not knowing a soul in this new place. As I prepared to move to Beaumont, I remember all the empathetic faces I would get from friends and family as I explained to them where I would be going. I think at some point it finally started to weigh in on me, as my attitude upon arriving on that humid Friday afternoon was one of, ‘I’ll grit my teeth and make the most of this time, and it’ll go by before I know it.’

 

I started church hopping and, frankly, was pretty disappointed in the churches I visited, not because they lacked sweet people or were anything less than inviting, but they weren’t for me. On the suggestion of a friend who had heard of a church that might be more fitting, I showed up to Praise Church in Beaumont on an even more humid Sunday morning in July (there’s a trend here), and ended up loving it. Everything I was looking for, great people, people who were excited to be there; a community. The informal slogan of praise church is, ‘Welcome Home,’ and goodness, that was and is home.

After a few weeks I would pointed towards the young adults ministry, and I was super skeptical. I envisioned the most awkward scenarios with like 8 people and  guitar and thought, ‘ehhhh, I’ll pass.’ On the other hand, I had spent two months in Beaumont at this point and had made exactly… No friends, so I decided, ‘what the heck.’

At sat at the very back (the service was not at all awkward and I was floored at how many people were there) and snuck out at the end as fast as I could. They were incredibly inviting though, genuinely interested in my life, what I did, where I was from, etc. Once again, welcome home.

 

The next week I sat in the back again, and I vividly remember the moment a beautiful young woman turned around to introduce herself to an outsider in the back of the room. She had long, beautiful hair, a smile that was contagious, and eyes that about did me in right then and there. She shot her hand out (emphasis on shot her hand out) and said, “Hi, I’m Kaitlan.” I am not sure words even came out of my mouth. She had a small group leader folder and was clearly much more important than myself. That was the last time I talked to her other than brief passing hello’s for a bit.

 

Over the next couple of weeks I would find any excuse to walk back into church, just to see if I could catch her one more time, or ‘forgetting something’ inside and having to walk back in and get it. No luck. I explained to my close friends, “there is this beautiful girl at my church, and I have no idea how to get to talk to her.”

 

On August 29th, 2017, Hurricane Harvey ascended on Beaumont, and over the next nine days I had no water and power and eventually had to escape to safety in Dallas. During that time my church had a ‘live-story’ on Instagram for the young adults, and somehow Kaitlan and I ended up finding each other on social media. After a couple weeks our church was able to meet again in a new building (ours was flooded), and it was a powerful service. I saw Kaitlan there, however she was sitting by friends. I tried to sneak over to her after service and missed her. I remember thinking, ‘I have to talk to her again, I have to find a way.’ I sat in my truck in the parking lot for 20 minutes internally debating on if it would weird to send her a message on Instagram. She had posted a story about the service, and I finally threw my worries to the wind and replied. She responded, saying it was so weird how I messaged her because she was debating on doing the same thing, how she had seen me sitting by myself and knew I was new in town, and invited me to feel free to sit by her or anyone from the young adults group anytime.

Welcome Home, right! I began finding ways to talk to her more and more, and low and behold we found ourselves on a romantic date to Waffle House on a Tuesday night (I thought it was a date, more on that later). We spoke all night about where we were from, who she was, etc. I just got to know her a little more and I was blown away. She was so lost in Him, and she was beautiful. How could I not be hooked. At the end of the night, I was on cloud 9. The trouble was, I had never explicitly explained to Kaitlan that this was a date, and she was not convinced it was.

 

The next Sunday I haphazardly asked her on a real, explicit date, and for whatever reason, she agreed. Over the next 8 months, every moment has been my absolute favorite. I have watched Kaitlan take on every situation with grace and love, because she is so lost in grace and love. I have seen how big her heart is, and how she loves so selflessly. In these last 8 months, Kaitlan Elizabeth has become home. When I am with her, life is in color, it’s cheesy, mountaintop type stuff. I told her I loved her on a humid(no surprises here) January evening in the church parking lot after my truck got stuck in the mud  and we got disgusting trying to get it out… In our church clothes. It was raining and I told her to wait in the car so she wouldn’t get wet and I trudged through the mud to assess the situation. When I turned around I saw that she had followed me right through the muck, with no regard for her nice clothes. That’s who Kaitlan is, she jumps into life with you. She meets you right where you’re at and loves you regardless. She doesn’t worry about how it might get her messy, how she might have to trudge through filth. How could I not be in love with her?

 

On June 2nd, 2018, I asked Kaitlan Elizabeth to marry me on a hot, humid Saturday afternoon in a dear friends beautiful backyard. I had all of our friends and family help me surprise her, and it was one of my favorite days. I can’t wait for the rest of my days with her.