Someone asked me the other day about how I met Kevin and how we fell in love. I wasn't totally sure what to answer because I am pretty sure that my side of the story would sound much different from Kevin's side of the story.
Case in point; we totally don't agree on when we actually met for the first time. If you ask me, the first time I remember seeing him was on a mission trip that summer New Ed took to Austin to work with Awe Star ministries. He always said that he remembers first meeting me when he was at HLG visiting his brother Chris and he was walking around with Ben Schnipper. I have no memory of that event. And let's be honest, I had a much better memory than he did, so we can just safely assume I was right. ;)
What we do agree on was the next meeting, which was at the Praise Song retreat in the Fall of 2000. He was a freshman and I was a senior (yeah, I robbed the cradle!) I honestly don't remember much about Kevin from that first semester because, well, I came to school that semester head over heels for a guy I had worked with several times over the summer. Oddly enough, he was also a guitar player and had a personality very similar to Kevin's. At that point, Kevin was just baby freshman and I didn't give him the time of day really.
Then came second semester. I remember sitting in the first chapel in January 2001 (back when chapel was in the gym) and I looked over and saw this really handsome guy with blonde highlights sitting in the bleachers. I was trying to figure out who it was (I knew pretty much all the new students because I had been working in the admissions office since my freshman year and I was one of the main tour guides. I met pretty much all the new, available guys!) Then I realized who it was: Kevin McSmith. I couldn't believe it! From that point on, he was the only guy I paid any attention to at all. We chatted online using MSN Messenger (he made me a HUGE three ring binder with all of those messages printed off. I pray that I get warning before I die so that I can destroy that so no one else ever reads it. So embarrassing!) We started eating together and going with groups of friends to other places. We both knew we liked each other, but neither one really wanted to do anything about it.
Then along came the date auction. One of the clubs on campus hosted a date auction in order to raise money. I have no idea why, because it's the complete opposite of anything I would ever do, but I decided to go up for auction. I can't believe I took that risk, it could have been such a disaster. I actually had to borrow clothes from one of the other Praise Song girls because I didn't have dress clothes other than my Praise Song suit (any Weast era New Ed members want to sing "Homlieness, homliness is not what Weast wants from me..."). Long story short (too late), two sweet friends (Marcus and Michelle Hurt) bought us for each other. Our first date (the result of the date auction) was on Feb. 14, 2001. We ate at Tiramisu and he had the cutest stuffed bear waiting at the restaurant for me. It had a card around it's neck with a note that said, "Be Mine?" So sweet! Then we watched Castaway and had dessert at Steak N' Shake. It was a fun, perfect night. We've been together ever since.
I graduated in May 2001 and in January 2002 I moved to Plano, TX and started working at Prestonwood Baptist Church while Kevin was still at HLG. We lived apart like this for about 6 months. It was hard, but good for both of us. I lived on my own for the first time far away from my parents and Kevin. I grew up a lot in that time and had a lot of fun with sweet friends (that I still can't convince to move back to MO. Yeah, Kevin and Lauren Allen, I'm looking at you!) I also got my first roommate, for a short time, while there (Q, I wish we'd had more time together!)
One of my most vivid and life-touching memories happened during my time there in TX. Kevin was asked to go with Awe Star Ministries to spend a month in Uganda leading worship and sharing the Gospel. He was asked with a very short amount of time to raise the funds and prepare to go, so he wasn't sure that he should. I knew, very clearly, from the moment he mentioned the trip that he was supposed to go. After a lot of prayer, he did decide to go on that trip. Shortly after he decided to go I was gripped with fear that he would die while on the trip. I began to pray about it and I clearly felt the Lord tell me, "I promise to take care of him, but taking care of him doesn't necessarily mean bringing him home." As odd as it sounds, after that I had such a peace that passes understanding about him going on that trip, coupled with truly believing that he was not going to be returning. I honestly believed, 100%, that he was going to die while in Africa, but had such a peace about it because I knew that was God's plan. You can imagine how shocked I was when I got a call from him and he was back in the States at the end of the trip. I've never been so happy to hear his voice as I was that day! Now that I think back on that memory, those words from God have been true every moment since then. God will always protect us, but His perfect protection may not be what we would call protection. Without a doubt, God allowing Kevin's death, his passing from this life to his eternal life with Christ, was protection. Protection from all of the pain, suffering, guilt, shame, and brokenness this world offers. It wasn't until a few days ago that God opened my eyes to see His loving protection for Kevin in allowing Kevin's death.
One night in December of 2002 I just knew Kevin was going to propose. I had it all worked out in my mind. See, I am terrible with dates and numbers, but, I knew that June 14, 2003 was a Saturday. We started dating on February 14. I knew that I would be able to remember the dates if they were as close to the same as possible. 14 was our number (I also didn't realize until later that God graced me with Kevin's funeral being on March 14 because, honestly, if it hadn't been a 14 I probably wouldn't have remembered it!) So, I knew that Kevin needed to propose soon for us to be able to plan and be ready for a wedding on June 14. I suspected he had been ring shopping already. In my mind, there was nothing else to wait for, so why wouldn't he propose? He didn't. I came home and laid in bed and cried. I was so disappointed. I was sure it meant he was never going to propose. I was so crushed!
He proposed the very next weekend! (I've never been known for being patient!) The proposal story is almost a novel in itself. He had found the ring he wanted in Iowa (on the same day that we went to see Willie Aames and Brady Williams in a Bibleman Live show. Kevin showed up late and I was so angry with him. I had no idea he was late because he was buying my engagement ring!) He bought the ring, but they had to change the setting. They shipped it overnight so Kevin would have it in time. Except that somehow, the shipping got messed up and Kevin, his brother Chris, Joe Banderman, Sabrina (Price) Brookshire, and Dr. Todd had to do all kinds of chasing down and tracking things to find that it was sitting on a delivery truck in Quincy. Chris actually went to the facility and helped them dig through the truck to get the ring. So, Kevin's beautiful plan of proposing at Tirimisu (using the same bear he had given me the night of our first date) was foiled. I was a little annoyed that Kevin kept checking his phone all night (getting updates about the ring of course) and couldn't figure out why he wasn't ready to end the date near midnight. I am not a night owl so dates didn't typically go that late.
Then he said he'd gotten a text from Josh Moore that he needed Kevin to pick up some music from the Praise Song room (which was in a building that no longer exists on HLGU's campus. It was an old, green army barracks building.) So, we stopped by and got out to get the music. I walked into the Praise Song room and there was the bear, sitting in the middle of the room, with a note tied to it that said, "Be Mine Forever?" I turned around and there was Kevin, on one knee, holding my beautiful ring. I was totally shocked! In fact, I don't know if I even said anything! (I'm not sure I ever told him this, but I am so glad the plan didn't work out for the restaurant. I would have been mortified if that had happened in front of everyone! It had actually been my ideal that he would propose in the Praise Song room because that's the reason we even knew each other.)
The rest, as they say, is history. We spent about 8 months on the road with Bibleman and the rest of the time we lived in Hannibal, MO. Life wasn't always easy. It wasn't always pretty. But God always provided what we needed. We both grew up a lot in the 15 years we were together. Sometimes it was hard because we weren't growing at the same time, but we kept pulling each other along and encouraging each other to keep moving. Keep trusting in and waiting on God. Some days we drove each other crazy. Some days we made each other laugh. Some days we just sat in each other's arms and cried because there were no words. There was a lot more of that the last year. But there was always love. There was even a little sadness at the truth that there's no marriage in Heaven (I'll admit, it's hard not to be bummed out by that at the moment, though I am sure when I get there it will suddenly not matter anymore.) We have two beautiful children. Both were the best surprises we ever got. We didn't always agree on discipline or allowance or other trivial things, but we always agreed on pouring God's word into them and praying daily for their salvation. I believe he did that up to the day he died. I still do.
Though I know that while in all the little moments, I didn't fully appreciate them. But I wouldn't trade any of them. Even the sad ones. Even the angry ones. Even the hard, ugly ones. All of them drew us closer together and closer to Christ. The kids were teasing me tonight that my thank you at the end of the day has been Kevin's salvation at least five times. I told them that's because I'll never stop being thankful for that because it means he's spending eternity in Heaven with God and there's nothing better than that.
Lord, thank You for 15 years of moments with that amazing, wonderful, talented, godly man. Thank You for using the last year to prepare me for life without him by drawing me closer to You and building my trust in You through every hard moment. Keep drawing me to You. Keep lifting my head so that it's You I see. Call my children. Adopt them. Teach all of us to love you with all that we have and all that we are so we can declare You to all we meet.