Book Excerpts

The Worst Possible Choice

After I graduated from Covenant and returned from India, Lee and I once again became roommates -- this time in the Chattanooga neighborhood I planned to one day raise a family. Lee and I had been roommates at Covenant along with Clif and Matt; Lee was in his senior year at Covenant, Clif was a junior, and Matt was a sophomore. During my senior year at Covenant, the four of us had hit it off and always enjoyed hanging out together as roommates. It was high time for us to get together again.

The four of us had always wanted to see the popular folk musician, Dave Wilcox, in concert, and Clif and Matt said “the Dave” would be performing at a hole-in-the wall venue in Knoxville -- only about an hour and forty-five minutes up the road. The Saturday night concert was low-key and awesome, just as we had expected. However, though I enjoyed the music, I was captive audience to another person and event all during the concert: Katie. And how I was going to see her next.

You see, Katie was in Maryland. Only another 8 hours north of Knoxville…and Clif’s family lived in Maryland…and Lee had visited our families before… Only Matt had no real connection to this destination, but he was just a sophomore and could go along for the ride…

I was running out of time to make my pitch to the 3 men. But the timing had to be perfect. All throughout the concert I waited for the right moment. The concert ended, and we would head back to the Chattanooga area soon. But it wasn’t time yet -- still too much time for the men to consider the negatives of such a crazy trip. After the concert we walked down the street to a bar for some burgers. We enjoyed the food and laughed together. Still not time. We walked back to the car, which the 3 men assumed was destined for Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Still not time. We started through the Knoxville streets and approached the exit ramp. Wait for it...

Now, for some background. Covenant College is divided into dorms and each dorm is divided into halls. Each hall is similar to a fraternity (minus the alcohol and a few other things), and our hall, Second South, had a sacred saying: “The worst possible choice.” It was stronger than a double dog dare, and we would say it only on very rare occasions. For example, someone would say: “Let’s go bowling.” And the rest of the guys would say: “No, it’s 2:30 a.m. in the morning and we have class tomorrow.” And the first would respond (if he had the gumption to do so), “It’s the worst possible choice.” Upon hearing these words, the rest of the guys were bound. Unflinching and without hesitation, they would pop their shoes on, put their wallets in their pockets, grab their keys, and head for the cars. Bowling time.

So there we were on the Knoxville streets, heading for the exit ramp. This particular exit ramp diverged at the end: North and South. It was now or never. “Let’s drive to Maryland tonight,” I proposed. The three men laughed. “We’re already almost 2 hours into the trip,” I continued. They continued laughing. It was around 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday night. “It would be the worst possible choice,” I stated.

Without a word, Lee, who was at the wheel, chose the northbound lane on the exit ramp. Clif sat up straighter in the front seat, gearing up for the trip. Five minutes later and five miles closer to Maryland, Matt, the sophomore, asked: “Are we really going to Maryland?” Yes we were. Yes we were.

Eight hours later we arrived in Annapolis on Sunday morning. We arrived at my family’s house close to 6:00 a.m. but were still greeted by my surprised, smiling parents. We crashed on the floor for the better part of an hour in a feeble effort to revive ourselves before engaging with the world. We ate breakfast and went our separate ways for our morning missions. Clif, Lee, and Matt to church with Clif’s family (where he surprised his 90-year-old “Nanny” -- the most surprised she had ever been in her 90 years, she said).

I had to find Katie, ideally before she headed to church. I borrowed my family’s truck and scooted over to Katie’s house. As I pulled up to the street near her family’s townhouse, I spotted Katie. She spotted me too! I hopped out and gave her a super big squeeze. I was really here in my best friend’s embrace. What a joy to hold Katie’s hand and witness her super great smile again. Her green eyes dazzled me -- what a beautiful woman! We headed over to her church and worshipped our First Love together. What joy to sit beside her in the presence of our King.

Four hours later, Lee, Clif, Matt, and I were on the road again. Ten hours later, we were back in the dorm room dropping off Clif and Matt, and then Lee and I drove down the mountain to our house in Chattanooga. What a trip! What craziness! What? We have classes and work tomorrow? The worst possible choice.

An Enchanted Engagement

On the evening of June 21st, 2005, Jason and I ate dinner at the waterfront Annapolis Charthouse to celebrate seven months of dating. The sun slowly dipped toward the horizon as its rays danced upon the Chesapeake. Boats bobbed up and down with the gentle waves, and a warm breeze sent their lines a-swaying. Inside the restaurant, I sat across from the man I wished to dine with for the rest of my life. And though I normally talked freely with Jason, I felt somewhat nervous and quiet this evening.

Jason had dropped hints months earlier regarding the importance of this particular anniversary. I anticipated that before it ended, he would probably address the issue of my naked ring finger. Every so often during our meal, the waitress slipped me a yellow red-tipped rose (my favorite flower). I smiled wryly at Jason each time she handed me a new bloom. This wasn’t going to be an ordinary date.

After paying our check, Jason suggested we change clothes before visiting Greenberry Point. Oh boy, I thought to myself. This is it. I eagerly pushed open the door to the ladies’ room. Goodbye heels! Hello tennis shoes!

It had been about a year since Jason first introduced Heather and me to that special park nestled between the river and the bay. Since dating, Jason and I had visited Greenberry Point several times and had often watched the water from our favorite wooden bench. But my trembling heart told me that tonight’s visit would be different.

Jason and I met each other outside the restaurant, and Jason took his usual seat behind the wheel. After parking (not on the grass), we strolled arm in arm toward the park’s main entrance. But to my surprise, Jason seemed to be passing it. This can’t be right! I gently pulled Jason toward the gate.

“Now where do you think you’re going?” he asked with a smirk.

“Aren’t we going to visit our bench?” Surely he wouldn’t break our tradition.

“Oh, not yet,” he answered, taking my hand. “I thought this time I’d show you some parts of Greenberry Point you’ve never seen before.”

Jason smiled confidently and led the way toward a different path on the opposite side of the park. After marching a few hundred yards, he retrieved a Bible and some bug spray he’d hidden under a bench. Jason then took me to a large tree just off the trail. The tree grew close to the water, and its branches nearly dipped into the bay. We climbed onto a low-hanging bough and breathed deeply as a breeze combed through the leaves.
“This is beautiful,” I remarked. “We should have come here before.”

We talked to God together, thanking Him for creating such a gorgeous day and asking Him to direct our steps. I would have been content to stay suspended in serenity, but Jason said we had places to go and things to do while the sun still shone.

We sauntered down the trail, then stopped for a second time at a man-made sea wall. Thick logs bordered by large rocks formed a barrier to protect the land from the crashing waves. Jason stepped gingerly onto one of the wooden beams and steadied my hand as I followed. We sat down on a log and watched the breakers dash white against the shore while the wind played Cat’s Cradle with my hair.

“You’re so beautiful,” Jason murmured as he admired the work of the breeze. “Thanks,” I replied meekly. I always loved it when he said that.

Jason pulled out the Bible he carried and started flipping through the thin pages. “I’ve been thinking a lot about joy lately,” he said, “and I wanted to share some insights with you.”

I made myself comfortable and listened through the roar of the waves as Jason read seven passages about God giving joy to those who had failed Him. The reminder of God’s faithfulness toward His broken people encouraged me. I needed His faithfulness too. At length, Jason looked up from the Bible and reached for my hand.

“Let’s go back to the path,” he said.

Jason marched on with quiet determination. I felt certain all this creativity would crescendo to something I’d only dreamed about, and the anticipation made me jittery. To dispel my anxious energy, I suddenly broke our mutual contemplation with, “I’m in a mood to jog.”

Jason laughed as we trotted to our next stop. Our arms swayed in rhythm with our pounding hearts and shoes. Soon, we came upon another wooden bench (not ours, though). I plopped down with a loud, “Whew!” as Jason sat next to me.

“Are you thirsty?” he asked.

“No (gasp) thanks,” I answered, catching my breath.

“Well I am,” he announced as he reached under the bench, procuring a bottle of sparkling grape juice along with a wedge of smoked Gouda cheese. I giggled.

“Just thought we’d have a little ‘wine’ and cheese tasting party,” Jason said as he unwrapped the foil from the green bottle-top. We both snacked and enjoyed our view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We didn’t linger long, however. Jason deposited the small picnic along with his Bible and bug spray back under the bench and headed for the trail.

We ambled for a few minutes before finding another wooden bench (also not ours) near the apex of the peninsula. Jason sat me down and asked me to close my eyes. When he told me to open them, they grew wide in amazement. Inside a large wicker basket rested dozens of yellow red-tipped roses, each with a small note tied to its stem.

Jason started handing the flowers to me one by one. “These are the things about you that bring me joy, Kate,” he said softly. He read the notes aloud:

“When you smile, when you sing to me, when you leave long voice messages, because your eyes grab my heart, because you laugh at yourself, when you laugh at my jokes…” My small pile began to grow.

“…When you point me to our Savior, when you put your hair up, when you let your hair down, when you hold my hand, because you can whisper and shout…”

As Jason read the notes, a quiet thought whispered through my mind: If Jason, being a sinful man, can take such delight in me, how much more would a perfect God? I felt incredibly cherished. Jason passed me rose after rose until he finally came to number seventy-seven: “Because you are wonderful to behold.”

We sat silently for a few moments. “Thank you,” I said softly, feeling both honored and impressed that Jason could come up with such a lengthy list.

“Of course. I love you, Katie,” Jason replied, draping his arm around me. We put the roses back into the basket and Jason scampered through the bushes to hide them once more.

“I believe this was our fourth stop,” he commented as we rounded the bend in the trail. Fourth stop? I wondered. I’d been so involved with my feelings that I hadn’t even questioned why Jason kept interrupting our walk every few minutes.

Let’s see… I thought to myself. It’s our seventh anniversary. I just received seventy-seven roses. If the pattern holds, then our seventh stop will be our last, and I bet I know where we’ll end up.

The sky behind us darkened to deep indigo. On the horizon to our left, faint orange rays struggled to light our way. At our fifth stop, we rested on another wooden bench (still not ours, by the way) and watched silhouettes of motorboats cut through the black tide. The Annapolis cityscape lights twinkled in our direction.

“You know,” Jason began as he pulled me closer, “It brings me such joy just being near to you.” My heart fluttered. We held each other for a few minutes and watched the sun dip from view. Then Jason released his embrace and stood up.

“We still have places to go,” he said, helping me to my feet. As we walked back to the path, my body enjoyed the warm memory of Jason’s arms.

Now we could barely make out the trail ahead. Jason slowed as we approached stop six. I felt slightly confused because this time I could see no bench. To our right, waving sea grasses mimicked the restless water. And to our left, we could clearly see the Annapolis Capitol from across the river. Jason shot me a reassuring glance and started descending the bank. I followed, greatly curious as to where we were going.

“Careful,” Jason instructed as he guided me down the rocks. “Watch your step.” We successfully navigated to the water’s edge without so much as a scraped knee. Water lapped the shoreline as Jason led me to a nearby boulder.

“Rest here a minute,” he said as he searched for something yet again. Within seconds, he found a wooden bowl and small towel. My heart skipped a beat. Jesus had shown his love for his friends by washing their dirty feet. Now it seemed like Jason would follow in His steps.

Jason dipped the bowl into the water and stood before me. “Katie,” he said quietly, “I desire to serve you. May I wash your feet?”

I nodded silently. Jason untied my double-knotted shoelaces. Thank God I’d shaved that morning! Jason’s hands gently removed my shoes and socks. He dipped each foot into the bowl and caressed me from my ankles to my toes. I watched in reverence as he then patted my feet dry and tenderly reinserted each into its proper sock and shoe. Despite the lack of light, he even managed to retie my laces. I smiled. Jason helped me from the boulder and led me once more over the rocks back to the path.

We now approached our seventh and final stop. We spoke not a word, but listened to the music of the wind, the waves, and the drumbeat of our hearts. With each step, my expectation rose. I felt like I was climbing a high dive, traveling farther and farther from the life I’d always known. Soon I felt the proverbial board beneath my feet as a familiar bench stood twenty yards and closing. Jason reached for my hand once more, and I wistfully followed his lead...

To Be Continued...

(I know. It's mean. But you can always read the rest in the book
And there's a fun twist at the end!)