Today, my friends, I have a story for you. It’s not a perfect story, but it’s the one that’s playing out in my life, and I’m humbled by it. Undeserving and speechless that I get to live it. It’s the story that I get to grow and nurture for the rest of my life, because for some reason Jesus has entrusted it to me. So here it is.
January 2014: the very beginning of my spring semester, sophomore year.
I was in what was (at that time) been one of the hardest seasons of my life. Things with my friends weren’t going the way I thought they would go. I had been head over heels about a guy who just wasn’t interested and was recovering from the greatest sting rejection I had felt in a good, long while. And really, I was just plain sad and couldn’t shake it. I felt weak, and messy, and honestly pretty hopeless. And in that sting of pain I decided I needed to do small things that could help me get well, that would serve as markers that I was choosing to care for myself, even when I felt so weak and weary. And on an unseasonably warm January afternoon, I decided I would walk home from campus. Because it was good for me, because I could. And as I was walking home, I ran across a huge pile of acorns, freshly fallen from the trees above, and something in my heart stirred: “pick one up.” And in that moment, I really felt like the acorn I held in my hand was a promise from God. That even though I felt like crap, and I couldn’t shake the sadness, that I was going to be okay. I was going to make it. He was taking care of me. And I carried that acorn around in my jacket pocket all semester long, my little inside joke with God, and I grabbed hold of it when I needed to reminded of His faithfulness to me.
May 2014: Cape Town, South Africa
As the beginning of summer, I found myself on the other side of the world with my college ministry on a short term mission trip. I was still a mess, but just beginning to scratch the surface of feeling like myself and having the ability to put words to what I was feeling and what I needed. In this season of my life, I never expected to find myself falling for a guy I had known for a year. And I definitely never expected that he had been patiently waiting for the right time form God to express his affection for me.
So while is South Africa, we started spending time together (walking to campus together, cleaning the dishes together at night), just simple things that enabled me to see his deep humility and compassion and strength. There were things that just drew me to Colton. I didn’t give it too much thought, but I knew I wanted to be around him. Wherever, whenever, for as long as possible. Because being around him felt like coming home. I was safe. I was secure. I was loved.
And then I flew back home and he stayed for another month, and when he arrived back in Nashville, I asked if I could pick him and our other friend up from the airport and take them back to Knoxville. Just because they were my friends and I wanted to spend time with them. Oh, if I had only known. 🙂
But a few weeks later, on the night before he left for Texas for a month, he asked if we could meet up and talk. My stomach dropped. I think I know what this is about… I think he might ask me out. And he did. In the most confident and gracious manner, Colton said to me, “Mary Cate I like you. I’ve liked you for a really long time. I think you’re beautiful. And I would like to take you on a date.” (And I’m sure he said much more than that but I was obviously not in my most prime mental state so those are the phrases that have remained).
And there it was. See, after a weird few years of one long, hard relationship and several guys trying to pursue me in a bizarre, “in through the back door,” passive sort of way, all I wanted was for the next guy I dated to say “I like you and I want to take you on a date.” Simple, clear, incredibly intentional. And he did it. And I was amazed. I hadn’t even told him that was what I needed. So he left for Texas, and we talked on the phone every night, which felt like planting tiny little seeds in the garden of what would become our relationship, and when he came back to Knox, we went on some very special dates and then he asked me to be his girlfriend and I said yes. (Well, I said yes the second time for stupid reasons because I was afraid, but that’s a story for another Friday).
Today, we’ve been together for over a year. At then end of this month it will be 15 months. Over one whole year that’s been filled with a lot of laughter, tears, prayers, road trips, cups of coffee, homecooked meals, and healing in my heart. This man, who started off as just a friend who saw me in some of the ugliest moments of my life (literally, seasons of bawling on the floor in worship, never wearing make up, and other moments that I like to say were “very Mary Cate”), has become the deepest love of my life, my dearest friend, my perfect counterpart.
It’s a very interesting phenomenon to realize that God wants to do a deep and healing work in you through another person. Before Colton, I really believed that I didn’t need people. I didn’t need anyone but God. And while that is kind of true, in the fact that I will never experience fullness with anyone but the Father, I cannot forsake the fact that He wants to use other people to shape and transform and refine me too. I was keeping people at a distance, never letting anyone fully in, and was missing out of one of the greatest blessing God gives us in this life: to be known.
And it hasn’t always been easy. The doors of my heart weren’t immediately flung open, but sometimes love is slower and intentional, and you look back and gasp at the fact that someone has been slowly and patiently letting their love wrap you up and bring you healing. It’s what God does, and it’s what he offers us a glimpse of through others as well. And every time I think about it I’m floored because it’s just a really beautiful thing to realize.
A few months ago, back on August 15th, I was driving home form the beach with my group of best friends. We had spent the week laughing and soaking up the sun, and I was ready to be home after a long summer of traveling every couple of weeks. But we were heading to Max Patch (If you have never been or you don’t know what this is, YOU NEED TO GO!!). And when we got there, my friends handed me a letter and said their goodbyes and my heart started racing. Because I realized who was up at the top of the mountain. It was my love, and he had a question for me, one that was going to mark and define the rest of our lives. Tears are literally welling up in my eyes as I sit at the Plaid Apron and write this, because the reality of that sentence is so much greater than it was on that day in August, and it will only continue to grow in weightiness and strength. God is good.
So I hiked up the the trail in my dress (I thought we were having a photo shoot with all my friends lol) and tried to soak in the beauty that was around me. Colt had written me letters and placed them in various places up along the trail. So I stopped and I read and I tried to take it all in. But there’s really only so much you can take in and so long you want to wait when you know what is coming 😉 But I made it to the top and there he was. He led me to the spot he had picked out for us and washed my feet and told me that he was so sure about me. That he loved me. That he wanted to do this life together, always, for the rest of our lives. And I said YES!! Because when someone like Colton James LeBoeuf comes along and wants to love you, you say yes. And yes again. All the time, every day, for the rest of your life. ‘Cause he’s seriously the greatest one around and I do not deserve him in the least.
But why is this important? What does my story of relationship and engagement matter to anyone other than me and Colt?
It matters because God is faithful. He has always been faithful. He knows our deepest desires that well up in our hearts. And because I need to remember again and again that He is GOOD to me. And He’s good to you.
See, what I didn’t know when I picked up that little acorn almost two years ago, was that around the same time, God was putting Isaiah 61 on Colton’s heart. It says–
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”
And what do oak trees come from? Acorns. ACORNS PEOPLE!!!!
How crazy and thoughtful of God?! How deeply intentional can He be?!
I had no idea that at the same time, the Lord was putting a similar promise in each of our hearts. We knew each other at that time, but we were not close, and it was only after we started dating that we came to this crazy realization.
And I didn’t even do anything to deserve it. I did not deserve a love, deserve freedom from heaviness and despair, did not even deserve a relationship with God. But in His kindness, He bent down low to save me. And He gave me the sweetest gift. He gave me himself. And that would have been enough. But he chose to bless abundantly beyond that as well. And I don’t take it for granted. I want to savor it and remember it and hold fast to the fact that He loves me.
It’s a miracle, and it’s a miracle that He loves you too. Because what we really deserved was His wrath, but He blesses us with relationship and with Truth. He comes near to rescue you. He has promises He wants to fulfill for you.
There are acorns all around your life, waiting to be picked up, believed in, and held on to. The Father is longing to enter into your story and take it in a direction that you never imagined it would go, but somehow would not ever change or rewrite.
There are seasons of hoping and waiting. The acorns of Truth have to be planted. Watered and nurtured. And the waiting can feel so agonizing because it seems like it’s taking to long. I know you want to quit. I know you’re feeling hopeless.
But He’s taking care of you.
And when little shoots of green begin to break out of the ground you will be overwhelmed and free to fall to your knees and declare that He is good.
So please keep hoping, please keep holding onto your own little acorns. Because people need the hope you have in your soul. You have a testimony. You have a story to tell. Our stories are not finished, they are not fully written, but they need to be told no matter where we think they are.
Hope is awakening my friends. The Lord is doing something new. I’m with you in this wherever you are.
He is taking care of you.
Photo above by the glorious and talented Erin McCall.