During SEEK 2015, some form of “What’s your love story?” was the most tweeted question during my interview. Almost everybody loves a good love story, and with Valentine’s Day around the corner, I think now is the perfect time to share mine.
(Oh, and that “50 Shades of Lies” movie that’s coming out… don’t go see it. Nothing about that move is good, true, or beautiful.)
The first time I heard about the infamous Kevin Cotter was from my fellow cheerleaders at St. Thomas Aquinas High School who described him as the “hot guy who went to youth group.” I was immediately intrigued. If there was, in fact, a hot guy who went to a church youth group, I wanted to meet him.
My chance finally came in the fall of my senior year in high school. We were both at a clean-up day for a property that our Archdiocese had recently purchased to turn into a youth camp. When I heard he was there, I marched right up to him (in the Disco Tek, for any of you Camp Tekakwitha fans out there) and introduced myself. It was a brief and awkward conversation, due to some false information I had been given by my cheerleading sources, but I had accomplished my goal.
During the following summers, we were camp counselors at the very place we had met several months before. Through leading Bible studies, riding horses, entertaining campers with songs and skits, and spending days in a harness and helmet for climbing elements, we became friends. I was able to see Kevin work with kids and teens, interact with friends, share his faith, and be a dedicated employee. Watching him do it all with such ease and fun quickly convinced me that he might be the one… as in, the one guy who was out of my league. I distinctly remember having a moment where I thought, I cannot wait to see who Kevin Cotter is going to marry, because she is going to be the most amazing girl, and I’m going to be her best friend.
Right before our junior year of college Kevin decided to transfer to Benedictine College, where I had been studying since my freshmen year. He quickly fit into my circle of friends, and before we knew it his two best friends were dating my two best friends. I’m sure you can imagine what that looked like when the six of us hung out. Due to these circumstances, Kevin thought it might be a good idea for us to DTR (define the relationship).
One Sunday afternoon, we were carpooling back to campus and he took the opportunity to let me know that he had really come to enjoy our friendship and that he was glad that we were “just friends.” My words responded with “Totally, yeah,” but my heart thought, Bummer… well, I shouldn’t be surprised. He is, after all, out of my league.
Normally I would have seen this DTR of friendship as a challenge. “You don’t like me, huh? Right. Give me two weeks. I’ll change your mind.” And then I would have begun to work my manipulation magic and become who I thought he wanted me to be for the sake of proving him wrong.
I’d been down that path before, several times, in fact. When it came to relationships, I was constantly putting God to the side and trying to forcefully write my own fairytale. But with Kevin, I wanted things to be different. With Kevin, I didn’t want to manipulate the situation. Despite my disappointment, I truly wanted to uphold his intentions because I wanted to know that, if one day he fell in love with me, it was be because he fell in love with the real me and not some fake version of me that I created to try to win him over. For the first time, I was willing to give God a shot at writing my fairytale.
Several weeks went by, and one morning I mentioned to Kevin that I was going for a run that afternoon. I was in the midst of training for my first marathon, and never having been a runner before, I was always looking for running buddies to keep me motivated. So when Kevin said he could use some exercise, I was delighted that he asked to join me. At the end of our three-mile run, I jokingly asked him if he wanted to join me for a 10-miler on Saturday. To my shock he agreed, stating, “I’ve never run 10 miles before. Sounds like a fun challenge.” And apparently it was a fun challenge because, after that, he started joining me every Saturday for my long runs.
As fall set in and the weather grew colder, we met outside in front of Ferrell Hall for another run. Due to the chill, I suggested we skip stretching and get going. Kevin awkwardly disagreed. So I sat on the cold concrete and began to stretch as he began what sounded like a familiar conversation. He told me how he really enjoyed our friendship and I immediately thought, Oh, no. Seriously, this again? I thought I was doing a really good job of being “just friends.” But as he went on, I became really confused as the monologue eventually took a turn and he concluded by saying, “And I feel like God is calling us to pursue a deeper relationship and I wanted to know if I could take you out on a date.”
My train of thought froze. Wait, what? Did he just ask me out?! Wow. I think that’s what he actually said. After a sufficiently awkward pause, I finally replied with “yes” and we headed out for the best run of my life.
The next day, I returned home from class to a bouquet of flowers on my desk and a note letting me know that he was excited for our upcoming date. It took me three full days to get my appetite back as I floated around campus, understanding for the first time what people meant when they talked about being on cloud nine. That weekend he took me downtown to dinner at Lidia’s and the whole time I just kept thinking, I can’t believe I’m actually on a date with Kevin Cotter. Is this seriously for real? During the evening, he did all the things you would expect a gentleman to do. He told me I looked beautiful, opened my doors, let me order first, engaged me in real conversation, and returned me to my doorstep with a “thank you for a wonderful night” and brief hug.
That amazing date was the first of many as our dating relationship eventually turned into a marriage proposal outside of the adoration chapel at St. Michael the Archangel. At the time, the parish was holding Mass in its newly built school gym as they raised money to build a permanent church. Kevin sat me down underneath a massive statue of St. Michael that looked out onto the field where the parish would one day build their church—and after washing my feet, it was there, looking out onto that empty field, that he asked me if I would work to build the Church with him as his wife.
This is my fairytale, and it is even better than I ever dreamed it could be. And it all started with my decision to start running. Running physically, yes, but also running towards our Lord and towards the things I knew He was calling me to: working as a counselor at a youth camp, attending the school I felt called to, not manipulating the situation when Kevin was glad we were “just friends,” training for a marathon (and finishing it holding Kevin’s hand)—and ultimately trusting God to write the perfect love story for me.