Anna and Steven

Anna's Proposal in Mid-South Youth Camp in Henderson, TN

How We Met – her side

Steven and I both grew up going to Mid-South Youth camp. While he was busy being a cool junior counselor and performing in camp talent shows, I was busy digging in my fanny pack for loose change to buy a break pop during free time. Both apparently having better things to do than notice each other, our official introduction didn’t happen until last summer, a decade later, at Mid-South Youth camp. My little brother Reed became a counselor that summer at Mid-South. Steven was about to start dental school in Arizona and there was only one place Steven wanted to be in the meantime: Camp.

He and Reed were counselors together that summer. Reed knew I was recently single, and as any little brother might do, he texted me and said, “If there’s one guy I could pick for you to marry it would be Steven Simpson. I know you don’t know who he is… but he’s awesome. He studies his bible, like really knows it, and is just genuinely one of the best people I know. Also, he’s a really good swimmer (p.s. swimming is your token to fame at camp). Nasty good.”

I really missed my brother, so naturally I visited camp. Twice. When Steven introduced himself to me during my first visit, I couldn’t find my words. English? Nope, apparently not the language I speak. Striiiiiiike one. After that exchange, Steven was doing the nightly devotional in front of a bonfire. He told the story of one of the Old Testament Kings and also gave some of his testimony of how hard it is to walk the Christian life. I sat there, criss-crossed in the itchy grass, knowing my life would a long and difficult journey to Heaven, but that I wanted to walk beside someone like him. I needed someone like him to help me get there. Or, him. Yep, he would work too. In between my first and second visit, I hit him with a Facebook request. This is as forward as I get.

Now Facebook suggestions really have tricked me in the past and I get kind of addicted to taking suggestions from Facebook and seeing who is coming next, but yeah, Steven was not suggested by Facebook. He was a: “Manually-entered-Steven not Stephen-oh it must be this one he’s from Knoxville-ugh no that says Simson, not Simpson-I should quit Facebook-Ahhh, there you are-add as friend-click-hope he likes my profile pic!” Kind of add. And it took him exactly one week to accept it. At this point, my fantasy of being Mrs. Simpson gently subsided. And then on my second visit (end of the summer) he said two whole words to me, “Welcome back!” and I just smiled and walked away.

It. Was. Horrible. So that’s our story. Or at least the beginning. He was moving to Arizona and I was moving all the way to Auburn to start graduate school. Byeeeeee, Steven. Then a funny thing happened. Steven wasn’t moving to Arizona anymore, last minute he decided to go to school in Augusta, Georgia. Because he wanted to be closer to his family, not because it’s only three hours from Auburn. But still. I’m three hours away from my dream dude. He still probably hasn’t labeled me as his dream girl, but we’ve got nothing but time to kill here. He’ll get there eventually. It was now August. I had moved in, he had started dental school. I get a message on Facebook from Steven. “Hey! I met one of your roommates at church today!” Thank you, Savannah Burns, for being born and being my roommate. “Oh,” (might it be) “Savannah?” My 3x roommate and only human being I knew in Augusta, Georgia. “Yep. I went to Central. It was a great church.”

He was being friendly, like pen-pal friendly. Genuinely nice. But not flirty. Not trying to slide in. Just making a quick connection and wishing me a good day. Woo-hoo. So that was that. I completely absorbed myself in school. Forgot about him for weeks. Because like, we had said a few sentences to each other and made one mutual friend connection. No big deal. Then time passed and he messaged me again about how school was going for me. Peculiar. I told him that it was great. I threw in a lot of sarcasm on how much I love studying and work, and looking back now, I realize he didn’t pick up the sarcasm because Steven is (literally) the most literal person I know.

So again, weeks passed, and he had made no advances. An occasional message here and there but I had no idea what to think of any of it, so I just didn’t think anything of it. Then finally, one day when we were chatting back and forth, he asked for my number. Then he started texting me on a more consistent basis which led to a Skype date, and then several Skype dates, and then a real date. We met in Atlanta and we went to lunch at the Varsity and then went to the aquarium. We walked and talked about everything we could think of, and we really had the best time. As we were crossing one of the streets, he held my hand and then let go soon after, and I was just like still in denial on that fact I remembered English around him now and that he was here, in Atlanta, with me, holding my hand and talking about his dreams and his family and his hate for Biochemistry.

I talked to God real good for about an hour on my way home that night. If Steven was His plan, then I welcomed it. But if he wasn’t His plan, then I needed to know immediately because my feelings have a funny way of outweighing my head. Interrupting these thoughts about thirty miles from Auburn was my phone ringing. It was Steven and he said, “I wanted to call you as soon as you left, but I thought it might be a little too soon. But I just wanted to let you know that I had the best time with you. I’ve been trying to call everyone I know to tell them how perfect it was, but no one’s answering. So I thought I’d call you to tell you.” I guess it was that moment again I felt a peace wash over me with the idea of being with Steven forever. No, I did not know him that well at that point. But I knew he had a superpower in bringing out the good in me by seeing the best in me.

Sooooooo (and when I’m verbally telling our story I love to ask for a drum roll here but a virtual head nod is also appropriate) he asked me to be his girlfriend a couple weeks later in front of a swamp and I felt like the luckiest person in the world.

We talked everyday and sometimes had each other on Skype while we studied or worked on projects. We visited each other as often as we could, but never often enough, and I loved him more than I had ever known to love someone. But I was careful to admit it. Because I knew how real it was.

I fell deeply in love with his spiritual soul first. It was the easiest to love without any reservation. I loved the respect he showed me in every way. The way he fought for us to be pure. The way he talked to God on behalf of us. The way he shared his hidden heart with me, his spiritual battles, and welcomed me to share mine. His spiritual soul, my greatest love and the love I will know forever. I then fell in love with his physical self. His ridiculous obsession with Seinfeld and baking cookies. His inability to conquer the world of sarcasm no matter how many lessons I gave him. His love for his family and mine. His brilliance and ability to succeed in dental school. His drop-dead gorgeous eyeballs and the way they light up when I talk. The way he puts his hand on my back when I am walking and fearlessly returns any type of affection I show him in public with even fuller gusto.

The way I can tell through the phone that he’s smiling. And most importantly, his humbleness when I tell him he’s the very best boy I know. So here we are, less than a year later from when it all began and I have a ring on my finger and we are planning a wedding. And people will think we are crazy, and some might even say it out loud, but all I know is we are ready to start this life together. 11 months of witnessing his contagious love for others and his steadfast love for me all by imitating so well the love of our Lord has taught me we are ready.

how they asked – his side

I remember on my first date with Anna thinking I’d be perfectly okay with marrying her. It wasn’t a “I could grow into marrying this girl someday in the future” feeling, it was more of a “If we got married tomorrow I wouldn’t complain” feeling.

Normally on car trips I get excited about singing at the top of my lungs, but on the way back to my apartment I tried to call everyone I knew to tell them about how incredible Anna was! I tried parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, old roommates, wedding planners, but no one answered! I finally called Anna, because even though I’d just spent 9 hours on a date, I wanted to talk to her. Fast forward through the next 11 months and my initial feelings haven’t changed. If for some reason we had a chance to get married immediately, I would do it willingly. We had mentioned marriage several times, but it was always a reserved, carefully worded conversation on my part. I didn’t want to scare her away with my thoughts and intentions if she wasn’t ready for it yet.

We went on a long road trip to my cousin’s wedding and had our first completely serious conversation about getting married to each other. We talked about timelines for when we could get married. We talked about dates for the wedding, when we could get engaged, how we could work this into graduate school schedules, everything! I was relieved, because I had nervously been looking at engagement rings for a couple of weeks. It was nice knowing we were on the same page. The tricky part with timing was that when we were choosing to get married didn’t leave a lot of time for proposing. In a span of a few weeks I needed to find a ring, talk to her parents, figure out the idea of the logistics of the proposal, and not fail out of arguably the hardest semester of dental school I would have.

I got a ring after countless hours of research on diamonds when I should have been studying for Neuroanatomy. I knew after my week of finals I was going to spend a couple of days with Anna and her family in Tennessee, so I would propose then. I couldn’t figure out how I would get Anna’s parents alone in the short amount of time I had, and there was a possibility of people staying at their house the night of our engagement, so I had to settle for calling Anna’s dad and asking for his blessing less than a week before. After texting several families I was close with after working at Mid-South Youth Camp, I had people enlisted to help decorate the craft house where we met and take pictures.

I had narrowed down the time for proposing to Sunday night after church. I couldn’t do earlier in the weekend because the camp was being used for a retreat, and more importantly, Anna was asked to speak to the girls at an area-wide church event Sunday afternoon. I didn’t want to propose any time before that because I knew that would be a distraction to her preparing! It also gave me the perfect time to drive to camp to see the decorations in person. I also decided to take the ring to camp and have it taped underneath the porch swing for easy access (the box also wouldn’t fit in my pocket).

Since it looked like it was going to rain, throughout church I kept looking at the weather on my phone, with Anna poking me and asking why I was looking at the weather. After church I asked Anna if she wanted to go out to Mid-South to hang hammocks and eat dinner. She asked if she should go home and change clothes, and I said she’d be fine in her dress (since we weren’t actually hammocking). We stopped by McDonalds and got M&M McFlurries and some French fries and drove out to camp. We got out of the car and Anna had to remind me to get the hammocks from my trunk.

We started walking across camp and I pulled out my phone and started playing the song Geronimo by Sheppard. I had planned everything out. We were going to walk up to the craft house surrounded by the candles and pictures I’d printed out, and I was going to talk about the significance of that song to me and our relationship. I was going to say how it was playing on the radio the first time we kissed, and how so much of our relationship hasn’t required me to sit and think or reason about why we were dating and why should we get married because I already knew everything I needed. I knew that Anna was going to be a great wife and mother, and that she was already a great role model for so many Christian girls. Plus, I knew that my family loved her and would kill me if I didn’t end up marrying her! Geronimo was the perfect song because it’s about not overthinking things and diving in headfirst.

I didn’t say any of that… As we were walking up to the craft house Anna said (not-so-innocently), “What’s all this?” I’m 99% sure she’d known all weekend I was going to propose to her on Sunday night. She’s smart and inquisitive, and I’m an awful liar. But she wasn’t prepared for the pictures and candles and strands of lights decorating the porch of the craft house. We walked up onto the porch and I saw the ring box I’d expertly hidden with duct tape sitting on the ground. The rain and humidity hadn’t been very helpful. I turned around from picking up the ring and I was about to start my spiel about Geronimo but couldn’t get the words out from both of us laughing.

Still laughing and grinning from ear to ear, I just got down on my knee and say, “Anna, will you marry me?” And my beautiful bride-to-be leaned over, still giggling, and said, “Of course!”

Where to Propose in Mid-South Youth Camp in Henderson, TN

We turned around and waved at our hidden photographers and then went to the mess hall of camp, where I had organized some of our families and friends to come together to eat cupcakes and cake! Overall, the evening was perfect. 10 out of 10! P.S. This day will also go down in history as the only time we have ever left McDonald’s french fries and McFlurries uneaten.