How We Met
Jason: Oddly enough, I first heard about Gretchen in the wake of a tragic accident. While on on morning running during the first week of classes at the University of Kentucky, Gretchen was was hit by a car while jogging through a crosswalk (she had the right of way). She was hit so hard, she flew from the crosswalk to the sidewalk, her head smashing into the concrete. The result was two fractured skull bones, hemorrhaging, traumatic brain injury, a loss of her sense of smell, and a permanent loss of 70 percent of her hearing in her right ear. She was also later given a diagnosis of a mild neurocognitive disorder due to the brain injury.
At this time, however, I did not know Gretchen. Despite the fact we were both Resident Advisors at UK, were a part of the same campus ministry and literally lived right now the road from each other, our paths had never crossed. That changed after the accident. I worked with one of Gretchen’s good friends and was actually with her friend the moment she received the call about Gretchen’s accident. Though I did not know who Gretchen was, her friend asked me to pray for Gretchen.Throughout the next few days, while friends from all over campus joined together in prayer and support for Gretchen while she fought for her life in the hospital, I began to hear more and more about this girl. It turned out we had a number of mutual friends, and everyone of them had the most amazing things to say about her. She seemed incredible.
After a week in the ICU, the doctors said Gretchen would make it. They recommended she be pulled out of school and to begin intensive speech, physical and occupational therapy in order to aid in her healing process. Miraculously, her health improved so quickly, she was back at school three weeks after her accident, with no therapy needed.
During that time, Gretchen ended up getting a new phone number. While I had been hearing a lot about her during this time, I had still never met or even seen this girl that everyone kept telling me about. But for some reason, the same friend who I worked with decided to give me Gretchen’s new phone number. When I asked her why, she told me she figured we knew each other through our campus ministry. In response, in a joking but poorly-timed way, I asked “Is she cute?” Her friend, who did appreciate the comment, quickly responded: “If by cute you mean she has a beautiful heart for Jesus, then yes!” As I say when I tell this story to those who ask, I was just joking initially, but after hearing that, I was interested.
Since that moment, my interest grew. I honestly had no idea why; I had met plenty of women throughout my college experience, and this was a girl I only heard about through mutual friends, yet for some reason, I had this persistent feeling that I needed to meet her. I even brought this up to her friend, but she shot it down in rather quickly. And yet still, I couldn’t get this girl off my mind. I finally just gave in.
So I asked her to breakfast. I wish I could say that it was love at first sight and everything changed after we left that campus coffee shop, but that just wasn’t how it went down. In fact, in the span of about 45 minutes, I blushed when she first walked up to the table, I spit a grape straight into her lap, and, out of complete nervousness, I carried on so much about myself during our first conversation that she walked away from thinking I was straight-up conceited. Yet for some reason, it didn’t end there.
Gretchen: Despite my hesitation, I took my friend (the one who worked with Jason) up on an offer to go see Jason perform in a campus talent show. I wasn’t sure entirely how I felt about him, but I still went. I had no idea what to expect, but when I heard Jason’s voice while singing, my interest grew. I am a singer myself, so this was extremely attractive to me that he could sing so well. I also love Christmas music, so the fact that he was singing Christmas songs, and was singing them so well was a double whammy. At that point, I knew I wanted to explore getting to know Jason further.
After the talent show, Jason and I spent most of our time together going on nightly walks around campus. We wanted to get to know each other, and Jason’s way of getting to know me was an invitation to walk in the freezing cold of winter. Despite how much I don’t like the cold, I happily accepted every invitation he extended for a walk. I deeply enjoyed our conversations, as they were deep and intentional. I felt like I connected well with Jason on an intellectual and spiritual level. However, after about 3 or 4 weeks of going on walks, I started to wonder if Jason was going to ask me on a date. He had made no mention of it, and yet we seemed to both have great interest in each other.
Fortunately, shortly after talking with him more, he asked me on our first date. He took me to a local pottery painting place and we painted christmas ornaments. It was about the coolest first date you could imagine. I think it was a fabulous idea because the ornaments are something tangible that we will be able to look back on for the rest of our lives and remember our first date. After painting the ornaments, Jason took me to a local coffee shop for coffee and dessert. I knew after our first date that I wanted to be in a relationship with him. I was smitten. Several dates later, Jason asked me to be his girlfriend. The rest is history!
how they asked
Jason: I had known that Gretchen was ‘the one’ long before I started planning for the proposal. Even during some of our hardest times, I still had that assurance that I was going to spend the rest of my life with this woman. As a result, I began planning for the big day a good while in advance. I knew I wanted it to be special, and I knew I wanted it to be something she would love. I knew I wanted it to be a surprise of a lifetime.
Gretchen loves the piano. She doesn’t play, but she has always loved the sound. I have many times caught her studying or reading to a playlist of classical piano music. It gives her peace. She had for years told me she wanted to learn how to play, and would love to make that something we do together once we got married. I always told her I was open to the idea, but even after I figured out I was going to propose, I was always remained “slightly resistant” to the idea.
So, I set out to learn the piano in secret. I chose the song “Forever Like That” by Ben Rector. Not only were Gretchen and I both huge Ben Rector fans, but that song was particularly special to us. Not only was it both of our favorite songs, but the lyrics captured so perfectly the life that we both wanted, the life that we both wanted with one another. I knew I had to choose this song.
For the next six months I practiced. I did have a few years of piano lessons when I was a lot younger, but I had quit a long time ago, so for the most part I was starting from scratch. It took a long time. While learning the song, I also begin planning out all of the details of the proposal. I bought the ring with the money I had been saving up all summer. I also met with her father and mother to ask permission for her hand.
Then I began scouting out the perfect location for me to ask this woman to be my wife. I chose an arboretum not far from UK’s campus. It was a beautiful location, one we had been to many times before for walks, and it also offered many different secluded locations that would make for the perfect place to sing to my future bride.
With the location set, I began planning out the logistics behind pulling off this surprise. It took a lot of work…and a bit of lying. With the a few weeks until the big day, nearly every person in mine and Gretchen’s life knew about the proposal, except for her. It took everything in me to keep this a secret, and yet when the day came, she still had no idea.
I was so nervous the night before, my brother spent the night just to help keep my sain. We played video games and talked about his latest trip out West, but there was little mention of what was happening the next day. When the morning came, we packed up all the gear and took off to Lexington. I was nervous, but apparently it didn’t show.
My brother and I met a two other friends of ours at the location and began to set up. I had never been so nervous in my life. I knew I was going to mess up; I knew my voice was going to crack. But in the end, I knew it didn’t matter. I was here to ask the most important question of my life to the most important woman in my world. Even as we waited (and we waited a long time), I was surprisingly calmer than I had ever expected to be. Everything was in place, my friends were all here, and we could not have asked for a more beautiful day. It was time to ask to love of my life to be my wife.
Gretchen: The night Jason planned our proposal was a random Wednesday night near the middle of June. That night my best friend Madi and I had plans to go eat at a restaurant and then doing something fun together after. Madi wanted to go to a fancier restaurant so she suggested we both dress up. This didn’t seem abnormal at all.
As soon as we finished eating, Madi asked if I wanted to go to the Arboretum for a Worship Night event and I said yes. So, we walked around the arboretum trying to find the exact location of the “worship night” and we began to hear piano music. We walked in the direction of where the music was coming from. When I turned the corner Jason was behind a piano playing our favorite Ben Rector song.
I was in shock. So many thoughts raced through my mind like “Why is Jason in Lexington on a Wednesday?” (because we are long distance) and more importantly, “How does Jason know how to play the piano?” and “How did Jason get a piano set up in the middle of a park?”
I cried and smiled and laughed the whole way through while Jason was playing and singing the song. I had about fifty emotions hit me all at once. After the song ended, Jason said a lot of things that I don’t remember (I was still in shock). Then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It was the easiest and best yes.