“I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.” —Psalm 54:6b
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” —Lamentations 3:22–23
At the end of June, Ben and I drove down to Gatlinburg, TN, where we stayed for 2 nights. Upon our arrival, we enjoyed a light hike in the Smoky Mountains and walking around Gatlinburg seeing ridiculous souvenirs for sale. As we walked along a riverside, we got to see a groundhog standing on the sidewalk enjoying beef jerky that had been dropped from ski lift riders above. After a night of decent rest (and I say decent because I do not normally share a bed-bug-ridden bed with my brother), Ben and I got up at sunrise to head to the trail head of Mt. LeConte. It is 5 miles to the lodge near the top, and half a mile farther to the peak. I had planned on us spending the entire day hiking to enable us to hike at a slow but steady pace. We hit the trail nearly jogging. (Note to travelers with young teenage boys: they have way more energy than you, and it seems to be endless.) I should have anticipated Ben’s excitement to get to the top. We passed one group of travelers after another. Unlike mine, Ben’s energy never seemed to run out. In just 2 hours we reached the lodge, where we ate lunch. The squirrels at the lodge are so used to people feeding them that they came right up to our backpacks to steal our food, so I used my hiking sticks to inflict judgment upon them (none were injured). Thinking it would be funny, I threw a wax cheese wrapper at a squirrel. To my total amazement, he ate the entire wax ball! My stomach churned as I hoped I had not just killed a squirrel. He quickly returned for more. To our disappointment, there was a forest and a heap of rocks when we reached the top. No spectacular view. No feeling of accomplishment. Ben added to the rock pile as I found passing hikers and asked if there were any good views nearby. Another half mile down the trail, there was a stunning view. Right as we reached the second peak, the clouds rolled away and the sun came out, giving us incredible views for miles around! It caused my heart to burst with songs and scriptures of praise at the incredible beauty of creation. On the way down, Ben jumped, skipped, and jogged, making the trip even faster than coming up.
This summer, I interned at Eagle Creek Nursery working for both the landscape and nursery parts of the business. They chose really wonderful customers for me to design their front yard and be involved with the entire process of installing it. It was a joyful experience working with the customers from start to finish and seeing my design come to life. At the nursery, I helped customers find the best plants for their homes and designed pencil sketches for homeowners who wanted to install their own landscape but needed a designer to create the layout and choose the plants.
In the early summer, Kyle Schmidt began suggesting we take a trip to the Chicago Botanical Garden. Unbeknownst to me, he was putting hours of time into preparing the perfect engagement day. On July 5 we headed up to Chicago for our special day and arrived around 11am. As we walked around the gardens, Kyle regularly became “confused” and “lost.” While I had been there once before, Kyle had never been there. I thought he was truly getting lost, but he was actually keeping us away from the spot where he intended to propose until the photographer showed up. When I could be convinced no longer to stay away from that spot, we headed on over even though the photographer was late and had not yet arrived. At that location, Kyle decided it was not as beautiful as another spot we passed earlier, so he quickly texted the photographer to update him of his new location. When the photographer didn’t show up, Kyle came up with an excuse to run to the restroom to give him a call. The photographer had been witnessing to a friend nearby and had silenced his phone! We proceeded to look around the rest of the gardens while waiting for the photographer. It was now mid-afternoon, and I assumed that it was not our engagement day, as I was certain Kyle would have proposed in the morning. At last the photographer showed up when we were at the opposite end of the gardens. Kyle had to persuade me to move faster to get back to where he was going to propose. He took me back inside the rose garden trellis where he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. In tears, I said yes. We spent the rest of the day finishing seeing the gardens, then went to Navy Pier for a dinner of sushi, the food we ate on our first date. After I graduate in December 2020, Lord willing, we will get married in May 2021 after Kyle finishes his doctorate in veterinary medicine.