At this point in time, I’m a newly transferred sophomore at Clemson & have been diving headfirst into FCA. That fall, my friend Taylor and I wanted to go to the FCA Autumn shag, but we didn’t have dates so we decided to go with a group of girls. We had the best time, plus it was the first time I had ever been taught how to shag.
In the spring, FCA hosts another event called Sadie Hawkins in February. I’m sure most of you know the tradition, but with Sadie Hawkins the roles are reversed, the girls are supposed to ask the guys to the dance. I was still pretty new & getting my bearings at Clemson, and wasn’t dating anyone at the time. So, when it came to FCA events, I just assumed I’d go with my group of girls in our small group. When it came time to start asking dates if they’d like to go, Taylor and I made a deal – we both wanted to step outside of our comfort zones and ask guys we didn’t know.
We asked our friend Jenn who was “safe” haha, aka what guys were fun dates and like to dance, and wouldn’t be awkward or intimidating. She gave us a few guys names and said we’d have a great time going to Sadie Hawkins with any of them. Thinking back, it’s so funny to think of who was on that list, all of which are our friends now! One of those names was Braden Nichols, and he seemed nice. We had only met once or twice in passing or in big group gatherings, so truthfully I didn’t know him at all. Taylor decided on who she was going to ask, and we both agreed that we’d ask Braden and Seth at a bonfire that weekend.
That weekend rolled around and I was a nervous wreck! I had never asked anyone to a shag, let alone someone I didn’t know at all. We spent a few hours at the bonfire, and as time quickly passed by, I was slowly running out of time to ask him before the bonfire was over. I’ll never forget – my friend Ashton knew my mission, and at one point when I was standing in proximity to Braden, Ashton literally picked me up and plopped me right beside Braden like I was 5 years old. It literally still makes me laugh to this day, because without his help, I may never have worked up the courage to ask Braden.
All anxiety aside, I asked him “will you go to Sadie Hawkins with me,” and to my surprise he said yes! Tay and I accomplished our goal, we both asked our dates and both stepped completely outside of our comfort zones!
On the night of Sadie Hawkins, our group of small group girls stuck together & had dinner with our dates in a friend’s apartment. Braden was on the events team for FCA, so he had to go help set up, so we only spent a few minutes hanging out pre-dinner before he had to head to the church. To be honest, I was completely relieved because small talk is not my strength, and having it all unfold this way was a blessing. I was able to spend time with my friends with calm nerves, he was able to serve & help set up, and we met back up once at the event.
Prior to him having to head to the church, him and our friend Seth were playing music from a computer. They played a song called “White Dress” by Ben Rector, the irony actually kills me, and said that Ben was playing in Atlanta that following week & we should all go. I’ll come back to this part of the story 🙂
Once we got to the shag, I was able to find Braden and I’ll never forget being so nervous for our first dance together. 1) I wasn’t a good dancer at all, and 2) the whole idea of embarrassing myself was honestly just too much haha. He grabbed my hand and pulled me to the dance floor and threw me around like it was nothing, he is such a good leader and it made following so much easier. We had so many people come up to us and say something along the lines of “dang y’all look good together,” or “you dance really well together,” and a few occasional “;)” haha.
We had the best time!
After the shag was over, I planned to spend the night at Tay’s apartment. Braden texted me something along the lines of “tonight was so fun, I had the best time” and we ended up texting for an hour or so after. I was honestly so surprised he had any interest to keep our conversation going. Being a new believer, not knowing many people at Clemson, etc I just had doubts and felt that he was too good for me. So, this continuous conversation was surprising but definitely welcomed.
Remember that Ben Rector song being played on the night of the shag? Well, we ended up going to Atlanta to see him in concert with a group of friends. At this point, a little crush had definitely developed, but I hadn’t admitted it to anyone but Tay. Ben Rector was pretty fresh, so after the concert he came out and hung out with everyone at the concert, which looking back is so cool. Since this concert, we’ve been to a Ben Rector concert almost every year, his music plays such a huge role in our relationship.
Over the next few weeks, Braden started showing up at our little hang outs a little more and more. It’s funny because he wasn’t really in our group of friends, but would text our guy friends Evan and Ed to hang out – conveniently I would always be around for said hangs 😉
After getting to know each other in a super casual way for about a month, Braden asked me out on our first date. We went to J. Peters in Anderson & rode around Anderson after dinner to just chat and get to know one another. I was so nervous that night that I literally didn’t eat anything. I ordered she crab soup and ate like 3 bites, Braden still loves to make fun of me for that. He ordered a huge burger and didn’t finish it either, not because he was nervous, but because I went mute and he had to do all of the talking haha. I literally felt like I was going to throw up I was so nervous – to this day we laugh about how I literally didn’t talk at all.
It’s funny, but I took this photo right before our date. I was trying to create distractions so time would pass by quickly, so I got a new profile picture out of it (haha shameless), but will also always have this memory to look back on. I remember exactly how I felt when I look at this photo.
Somehow someway he still wanted to get to know me, even with my minimal amount of words at dinner on our first date. Soon after this date, FCA was heading to Washington DC for a spring break mission trip that we were both going on. We ended up being in different groups but in the same caravan, so our van drivers were on the same walkie talkie system so we could communicate back and forth. The week in DC was life changing for me because I had never been on a mission trip & had never been a part of serving in that capacity. I grew so much that week & will write about it one day.
But, each night after gathering to listen to a speaker, Braden and I would sit in the hallway and talk until the wee hours of the morning. One night, we went to a small little huddle house situation with some other friends (enter Ali and Andrew, who have been in our lives from the very start) and got pancakes. The next morning I threw up, fairly certain from bad pancakes, but it was worth it haha. During one of our late night chats in the hall way, I asked him if he’d be up for going to Taylor’s sister’s wedding with me in Columbia and he said yes. Taylor asked our friend Evan, so we went as a little group.
At Tay’s sister’s wedding, Braden caught the garter (it works people!) and that night we officially started dating, on April 9, 2011!
The remainder of the semester, we spent most of our time together and with our friends. Soon after we started dating, we went to the spring semi formal together with our group of friends.
Soon after classes ended, I went on Braden’s family beach trip. Looking back, this was so early in our relationship, we had only been dating a month and I was already spending a few days at the beach with his family haha. When you know, you know I guess 🙂
The Lord really started tugging on my heart during this month & I really felt led to take my next steps in my faith, I wanted to be baptized and proclaim my faith in Jesus Christ to the world. I wrote that I wanted more info on baptism on a connect card one Sunday at church, talked with our pastor on the phone, and planned to get baptized the Sunday before my birthday and didn’t tell anyone but my mom. Braden went to church with us that morning & when they announced baptisms I got so overwhelmed and excited that I started shaking. Not the freak out kind of shaking, but the “oh my gosh this is really happening” kind. I told Braden to look at my shaking hand and he said “are you about to get baptized?!” We all went outside and to this day I still remember exactly how I felt in this moment. I have tears in my eyes thinking about this huge moment in my life, and it’s something Braden got to be a part of.
When Braden asked me on that first date, I was so excited but also so nervous. I honestly just didn’t feel good enough for him. I felt like my past was too tainted, I wasn’t a strong enough believer, and that he would get to know me and not like what he found. But from the day I met him, he has loved every bit of me & has made me feel more comfortable, understood, heard and loved even when we were just getting to know one another.