The Lees Photography, California
My family and I had just started going to a new church. It’s always a little nerve racking being the new kid and for me, as a Sophomore in high school, this was my first time being the new kid. After we’d been going to Willow a few months one of the girls in my small group, Chelsey, told me they were looking to hire more people for the Fast Team. “Fast Team?” I asked her. She told me the Fast Team was the group that sets up and tears down everything each Sunday since we meet in a high school. It’s a lot of work so they hire high school and college kids to knock it out.
Even at 15 I worked as a caddie at Cantigny and had my lawn mowing business going. However, what I liked about this is that it would be once a week all year round. Gas in the family minivan for when I could drive next year. I looked right at her and asked her just one question, “Are there cute boys?” From there, I was in.
From across the room, our first glance at each other…
This is embarrassing. Can I share this with you? This goes back before my conversation with Chelsey. When we first started going to Willow they would have munchkins for everyone after service. It was a way for people to meet other people in their neighborhood as each table with munchkins had a high school name above it. I LOVED that there were munchkins after church! Not because I would get to meet the other people, but because I could go to each table and grab a chocolate munchkin and nobody was the wiser. … sort of.
I was working the room, per usual. Probably teaching my little sisters my ways and I remember looking up only to see three high school/college age guys looking right at me and laughing with each other! Flash forward six months or so and I realized two of the guys were Blake and his Best Man David. Three of the Fast Team guys. Talk about first impressions. Blake told me that was the first day he saw me and the day he started asking around to figure out who the girl with long brown hair and a karate jacket was. Imagine his surprise when I walked into Fast Team that first day.
A couple of Fast Team photos I could find from a few years later. 🙂
Blake, Cody, Rachael, Courtney
The sign… not that kind. The literal sign.
After I had been on the fast team for a couple of months, Blake asked me if I would “help” him with the sign. Being a packable church, each week we put out street signs so people know where we are. I think I’ve said this before, but I’m pretty sure Blake was sizing me up with this ask.
Guys. These signs were no joke. You’ve probably seen the small A-frame sidewalk signs. Nope. Not for us. Each week we put out signs that are 6ft wide and 6ft tall. I’m not exaggerating! I’m only 5’3 and we walked these signs out each Sunday balancing them on our back because it was the only way to carry them. Oh, and back then, they were made out of the heaviest metal known to man. (That may be an exaggeration…)
As Blake helped me put the sign on my back he told me just to chuck it if I felt like I was going to lose it. I’m pretty sure I just laughed. Coming from a house of girls, my Dad taught us, “Bradley’s never quit,” and to never let ourselves be underestimated just because we’re girls. When Blake told me to chuck it if the wind picked up, the song, “Anything you can do, I can do better,” popped into my head.
All that being said… we were halfway across the field when it happened. A huge gust of wind came and I was positive I was going to be crushed. Thankfully, Blake’s words came back to me and I chucked it over my head, narrowly surviving only to look up and see I had just chucked this 100lb metal sign onto Blake’s foot. …oops.
To date, (motorcycle accident and all) Blake still says that is the most pain he has ever been in. Sorry babe.
Despite our …odd… first encounters, Blake kept popping over to Promiseland every Sunday needing this or that. The best part was that he never came empty-handed. Taking cues from the first time he saw me, that usually meant food. Chobani yogurt to be exact.
Peers & Proposals
As a few more months went by, we were both elevated to supervisors on the Fast Team. He was in charge of the Main Stage and Student Ministries. I was in charge of Promiseland and Overflow.
Peer to peer now we had more excuses to talk and he offered to drive me home from work. This turned into teaching me how to drive. Not regular driving. I’d already mastered that. I was just waiting to turn 16 for the state to recognize I’d mastered it. No, Blake taught me to cruise through the church parking lot at remarkable speeds backward. 😉 I’m still pretty good.
Secret rendezvous. A friendship is born.
I remember the day clearly. Blake was still a little hesitant to hang out with me, but he also kept showing up. After dropping me off from work he said to me, “I think we’re going to be good friends when you turn 18.” I looked right at him and said, “Well, I’m going to be 16 soon, I don’t know why we can’t be friends then.” In my mind we were peers and that was that.
We started hanging out a lot more. We would go to the gym together every Thursday. Work mid-week set up together, rollerblading up and down the high school halls to see how fast we could go set up. Hiking, eating lots of good food and even… hum… How do I say this? Ditching school.
I thought of it more as a learning opportunity. You should never let school get in the way of your education. (And I never ditched before 3rd-period math. That would be irresponsible. I needed all the help I could get!) So he would call me out for my “orthodontist” appointment, oh yes, these were the braces days. I would walk right out the front door, hop on the back of his motorcycle and we would go explore Chicago.
From the Skydeck & millennium park to back roads, we explored it all. My favorite Chicago memory was the day I brought my camera.
I was taking my first film photography class and we had to shoot a whole roll of people. Blake and I searched the city for the most interesting people we could find. From older people enjoying the sunshine outside to a security guard striking a pose, we asked anyone we thought was interesting. It’s one of my most cherished memories and I couldn’t wait to develop the film.
I got to my photography class the next day to take out the roll and start developing it only to open up my camera and realize I’d never put a roll in! I had to laugh. Of course, I forgot to put a roll in. I was bummed as we did have some great shots, but it also meant we “had” to go back downtown Chicago.
This second time, I did have a roll in my camera and we each took one photo of the other person. They’re two photos I love and photos we now have hanging in our home over 10 years later.
The Impact of Friendship…
The crazy thing about meeting your significant other so early on is looking back and realizing how much they helped shape you into the person you are today. I’ve always been a hardworking, (Thanks Mom & Dad.) but it’s different when it’s your peer pushing you to be your best. Blake is the master at working hard AND having fun doing it. I can’t tell you how many times he told me “If you’ve got to live with it, might as well love it.” I don’t know if he even remembers saying it, but he said it all the time and it just made sense to me. It’s helped me so much in running my business and in life.
Blake is also the most generous person I know. From helping his friends around their homes, helping strangers on the side of the road, to serving at our church and hanging out with the high school guys on the Fast Team. He has a servant’s heart and I love that about him.
And yes, you read that right, we both started working on Fast Team again. This time as volunteers. It’s different now, but it’s even better. This time around we’re the old people pouring into high school students, listening to their stories and asking them questions. It was such an influential time in my life, Lord willing, we can have even a small impact in the lives of these students we serve alongside. #TeamWatsonForLife
Much Love Friend,
PS. Next installment of our story coming Friday, April 26th. How he finally asked me to be his girlfriend. 😉
Our Story: The Proposal That Almost Didn’t Happen!
March 29, 2019