September 17, 2017 is seemingly unimportant. To everyone else in the world, it was just a day, and year after year, it continues to just be a day to most. But to me, everything changed that day.
I moved to Louisville, Kentucky in the fall of 2017 where I pursued my master’s in sport administration at the University of Louisville. I finished undergrad at the University of Georgia the semester before, after deciding to graduate a year early to save money for grad school. (It ain’t cheap, y’all). My professors at UGA encouraged us to attend grad school, that most jobs in sports wouldn't hire unless you had your masters. I wasn't quite ready for adulthood and I didn't entirely know what I wanted to do yet, so grad school made sense.
The semester started mid-August and I trudged through my first month in Louisville: trying to find my niche, find my classes, and find a church. I had a pretty great roommate, Jenn, who was very chill and tried a bunch of new restaurants and coffee houses with me. A few weeks in, U of L played Clemson in Cardinal Stadium (formerly known as Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. RIP) after being the host for College Game Day. Meeting Maria Taylor and David Pollack was pretty awesome. (Go Dawgs!) But after a long weekend of working, I decided to not attend church the next morning. I worked three 12+ hour days in a row and just needed rest. But there was this emptiness inside of me. I needed a church home and I needed a church community. I had tried a few churches and campus ministries and nothing seemed to fit just yet. Nobody tells you that when you’re old in grad school attending college where everyone is 18-21 makes you feel out of place.
One of my best friends from UGA, Laura, had introduced me to a friend from the area, Adrienne, who attended Southeast Christian Church. We hung out and she told me about the college age ministry and their event coming up: The Gathering. It would be a night of hanging out, worship, message and small group time. The Gathering would happen Sunday evening, the day after the Clemson game. Still tired, but void of biblical community, I went. I met this girl Haley, and we sat together during worship, only knowing each other for a matter of minutes. It felt like we had known each other much longer because we were in the same boat: new and lonely.
This guy gets on stage after worship, also known as Kyle Idleman, (who conveniently is now the head pastor) and looks into the crowd and says “you know, not that you should be here for this, but turn around and give someone a high five. You never know who you might meet. Maybe even your future spouse.” So we all sort of awkwardly laughed like “yeah right. Never in a million years.” Not wanting to embarrass myself, I waited for someone to hi five me and this guy turns around and raises his hand. So I give him five. Immediately, this boy says “oh come on. You can do better than that.”
The AUDACITY. I mean y’all, I didn’t know this kid from Adam, and we are at church and he had the NERVE to tell me do better. Whatever. I hi five him again and he turns back to the stage and sits down. I was furious. Never wanted to see this kid again.
After the message and worship we were instructed to break into groups of 8-10 people. I went to Adrienne’s group since she really was the only person I knew prior to the night. A few minutes later the SAME boy who had the audacity to comment on my crappy hi five walked up and sat down in my group. I was convinced he followed me there. We had our group chat about the message and what life was like at the moment and this boy shared several times about just moving to Louisville for grad school and what God had been teaching him. It was actually very profound and thoughtful, but I was still annoyed with him so I just rolled my eyes.
After the group this SAME BOY came up to me and commented on my running watch. He asked if I was a runner and I ever so nonchalantly said “yes. I run marathons. I’ve run 5 and plan to run one in every state.” That’ll show him. He quickly responded and said “oh cool! I compete in Triathlons, sometimes for Team USA. I hope to go pro soon.” Oof. I was immediately humbled. My mere 5 marathons were stomped on by this boy’s impressive triathlon record. I had this little nudge in my heart to drop the sass and guard; he was just trying to be nice. So we continued to chatting and I noticed his shirt: Sevier Heights. Knoxville, Tennessee. I asked, “oh are you from Knoxville?? I’ve always wanted to live there!” The boy responded, “No. I lived there one summer and worked at Dollywood. I hope to move there permanently one day.” I must admit, I immediately thought “marry me. Who else on the planet would want to move to Knoxville?” Shortly after the boy said, “Hey, I haven’t caught your name.” “Hannah”, I said, “What’s yours?” “Taylor. Taylor Fatheree.”
And well, the rest is history.
I learned a lot that day.
1. I desperately needed community. I would never find community and community would never find me if I didn’t pursue it. I wouldn’t find it at home on a Saturday night watching football or sitting in a coffee shop reading a book: I had to put in the effort.
2. I needed to put my guard down. Again, I wouldn’t find my people if I wasn’t willing to be a little vulnerable and share about myself. I wouldn’t have become friends with Haley or Adrienne had I not shared about who I am, what I struggle with, or even what brings me joy.
3. I needed some major humility. While yes, Taylor’s remark annoyed me, it really was no big deal. Even if annoying me, I should have immediately let it go and move on - not thinking so highly of myself when I thought he followed me upstairs to join my group or tried to impress with my marathon record.
4. Sometimes, or quite often, God is funny. Taylor and I both were at College Game Day, and the game, but God allowed our paths to cross at church. I don't think that was a mistake. I truly didn’t anticipate meeting Taylor at Louisville. I truly didn’t go that night with the hopes of meeting a boy, but I did. This isn’t to say that you should only go to church to meet a spouse, but I will forever be grateful I went to The Gathering that night. I don't think God would have allowed our paths to cross had I not learned some important lessons that day. Looking back, a few key things helped us connect: hi fives, our passion for running/endurance sports, knoxville, and being grad students in a new city just looking for community. We of course now live in Knoxville, attend Sevier Heights, still run, and love doing life together.