When and where did you two first meet?
R: We first met on January 17, 2012. I was part of the a cappella group that Karl was auditioning for (called Full Measure), and I remember him being by far the most enthusiastic auditionee we had. He couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved his roommates and his five-year-old sister. And we were all thinking, WOAH OKAY Karl calm down, but his infectious happiness definitely left us smiling inside.
What were your first impressions of each other?
K: Even though Full Measure was a loving, tight-knit community, I cannot remember ever having shared one intentional and deep conversation with just Rachel during our practices. We weren’t ever unfriendly, I just never went out of my way to pop her bubble. Rachel was always very quiet, usually absorbed in her greek homework, or humming along to her musical part with headphones plugged into her laptop before practices.
So, what happened next?
R: We both left the group and went our separate ways. Though we didn’t know it, we both had long journeys ahead of us, and I’m grateful that we had the space to walk those roads apart. Karl felt God calling him to cultivate the friendships and community He was preparing for him back at Villanova. Meanwhile, I went through a long season of loneliness, anxiety, and suffocating perfectionism before I finally came to the end of myself and found new hope in Jesus. We weren’t really friends during this time, but I still got the occasional text/ping from Karl. Hey Rachel, do you want to go to a Switchfoot concert? Do you want to record this song with me? What are you doing up so late? But alas, nothing materialized…
Um, so you guys never saw each other again?
K: Not exactly, we’d see each other once per semester since each Full Measure concert relied heavily on its alumni for help as volunteers. I’d always make an effort to ask Rachel how her semester was coming along. Rachel would always answer me one of three ways: “BuSy. TiReD. StRESSEd.” Sometime near the end of Sophomore year, I knew I liked her, and I wanted to get to know her better but I didn’t think I’d ever have a chance and I didn’t know how.
Rachel also deleted her facebook…
Wait, so when did you guys become a couple?
R: It’s weird to put an exact date on what felt like a very gradual, subtle process — but for the sake of having an anniversary, we decided to say that we became a couple on January 16, 2015. We ate a very small amount of sushi and had to get our miso soups reheated because we were nervous and let them get cold. After that we went ice-skating with all the middle schoolers (Karl brought hot chocolate!). When Karl had walked me back to the lobby of my apartment, he turned to me and said, “Rachel, I want to be honest and intentional with you. Will you have dinner with me on valentine’s day? Will you be my girlfriend?” I was very honored, but I asked for some time to think and pray about it.
Eventually, I said yes 🙂
What was dating like?
K: Dating was a lot of fun :). I felt like I was being grafted into Rachel’s college communities, including Renewal Presbyterian and her many Singaporean friends. Likewise, everything else that had grown familiar to me at Villanova became new again. As the wintered thawed out, we got to see a concert together, read books, visit friends in New York and Boston, go on picnics, meet each other’s parents and of course, attend each other’s commencement ceremonies.
Thankfully that summer I had successfully applied and been accepted as part of a living/learning cohort called Marketplace along with an internship in the Bay Area. This was all because Rachel had providentially mentioned it during our first coffee/tea meetup way back in December of 2014 during finals week.
Even though we spent a rich summer together in San Francisco, the upcoming season of long distance was always at the back of our minds…
Ouch, long-distance sounds painful…what did you learn?
R: Very quickly, we discovered our vastly different preferences for communicating. I liked long, rambling emails (even for fighting/disagreeing!); Karl always wanted to talk on the phone. I much preferred to have our calls planned ahead of time; Karl loved (and still loves) to be interrupted. Even when we did talk at the end of the day we were often both exhausted and frazzled — we were also dealing with the stress of transitioning into new jobs and new lives.
But dating long distance was still a precious and transforming experience for us. We realized that loving one another was going to be Hard Work! Karl experienced Grumpy Rachel, Reticent Rachel, Crying Rachel, Passive-Aggressive Rachel, Critical Rachel… but even when he was tired and spent, he had (and continues to have) this crazy faith that we are both defined by who God says we are — new creations, son & daughter, holy saints! We both learned a great deal about the power of the Gospel through our season of long distance.
When did you decide to pursue marriage?
K: During Thanksgiving break, on the night before Rachel had her return flight back to the Bay Area, I had made up my mind to let Rachel know that I wanted to marry her. I’d made a reservation at a fancy restaurant a few minutes drive from home, but during dinner I struggled to naturally bring up what I wanted to say. Unbeknownst to me, Rachel’s stomach was also queasy and churning the entire night.
Finally, the words came–“Rachel Miao, I have decided that I want to marry you.” I told her she could take her time in deciding, but she had actually prepared for this conversation on the plane… and she said yes 🙂
On the morning of Friday January 1st, I got to ask Rachel’s dad for his blessing and permissions to have his daughter’s hand in marriage. He said yes 🙂
And then what happened?
R: After spending Christmas in San Francisco with my family, Karl flew back to Philly just before his birthday. His flight was delayed, he missed an important meeting, and got unexpectedly rolled off his project — that was a really rough week. But the unforeseen blessing was that he was no longer tied to being in the Philly area until Spring 2017 like we’d originally thought. We made all kinds of crazy plans. What if we moved to Chicago? New York City? Would we even be in the States? What about our jobs, our communities, our families?
We realized we had overlooked the simplest, most obvious answer all along. Karl applied for a position at the company he’d done his summer internship with in order to make his way back to the Bay. After an excruciating wait, Karl finally got the job on March 24th — and we officially ended our eight months of long distance. Phew!!!
How did the proposal happen?
K: After spending our first week together in San Francisco, we had both made plans to return to Philly for the Full Measure’s 25th anniversary and Spring 2016 concert. On the morning of that concert, Saturday April 9th, we went back to that Joe Coffee where it all began. After sharing another cup of earl grey, we finished reminiscing and came down the stairs. Just as we were leaving, I rummaged in my backpack for the ring and then took bended knee. The baristas gasped and then proceeded to offer us drink vouchers.
Rachel saw it coming a mile away 🙂
What’s engagement been like?
R: The first couple of months were especially tough because we were two imperfect people undergoing a great deal of stress and transition. I’m truly grateful to our community — particularly our parents and bridal party — for their comfort & counsel during this season. We are full of mistakes and baggage, but with their help we are looking forward to the amazing promise of newness and oneness in Christ! Living in San Francisco together has also furnished us with an opportunity to explore what it means to love our neighbors, and to be affected by the city’s incredible beauty & joy, anger & heartbreak, plus everything in between…
What are you most excited for in sharing life together?
K: Oh man…just from what we’ve talked about regarding plans for 2017, I think I will enjoy just seeing some of Rachel’s dreams become a reality…and then being a faithful friend who will point her to Jesus when plans change, or when she feels “plan-less” I LOVE YOUUU
R: Honestly, I’m very relieved that we won’t have to worry about “going home” after we spend time together, and I look forward to having the logistical challenges of living still-somewhat-separate lives resolved (“when’s the N coming? can I leave my bike here? can you bring a rolling pin? are my headphones on your table?”). I’m excited to show off what God can weave in the lives of two broken (and somewhat eccentric) once-strangers. And I’m excited to spend the rest of my life fighting for oneness and unity in our marriage despite our differences and our egos. I love you Karl! Thanks for coming up with these questions 😛