Mike grew up in Asheboro, North Carolina playing basketball, teaching himself how to set up his family’s TVs and sound systems by carefully reading the manuals, and herding cattle bareback on horses (this is one of Kirsten’s favorite insights about him). After an acceptance letter to NC State got lost in the mail, Mike decided to attend the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. There, he got involved with Port City Community Church, where his first days of volunteering on production consisted of setting up a basic video camera in the back of the auditorium. As the church grew, he also grew in knowledge and passion for all things Production, and a couple years later he was hired on as the video and lighting coordinator.
Kirsten was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. She grew up romping through the woods with her sisters, reading all kinds of books (and blessed to have been able to develop an obsession with Harry Potter in the days when you had to wait years for the next book), enjoying traveling the country and the world with her family, and spending all kinds of time with her friends. Occasionally, her hair was dyed pink or blue. Kirsten moved to Wilmington to attend UNCW, and called her mother the next day, sobbing for her to take her home. Her mother prayed with her, suggested she go to an Intervarsity meet-up, and there Kirsten met girls who invited her to attend Port City Community Church for the first time. Kir loved the service, and never looked back. Her early college days were spent developing some of her closest friends in small group, establishing her faith as her own, and being introduced to binge-watching TV shows, starting with Friends. Alas, when she and her friends reached the 10th Season of Friends the summer before junior year, it was nowhere to be found. “I think Mike Paschal is still borrowing it,” one close friend said sadly. And that was the first time Kirsten heard of Mike.
Mike and Kirsten met thanks to a PC3 service that was all about volunteering. Multiple opportunities were presented, and it suddenly dawned on Kirsten that being a single college girl did not mean she had to love children and sign up for the children’s ministry. She determined that she did not, in fact, see children as her volunteer jam, and decided to sign up for the Production team as a camera operator. She’d been told by a close friend who was already on the team that it was a ton of fun. Kirsten showed up (awkwardly late) to the interest meeting, and there she was taught the most important lesson for camera operators – wrapping cables – by the cute volunteer coordinator.
Later, when they talked about what they remembered about that day, Kirsten confessed to Mike that she thought he was interested in one of the other girls at the meeting. “No, I was into you!” Mike said. Kirsten was feeling all the warm gooey feels of this information when Mike added, “I remember thinking you had a cute butt.”
There have yet to be Hallmark Cards to commemorate relational moments like this.
The story continued in typical romantic fashion. Boy and girl meet. Boy asks girl out ever so politely. Girl goes into an angsty panic and says no, but tells boy she’s interested in working on their friendship. Girl walks away from this conversation feeling like the relationship is moving forward. Boy thinks, well, I guess that’s it then. Boy continues to patiently (and persistently) hang out with girl until she finally asks him if it’s okay if they just call each other boyfriend and girlfriend, since that’s what everyone else calls them. (And she’s “not into labels” and all that, and while she puts tons of stipulations on the relationship – including no holding hands and no buying flowers and basically not drawing attention to the situation at all lest she get spooked and run away – boy just grins.) He tells her he knows she’s the one after 3 months. She tells him to chill for about 5 years and then she’ll let him know. Except that two months after that, she’s told him she loves him too, and 6 months later they’re engaged.
When they hit the 5-year mark she’d originally anticipated, they are already 4 years into a really fun marriage, riding the same car to jobs at the same church they both love, and they have a house and have become cat people. Boy wins.
2 years later, she is panicking again as she calls him to the back of the church to meet her in private, where, like a drug dealer, she discreetly pulls a small stick from her purse and begs her to tell him what it means.
“Does that plus sign mean it’s positive we’re not pregnant?” he asks hopefully.
Their “little” life-changing surprise arrives the next year, and they find themselves in a world for which they were sure they weren’t ready. As their son grows, they are also growing, finding their feet only to get knocked down again, and discovering that the weird things parents used to tell them now made sense: a child can be exhausting and hard, but you can’t possibly imagine life without them once they’re with you. Hours of exhaustion from trying to raise and understand a little human being are made worth it by an almost suffocating joy brought on when said little human grins at you or does something that is the most amazing thing you’ve surely ever seen, like discovering the right location for the circle puzzle piece in the puzzle toy he’s only ever chewed on up until that point.
Walking through this life-changing experience unexpectedly prepares them for another life-change to come the following year. Mike and Kirsten pray on the beach for new opportunities, and weeks later find themselves in a transition with Mike’s work that leads him to do the thing God seems to have wanted for awhile: quit his job at the church he loves and search for a new one. At first, the requirement Mike and Kirsten place on this change is that they absolutely CANNOT leave their beloved beach town. The beach is their sacred place. But God has other plans, of course, and Mike lands a position at an awesome church called Victory World Church – one that he didn’t even know about until he started his job search. The church is located near Atlanta, Georgia: the one place to which Kirsten always told Mike she would never, ever go.
And God provides.
It’s a whole new adventure: they now reside near Atlanta, and God shows up in the hard and lonely places and reveals more clearly what it looks like when He says He will do a new thing and bring streams in the desert. They have seen God bring all kinds of new to them: new opportunities, new friends, new experiences. And in all of it, they find themselves learning how to real life.