Posted in Focus Leadership Institute

It’s an FLI Valentine’s Day

I wasn’t expecting to do much this Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been the biggest fan of how commercialized it’s become, anyway … I’ll tell people I love them and give them hugs, and maybe exchange the occasional personalized memento, but that’s pretty much it. However, my expectations were blown completely out of the water by the 14 men of FLI.

Two weeks ago, each of us 40 girls received an invitation requesting our presence at an “Evening of Elegance” on Feb. 14 at 5 p.m. No other details were given, which piqued our curiosity like crazy.

the invitation

However, after lightheartedly badgering the boys for information, we gave up and waited for our next clue, which came on Feb. 12 in the form of a paper heart accompanied by a red teddy bear, telling us to be prepared to be picked up at 5:05 p.m.

Ok, so now we know what time we are going to be … wait. We’re getting picked up??

At this point, I was already impressed. I’ve never been picked up for a real date in my life, much less a banquet put on by 14 boys. After comparing notes with other girls, we realized that our pick-up dates were set in 10-minute increments: one apartment was getting picked up at 4:15, the next at 4:25, etc. This heightened the suspense even more.

On the afternoon of Feb. 14, at 5:05 p.m., Jacob and Stewart showed up at our apartment door to escort Tamara, Leah and me down to Josh’s car in the parking lot. Josh drove us to Focus on the Family and dropped us off at a side door, where Duncan and Michael Johnson opened our car doors and escorted us into the Ogden Lounge (our student hang-out at FLI), where we met the rest of the girls, who all looked gorgeous. We clean up nice.

FLI girls

Ogden Lounge was decorated beautifully. Twinkly lights adorned the fireplace and bookshelves, flowers and colored glass pebbles covered red tablecloths, and a fondue fountain and fruit were in one corner of the room. Mark (who is an extremely talented pianist) was playing live music in another corner.

Mark with his awesome hat

After hanging out and taking pictures for about 45 minutes, the guys escorted us down to the dining room, where we sat in groups of five around circular tables. I sat with Leah, Layne, Bekah, and Laura S.

Leah, me, Bekah, and Laura S.

We were privileged to have Tommy wait on us, and he served us salad, our choice of lasagna or chicken penne, and chocolate truffles (sent especially for the occasion by Michael Miller’s sister).

waiter Tommy

When we had finished those two courses, the “waiters” escorted (man, we were escorted everywhere!) us back to Ogden, where the fondue table had been transformed into a dessert buffet, where we could choose either a massive slab of cheesecake (with optional strawberry sauce) or tiramisu.


Carrie, MaryBeth, Tamara, me, and Leah

While we enjoyed our dessert (I couldn’t finish my piece of tiramisu, because it was so BIG, but it was delicious!), the guys upped the bar even more with some “serious” entertainment. This included Michael Bonning playing guitar and singing the Tim Hawkins favorite, “Things You Don’t Say to Your Wife” (here’s Hawkins’ version) and a Backstreet boys music video spoof by Stewart, Justin, Alex, Josh, Justin and Tommy (compare it to the original). We were laughing so hard during both acts that we would have been rolling on the floor if we hadn’t been wearing dresses.

Michael entertaining

To top the night off, the guys opened up the floor for a question-and-answer session. No holds barred, we could ask any question of them, and they would answer to the best of their ability. Some of the questions that got thrown at them included, “What do you look for in a woman?” “What is the biggest turn-off?” “What can we do to respect you guys this semester?” and “What is your favorite food?”

listening during the Q&A

After about an hour of friendly interrogation, the guys wrapped it up, wished us a Happy Valentine’s Day, and drove us home in shifts so we all got home safely. This Valentine’s Day was honestly more than any of us could have asked for, and I think we’ll all remember the high standard of respect and honor that the FLI guys set on Feb. 14.

The guys who made it happen

Side note: it is an impressive feat to keep 40 girls in suspense for two weeks. I’ve never seen this accomplished before, so mad props to the guys for keeping us in the dark about this special night.

first two pictures by Amanda Baker

remaining photos courtesy of Michael Miller



Christ follower. Wife. Mama.

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