Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When you least expect it...

So this writer/blogger/traveler has something to declare … I got engaged just over a month ago. 

A beyond hectic work schedule, being in charge of a huge fundraiser event for the American Cancer Society, plus meeting and being courted by the man I'm going to marry has kept me utterly swamped and this is why I've been on blogging hiatus and I'm so sorry. And now I'm deep in wedding planning... I hope I can be a regular blogger once again soon! 

If you follow me on Facebook, I’ve sure you’ve already seen the plethora of pictures capturing the moment and the happiness it has brought along with it. If not, then here’s my time to tell about it all.
The wonderful man I call my fiancĂ© is named Steven. He is from New Orleans and currently teaches high school social studies at his alma mater. I’ve known Steven’s family for several years and his Mom is the one who actually introduced us two years ago. But it wasn’t quite time for us yet.
The happy couple right after the proposal
However, he finished his history degree, spent five months in Wales as a missionary and then ended up moving back to our parish (Side note: In Louisiana, we have parishes and not counties). When he moved here, I already knew we had a lot in common and I was excited to have a possible new friend who loves to travel and who more importantly loves Jesus. So I asked if he’d like to get some coffee sometime because I’d like to hear about his time in Wales and his travels, etc. 
He didn’t hesitate to agree to the idea and we met at our local coffee shop (where we now actually work part-time) the very next day. That was back in December 2013 and after our four-hour conversation we’ve been inseparable ever since. 
To think it all began with coffee - which I’ve never really drank much of until I started spending time with an avid coffee drinker (AKA the fiancĂ©). 
Seriously though, our story actually began long before Steven and I were even born, before our parents or grandparents were born. It began when God created man, man fell by way of sin against God and began to inhabit the Earth. God knew who we would be and the path to when Steven and I would meet. I thought I’d be single forever and I was content with that if it was God’s plan.
None of this is a surprise to Him – though it has certainly been one to Steven and me. We were so not expecting this. Yes, we’ve prayed and thought of each other for years and our parents and other loved ones have prayed for our future spouses. But it’s just quite overwhelming to believe that we are finally together.
It is overwhelming in the most incredible way. We are overwhelmed by the Lord and His goodness in giving us blessings we can never earn or deserve. We will never deserve each other and the beautiful adventure He has created of our lives and our future. We give Him all the glory for everything we are and will be. 
It has been just five months since we met for that coffee I mentioned. Five months and so much has happened. I’ve found my best friend, my soul mate, the man God has prepared for me and I’ve never been more sure of anything (except in my salvation of course).
It has been such a long, winding journey to right now – for both of us. There have been many ups and downs and moments of joy and sorrow, of regret and forgiveness to lead us to that day we had coffee in December.
True love's kiss :)
We have made mistakes. We have asked God for forgiveness and we have been taught so many things by His merciful hand. We have had many unforgettable times to serve Him and others around the world. We have tried to take our lives into our own hands because we thought we knew best and we fell. God picked us back up after we reached the point of shame and humility before a loving and just God who has never given up on us.
In the way of relationships, we tried to control and manipulate situations to fit what we wanted and not how God was leading. We’ve fought for and justified our actions until all we could see were lies we had fed ourselves and let Satan fuel – all while God called out to us, to remind us who we belonged to … Him. 
For when we both accepted His call to salvation at age nine, our lives were no longer our own but were surrendered to our King. And He has steadily called us and drawn us to see the sin in our lives that holds us bound by our own selfishness and pride. We are already free from spiritual bondage but we tend to live like we are still bound and God has to get our attention and claim His rightful place in our lives once more. But all is revealed and we emerge broken and repentant yet joyful and thankful for unfailing mercy and grace from our Savior. 
2013 was a year of huge growth for both of us. God was speaking to our hearts in different ways – yet also in the same in regard to romantic relationships. We reached a place of true contentment in Him alone and not seeking it in others. We allowed God to fill the void we had tried to fill with dating and other pursuits and it was incredible! 
That’s when Steven went to Wales for five months and I continued in my daily life here. God’s plan was always in action though, but it took our surrender and repentance and release to allow us to follow it – which led to Facebook actually.
"Yes!" She said 'yes!'
I had added Steven on Facebook last year after his Mom told me he was going to Wales and I definitely wanted to see a glimpse of his travels there. I commented on some of his Scotland pictures and we struck up a brief but witty conversation, which led to having coffee. And I started praying that day that the Lord would not let me make more out of the situation than there was – just two people meeting for coffee. No pressure, no expectations … that was the plan. Only friends.
So I thought everything was squared away, but then Steven arrived looking quite handsome in a dark wool overcoat with a beanie, dark rimmed glasses and a close trimmed beard. I had to bestill my heart for a minute and remind myself not to get carried away and be interested in him other than a friend.
He ordered his coffee as I buzzed around the coffee shop and regained my composure. I was dressed in my usual plaid shirt with a red beret and a low side ponytail – nothing special, just casual me. (Steven would later go on to tell me he thought I was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen.) Needless to say, it was difficult for both of us to focus at first in our conversation since our nerves were getting the better of us – though we didn’t show it. 
I plopped down at our table and started asking questions as I do. I asked about Wales and how his teaching job had come about and all. I was quite pleased that he was not hesitant to talk about it all and then plenty of other things from church to travel to music, etc. We talked for over four hours straight and right through dinner!
He seemed so composed and comfortable that it seemed he was enjoying himself. But I was more interested to know if he was as interested in me as I was with him. I couldn’t help it! It only took about 15 minutes for me to want him to ask me out! But he was so relaxed (I thought …) that I was sure he must have not felt the connection I did, the same kind of connection I’d been praying against before our meeting.
It was after 9 p.m. and coffee shop was closed when we walked out to our vehicles, but I didn’t want the night to end. He just stood by his car all casual-like and said he enjoyed the conversation and we’d have to do it again sometime. I was like “Man … he’s not interested.” Unbeknownst to me though, a totally different story was unfolding.
So that brings us to Saturday, April 19 and the ring, of course. The week or so before Steven had asked me if I’d like to go with him to the zoo. I agreed, so that was the plan – that I knew of at least. I could tell something was up though because he wasn’t acting quite as talkative and relaxed as usual. I have to admit that I had an inkling that he would probably propose that day. I mean … I know him well and I have a reporter’s intuition – what can I say!
Reading the letter during the proposal
Anyway, Steven and I did go to the zoo and walked around to see the animals and enjoy the beautiful warm spring day. Next, he took me to some shops downtown to walk around some more. I was good and confused through with what we were doing and if he really was going to propose. But then we went to the river boardwalk to go for yet another walk. We obviously did a lot of walking that day but this walk was the right one – all the way down to the last bench on the other end, the place we had our first kiss.
He slowed down at that exact spot and we leaned against the walkway railing to look out over the shimmering sun-kissed river. He told me he had something to give to me and he handed me a letter. I read it aloud and it is by far the sweetest thing ever written to me. In it, he wrote about our talks of adventures, how much he loved me, thanks God for me and how since we met he’d been on the best adventure of his life. My hands shook a bit as I read and tears welled up in my eyes.
After I finished, he said that even though an adventure ends another one begins and if I was ready for it he had a question to ask me. That’s when my breath caught in my throat as he sank to one knee, pulled out a little box with a gorgeous diamond ring tucked inside and asked me to marry him. I did not hesitate for a second and barely let him slip the ring on my finger before I hugged and kissed him. And that’s when he pointed toward the parking lot at his good friend behind a giant telephoto lens snapping pictures of us. [Check out his other awesome work at www.honest-photography.com]
The Moment
It was truly the perfect proposal for me – a secret photographer, heartfelt handwritten letter, sentimental place and the man I loved nervous and excited to ask me to be his wife. I couldn’t have asked for a better moment and I’ll cherish it forever.
I thank God for the blessing of bringing Steven and I together and for loving us enough to bless us with an upcoming marriage as an example of his love for his bride (the church/believers). I don’t know how to properly express how important and worthwhile that waiting on and following God’s plan is. It’s the best thing I have done and ever will do in my life. 
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways and He will guide you on the right paths.” - Proverbs 3:5-6
“For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28
The handwritten proposal letter and gorgeous ring!
And I’d like to encourage everyone – no matter where you are in your life – don’t give in to your own ways, plans and schemes. Turn to the Lord and let His joy and peace fill your life and guide your steps and you’ll find yourself on the most unforgettable journey you could ever imagine. 
It really is true that God is the best author. He crafts only the best characters and storylines. And as I reminder of this truth, I am sitting in front of my computer right now trying to focus on writing while the gorgeous ring on my left ring finger sparkles and distracts me. 

What has been the latest exciting turn in your life's story? What is your proposal story? I'd love to hear from you. Have a great day!