Written on July 30th, 2014.
(As many things I write, this was originally written for my personal use, but obviously I have since decided to make it public. Enjoy!) 🙂
There have been so many amazing things taking place lately – so many details of God’s provision, presence, blessing, and love – that I want to seal them up and cherish them forever. It seems too good to just experience and move on. I want to sit in this place of gratefulness and awe of my good Father and remember.
Typically, I would write in my journal, but I feel like there’s so much I want to say, my hand would tire from writing before I could finish recording details and pouring out my heart and my song.
(I think I will print this out and put it in my journal when it’s finished.) ☺
It’s hard to even know where to begin… probably because God has been orchestrating this time since before I took my first breath. (There really is no beginning as He has no beginning!) Chris and I have been through so much during the past year and a half… it hasn’t at all been what we expected when we met each other and quickly fell in love.
Entering shortly after we met into a season of brokenness in search of healing and redemption, all while falling repeatedly and being constantly reminded of our depravity and need of a Savior was the last thing we expected. After nearly a decade of running, I finally came face to face with ugly and excruciatingly painful truths about my past, including multiple abusive experiences and my battle with perfectionism. Depression, dark days full of oppression, suicidal thoughts, fights, and moments when we didn’t think we’d make it were gut-wrenching as sometimes we even considered that maybe we had been wrong in believing that God had brought us together.
But wow, He has been faithful.
We held on to Him in those dark moments and glimmers of light in-between… and when we couldn’t muster the strength to hold on, He held on to us and demonstrated His faithfulness even when we fumbled to even glance His direction.
Little by little, the glimmers of light lasted longer and longer and shone brighter in the darkness, eventually chasing it out altogether as lies died and truth reigned in our hearts.
On January 26th of this year, I had a powerful, healing moment before the Lord. It was simple, but it changed everything. It was a beacon of light that chased out remaining lies and darkness in my heart and set it so free.
I was standing in church, singing with my eyes closed about Jesus’ blood making me white as snow, and suddenly I had a vision of myself. At first, I saw myself as I believe I typically viewed myself. It was in real-time… I pictured myself standing in church, wearing the same clothes I had on… but I was weighed down with chains and scars and brokenness. Shame. Guilt. Dirty.
Suddenly, the vision changed.
I was still seeing myself in real-time, but the chains were gone. I was still wearing my same clothes, standing in the same place, but something was totally different. It was as if I was seeing myself from up above, and I looked so clean and washed, that I sparkled.
God revealed to me that this is how He sees me. Forgiven. Clean.
It changed everything.
From that moment, I felt like I finally understood grace.
I began living with a more thankful heart… because when you’ve seen what you are and what you don’t deserve… when you realize what Jesus has done despite who you are in your imperfect mess… EVERYTHING is a gift. I began looking at Chris differently. I began to really appreciate him. I began to see how he is a gift from the Lord. Walls built with bricks fired from years of abuse, mistrust, and lies began to crumble and I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I allowed myself to receive love. For years I never felt like I deserved it.
I finally understood that I could never deserve it… but because of grace, I began to accept it with a grateful heart.
Slowly but surely, we began to heal and rebuild. We began to trust each other. I began to offer more and more grace to him where he had been one-sidedly offering it to me. I began to even offer grace to myself. No one expected me to be perfect.
It shocked me that I was still loved even with my imperfections so obvious. But what a relief it was.
Since then, it has been an absolutely beautiful season of redemption and growth. More and more, Chris and I have just enjoyed each other. With a depth of life experiences, love and dedication to each other in our pockets, we built a friendship that’s deep and powerful and intense. We began laughing more and more, and learned to love each other in a whole new way. Humility, grace, forgiveness. We began having date nights, moments of uncontrollable laughter, and building trust and devotion so deep, our hearts finally began to rest.
It’s been so beautiful between us for several months now.
Because we began our relationship anticipating marriage and had held on during the dark times with the belief that God had brought us together for this purpose, I began to wonder more and more when God would say “yes” to us being married.
On February 22nd, as I was praying and asking God when He would say yes, the date June 8th popped into my head. Even in all my anticipatory wedding planning and dreaming, I hadn’t thought of that date. Surely, I thought, it was God’s voice, not my wishful thinking. So I stopped praying and got out my calendar. June 8th was a Sunday. Interesting. Maybe, I thought, this would be when God wanted us to be married! Months passed and I held this promise in my heart as I waited for Chris to propose. As the issue surfaced, Chris gently reminded me that he was waiting for God to say yes before we moved forward. I didn’t tell anyone the date I had heard from God but quietly anticipated His “yes.” March came and went, and as the days of April faded, I began to feel more and more anxious and even irritated that Chris hadn’t asked me to marry him yet. God had told me June 8th… was Chris not listening to Him!? (haha!)
As May ended and June began, I had already settled in my mind that I had either heard God wrong, or Chris hadn’t been listening to Him. One Sunday in June, we were on the way to church and having a beautiful conversation in the car. As the conversation progressed, Chris looked at me with tears in his eyes, and told me that God had said YES.
The date? June 8th.
Beautiful. He is faithful.
He had said yes!
The waiting for Chris’ proposal began.
Ironically, the day before Chris proposed, the topic of my anticipation of his proposal came up. I jokingly told him all the silly and ridiculous times I thought he was going to ask me. For example, one time, we were at a Bethel Worship night in Nashville. I thought for sure it was going to happen during that weekend, because afterall, it was Nashville where he first asked if he could pursue me. In my mind, this was perfect! (Oh, how little I truly know about perfection!)
After a beautiful worship song where we prayed to surrender ourselves and our families to God, Chris looked at me with this silly grin and told me he’d be right back. I freaked out, thinking surely this was the moment. What was he up to?! I agonizingly attempted to worship through the next song, not knowing what he was up to, if he was going to pop up on the stage with the band, or return and propose right there in the seats. Several long minutes later, he returned… big grin on his face… and in his hands, a plate of pizza and a mountain dew!!
I can’t forget either the times he has tricked me… like when we were having a sweet moment together in his kitchen, and he suddenly dropped to one knee at my feet… and proceeded to pet Wrigley, who was lying nearby on the floor. Or when we went hiking on one of our date nights, and I was convinced that this was when he was going to ask me – he knelt in the dirt overlooking the beautiful river on a scenic outlook, then proceeded to play in the dirt and rocks. There were so many times when I thought “maybe this is the night.” “Maybe this is the date night.” “Maybe it will happen next weekend.”
I was never disappointed to a point that it stole my joy… it was always a joyful, anxious expectation. But now as I write, I look down at this gorgeous ring he had crafted especially for me… and I am so thankful that it was never any of those times. I am so thankful that it happened when I didn’t expect it. When I didn’t have an idea of “perfection.” I am so thankful that it was totally in God’s hands – that Chris sought his Father for guidance for the exact day and time. And that on Saturday, when Chris asked God when he could ask me, God said, “tomorrow.”
Because the next day – Sunday, July 27th, 2014 was perfect.
The best day of my life.
And God orchestrated the whole thing.
Chris and I had planned to visit our friends Trey and Allie since they moved away last October. We had been praying with them earlier that summer for a Freestyle event when Trey said he had a word from the Lord – then apologized to us that it wasn’t about Freestyle, but God said that he and Allie would be moving to Indiana. It was out of nowhere and unexpected, but they were obedient to God’s word and moved almost immediately to Indiana, where God began opening ministry doors and blessing them like crazy. I saw them for the first time since they moved about a month ago when they came to town for our mutual friends’ documentary screening. We talked about how wonderful it would be to get together and for us to visit them. A date was set!
Little did I know, Chris had been ring-shopping for months and a month before we visited Trey and Allie, had designed and ordered my ring. The weekend approached and we both excitedly anticipated a restful time away. As I write, I now recall us talking on the car ride there about our expectations for the weekend. We both prayed for a restful, joyful time… a time to reconnect with the Lord and with each other and our friends. God certainly answered those prayers.
Prayers were answered even in the seemingly small details. God revealed Himself by showing us that He cares about our heart’s desires and the details of our lives. Looking back now, I recall that when I was preparing to leave for our trip, I searched my closet for a dress to wear to church while visiting our friends. I recalled again a white, lacy dress I had bought nearly a year ago on clearance during the after-season. I got it knowing that I would have to be brave to wear it – it was awfully feminine with its white lace and ruffles – but I loved it and couldn’t wait to wear it for Chris. Funny now to think that soon after I bought it, it got too cold to wear it. I decided I would have to wait until spring. The long winter passed and spring and summer came. I put it on a couple of different times in consideration of wearing it on a date night, or to church, but had always taken it off and put it back in the closet. This weekend, I packed it. It may sound silly, but my thought was that my friend Allie is beautiful and tall and elegant and wears long skirts and dresses, and I would feel less awkward in my skin because of her fearlessness in femininity. I planned to wear it to church Sunday morning.
Sunday morning came, and I left the dress hanging. I couldn’t do it.
After a beautiful church service were we worshipped together and Chris and I held hands and prayed together, Allie and I headed back to the house before the guys. While we waited, I tried on the dress wanting to show it off and hear what Allie thought. She loved it and made such a fuss, I considered that I might just wear it to the beach trip we’d planned for the day. It was hot… but Allie encouraged me that its white lace on the sandy beach would be just gorgeous, especially if we took pictures. I wore the dress.
It maybe seems so unimportant… but when I look at the beautiful photos of the day that Chris proposed, I am so thankful. It was a seemingly small detail that showed me that God cares about the details of our lives and knows our hearts so well, that he loves on us even in these small things! I couldn’t have planned it better myself.
On the car ride to the dunes, none of us really knew where we were going. We found a spot neither Trey nor Allie had been to before, and we were all amazed as we stepped onto a beach with turquoise-blue water, tall sand dunes covered with trees, and a brilliant view of the Chicago skyline. The weather was warm, the sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and the feeling in the air was of an undiscovered paradise.
We found a flat, shaded spot on one of the dunes and set out our picnic. Trey played his guitar and we listened and took pictures and videos and talked. It was so peaceful. Chris recalled how I had told him that the beach is my resting place. Where I feel renewed and cleansed. I had been wanting to go to the beach all summer… I didn’t expect it would be in Indiana… or on Lake Michigan… but here I was – on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen!
We knew we couldn’t spend the whole day at the beach as we had appointments to get tattoos later in the evening, so when it was almost time to leave, we decided to take some photos on the beach. I even thought it was my idea – haha – I asked Allie and Trey if they’d like for me to take photos of their family and then we’d trade. They agreed and we set off to find our perfect photo spot.
When we had first arrived, Chris and Trey had climbed to some of the higher dunes and returned to tell us that the views from up there were incredible – like you were the only people on the beach – and the water and view of Chicago was spectacular. We decided we would take our photos up there.
The climb up was difficult – the sand was scorching hot and it was difficult to get traction as we climbed in the shifting sand. But once we reached the top, it was totally worth it. Peaceful. Beautiful. A reflection of the past year and a half, really.
So difficult. Very painful at times. Such a hard climb. But totally and completely worth it in the end… and more than we ever could have imagined.
Little did I know, my life was about to change forever!
After I finished taking Trey and Allie’s photos, Chris handed his phone to Allie, and Trey continued to hold his guitar he had been holding for their photos. I thought nothing of the fact that he had the guitar – Trey is a musician. Of course he’d have his guitar on a beach picnic!
Chris and I danced in the sand as I anticipated some candid photos… but Trey began playing “On a Night Like This,” a song I have loved and has been special to Chris and me since we first began getting to know each other. I listened to it countless times in Haiti while I was away from him and dreamed of the day we would live in the same city. I laughed and apparently said to Chris, “You stinker!” upon hearing the song.
Now that I think back, it’s hard to imagine all the thoughts going through my head. It was a moment that was simultaneously filled with a million thoughts yet so wrapped up in the beautiful moment that I was simply lost in Chris’ eyes and overwhelmed with joy. It was as if my soul knew it was time, but my mind couldn’t believe it.
After all this time. Redemption is so beautiful.
Chris asked me if I wanted to dance together forever, and I responded that I wanted to dance all my dances with him.
We continued to sway and kiss in the breeze. Nothing was rushed.
He told me that he had been praying for this time, and God had said yes.
He said, “It’s time.” I laughed and cried joyfully and nearly fell over in the sand.
It was then that he reached into his pocket and pulled out my ring.
For a moment we continued to look into each others’ eyes, choking back tears. I felt like I was dreaming.
With tears in his eyes and the sweetest grin, he knelt and asked me to be his wife.
My answer? “Yes yes YES YES YES!!”
Only then did we realize a bunch of people on another dune had been watching the entire scene play out and were even taking video of us… they all began cheering, and we turned and raised our arms to the sky, cheering back as Trey and Allie celebrated, too!
The precious moments Allie captured on video are priceless. We laughed so hard.
My ring is absolutely gorgeous.
Chris told me it’s one of a kind because he designed and custom-ordered it.
It has three bands (for my love of the verse “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12), and each band has 7 diamonds on either side, as 7 is the Biblical number of perfection, or completion. He knew he wanted to get me an emerald cut sapphire, which God also confirmed months earlier when Chris had been praying about our engagement.
On a particular day while praying for clarity about asking me to be his wife, he said that God had clearly spoken “Ezekiel 10” to him. Chris had no idea what that meant, so he looked it up.
“Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne.” – Ezekiel 10:1
As I look back now and try to help my mind catch up with my soul in believing this is all real, I am blown away by all the details that came together to make the proposal just perfect and this season so beautiful and joyous.
It wasn’t just one moment, it was countless moments of seeking God’s face, of God revealing Himself, and of us laying down our idols and expectations and deciding to trust Him.
I had to lay down my anxiety and my anxiousness about waiting for a proposal over and over again. I had wanted it so badly, but it didn’t come until I ceased to make it more than it was. Even in the waiting for June 8th, fully believing that God had spoken to me about that day, I finally laid it down, trusting God that it would happen perfectly in His timing. Once I was able to lay this idol down at His feet and trust Him that His timing and plan bring the most beautiful and possible scenario, it made room for me to fully live in each moment with Chris, hopefully expectant with joy, not with angst. Had I attempted to force some scenario into being, I would have robbed myself of the gifts God had in store. I would have never known the beauty and the freedom of accepting the gift of an amazingly orchestrated engagement. An engagement completely orchestrated by my Father himself.
I don’t want to finish writing. It feels like there is so much more to say, as I have not paid justice to all God did during this time. I guess I never could… I suppose I may never know all the beautiful details or understand His grace and provision in it all. His presence was all over the weekend… from an encounter with a broken-hearted old man on the sidewalk, to two tough, scary men in the grocery store, all of whom we ended up sharing His gospel with and praying for. His presence was in our bike ride Saturday; His name carved in the wooden bridge overlooking a crystal-clear stream and field of flowers. A resting bench on the bike trail was painted, “Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.’” (Matthew 11:28). We were amazed at the spiritual atmosphere, at the peacefulness of the place, and how our hearts and souls felt as we drew near to His heart each day.
I suppose there are many powerful lessons to be learned here.
Like the power in laying down our idols and allowing only God to fill that high place of esteem and glory. Like how we can trust Him in His timing and provision and desire to give us good gifts, because He is a good Father. Like how we should allow Him to take us through difficult seasons, seasons of such darkness we can’t imagine a way out… because in the dark, He shines and makes us completely new. In the ashes, beauty springs forth. I am amazed at all God has done. At how brand new I feel. How my old thoughts and ways have been put to death and how He has made me a new creation. How He gifted me, in his grace, a man that is perfect for me – my best friend – a man who causes me to love my Creator more, and a man who allows me to live freely by offering me grace no matter what.
It may seem as if this story is ending, but really, it is just another beginning.
A beautiful beginning.
I can’t wait for the next chapter!