Girl attends a Christian college, and becomes friends with a nice Boy (preferably one who is planning to be a pastor and maybe even plays guitar and sings worship songs on the green). Girl and Boy fall in love. Girl and Boy get engaged during senior year (in the spring, when the flowers are blooming and the air smells sweet). Marriage follows soon after graduation, and the Girl and Boy enjoy a blissful life together.
But my love story went nothing like that.
It was more like this:
Girl attends a Christian college, meets lots of nice boys, THE END.
For a while.
Fast forward seven years (seven years of waiting and wondering about God’s plan for her life; for the full story, see my blog post from February). Girl is willing to try anything, so she signs up for a Christian dating website. So does a Boy. Boy and Girl meet online, decide to pursue an intentional relationship, and do so for six months of “dating” confined to emails, online chats, and loooooong Skype video calls. Girl and Boy meet in the summer of 2012, get engaged twelve days later (yep, you read that correctly, and I’ll explain more if you keep reading), and say goodbye after just two blissful weeks together. Girl and Boy are separated by oceans for another year before they get married. To be continued…
So, if we’re being technical, I can honestly tell people that I met Charles in person on June 13, and just twelve days later on June 25, we were engaged.
That sounds much more sensational than explaining how we painstakingly worked to get to know each other via long distance communication, how we read books together and discussed difficult topics in order to build a strong foundation for our relationship, how we spent countless hours learning to communicate clearly with one another, how we sought the Lord together and on our own in order to follow His will for the relationship, and how we (mostly I) cried often because of the difficulty of separation.
It may have been only twelve days of in-person, direct contact, but it seemed like a lifetime of waiting before that. And, since I have another year on my contract in Taiwan, we won’t be rushing into any shotgun wedding either.
Note & fair warning: Some friends have asked about the details of my time in person with Charles and about our engagement. This will probably get a little sappy, but I’ll try to keep it real. If you want to skip this part, go for it, but be sure to glance at the last section of this post before you hit that close button on the page.
The first day with Charles was awkward. I knew this guy sooooo well, and yet I didn’t know how to hold his hand or what it felt like to walk or sit next to him. My family did a good job of breaking the ice by, well, just being themselves. We laughed a lot that first day and evening, and my tension and nervousness quickly melted away.
On the second day, we took things up a notch and traveled to another country. Alright, it was only the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, but still, it was a great day with the whole family. The weather was beautiful, and I had fun experiencing it all with Charles by my side.
For the rest of the week, we spent time hanging out with my family in New York and visiting some cool local sights. This was a great time for Charles and me to get to know each other face-to-face, and to test the relationship in real life situations. We found that we really did enjoy each other’s company, that we could laugh together and have fun, and that we were a good team. It was also really important for me to see how Charles interacted with my family; not only did he survive the week with us, but he seemed to really enjoy his time! Here are a few photo highlights from the week (note the first picture below shows an example of working together–successfully making a cheesecake–and laughing together–my JOKE t-shirt that my sisters bought and prompted me to wear):
The next week, we flew down to South Carolina to spend time in Charles’ hometown of Beaufort. It is a BEAUTIFUL place, and I truly fell in love with it…and more in love with Charles at every new experience that we shared. His parents were incredible (I stayed at their home), and I met many of Charles’ wonderful friends. It was encouraging for me to see Charles on his home turf and to meet the quality people with whom he associates. Over and over again, the Lord confirmed what I had already surmised about Charles: he is an amazing man.
Unbeknownst to me, a very nervous Charles called my dad on Sunday evening to ask for permission to marry me. After 45 minutes of grilling Charles with tough questions, my dad said “yes.” Whew. Step one complete.
The next day, Charles took me out to Old Sheldon Church, a phenomenally beautiful place about thirty minutes from his home. The sight is the ruins of a church that was built in the 1800’s; the church was burned down and all that remains are the brick walls and columns of the original building. The church is in a secluded area, and all around it are beautiful live oak trees with Spanish moss. It is an incredibly tranquil and breathtaking place.
We walked around the building and grounds for a while, and there were lots of other people milling around as well. I was beginning to wonder why Charles wanted to hang around so long because usually I’m the one that wants to linger and enjoy the view at a place like that. But, I let him lead, and I enjoyed the time to reflect peacefully as we walked.
You can actually walk through the building ruins, and we had done so already, but near the end of our time, Charles walked me into the center of the church again. The rest of the people had cleared out, and we were alone in the beauty of the place. Before I knew what was happening, Charles was down on one knee and asking me to marry him. I couldn’t believe it! Of course I said, “yes!” right away. I put on the ring, and then Charles stood up and kissed me. That was our first kiss, and I will never forget it. In the ecstasy of the moment, I held onto him and didn’t want to let go. It was wonderful.
Then we walked out of the church, and I promptly told him that I needed all of the details that he had been keeping secret for so long: how did you choose the ring? what was it like talking to my dad? how did you make the plan to come here? We talked and I giggled and kept looking at the beautiful ring on my finger. Then we found a picnic table nearby and sat down and prayed together that God would bless this new step of our relationship and that we would follow Him in every way. I think I was thanking God that Charles asked, and he was thanking God that I said “yes.” *smile* I cannot think of a better way to celebrate our engagement than to join together in prayer.
Here are some photos of that beautiful day which I will treasure forever:
We went home and then began the fun of telling relatives and friends about our engagement. We told his parents in person, video called my parents on Facetime, told my sisters over the phone and then later met up with them on Skype, called my grandmothers, Skyped with my best friend, told two of his friends over dinner, and posted a creative little engagement announcement on Facebook (at which point the well wishes came pouring in). It was a very exciting evening.
That’s the question that people keep asking me. I can tell you that we don’t have all the details worked out and that we are well aware that God might have a different idea in mind that is better than what we can plan. We are willing to follow Him wherever He leads. But here’s my best guess at what the future holds:
I will finish out my contract year at Morrison in Taiwan. I am excited about teaching there for another year, and this year I’ll also be leading the Christian Service Learning program for the middle school, so that will be an exciting endeavor. Next summer, Charles and I will get married (where? we don’t know yet!), and then I will move to Beaufort, South Carolina with him. He has a great job doing computer stuff (that’s the technical term-hehe) at his church, and we’d like to stay there for a while. While I am sad about the idea of leaving Taiwan, I know and trust that God is opening this door for me to marry Charles, and I am happy about this next stage in our lives. Also, missions is NOT off the table for us, and we are excited to see where God will lead in the future.
Update: Read my post entitled “Grace Sufficient” for a new and different version of our “What’s Next?” Again, God has different (better) plans than we did.
Why I’m Happy That I’m Not Writing My Own Story
One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 19:21 which says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (emphasis added). Read that verse in different translations, and the same meaning is always revealed: people make specific plans and choose paths to follow, but God’s purpose is bigger and fuller and more abundant than all of man’s plans, and ultimately God’s purpose will stand. I am so thankful that my little “perfect” plan of how I would meet my future husband did not pan out as I expected. I could not imagine someone better suited for me than Charles, and there is no way under the sun that I could have orchestrated our meeting and relationship like God did. I am thankful that my life is in God’s hands and that He is directing my path.