April 20, 2015

butterfly ring.jpg

Yes, I know the date’s wrong…but it’s an anniversary. On that day last year, my husband Timothy and I were engaged to be married!

We had known we wanted to get married, but we were in waiting…holding out for the right time. Meanwhile, I was preparing a few people, finding a wedding planner, and keeping an eye out for a wedding dress. I had a hunch that something would happen before the end of April. It was drawing close to April 15, our 1-year anniversary of being “a couple.” I had gone out on a limb and secured a possible venue, a vineyard out in the countryside of my home state of North Carolina. But on the day Tim proposed, I was completely unprepared for the surprise.

On April 20, the day darkened from morning onward until the clouds were chalky gray and the late afternoon sky was smeared with a deep stormy green. It spat rain and choked hail for the latter part of the day. The storm stayed at my back as I drove home from work, marveling at the violence of the weather. I had decided to stay home from the evening prayer meeting at church–I wasn’t feeling the greatest. Right after I’d made that decision, Tim had texted me asking if I wanted to go to the park that evening and release some tadpoles that he’d been raising. I’ve always been gullible when it comes to situations like this, so I said “sure” in spite of the monsoon raging outside.

At home, I changed, got a cup of tea, and prepared for a quiet night. I called Tim to come over, and put in my headphones to wait for him. The song that had been stuck in my head all day pumped gentle anticipation into me as I stared out the window at the ominous clouds with crystal white just above them. Something was going to happen. I couldn’t tell if it was the song or the storm that was making me feel this way, but I couldn’t shake it.

Tim arrived and helped me collect shoes and a jacket. My mom let us go without even a hint of her usual concern about going out in the middle of a crazy storm. We decided in the car to go to Frank Liske Park rather than my local park — a decision that I later learned was by design. As we drove, the storm gained strength, tossing gigantic raindrops at the windshield and scuffing at our tires. Tim prayed, not showing the anxiety he was definitely feeling. I thought we were just going to release the tadpoles.

When we turned into Frank Liske Park, we had to avoid a pond-sized puddle that had flooded the entrance, but once we’d parked, the frantic pattering of rain had miraculously dwindled to an occasional trickle. Grinning in triumph, we climbed out of the car and began our wet walk down the nature trail, hoping we wouldn’t be caught in another downpour.

The park was unusually quiet, emptied of people by the storm. Birds filled the silence with their contented cheer, and I looked around in wonder as Tim stopped to take a picture. The sun was shining through the trees, illuminating every droplet of water that clung to the leaves and branches. We continued on, looking for just the right place. I wondered, as Tim did a double-take and moved on to the other side of the pond. The tadpoles squirmed in the jar I held. I was pretty sure they’d be happy anywhere, but I didn’t think much of it. I loved everything about Tim and I’d follow him to any side of the pond.

When Tim found the spot, we waded through a woven carpet of fallen ivy and tangled branches to a set of large rocks sitting directly in the water at the base of a spreading tree. The roots of the tree dug deep into the stream, swollen and rushing from the extra rain. I handed Tim the jar and he bent down, releasing the tadpoles into their natural habitat. I watched with a contented smile, hoping that the drops misting around me were from the wind in the trees, and not signalling the start of another storm. At this point, we were without an umbrella.

Then, almost on cue, Tim turned and reached behind me into the ivy under the tree. An army bag sat there, barely visible between two roots. I watched as Tim dug in the wet brush to get it out. Wow, he’s curious, I thought. Looks like the perfect haven for…

“Spider!”

I’d barely noticed the brown, fuzzy creature clinging to the bag before Tim swatted it away and continued searching. Opening it further for me to see, Tim reached deep into the bag and pulled out a black umbrella. Convenient. Someone must have left it. We’ll sure need it on the way back. 

Still looking out for more spiders, I barely noticed Tim pulling a piece of paper out of the bag. As he unfolded it, I decided it looked familiar…like the scrapbook paper he’d used the week before to commemorate our year anniversary. By this time, the note was open, but it took a second before the words flashed with meaning across my mind.

Beloved, this is your moment. Genesis 2:24

“What’s this?” I heard so many words in my head, but none of them reached my mouth, spread wide open in a grin.

“You can let go of the umbrella,” he chuckled. I just stood there, smiling and astonished, as he took a step back and knelt on the rock. Everything seemed to stop, except the rushing of the water as he knelt there, looking up into my face with the tender smile and gentle eyes I had come to love.

“Jubilee, I have waited all my life for you. God has watched over our relationship and taught us to love as He does. And now, in the Presence of God, I would like to ask you if you would be my wife.”

My heart just wanted him to keep going, but when he paused, I realized it was my turn.

“Yes,” I said through my grin. “Yes, absolutely!”

“Give me your hand,” he said, “Other hand.”

Fumbling to move my promise ring out of the way, I barely saw the engagement ring until he slipped it onto my finger. My eyes took in delicate white gold edged with diamonds and three sparkling stones traveling upwards in a diagonal pattern, with scroll-work behind them. I was so proud of him, but all I wanted to do was hug him tight.

Which I did, for a long time. Then, hand in hand, we climbed back to level ground, and ran for the car into direct sunlight, joy pounding in our chests and exploding from our smiles all the way home. The rest of the night was filled with the pleasure of telling family and friends. As much as we’d been planning this, Tim had managed to surprise me and I basked in the glow all night. It was definitely not the end though…like in fairy tales where the movie closes with the couple riding off into the sunset. We have needed God’s special strength and grace for each one of the days since then, and have been learning how to depend on Him more deeply and fully than ever before. On April 20, 2015, we launched on a very spiritual adventure together. It certainly was, as I wrote in my journal that night…”The first day for the rest of our lives!”

Tim and I

 

 

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