Category Archives: Love Story

Our Love Story, Part 8

…in which T asks me to be his wife.

If you want to know how we got to this point, you can read Parts 1-7 of our love story here:

Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4/Part 5/Part 6/Part 7

By July of 2004, T and I had been dating for 5 months. We knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Early on in our dating relationship, T had told me about a place that was very special to him, a huge Rock (circled in red below) overlooking the ocean at a state park near a Christian conference center where he had worked for four summers. He had spent many hours on the Rock in fellowship with God, and had kept the location sacred by bringing only his closest friends there.

The ensemble T and I were in was scheduled to perform at the conference center in mid-August, and T had hinted that a proposal might be forthcoming around that time. Please keep that in mind as I proceed to reveal how shockingly, naïvely surprised I was when T  proposed on July 22. I had no idea that this was it until he was practically pulling out the ring.

T invited me to come with him to celebrate his brother’s birthday at his house out near the coast. He told me to wear jeans and comfortable shoes so we could stop somewhere along the way, hike to a pretty location, and have devotions together. This was mainly a ruse to ensure that I would be dressed appropriately for later that evening, but we did indeed stop by a secluded creek to talk, pray, and read the Bible together for a while before continuing on to the coast. We arrived at T’s brother’s house around noon and spent a few hours with T’s family.

By mid-afternoon, T had a remarkable impulse to go hang out at the beach. We picked up sandwiches at Subway and took them to a hike-in beach where we were the only people around. It was beautiful and romantic, and I still had no idea that T had further plans for the evening. In fact, he had things planned out to the second. Really.

T had enlisted the help of his friend A to get everything set up on T’s Rock by 7:30 PM, and to expect us to show up at the park between 7:45 and 8:15. After our picnic on the beach, T mentioned that he would like to stop by the nearby park to watch the sun set, and I thought that sounded like a great idea. So we pulled into the parking lot at 7:55. We both needed to use the restroom (which was part of T’s plan all along), and while in the restroom, T extracted a radio from the bottom of his backpack, powered it on, pressed the transmit button, and had this conversation with A:

T: “A, we have arrived. How’s it going?”

A: “I’m out on the Rock. It’s beautiful out here. If you get out here okay, it’s going to be incredible.”

T: “Thanks! She’s still clueless! She has no idea. Give me just a sec.”

A: “Okay. Standing by.”

A moment passed while T set down his backpack, pressed the timer function on his watch, and put his finger on the start button.

T: “Okay, I’m ready now. Go ahead.”

A: “Music starting…now!”

T started his stopwatch. From that moment, there would be 36 minutes of silence from the CD player that A had hidden on the Rock and then the music would start. In those 36 minutes, the followed events occurred:

T walked out of the restroom after stowing the radio and met me outside. We walked together toward a viewpoint overlooking the water. This was out of sight of the parking lot, giving A the chance to get off the Rock and back to his vehicle. We stopped a stranger to take our picture:

We traveled along a very primitive path, with tall grass and prickly bushes on either side, until we topped out on a ridge with an extraordinary view. I said I was thirsty, so T gave me his backpack so I could get a water bottle out of it. He said, “Be right back!,” and walked a short distance to where a cooler was hidden. He strapped it on and headed back over to me.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I was thirsty and perhaps a bit tired from hiking, or just that I really am that unobservant, but I didn’t question T’s going off by himself for a minute, and I somehow didn’t notice that a cooler had magically appeared on his person.

T’s plan at this point was to read my response and go from there. If I was starting to catch on, T had everything he needed in the cooler to propose right there on the ridge, just in case I was too nervous or excited to continue on the somewhat-treacherous path down to the Rock. He asked me how I was doing. I said I was fine, and T realized that I wasn’t suspicious yet.

T said, “Trust me,” and held my hand as we started down a very steep, slippery slope. We made our way to the Rock and climbed to the rounded top with relative ease. T spread out a blanket and we sat down and watched the waves.

The sun was just beginning to set, and T was worried that I must be dying with anticipation by now and wondering what was taking him so long (indeed, I still just thought we were enjoying a lovely sunset together), so he was thrilled when a pod of pelicans swept northward, passing low over the water, and wheeled about to begin their evening fish hunt. Just as T finished explaining the habits of pelicans, a soft breeze out of the northwest wafted the first airy notes of Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

Okay. Now I knew something was up.

“Where’s that music coming from?” I asked, my heart beginning to pound.

“From heaven, my dear,” T replied, and seeing no obvious source of the music, I was inclined to believe him.

T read me a letter he had written, expressing his love and dreams for our future, as the music continued to build. Then he stood me up, pulled a ring out of his backpack, and went down on one knee.

“Melissa, will you marry me?”

I was overcome with feelings of amazement, tenderness, and pure joy. “Yes! Oh, yes!” I replied.

As the music climaxed, T slipped the ring on my finger. It fit perfectly.

The sun was slipping behind the lighthouse, miles out to sea. Adagio began again as T sat me down and dried my happy tears. T opened the cooler and handed me a red rose, then poured me some Martinelli’s in a crystal goblet, and we toasted our future together.

Then T showed me the box that he had purchased six years prior while on a mission trip in the Philippines for the express purpose of holding the ring of the woman he would one day propose to.

Inside the box was a poem T had written explaining the symbolism of the ring he had chosen for me. Here’s a closer view:

It reads:

Three sparks of fire, sunlight distilled, in this eternal band of gold

Are promises and dreams fulfilled, are healing and new life to build

And stories yet untold.

The outer stones today are bound, yet flesh of flesh and bone of bone

May only close be ever found, in sorrow or in joy profound,

As to the Center Stone.

The Geoff Moore song, “If You Could See What I See,” began to play (T told me much later than A had hidden a boombox on a ledge down the side of the Rock), and T sang the words to me:

All of my life, I have dreamed
That somehow love would find me.
Now, I can’t believe you’re standing here.
If beauty is all in the eye
Of the beholder then I
Wish you could see the love for you that lives in me.

And you would know you have my heart,
If you could see, what I see;
That a treasure’s what you are,
If you could see what I see;
Created to be, the only one for me;
If you could see what I see.

I know there are days when you feel
So much less than ideal,
Wondering what I see in you
It’s all of the light and the grace
You’re belief in me drives me to say
That I promise you, a faithful love forever true.

And you would know you have my heart,
If you could see, what I see;
That a treasure’s what you are,
If you could see what I see;
Created to be, the only one for me;
If you could see ….

Then you’d understand
Why I fall down to my knees;
And I pray my love will be worthy of the One who gave His life so our love could be.

If you could see, what I see.
If you could see what I see:
You’re created to be the perfect one for me,
If you could see what I see.

If beauty is all in the eye,
Of the the beholder then I am beholding true beauty.

We watched the last rays of the sun slip into the Pacific and gathered our things. T’s friend A (who remained hidden the entire evening) would retrieve most of the accessories later, so we made our way slowly off the Rock. T carried the rose and a walking stick in one hand, and held my hand with the other whenever he could.

While driving home, we called our families to tell them our happy news. It didn’t come as a surprise to my parents, since T had, unbeknownst to me, asked my dad for my hand the previous week.

And that is how we got engaged. Next time, I’ll write about our wedding day, which occurred exactly six months later. For now, here’s one last picture of T and me when we were at the same beach the next month with our music ensemble.

Our Love Story, Part 7

Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4/Part 5/Part 6

For our 1-month anniversary, T took me to a rhododendron garden. There’s something magically exhilarating about being newly in love and walking together amidst bright blooms of every hue. I remember thinking, I wish everyone in the world could be as happy as I am right now. T took my hand as we entered the garden (for the first time since the night he asked me to be his girlfriend), and I don’t think he let go other than to snap a few pictures, such as this one:

In March, we went on tour with the college choir and spent every possible moment of free time together. We had some important heart-to-heart talks while sitting next to each other on the bus.

T told me that he didn’t really like the idea of having a long-distance relationship over the summer, so we started praying about the possibility of my staying in town. Soon after, an older college student that we both knew from choir approached T and asked, “Would Melissa be interested in a live-in nanny situation for the summer?” I met the family right after choir tour, and it was arranged that, come summer, I would care for their twin daughters in exchange for room and board. T and I were encouraged by that quick answer to prayer.

Right after school got out, we went on tour to Alaska with the smaller ensemble we were part of. We gave one or two concerts a day in churches large and small. Here’s T working the sound board:

And here I am (on the end), singing my little heart out:

Here’s the whole group. I’m in a gray sweatshirt, and T’s behind me wearing a green hoodie:

Summer went by quickly. I was grateful to have a place to stay, even though my job was challenging (those twins were firecrackers!). The family I was nannying for happened to live right down the street from T, which was convenient. In mid-July, T and I were leaders for Vacation Bible School at his church (which had become my church, too, by that point). Here I am wearing my V.B.S. garb. Don’t ask, ’cause I don’t know, and this is the only time you’ll ever see me wearing orange:

I had no idea that one week later, T would take me completely by surprise….

Go to Part 8.

Our Love Story, Part 6

Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4/Part 5

Right around the time T and I started dating, we attended a relationships seminar that was offered by the college. The speaker gave a definition of love that we adopted as our own: “Love is doing what’s best for the other person.” Also around that time, T handed me three typed pages of rules for our relationship! Of course, we didn’t call them rules, which sounds totally unromantic; we called them “boundaries.” Maybe that doesn’t sound much better, but holding each other accountable to stick with our written guidelines increased our respect for each other and helped us learn to work together as a team, thus strengthening the bond between us. In that sense, our boundaries were romantic, as they allowed us to show love by “doing what’s best for the other person.”

The boundaries were designed to keep us physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. One big limitation was not even one that T or I made up–it was a college rule that a male and female could not be alone together in a house (although being alone together in a vehicle was okay–go figure). We ate many meals together sitting outside on T’s doorstep when his roommate was not at home.

T felt that kissing would inevitably progress further than intended, so we made the decision not to kiss until we were married (well, actually T made the decision and I went along because I wanted to kiss him eventually, and that was the only way it was going to happen. I would have liked to have started kissing when we got engaged, but I respected his conviction and was willing to honor it.)

We had boundaries about how late to stay out at night, off-limits conversation topics, even how much money to spend on each other so we wouldn’t blow our budgets buying gifts. T was writing his master’s thesis and I was, of course, a student, so we also had limits on how much time we would spend together overall in order to leave enough time for schoolwork.

We agreed not to hold hands together again for a month because we felt it would be healthier for our relationship to have a foundation of friendship and conversation rather than just the fleeting thrill of physical touch. As my ninth grade geometry teacher used to say, we chose to eat our Wheaties rather than Frosted Flakes.

A couple of days after our D.T.R. (if you don’t know what that means, ask your nearest college student), I was still  blown away that this godly, sweet, funny, older guy actually liked me, so as T and I were taking a walk, I said, a little shyly, “Tell me again why you want to date me.”

“I’ll show you,” he replied. We rounded a corner and came to a camellia bush with only one bud beginning to open. A bright pinkish-orange could barely be seen inside.

“Sometimes you find a flower that is just a bud now, but you can see the color inside, and it’s so beautiful and so different from anything else you’ve ever seen that you want to have a front-row seat to watch it bloom.”

(To be continued…)

Go to Part 7.

Our Love Story, Part 5

Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4

I was a bit surprised when T led me to the music hall, which was closed due to the lateness of the hour, whipped out a set of keys, and let us in. We sat together on a bench in the lobby. T said something about liking me and being attracted to me and feeling led to pursue a relationship with me hopefully leading to marriage, but he also made it clear that God needed to be first in both of our lives. If either one of us ever felt His leading to take time off or end the relationship, then that was the way it would be.

I was in a whirlwind of euphoria and didn’t say much, only nodded. I was so happy to be with T, and I knew I wanted to be with him forever. We prayed together twice that night, and the second time, T asked if he could hold my hand. I was incredibly excited and yet perfectly at peace. Everything felt so right.

Why, you might ask, did T choose the music hall after hours for our talk? Well, he happens to be a creative problem-solver and “outside the box” thinker. He knew he wanted somewhere private, but not too private. The music hall had big glass doors on two sides, so anyone could look in and see us sitting there on the bench, but no one could actually get in, because the doors were locked. Locked doors were no obstacle for T, who had a campus job which conveniently afforded him his own set of keys.

To conclude this installment of our love story, here is a poem T wrote soon after we started dating in celebration of the campus-famed “pink mist,” that is, the romantic ambiance created by the sudden explosion of cherry trees in early spring and the fragrant, pink blossoms constantly fluttering down.

“Pink Mist”

O, the great and sorry state that comes about each spring

The [city] rain has made insane the boys that seek a ring

The light’ning skies have given rise to nervous fingers dialing

To make the call that says it all and leaves her scared or smiling

Yes, men are daft and balmy after winter’s op’ning fist

Oh, give it up and kiss the girl! You can’t escape pink mist!

(To be continued…)

Go to Part 6.

Our Love Story, Part 4

Part 1/Part 2/Part 3

My mind and heart are racing at a million miles per minute….

Because T saw me in the cafeteria and asked me to save him a seat while he got his dinner. When he came to the table, he told me that he had made arrangements to tutor at the elementary school with me (I had mentioned to him that they needed more tutors), and we made plans to drive over together the next morning. T also invited me to come with him to a children’s ministry workshop at his church the following Saturday.

Now I was pretty sure T liked being around me, too, and I hoped that he was interested in being more than just friends. I was unaware of the inner struggle T was going though until he explained it to me much later–that is, at 28 and never having had a girlfriend before, it was a big step for him to decide to start a relationship. He liked me, but he wanted to make sure that he was acting in obedience to God and not just on his own desires.

T kept praying and praying and not really getting a clear answer until he came to I Corinthians 7 as the passage to read in his one-year Bible on February 25. He was using the New Living Translation, which says in verse 35, “I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” T realized that that was his answer. He knew he would be better able to serve the Lord married than single, and so (one of the things I love about T is that when he knows the right thing to do, he doesn’t waste time), that evening, he followed me out of the cafeteria after dinner, found me in the lobby checking my mail, and asked, “Could I borrow you for a few minutes?”

I said, “Sure,” and we went outside. As we were walking along on the sidewalk, he said, “I think you and I need to talk.” My heart was thumping and my stomach was tight with anticipation. I really wasn’t sure which way this was going to go. Would he ask me to be his girlfriend, or would he say we needed to stop spending time together?

(To be continued…)

Go to Part 5.

Our Love Story, Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

Spring semester of 2004 began, and I was slammed. I was working part-time as a cashier in the college cafeteria, volunteering as a reading tutor at a local elementary school, trying to keep up with schoolwork, and participating in choir and ensemble rehearsals four afternoons a week. In the midst of all that, I found myself desperate to be still in the presence of the Lord, and I spent hours upon hours alone in my dorm room, worshiping Him and writing out prayers in my diary.

Most of those prayers were for guidance, for wisdom, for patience, for purity, and for general spiritual growth and maturity (I’m stating that so that you won’t think I was entirely boy-crazy), but on February 9, I wrote:

Dear Father God,

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m infatuated with [T]. I’ve liked him for a long time. He is so smart and talented and sweet, and he’s passionate about You. I feel so twitterpated whenever I’m around him, and sometimes I wonder if he doesn’t feel the same about me. I’m probably just imagining things. He’s almost ten years my senior. Why would he be interested in me over all the other girls he’s come in contact with over his years at [college]? But still, sometimes when he looks at me, I feel like he’s smiling with approval…like this morning when I was wearing my choir dress and my face was all made-up. I felt pretty, and when I wished him good morning, his eyes seemed to linger for just a second.

And on February 15:

Father, [T] has been on my mind a lot lately. I would like to get to know him better. I think I like him; I think I like him a whole lot. Please give me wisdom and discernment to know Your will. Please make [T] sensitive to your leading as to whether or not you would have him pursue me. I think he knows, or at least has a hint, that I am interested in him. I haven’t done anything overt, but he has to know that I enjoy being around him and listening to him tell stories. Help us both to seek You diligently and know what to do and when. I am willing to wait for Your timing, dear Father. I surrender all my desires to You. I want Your best, Father. I want to honor You in my relationships and in my choice of a marriage partner.

And two days later, I wrote:

My mind and heart are racing at a million miles per minute….

(To be continued…)

Go to Part 4.

Our Love Story, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

Although I don’t remember seeing T on the day of the ensemble tryouts, I did begin to observe him over the next several months, but I kept my distance because I was already in a relationship with a nice guy “back home” (about 150 miles away from my college). The members of the music group spent a lot of time together practicing, setting up and tearing down equipment, traveling, performing, going out after our Sunday night concerts, and just hanging out together in the dorms or cafeteria. (By the way, I was a singer in the group and T was the sound man.)

During that time, T and I never had a private conversation that I can remember, but within the context of the group, I developed strong feelings of respect and admiration for him. And I just plain really liked being around him, so much so that I started to wonder if I would be more compatible with someone like T than with the man I was currently dating. When those thoughts started coming, I no longer had a peace about that relationship and knew I needed to end it. I broke it off when I went home for Christmas break. I felt horrible about breaking up with him right before Christmas, but I knew it wouldn’t be right to make any more memories together when the relationship was already over in my mind. I prayed a lot that God would give me the right words to say, and He did–our “parting of the ways” went smoothly, and we walked away amiably. I also prayed that God would bless him with a loving wife someday, and He has–he is now happily married to a sweet woman.

At church the following Sunday, a very dear, wise, elderly lady told me something that her mother used to tell her and her siblings: “There is no shame in a broken relationship or even in a broken engagement. There is shame in a broken marriage.” I reflected on her words whenever I wondered if I had done the right thing in exchanging the security of a pretty healthy relationship with a good guy who cared about me, for the possibility that there might be a man who was a better fit.

A breakup is always hard, even if you know it’s for the best. My heart was heavy, and I E-mailed all the other members in the music group to ask them to pray for me. This was just a natural thing to do, as we were all very close and regularly shared personal prayer requests with each other, however, I think my motives in sending out that E-mail were about 60% that I really wanted my friends to pray for me and 40% that I wanted T to know I was available. Or maybe flip-flop those percentages. (What, you’ve never passed on pertinent information under the guise of a prayer request?)

To be continued…

Go to Part 3.

Our Love Story, Part 1

For all the time T and I have been married (almost six years), I was so sad that I couldn’t find the diary I kept while T and I were dating. I mean, I have a box that contains every single other diary I’ve ever kept since I started writing in them in sixth grade, but this one particular, precious diary of a very special time in my life was simply missing. So you can imagine how ecstatic I was a couple of months ago when T was digging around in the garage looking for something else and discovered the missing diary in a box of my lecture notes from college. Without that diary, I would never have been able to remember nearly as many details of those deliriously happy first few months of our relationship. You think you will never forget a single endearment or event from that time, but as the years wear on, those tender memories get shoved to the back of your mind, which is why I’m thrilled to have my diary back so I can relive our courtship. By the way, re-reading old diaries is not for the faint of heart. There’s nothing like reading your own words from bygone years to elicit blushes, cringes, and groans. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Aw, I was so cute!” And other times I want to go back and chew myself out for being so stupid. But this story, our love story, is a happy one.

The first time I ever mentioned T in my diary was on January 8, 2004, when I was writing out a prayer to God: There is someone I am interested in–You know who. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a man–wise, smart, kind, good with kids, talented, a good storyteller, and most importantly, he loves You passionately. God, I don’t know if he feels anything for me, but if he does, please show him the right time and way to let me know.

I’d first met T the previous fall. He remembers the first time he saw me. It was at tryouts for a singing ensemble I really wanted to be a part of at the Bible college we were both attending (well, T was in the seminary, and I was in the college). Since T had a lot of history with the ensemble, the director had asked him to sit in on the tryouts and help him evaluate those trying out. I was so nervous and focused on the director that I didn’t even notice T there. T has since told me that he wrote my name down as “Marisa,” and he remembers thinking that I was wearing too much makeup (which I was). Despite that, T and the director liked me enough to let me into the group, for which I am forever grateful, not only because it was a really phenomenal experience musically and ministerially (yes, that is a word; I just looked it up), but also because it brought T and me together.

To be continued…

Go to Part 2.