It has been 7 months since I last blogged! I started this blog to detail my trips to Nicaragua and other countries. And at times I will blog about momentous events in my life. Well... something VERY momentous happened over a month ago and I am just now getting around to blogging about it.
It is going to be difficult to share every detail that unfolded the crazy yet magical day of Saturday, February 11th that will forever have a special place in mine and Stef's heart. It is the day that Stef agreed to be my wife, and I became the happiest/luckiest man in the world. What I mean by difficult is that it takes almost a full hour to share the story in person with friends and family; so to type it out in a short, to the point, yet not missing the best moments and readable in one sitting story will not be easy. But here goes...
This story begins in September, 2011, when I was an indecisive idiot and broke Stefanie's heart by ending our relationship. After I moved back to Trussville, Stef and I did not see each other, talk on the phone, or email for 5 months! Zero contact. Believe me, I wanted to see her and talk with her because I thought about her every day. However, during that time, the Lord in His sovereignty used our separation to prepare my heart and mind for the journey Stef and I are now on. And He was also working in Stef's life during that time as well. I don’t have time to share everything that Christ was doing, but it mostly dealt with my perspective on relationships/marriage and my selfishness, especially in reference to my life plan. I emphasize “my” because that’s exactly what it was, not God’s or ours, but my plan. Having realized all this plus the fact that Stef was everything I ever wanted (and more), and that I didn’t want to live life without her, I decided that I had to do whatever I could to get her back. Therefore on Friday, February 10th, I left work early and drove 10 hours to Orlando, FL. I had spoken with Stef’s dad, Rob, on the phone the day before and asked if we could meet Saturday morning for coffee. I was extremely nervous making that call, but he was very cordial. We ended up meeting a little later than I had hoped for lunch on Saturday. That was a big concern, but it did add a little to my nerves since I was anxious to get to Jacksonville and see Stef. Rob and I sat and talked for almost 2 hours. Again, the conversation went very well, and by the end I had asked his blessing in asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He gave it but said it might not be so easy with Stef. He said she might “kick me in the teeth” and wouldn’t blame her. I wouldn’t have either. Leaving lunch I had a 2 hour drive to Jacksonville. It gave me a little time to prepare, because it was hard to make a plan since I wasn’t sure what Rob was going to say or how Stef was going to respond. But I knew what I wanted, and so with Step 1 completed (talking with her father), my hopes for a proposal were “all systems go.” However, I knew that many things had to fall perfectly into place, or rather the Lord’s place, for that to become a reality, especially that night.
While driving to Jacksonville detailing my next “steps”, I was informed that Stef somehow knew I was coming to see her. My plan was to surprise her, but God had other plans. (What’s cool about this story is how God’s plans trumped mine at every turn, because all my plans crashed & burned). My original thought was to give Stef a clue that I was in town to see her (in order for her not to be completely overwhelmed and have a little time to process her thoughts and feelings), and then show up about 30 minutes later. However, God knew that Stef needed a full day to pray and think. So, on Friday night, He worked it out in a way that made Stef’s best friend feel very strongly that she needed to tell her I was coming the next day. A sad/romantic movie was involved but that’s too much detail for now. In Stef’s friend’s defense, I am glad she did it but at the time I thought my plans were ruined.
Finally arriving in Jacksonville, I went to Tiffany’s (a jewelry store I never thought I'd ever buy anything from) and bought earrings, which Stef had lost one of a similar pair over the summer, and a necklace. I then began looking for some sort of ring to give her, because I knew she wanted her great-grandmother’s, but I didn’t have it yet. (It was in a safe deposit box in Orlando, and we couldn’t get to it until Monday). Getting flustered and anxious to get to Stef since she knew I was in town, I gave up the search for a ring and moved on with my “plan.” I drove to a friend’s house and started getting my first clue ready. It was my plan to use our bikes (we had bought two cruisers together while dating) with the Tiffany’s earrings in a box sitting on my bike’s seat with a note that read, “Two are better than one. They are meant to be together.” I was going to place that clue in her driveway for her to see before she left that evening for a charity ball she was attending. That plan didn’t work either because Stef and her roommate actually left early for the ball. (And if you know Stef then you know how surprising this was as Stef is never on time for anything!) Again my plans weren’t working, so I took a picture of our bikes together, printed it, and placed it in the box with the earrings and note. I put on my suit, gathered my supplies, and went to the ball. A friend snuck me in to a separate room in the back of the church where the ball was being held. I decorated the room with candles, flowers, rose pedals, pictures of us, and bible verses (see picture below). I turned on the song Crazy Girl by The Eli Young Band. This song has significance to our relationship. I had given the Tiffany’s box to a friend who was to give it to Stef at the ball and then lead her to the room. (The process of getting Stef to the room is a pretty funny one. Ask about it sometime.) I was not in the decorated room but waiting in a side room. Once she entered, the room was candlelit with the song playing in the background. A teacup candle path led her to a table with flowers and our picture. A note was leaning against the picture that read...
“I listened to this song while driving and started crying. There are so many words in this song that remind me of us; however…You are not crazy; I am crazy to have ever left you; God has done some crazy work in my life; Most of all… I am CRAZY in love with you.”
After she read the note I walked in from the side door. My heart was pounding, and I saw that she was crying which made me cry too. Seeing her for the first time in 5 months was more overwhelming than I could have ever expected. We sat in front of the table and for 45 minutes I poured out my heart, and Stef never said a word. I began by saying how sorry I was for leaving her and asked for her forgiveness. Then I told her about all that God had done in my life over the past 5 months, and how much my love for her had grown in ways that can only come from the Lord. Stef was so amazing and one of the first things she said to me was that she had forgiven me long ago. After hearing Stef’s side of the story, all the things she had prayed about earlier that day while waiting to see me were the same things I was sharing. We sat and talked for a while, and then I said I had another gift for her. I grabbed another Tiffany’s box with the necklace in it and gave it to her with a note that read, “Merry Christmas & Happy Birthday” since I had missed both in the 5 months. (There is a funny side note here about how all the “clues” I had planned for her to get, including the first Tiffany’s box, never registered with Stef; mostly because there were so many emotions and thoughts clouding her mind.)
We sat and talked in the room for about an hour & a half before I asked her if she wanted to leave. Things were going very well, and I wanted to continue with my ultimate plan of asking Stef to marry me. I still wasn’t sure if the timing was right yet, because there were a few things we still needed to talk about. So we left the ball and drove toward the beach. During the 15-minute drive, Stef and I were talking and catching up like we had never been apart. It was wonderful driving with her again, and all the things that I wanted to talk about to help confirm that the timing was right for a proposal were brought up naturally. “Praise God,” I thought. He was definitely directing me. Once we arrived at the beach everything had fallen into place perfectly for me to be confident about proposing. It was a cold and windy night, but I asked Stef if she would run out to the beach with me. She agreed, and we walked down the boardwalk to the beach. I stopped her at the end of the boardwalk overlooking the sand and the water, and I asked her if I could pray for us. We were shaking we were so cold, so I wrapped her up tight in my arms. (I was shaking not from the cold but mostly from being nervous). I prayed a very specific prayer for our new relationship and the new journey we on together. After praying I said,
“Stef, about 2 years ago we were standing right here and you asked me a question. You asked, ‘Do you want to kiss me?’, and I said, ‘Yes.’ So, now I have a question for you…”
I paused and prepared myself for what I was about to say.
“Stefanie Marie Elliott… I love you so much and I can’t imagine life without you…”
I’m not exactly sure what I said but just imagine something very sweet and romantic. At that moment I started to drop to one knee and the feelings and emotions that came over me were unbelievable. I was on one knee in front of the girl of my dreams about to ask her to be my wife! It was a very surreal moment, and it seemed like time was standing still.
“You are the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. I want you to be my wife. Will you marry me?”
Stef just stared at me in complete shock. She didn’t say anything so I felt like the need to continue.
“I know this is all very overwhelming and a lot to take in, so you don’t have to give me an answer right now. I just want you to know that this is where I am.”
She was still just staring at me; I was still on my knee (I remember thinking I never imagined being on me knee this long!), so I reached in my pocket and pulled out a tiny, white ribbon.
“I’m sorry I don’t have a ring right now. This ribbon is all I have…”
At that moment Stef’s expression changed. It was a look of concern. I later found out she was thinking to herself, “He hasn’t talked to my dad. This is just a spur of the moment, rash decision. He hasn’t thought this through.”
It was like I knew what she was thinking, and so immediately I said, “I met with your dad this morning, and he gave me his blessing to ask you to marry me.”
And instantly Stef smiled and said, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
And so here we are on this new journey that the Lord has set before us. There are so many details and so much more to include, but it all comes down to this: The Lord has brought us together and we are so excited to see how He will use our marriage and our love for His glory.