Before the Proposal :)
So, guess what!? I'm engaged. I'm engaged. I'm engaged. I'm engaged! I never though I'd even get married, but I met my best friend at 12 years old and I was never the same since. It's so funny how God works.
For those that do not know, Ryan moved to Palm Coast from Chicago the SAME month I moved from a town near Boston. We met as August bleeds into September on a day when I had gone to my Gramma's pool for the afternoon with my family. Ryan's family happened to be there too! I very vaguely remember that day, but Ryan remembers it perfectly. To me, Ryan was an eleven year old boy that was playing football with my brothers. I had no idea that he'd very soon become my most favorite person in the whole world.
After that, somehow Ryan ended up on my brother's baseball team. I watched him and Dakota play baseball every weekend and hung out with Ryan at church. He was one of the first members of our little church plant, which has now been blessed with incredible growth. We became friends, silly friends. I would make fun of him and tease him because he was younger, but he was always so sweet to me. I remember at one point actually saying "I'll never date anyone younger than me!" purposefully in front of him, because I wanted to tease him and I knew he had a crush on me. Jesus laughed out loud when I said that, I am sure.
One summer, I didn't see Ryan for a long time and I noticed that I missed him a little bit...this should have been my first clue. He then came back during the fall and started hanging out with my family again - but he was different and older. (and much taller!) On Thanksgiving day of that year, our church had Thanksgiving in a park and we started talking. I noticed at dinner that napkins and drinks would just show up next to my plate whenever I ran out. After, we went to his house to hang out. I remember going home that night with a bunch of Rachel Ray magazines he had given me and a flutter in my heart. This kid, no matter how old he was, was the kindest boy I had ever met.
A month later, on New Year's Eve, we were having a party and Ryan was there. At the party we were playing a silly game that pre-teens must have played back in the day, and we thought it was funny to ask each other "if you could marry anyone, who would it be?" We thought it was hilarious. When it got to Ryan's turn, he wasn't laughing or being comical. He just very seriously looked across the table and said, "you." To his surprise, when it came my turn, I looked right at him and said, "you." He had no idea I even liked him at this point and so he about fell off his chair. I think it is so completely perfect that 5 years later, that same boy would ask me to marry him for real on New Year's Eve. God loves to orchestrate things like this, create events that hinge on the past, so that we can look back and see how connected and linked his masterpiece is.
After that, things were wonderful and our relationship slowly and sweetly started to bloom. Ryan and me decided to take it very slow. I thought at 15, (my age) I was much to young to date....even though I was hopelessly in love. For a year, we did not hold hands, kiss, or tell each other we loved each other. We decided to become best friends that were committed to purity by making sure we had Jesus at the center of all we did.
Ryan is the best reflection of Jesus to me. He has unwaveringly loved me and honored me, and I am so undeserving. Jesus has given me a small taste of what his love feels like through my best friend. Ryan's love makes me fall in love with the source, Jesus' love, all over again.
After Ryan proposed, I went back and reread my journals from that time in 2007 and 2008. Almost every single day, I prayed for Ryan. I told God that Ryan was the desire of my heart and that I hoped I would spend forever with him. Every. single. day. I cried while reading my journal entries, because I remember writing them. I was so in love, and I wanted it to be real so bad. Most other teenage relationships failed to last and I was terrified mine would be the same. It is so beautiful to look back at my 15 year old distraught prayers and to now be on the other side, knowing that Jesus was smiling at me that day, telling me "daughter, I've already answered your prayers." He is so faithful and good. I included two of my journal posts below, because I believe in praising Jesus and being public with answered prayers. These were both written in 2008, when I was 15 and Ryan was 14. :)
(scroll down for the rest of the story).
So Ryan and me have been talking about getting married for a while. I knew he was going to propose, but I just wasn't sure when it would be. I wanted it to be a surprise, but as I am a very curious sort, I couldn't help trying to figure out when it would happen. Ryan called me last week and said he had a surprise. He had Sunday and Monday (New Year's Eve) off of work, so he would get to spend all day with me! That never happens, so I was excited. Until I remembered that my mom had planned an IKEA trip all day long Monday. (From 10am-5pm). I was excited to go with my mom, but when Ryan told me he was coming, I was so sad. We don't often have time to spend together, so I was SO disappointed it was on the same day. But I was obligated to go, so Ryan said he was going to hang out with his friend Chris all day, and we would just hang out that night during our New Year's party.
So Sunday came, and I had this weird feeling that perhaps he would propose Sunday. My dad and Ryan were acting funny and they disappeared after church for a while....and I was SURE it was going to happen. I even told Ryan that he had to give me a ten minute warning to make sure I looked nice. I didn't want to get caught in my PJS, ya know? But Sunday came and went and I was so sad it never happened, and I knew for sure it wouldn't be Monday because of the IKEA trip.
So the next morning, I got up and left for IKEA. I saw that Ryan and his friend checked in on FB to a restaurant and I texted him to see how he was doing, but he seemed busy and I didn't want to interrupt his time with Chris. (Come to find out, his friend drove to a restaurant just to check in to trick me and throw me off their tracks...but they never went there!). So I continued at IKEA and went out to lunch and then we drove home at 5ish.
We got home and I went into my house. Ryan was already there, so I said hey to him and we talked about our days for a little bit. We were having people over for a New Year's Eve party in two hours, so Ryan "said" he went to our friend's house next door while I went upstairs to get ready.
I was halfway through blowdrying my hair when my phone went off. It was Ryan...this is what the text said (see below). He even remembered my comment from the day before and reminded me that I would want to make sure to wear something nice. :) "The path" is a path in the woods behind my house that we take walks on all the time.
So at this point, I start shaking and almost crying. Then my mom came in with a little knowing smile and said, "would you like some help getting ready?"
After, I ran downstairs where my mom, my dad, Gretchen (TOH co-founder and good friend), and some other close friends were waiting. They gave me hugs as I started crying and my dad directed me out on the path. He said, "make sure to follow the tiki torches and stop at each one."
I started bawling right away, which was so funny because I never cry. At each torch, Ryan had written these sweet notes. The gist of the notes together said "Ever since I was 12 years old, I have loved you and wanted to spend everyday with you..."
The tiki torches went for a pretty far ways back and so I ran to each one, excited to see what the next note said. Ryan had gotten four of my close friends (who are photographers) to take photos of me. They did such a good job hiding in the woods and being inconspicuous while still getting awesome photos!
On the last tiki torch, I ended up in a field in the woods. Within the field, Ryan was waiting. A pathway of lights wound up to him. They looked like fairy lights, and I have never seen anything so pretty. He had set up a beautiful canopy, draped with white curtains, magical lights, and flowers. Flower petals lined the path up to him and there was music playing. (He had gotten into my itunes while I was gone and downloaded all my favorite music).
I ran up to him and hugged him tight. I was shaking so bad and sobbing. Everything was so beautiful, almost like I had stepped into another world or into one of my favorite fiction books.
After we hugged and I cried for a few minutes. (I was so surprised and happy!). He showed me the canopy. He had hung all of our love letters from the past 5 years everywhere. They were hanging from the ceiling and hung on the tables. There were SO many and so many that I had forgotten about.
He had a table in the back corner with all of my favorite treats on it; Starbucks and fruit! The shoebox he used to store our letters was on the table with a few in there that we were going to read. An upright piano (which was actually an electric that they somehow made look EXACTLY like an upright) was in the back corner with flowers all over it. Our picnic basket that I had gotten at a yard sale two years prior was in another corner, and all the journals about our relationship through the years were in it. Candles were everywhere and it was so romantic. Here are a few pictures of the details.
After I looked at all the little details Ryan had put so much thought and time into, he asked me if I wanted to reminisce about old times. We sat down at the table and read some of our old letters. They made me cry even more, because they all proclaimed how much we loved each other and how we wanted to get married, even from a young age. To finally be at the fulfillment of all of our wishes and prayers was so overwhelming.
We finished reading our letters and Ryan got up. He walked over to the upright piano and asked me if he could sing my favorite song. It is kinda of a joke between us. Ryan has such a good voice and I've asked him to sing for me the last few years, but he has always been embarrassed too. It meant SO much for him to learn the piano and the words to my favorite song. (Turns out....that's why he disappeared after church the day before. He was learning the song with my dad, who plays the piano. :)
It was literally the most beautiful and meaningful moment in the entire world to hear him sing to me.
Then, after singing to me, he asked if we could dance. He made sure another one of my favorite songs was playing ("A Storybook Story" from the movie, The Princess Bride) and we danced and kissed and whispered how much we loved each other. (And I also sang all of the corny lyrics, which are the best!)
After we separated from our dance, Ryan got down on one knee and I started crying. He told me beautiful things about how he's always loved me since the moment he met me, and how we lead each other closer to Jesus, and how he wants to spend forever with me. I, of course, said yes!!
After he proposed, he told me he had one last surprise. He got out a chinese lantern and told me he wanted to light them in celebration that I said yes. It was like the movie Tangled! (which, by the way, is my favorite). So we lit our lanterns and I giggled and cried and was girly and emotional about how beautiful it was.
The best part was, after we put our lanterns in the air, Ryan smiled and said, "and that's not all, there is more!" It turns out, that while we were reading letters, all of my family and the Barksdales (a family I've known my whole life!) and my closest friends walked out of the woods slowly holding their own lanterns....even the little kids. So we all sent up our lanterns together, and the red lights lit up the sky and made the night feel so big and epic and spiritually breathtaking. We all hugged and laughed and talked about what happened and it was perfect in every way. Ryan knows how much I love my family, so it was incredibly special that they were there to share the moment with me. :)
After the lantern lighting, my family walked back to our house to get ready for our New Year's Eve party. It was a great night to get engaged on because we got to have a party afterwards, and it was like our own little engagement party to start off the new year! It was such a fun night and everyone oohed and ahhed over my ring and I was over the moon.
My proposal was the most beautiful proposal story ever, because Ryan took the time to think about all of the little details I love; the woods, letters, the past and our love for each other, flowers, my favorite songs, Starbucks, fruit, piano playing and singing, chinese lanterns like Tangled, and my family. I am in awe of his godliness and the way he honors me. I cannot thank Jesus enough for him!
Right Before the Proposal (the set-up)
Hey, friend! I'm Chelsie!
Stay a while and get comfy. <3