Tuesday, March 29, 2011

{ Our Engagement Day }

March 29, 2009
One-year anniversary of first date
+ Engagement Day
Anniversaries and traditions are very, very important to Mike. His thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and crazy romantic streak proved this to me time and time again while we were dating. I knew the one-year anniversary of our first date was a really big deal to Mike, and I was pretty sure he was going to make it another epic date to remember, as our first date had been.

March 29, 2009 fell on a Sunday. This is all Mike would tell me about his plans for the day: I needed to be ready for him to pick me up at 6 a.m., wearing something warm and casual; we'd have to come back to my house that afternoon to change into nice clothes, and I should take the next day off of work because I'd probably be worn out. I had my own surprise for Mike: I had made a small scrapbook with one photo from each month that we had been together.  The first page said, "How do I enjoy thee? Let me count the ways..." Next to each photo I wrote a sentence about something I enjoyed about Mike or something we enjoyed doing together.

As I got ready in the pre-dawn darkness of that Sunday morning, I remember listening to songs from the playlist on Chelle's blog, specifically "A Good Day (Morning Song)" by Priscilla Ahn:

open my eyes

and i can tell it's gonna be a good day
i can tell it's gonna be a good day

did you sleep well?
did you dream at all?
can you tell me the time?
on the alarm clock

i can tell it's gonna be a good day
i can tell it's gonna be a good day

but you can sleep in
you just keep dreamin'
for us

i can tell it's gonna be a good day
i can tell it's gonna be a good day

 This song gave me shivers: I can tell it's going to be a good day! I was expecting a special day to commemorate this milestone anniversary, but nothing more. Long story short, six weeks earlier, we'd had a fight and nearly broken up. But God made it clear that His plan for us wasn't for us to part ways. After that, I knew that we were going to get married, I just didn't know when. We'd talked about marriage quite a bit, and after the near-breakup we spoke of it again, but in the "Lord willing, this will happen further down the road" sort of way. We both knew now that we were going to get married...we just didn't know when.  I remember in particular one evening when Mike sat me down and told me that he'd been looking at his finances and realized that it was going to take longer than he'd expected to be able to afford a wedding and a wife. A lot longer. I asked him what that meant, and for the life of me, I think he mumbled something about maybe we could revisit the topic in September or October. There were several other little incidents where he dropped hints about marriage being further off rather than closer. And months earlier, in the fall, Mike had asked me to send him pictures of engagement rings I liked, "just in case." He had recently sold his business and started working as a contractor for Microsoft, so the vague, months-off timelines we'd discussed seemed perfectly logical. And--this is important--I knew that he hadn't asked my Dad for permission to marry me. Mike had nearly flown to Idaho to ask my Dad for permission just to court me. I was pretty certain that, for something as important as marriage, he would ask Dad in person, which would mean either (a) an overnight trip with an eight-hour drive each way, or (b) flying to Idaho without me knowing {incidentally, he'd never been on an airplane before!}. Either way, my family lives a two-hour drive from the nearest city with cell phone reception. I would definitely know if he went, because we talked several times a day.

outside the Maltby Cafe
Mike showed up at six a.m., with a single red rose for me. When he unwrapped his gift, he got choked up. I wish I had a picture of that, but his emotion made me all weepy too! The back seat of his car was mysteriously lumpy and covered in a heavy blanket. He charged me not to look or poke at it. And look, there on my seat was another red rose! As we set off, I tried to guess where we were going; eventually it became clear. We were going to the Maltby Cafe for breakfast! Mike's thoughtfulness and the effort he put into studying me was already showing up, loud and clear. I'm very much an early bird; Mike is a night person. I had talked about wanting to go to the Maltby Cafe with Mike, since it's one of my favorite breakfast places. It was beginning to look like he'd planned this day specifically to bless me, by giving me experiences he knew I would love: Flowers. An early morning start. Breakfast at my favorite cafe. I don't remember what we had for breakfast, except the cinnamon roll. It was enormous!

After breakfast, we headed north on the freeway...but what's this? Another red rose on my seat? Sneaky man! Just like last year on March 29, sunshine was pouring down from a bright blue sky, nary a cloud in sight. Not only was it not raining {a miracle}, the weather was amazingly springlike and mellow. Mike plugged in his iPod, but instead of the tunes we usually listen to, the soundtrack from Fireproof started playing. We'd watched Fireproof together shortly after the near-breakup, and though it's cheesy and the acting leaves much to be desired, we were both deeply impacted by the film's message about the value of marriage. Mike had looked up the film's soundtrack on Amazon and downloaded all the songs onto his iPod, along with favorite songs that had become "ours" over the past year.

Chuckanut Drive was a blaze of glory in the spring mid-morning sunshine. We stopped at several scenic look-outs to soak in the beautiful views of Puget Sound and the San Juan islands. Each time we'd come back to the car, there was another red rose on my seat. Once we reached Bellingham, we drove around for a bit admiring the old houses before stopping at a Starbucks. We ordered coffee, Mike bought me a cute little travel mug because I squealed over it, and we settled in at a table. Mike pulled out a sheaf of paper, a pen, and began asking me questions, jotting down notes as I answered. These were detailed, insightful, unexpected, and sometimes hard to answer! Questions about my hopes and ideas for marriage, family, my home, my goals in life, what's my dream house--all very specific. And he wrote down my answers!

It was early afternoon by the time we started back down Chuckanut Drive--and there was another red rose on my seat in the car. We dawdled along, enjoying each other's company and the riotously beautiful views. At one point we decided to try to find a beach and headed down surprisingly unmarked streets toward the water. Much to our delight, we found ourselves at a park with a beach. We prowled all over the beach and the rocky outcroppings surrounding the little bay. As we got further from the parking lot, we took turns going out and exploring, one of us always lagging behind to keep an eye on Mike's car. There were multiple signs posted in the parking lot, warning that this is a high car prowl area and not to leave valuables in your car.

Back on the beach, we perched ourselves on a driftwood log. I was happy to watch waves and people while Mike offered to run back up to the car and make sure everything was okay. A few minutes later, he returned...with a picnic basket and an armload of picnic supplies! He had a blanket, a couple of red roses in a vase, little battery-operated tea lights, real china and silver and glass wineglasses, and the most delicious spread of Italian fingerfoods for lunch. He even had a bottle of Root 1 white wine, knowing that I prefer whites. {My eyes nearly boggled out of my head when I saw that bottle of wine! A few weeks earlier, we'd tasted a Root 1 red wine and both liked it. I had purchased a bottle of red Root 1 to give to Mike that night!}I was speechless--completely surprised! Mike was a perfect gentleman: He set everything up, poured the wine, and served the food. I was really truly speechless at how sweet this moment was; he had clearly put so much thought and effort and preparation into this picnic. There was Caprese salad, goat cheese on rosemary crackers, delicious sandwiches, and more. It was so, so perfect and sweet; it was the perfect picnic.

Eventually we packed up the picnic--when we got to the car there was another red rose on my seat-- and made our way back to the house I shared with three other girls. Sleepy from our early start and sun-kissed from hours on the beach, Mike voted for a nap on the couch before setting off for the evening part of our date. My roommates, getting ready for church {we all attended the 5pm service}, were in and out, saying "Hi!" and "Happy Anniversary!" and "We'll miss you at church!"

I knew just the dress to wear for this occasion: A 1940's-style eggplant number with a pencil skirt and pleats in the back. It was sleek, sexy, and I had never worn it before. Apparently I chose well: I thought Mike's eyes were going to fall out of his head when he saw me after I put it on! In his grey suit, he looked very sharp too! I gave Mike the bottle of Root 1 wine I'd purchased for him, and we marveled at the irony that we'd each gotten each other a bottle of Root 1 for this anniversary.

Now dressed to the nines, our first stop was Daphnes, a tiny-but-DARLING bar in Edmonds, Mike's favorite town in the world. {I'm sure you've already guessed: There was a red rose on my seat when we went to the car.} I had a hunch that we'd end up in Edmonds; the city had been a big part of our first date, and we'd been back for ferry rides and dinners at Arnies a few times in the past year. I should probably explain that Daphne's really is a tiny, tiny place: At most twelve people can be seated at one time, and the clientele is mostly folks 20+ years older than we are. We overheard a number of whispered comments about how cute we were. The bartender even gave us a box of chocolates because it was our anniversary!

outside Daphnes
As I'd suspected, Arnies was our dinner destination {this is the only component of the entire day that I guessed correctly}. The waiter brought a red rose with our appetizer. We enjoyed our dinner as the sun sank toward the Puget Sound; the food was delicious. From the cinnamon roll and breakfast at the Maltby Cafe, to coffee at Starbucks, to that glorious picnic on the beach, to Daphnes, to delicious seafood dinner at Arnies, we had pretty much eaten our way through the day. I was quite sympathetic when we had finished and Mike asked if we could just sit for a few minutes because he wasn't feeling well. Personally, I was beginning to wonder if my tummy was going to bust out of this sleek dress! He did get up "to go to the bathroom," but I was pretty sure the real reason he left was to put another rose on my seat in the car.

The sun was setting as we left Arnies. Mike asked me to wait while he took our unfinished bottle of wine to the car. When he rejoined me, we walked toward the pier. The pier extends about 200 feet straight out from the shore, then makes a 90-degree turn to the left and extends another 200 feet, parallel to the shore. The dusky light was beautiful, with the last of the sunset reflected on the water. As we walked down the pier, I kept asking Mike to stop so I could take photos. Turning the corner at the halfway point, several things happened simultaneously. I saw that the pier was lined with small glass votive holders: a tealight in one votive holder; a few feet further down, a red rosebud in a votive holder, and so on, down the entire length of the pier. On both sides. As soon as this registered, for a few moments I suddenly felt that, though I was walking forward, I was actually moving backward, zooming out. And immediately I knew that Mike was going to ask me to marry him.

It's all a bit fuzzy from this point. There were candles--roses--so many of them, hundreds!--a sparkling corridor above the sparkling sunset water. Mike was grinning and beaming like there was no tomorrow. The votive holders--candle, rose, candle rose--were arranged in a circle at the end of the pier, with red rose petals strewn all over the deck. Off to one side was a silver ice bucket with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. Mike set down my purse and took me in his arms, began humming "Strangers in the Night"--whenever we danced he'd use that tune but sing "dooby dooby doo" instead of the words--as we slow danced. Then he was on one knee, taking a small box from his pocket, saying beautiful words to me and asking me if I would be his wife. To this day he insists that I never said "Yes!" but went straight in for the kiss. I honestly don't remember: I was in shock. Completely, completely shocked. I had absolutely no idea that he was going to propose! The ring was beautiful; three emerald-cut diamonds on a delicate white gold band. Mike slipped it on my finger, yelled, "WE'RE GETTING MARRIED!!!" at the top of his lungs, opened the champagne. Giggling, kissing, breathlessness--this is really happening!!! Oh yes, and lots of "I love you!" We both wanted to save the word "love" for use only with our future spouses; so many times in the past few weeks it had been physically hurt not to tell him "I love you," and now we could say it! Over and over! Because--we were getting married!!!

Eventually Mike's sister Amaryah, his roommate Kevin, and friend Holly came to congratulate us. They had set everything up and had been standing guard at the foot of the dock, keeping everyone off while waiting for Mike and I to finish dinner. Amaryah took a few photos. More laughter, congratulations, hugging and back-slapping and giddiness. After a while Mike said we needed to leave, there were two more places we had to go!

At the car, there was another red rose for me: The twelfth, one for each of the months we'd been a couple. There was also a photo album with a sweet, sweet message Mike had written about commemorating our family's special moments. Our family! Eeeeek!

Our first stop was Mike's parents' house, where his mom and dad were waiting with chocolate cake and congratulations. On the way, I called my parents to tell them I was engaged! After spending some time with Mike's parents, Mike said we needed to get to my house, because "people are waiting!" I had no idea what that meant, but soon found out: Everyone--literally everyone--had known that Mike was going to ask me to marry him that day, except me. Even my roommates had known! My roommates and a whole gaggle of our friends were waiting for us at my house with champagne, desserts, and streamers. We were toasted and prayed over. We recounted the events of the day and basked in the shared excitement and joy. Our friend Megan had made a CD of love songs for us. I vividly remember one moment that evening: Mike, Megan, a couple other people and I were in the living room, and Megan was telling us about the CD, which was playing in the background. She asked if I'd heard the first song, "Lemonade" by Chris Rice. I said no; Megan re-started the CD, and as the words drifted over us, I looked at Mike and grinned. This is perfect. We were in our own little world. It wasn't till weeks later that Megan told me that she and the others snuck out of the room because they felt like they were intruding on "a moment."

so go ahead and ask her
for happy ever after
'cause nobody knows what's coming
so why not take a chance on loving?

come on, pour the glass and tempt me
either half-full or half-empty, yeah
'cause if it all comes down to flavor
the glass is tippin' in my favor

life gave me lemonade
and i can't imagine why
born on a sunny day
beneath a tangerine sky
i live life without pretending
i'm a sucker for happy endings
thanks for the lemonade
thanks for the lemonade

now take your time to answer me
for the beauty of romancing
is to calm your trembling hand with mine
while beggin' love to fill your eyes

i can hardly breathe while waiting
to find out what your heart is saying
and as we're swirlin' in this flavor
the world is tilting in our favor


i've got it made, rest in the shade
and hold my love while God above
stirs with a spoon, we share the moon
smile at the bees, more sugar please

He really loves us after all
we're gonna need another straw
we're gonna need another straw


  1. Wow! What an amazing story! You have one sweet, romantic husband...you lucky girl! I think it's so special that you recorded this...it gets so fuzzy over time. Love the details, love the photos!

  2. OH MY GOODNESS! I have chills from head to toe. What an amaaaazing love story! I'm so excited to hear when another young couple "gets it". Gets the importance and reverance surrounding courtship, purity and best of all, the gift of marriage. That kind that comes once in a life time, for a once in forever kind of love.

  3. This made me cry - a couple times! And I so happy our home-town played such a prominent part in such a memorable day! : )

  4. Ladies ~ thanks for your sweet words. I know I am incredibly blessed to have such a romantic man...it's kind of embarrassing, but he's WAY more romantic than I am. Oh well, I guess I should be thankful for that!!