the engagement

Perfect. I must have used that word a million times since Valentine’s Day. But it describes (perfectly) each aspect of Peter’s proposal, so I haven’t been able to find a better substitute. I get so excited to tell the story to anyone who will give me the chance to ramble on about this amazing man I am going to marry, and the wonderful way he asked me.

Every night during the week before Valentine’s Day Peter surprised me with a picture of us and a letter to go with it. It started Monday with a five-picture frame; one spot was filled, the others simply said “Coming Soon.” Each picture was from some experience we had shared together over the last 18 months of dating, and each letter described some of what he was feeling at the time, what he remembered, and what he is feeling now. They closed with “Happy Valentine’s Week!”

San Francisco, California. Summer 2008

Thursday night he informed me that he had cancelled my work for the next night and we would be having date night together instead. Instantly my “proposal radar” was triggered and I was certain that this would be the night. I was so excited the next day I could not keep my mind on anything but the fact that I would be an engaged woman that night. Peter picked me up on his way home from work and said we were headed to a nearby park with the book we are reading. That’s a pretty typical date for us, but I was sure it was just a decoy to throw me off his trail. Once we got to the park with our book and blanket, Peter nearly passed out from exhaustion. It was the end of a busy week of work and school. As he dozed off, I was trying to absorb the fact that I had it all wrong—he cancelled work so I could come scratch his head while he takes a nap!

Soon, though, he resurfaced to tell me that he had another surprise—again, he cancelled work for me the next day. Instead of work, we were going up to visit my family in Arkansas with a pit stop at Mt. Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas. I was back to being confusion. I had not factored my family into our romantic Valentine’s plans. But I love my family, and I didn’t want to seem unappreciative of this surprise (especially one he was so excited to tell me about), so I started to look forward to the trip. Again, I wondered if his plans included something much bigger than a trip home, but I’d obviously been seriously mistaken already, so I decided to simply enjoy it for what it was and not expect anything else.

We left early Saturday morning and, once again, Peter is sleeping. He had been up late working, so I got to drive. His relaxed demeanor gave zero indication that there was any anxious activity going on in his brain. The day turned out perfect, blue skies, sixty degrees; we reached Mt. Magazine around two in the afternoon. We drove around a little looking for a good view to take some pictures but with my camera battery almost dead we had to choose wisely.

We found a spot with a great view and a precarious little ledge jutting out just beyond the enclosed viewing area. I waited for Peter out on the ledge as he set up the timer on the camera. As soon as it started to flash, I frantically yelled for him to hurry before it died. Peter hurtles the wall, runs down to the edge of the ledge, ring in hand, and gets down on one knee in a mere ten seconds saying, “Will you marry me?” I was shocked. I had definitely been waiting expectantly to hear those words at some point—but not then. This was so rushed; where was the speech? Again, he says, “Will you marry me?!” this time a little more exasperated. So I finally responded, “Well, YES!” and put my arms around him. As reality began to set in, Peter decided the edge of a cliff might not be the best place to embrace, so we went back over to the wall. Then came his wonderful speech, as I kept hugging him trying to absorb what just happened.

A photo of our first Christmas together. Chicago, 2008.

Early on in our relationship we had decided we each wanted to wait to say “I Love You,” to be certain we said it only to the person we would spend the rest of our life with. The same standard was agreed on for kissing. It was a hard standard to uphold, for sure, but it was important to both of us that we honor our future spouse in that way. When Peter looked at me that day and told me for the first time that he loved me, it was unlike any other words spoken to me before. The feeling I got when looking him in the eyes and telling him the same was a one I will never forget. I have never been so certain of anything before. After having to hold those words back for so long, it felt like a privilege to be able to finally say them to him. I couldn’t stop telling him. I was crying because I was so happy to finally be able to express that to him. It was amazing.

And of course, the kiss followed that declaration. And oh! what a kiss it was. We had been waiting for that for 18 very, very long months. It was amazing to see God’s direction in the course of the day, even down to this intimacy shared between us.

After the excitement had worn off a little we did go surprise my family with our engagement. Initially, I hadn’t been sure hanging out with my family was the way I wanted to spend Valentine’s Day, but Peter surprised me with how well he really does know me. I couldn’t wait to share this with them, and wasted no time in starting to plan with my sisters. It was the best way to end such a wonderful day.

A photo of our engagement at Mt. Magazine, Arkansas. February 14th, 2009

For days afterwards, and even still, I am marveling at the beautiful story God has given us and the way He has led us in all things. The success in all aspects of Peter’s plan for proposing was such a wonderful gift He gave us. I can’t stop talking about it, and I can’t stop smiling. He is so good to us.

Oh! and the picture. Perfect. It is such a clear shot of the beauty of the place, my shock, and Peter’s proposal. I am so glad to have evidence of the moment.