Our day started early, Chris picked my up a little after 7:00 so that we could carpool into Wilmore together. As we traveled the newly paved Harrodsburg Road, he excitedly announced some good news. “We get to go see Stella tonight.” Stella is a golden retriever that we let out when her people are gone and I beamed at the thought of getting to visit the softest dog in town. After dropping me off at my office, he meandered over to the seminary with the ring stuffed in his pocket. Eight hours of clients, classes and a midterm later, we reunited for the trek back into Lexington.
Our scheduled event for the evening was to join a birthday celebration for one of our friends that we met through the Room In The Inn program. (Chris and I served in this ministry at two separate locations last winter, but eagerly anticipate the opportunity to work side-by-side this season.) With the cake being cut and tradition song being sung, we moved into a bible study time where salt and light became the central topic of conversation (Matthew 5:13-15). Towards the end of that discussion, the host said something along the lines of: “I know that this is going to embarrass him, but I’d like to point out that Chris is light…” He went on to give examples and warmth flooded my heart with the acknowledgement that God had placed such a man of humility and beauty into my life. As a community we took communion, worshiped and prayed over the each other. Much to my surprise, Chris stood quickly and began putting away his guitar after the final “Amen” was offered. If you know Chris well, he is the type that will sit and linger after a service to soak in presence of what has been shared. Puzzled, I looked to him for some sign of what was going on, to which he reminded me that there was a furry creature on the other side of town that requested our presence.
We conversed about the uniqueness of the family that just hosted us and affirmed that we wanted our own future home to offer the same hospitality. Upon arriving at the Ridd’s home (proud owners of Stella), Chris and I entered through the side door. As I made my way to the dog holding zone, I noted the aroma of burning candles. Fearful that the Ridd’s had accidently left something lit, I let Stella out quickly and returned to point out my sensory observation to Chris. “Do you hear something?” he asked. I did, a faint hint of music was playing from the front room. “My family leaves music on for our dogs all the time so they don’t get lonely.” I reported to him. He persisted, “I wonder where it is coming from?” (Believe it or not, I still hadn’t caught on yet what was taking place.) Following the music into the sitting room, a fireplace filled with candles mesmerized me. Then, tucked safely between two arm chairs sat a table adorned in gifts. A black and white picture of us (the first ever taken), two charcoal drawling of our favorite trees, an opened bible, and a scrapbook ornamented with a lily. “What is this?” He asked, I squeaked out, “I don’t know.” He asked again and with my same dumbfounded response, he suggested that we read through the book he’d created. Page by page, Chris had documented through words, photography and other craftiness, some of the pivotal moments in our relationship. Each entry included the phrasing, “one simple thing.” And upon each entry, he got closer and closer to asking me one simple thing. When there were no more pages to turn, he was on his knee. I gratefully accepted his gift and invitation into a shared life and future. We then turned to his opened bible and read together Ephesians 3:14-19 as a prayer. Personal prayers of thanksgiving and hope were offered and we launched into sharing our good news with family.
My sister remarked, “You have like a billion friends, how on earth do you plan on telling everyone?” Little did I know that Chris had already done most of that work for me. To abbreviate an already long story, he had planned a surprise engagement party the next afternoon. Among the distinguished guest of my closest friends and family, his parents had traveled from Oklahoma to partner with the celebration.
As I have shared with most of you, I am blessed beyond measure. Chris is more then I had ever dreamed to pray for. Thank you so much for joining us in our excitement. We continue to covet your prayers as we move closer to the Love that initially brought us together.