The Finale’: an Engagement Story

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This is the finale’ of our story… to read how we met, read here.  For Part I of The Rest of the Story, read here, and Part II here

Hanging out at one of the ‘Guest Houses’ Jeff & his backpacking partner called “Home”

It was early morning when I peered out my dorm window in the little Chinese town I loved.  Looking out at the cloudy sky, I felt disappointed.  It had been raining all week – my last week here before returning home.  

I had a lot to look forward to in returning home – I wouldn’t be going alone.  Jeffrey and I were scheduled to leave this town early the following morning, making our way through the capital city of the Province (where we would stay a few days with our supervisors) and then making another stop in Thailand to finish out all the paperwork involved in ending our term of service in this wonderful country.

On a Team-Building Trip during my term

We would then make the long flight(s) home to the United States, and hit the ground running with just four short weeks before our wedding.  

We had planned everything from our wedding from overseas (I highly recommend this to any of you planning to get hitched – it is a LOT less stressful.)  There were just a few major things that needed to take place once we made it safely to the States… for one, we did not have jobs lined up,… oh, and we also did not have a vehicle to drive…. oh, and we didn’t have a place to live, either.

The original plan had been to secure seminary housing in New Orleans, where Jeffrey would attend NOBTS for a year before we would head back overseas as career workers – we had planned to make our life in China.

But many are the plans of a man’s (and woman’s) heart… but it is the Lord who directs their steps.  Shortly before leaving the country to head home, all of our plans regarding living, school, and going back as workers overseas – it all fell apart.  It seemed God was directing us elsewhere – but we had no idea what He had in store – or where.

So yes, there were a few details that needed to be worked out before the wedding….

Oh, and then there was one other small thing…. we weren’t technically engaged – yet.
While serving our terms overseas, as a ‘company’ policy, we could not technically be engaged, although our team and our supervisors knew we were a couple and were planning our wedding.  Our teammates even threw us a wedding shower – my supervisor’s wife planned our surprise wedding shower for the same day I had planned her surprise baby shower.  Keeping the two events (one in the morning, the other in the afternoon) organized and top-secret must have driven our team crazy! 

So here we were the day before leaving the country to return to the States for our wedding – and I didn’t yet have a ring on my finger.  We could not technically get engaged until we were en route to the United States – which would leave Jeffrey a small window in Thailand for popping the question.  My only request was that he not ‘propose’ to me on the plane or in the airport! 

I didn’t know what he was planning, but I was confident he had a plan.
I sighed and moved away from my dorm window.  As it was rainy season in this lovely Chinese city, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the weather.  But it was disappointing because the rain and mud made it difficult to make last minute visits to local Chinese friends to say goodbye.  And we had also planned a picnic that day with our closest friends on our team – Billy and Teesa, who had a cute little apartment in town.  Our plan was to meet up with them at the apartment, and then all travel together out to a remote, beautiful place beside a lake, where Jeffrey had been before and wanted to show me before we left the country.

On this morning of the planned picnic, it wasn’t actually raining, but rain-clouds loomed and I knew everything in the area was wet – it had been raining for days.  I looked around my dorm room at things which still needed to be divided among my teammates or stuffed into luggage and action packers (foot lockers) for the long trip home.  It was a daunting task, and my stress level was rising – especially knowing I still had a few dear local friends to say goodbye to – and saying goodbye meant one more chance to share the Good News with them before I left.

My cell phone rang, and I knew before I answered it that it was Jeffrey.  We would have to decide if the picnic was a bust or not.  I told him of my growing stress and my conclusion that everything in the area would be a soggy mess.  To me, the picnic just didn’t seem like it would work.  He sounded disappointed (and so was I), but in my mind there was nothing we could do to change things.  I suggested we just visit with Billy and Teesa at their apartment – eat our picnic there and hang out a bit before I finished my packing and said my goodbyes.  He was reluctantly agreeable to my modified plan.
*****

Lunch at Billy and Teesa’s place was – as always – relaxing and refreshing.  Teesa is an excellent cook and always has a knack for entertaining guests… and Billy was always keeping us laughing with stories and his animated way of telling them.  I loved these people, and would miss them dearly.  

{To this day – nearly nine years later – Teesa and I still email nearly every single day, though we haven’t seen each other face-to-face since we visited them five years ago.}

I should have known that spending time with our best friends there would dissolve my stress and put me in the mood for some fun, especially since the clouds had given way to beautiful sunny skies. I suggested that we could still take a trip out to the picnic spot. Teesa hesitated and the two of them deferred to Jeffrey, who was lounging on the couch.  He frowned and quickly dismissed the idea.  

That isn’t like him at all, I thought.  He seems to be sulking.  While I was truly disappointed that no one was taking me up on my spontaneous idea, I couldn’t really complain, since I was the one who had modified the plans to begin with.

We enjoyed our last afternoon with our friends, and Jeffrey took me back to the dorm on his motorcycle.  I had a lot of packing and goodbyes to tend to…
*****
Morning came early, and our entire team joined us down in the courtyard facing the dorm at our language school, as we loaded up our luggage and action packers onto the tiny truck that would carry us to the airport and away from the city I loved.  I was a mix of emotions thinking over what had been the most meaningful and yet most challenging year of my life at that point.  

Soon we were on the little plane that pointed towards the capital city of our province.  We pulled out the Chocolate Revel Bars that Teesa had made for us to snack on during the journey.  Bliss!  

A quick 45 minute flight and we were once again loading our belongings into a vehicle as Jeffrey negotiated fare and gave them directions to our supervisor’s apartment.  

K and S fed us and encouraged us… our weekend stay with them just wasn’t long enough.  It never is.  And once again we were on our way.  

One might think we were already weary from all the traveling, but this is the life to which we’d become accustomed.  Every few months, we’d travel to the capital city… sometimes it was by 45 minute flight, but often it was by primitive 14 hour bus, winding through the mountains. Other times it was by night bus, as each person tried in vain to get sleep (or sometimes read by head lamp) on their tiny (filthy) bed, while simultaneously trying to keep oursleves in our beds as the bus sped and bumped and turned through the night.  And each day had its own fill of traveling by foot.  Any time we left the grounds of the language school to go into town and meet locals or buy food or exchange money or pay the electric bill – it was done mostly by foot.  Slow travel had become a normal part of our lives. And I found it relaxing.
Finally, we found ourselves in Thailand.  This was our last stop before heading to the States.  And we had a few days to explore the city before the long flight home.  By our second day in Thailand, I was beginning to grow impatient, waiting for Jeff to officially ‘propose’.  By the time we were eating lunch at a little table in the local mall, I’d had enough waiting, completely frustrated at the thought that maybe he’d forgotten that I did not want this formality to take place on the plane or in an airport… I couldn’t imagine another scenario at this point.  We were running out of time and I let him know my frustrations.

And he listened patiently.  And then decided to let me in on a secret.

“I had a plan”, he explained.

“I had planned for us to go on a picnic at the most beautiful spot I’ve ever scene in China.  And I was going to bring my guitar… and sing to you while we sat by the lake.  I had a plan.”

My heart positively sank.  He did have a plan.  And I had messed it all up.  And I had disappointed him  in the process.  I could see it all over his face.  He’d had a plan.  Now all he had was a deadline, and no opportunity to match the wonderful plan that had fallen through.  All because of me.

“But at Billy and Teesa’s house I changed my mind and said I wanted to go,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, “but by that time we only had a few hours of daylight… and I didn’t have the guitar or the ring with me, because you had said you didn’t want to go… the ring and the guitar were at my place all the way across town.  There was no way we’d have had time.”

I was sad.  And so was he. 

But I just couldn’t let our trip end this way.


“It’s okay,” I said.  “We’re still here; let’s make the best of it… we can still have a picnic and have a great time together…”

We were staying at the most beautiful resort and the grounds around the resort were covered with breathtaking Thai gardens and secluded benches and wooden walkways.  It would be easy to find a wonderful spot for a quiet little picnic together.  It was our last day in Thailand, and we’d be flying out the next morning.  So while out in the city, we decided to pick up a Pizza Hut pizza and Vanilla Cokes (both rare delicacies during our time in China)… along with a candle to make our picnic romantic.  

We rode back to the resort in high hopes… until the rain started…
*****

It was hours later, and the rain hadn’t stopped.  Much of the grounds around the resort were flooded.  There was absolutely no way to have the quiet little beautiful picnic we had hoped for.  Not wanting to succumb to disappointment we laughed it off and decided to do the only thing we could – an indoor picnic.  

After I had my hair cut in the salon on the ground floor of the resort, we met back up in my hotel room and spread a blanket on the floor.  There we ate our cold pizza and room-temperature vanilla cokes (the room fridge wasn’t able to sufficiently cool them)… we couldn’t light the candle because we thought it might set off the sprinkler system in the room.  We laughed at the sad state of our ‘romantic’ picnic, but dinner was delicious.

Then Jeffrey sang the sweetest song to me.  I won’t share it here because some things are just ours to relish.

He told me sweet things and gave me the ring we had picked out together at a jewelry shop in China.  I could finally wear it, and couldn’t stop looking at it.

It was late and we were tired but happy when he headed back to his room.

*****

Early the next morning we met our hired driver at the entrance of the hotel and Jeffrey helped him load up all our baggage into the trunk of the car.  The two of us sat in the back seat and before he drove away with us, Jeffrey began searching his backpack…

Months before, when we had picked out my engagement ring, we had also picked out my wedding band, and Jeffrey had kept up with it all this time.  He knew he had placed it in a certain spot in his backpack, and decided to double check before we left the resort – and the country – for good. 

He didn’t find it.

We had minutes to spare before we had to leave to make it to the airport in time for our flight, and Jeff explained things to the driver and sprinted up to his room.  While he checked every drawer and square inch of the room, lifted up mattresses and searched underneath pillows, I sat in the backseat of that car and decided that no matter what – even if he didn’t find the ring – I would not be disappointed.

He came back completely dejected and apologized.  I smiled and told him it was okay; it would all work out.  As the driver sped away with us in the back seat, Jeffrey decided once more to check his back pack.  And there – just where he’d thought he’d placed it – was the ring.  It must have been there all along.

We both smiled and he held my hand as the car weaved in and out of traffic on the Thailand freeway.  We raced toward the airport.  Towards home and the unknown and our new life together.

And I knew- no matter what was coming – it would be an adventure.

Shortly before leaving the country

3 thoughts on “The Finale’: an Engagement Story

  1. Annette

    You really must publish this to book form! Love the story and love that He called you both to our area. Love the story of dinner tonight and thank you for posting the website of the receipes.

    Reply
  2. Haley

    I just read the whole story over again… and of course loved it all over again :) Seeing God work in your lives is always really inspiring, even when (or especially when) it isn’t “perfect”. Thanks for the example!

    Reply

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