Standing at the tree line I closed my eyes and let my senses take in everything around me. It was important to me that I do this, so I could take in every moment of what was about to happen and let it forever live inside the depths of my heart. All around me, and in the distance, I could hear birds singing unknown songs while water raced and crashed against timeless rocks before free-falling into the depths of a beautiful water fall. The wind pressed against the leaves of the trees and blanketed my skin revealing the invisible nature of God who was, in fact, there with me sharing in on everything that was about to happen. I breathed in deep and let the smile that crossed my lips hang there as nervous anticipation tingled through my chest and sped up my breathing. The palms of my hands were sweaty and my feet began to shift my weight back and forth from one to the other. The moment I had been planning for–had prayed for so much–was finally here. I couldn’t wait to see Courtney, knowing that soon after I would be down on one knee asking her to marry me. I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket and I checked the message sent by Courtney’s friend.
The first time Courtney took me to Flat Lick Falls was during my first visit to Kentucky. I can remember details of that trip so vividly, as it was an incredibly life-changing experience for me… for both of us. After months of dating and getting to know each other online, through letters, Skype, and hours of conversation, we were able to see each other in person and shared our first hug, kiss, and I love you. This beautifully God-breathed place touched my heart, and as I stood on the edge of the waterfall with Courtney, gazing into the pools of her perfect blue eyes…I knew this place would always be important to us. It would always be a place we came back to.
So, it made sense that as I started to plan my proposal, my heart and my thoughts immediately went to this place… as well as another place that is close to our hearts. The other spot I had in mind was a place Courtney calls her, “High Rock Mountain”… a beautiful lookout in the middle of the country, where she felt the power of God, and laid her life in the hands of Jesus. She also shared this place with me during my first visit to Kentucky, and I can’t even begin to describe how honored I felt gazing out at the mountainous horizon, knowing that this is where this amazing, Godly woman began her journey with Christ, completely surrounded by His creation. It took me a while to decide which location would be the perfect setting. Both places are beautiful and special, but as I prayed and thought about where I would propose…I could feel God telling me to let Him have “High Rock Mountain”. “Let that be ‘our hiding place’(Psalm 32:7)… Courtney’s ‘safe-house’(Psalm 61:4).” So, with this confirmation, I chose Flat Lick Falls… a place where our love of God and our awe of His creation collide. It was my heart to do something worthy of Courtney… an experience that would paint a picture of how much she means to me and how much I love her. In order for my proposal to happen the way I was planning it, I needed to trust that God had everything in His hands—from the weather to getting her to Flat Lick Falls—it required a faith that Courtney and I have always strived for and exhibited throughout our relationship… and God did not disappoint.
Next, I had to find a ring… and I knew it couldn’t be just any ring. My plan was to find something for Courtney that she would love forever… something that would match her beauty perfectly… which is basically impossible, because we all know that next to Courtney, any ring—no matter how beautiful—is just a ring. I’ve grown so much with Courtney and have fallen in love with her passion for Jesus and her faith that God has a plan and purpose for everyone. Courtney has a servant’s heart, and is the most selfless person I’ve ever met. She genuinely tries to put a smile on the face of every person she meets, and she has shown me more love and pursuit than I ever could of dreamed of or imagined… not just for me…but my daughters as well. With all of that in my heart, I went about finding a ring that could somehow encapsulate all these things that I love, respect, honor, and cherish, about this amazing woman. It wasn’t something that happened quickly…I searched many stores, both physically and online, looking for the perfect ring…and then one day I found it… and I knew with all my heart that this was Courtney’s ring.
Courtney is a woman that loves history, and I’ve sat in adoration for hours listening to her describe her love of older styles in buildings, homes, decor, and fashion. I knew she liked white gold and I couldn’t help but smile at how her ring would shine and sparkle in any light… but this ring has so much more to offer than just it’s color and shine. The center diamond is set permanently in a beautiful cathedral design that reminds me of massive churches, with vaulted ceilings, beautifully crafted ages ago. As I took in the ring, I could picture Courtney singing in one of these places, her angelic voice resonating through the dark arched wood. Every fiber of my being wanted to praise God as I held the ring in my hand. Within the cathedral setting is a design that looks breathtakingly Celtic to me… a design that definitely went along with the vintage theme I had envisioned. Within the band, closest to Courtney’s finger, is a design that is intertwined—much like if you took two ropes and started to braid them together. I thought this was a beautiful picture of Courtney and I’s relationship and the eternal bond we would share. I don’t think I could have dreamed up a symbol more beautiful or more perfect.
The destination was determined and I’d found the perfect ring. Now, I had to ask both my daughters and Courtney’s parents’ permission to ask for her hand in marriage. I will forever be blessed and honored by each conversation that I had and each blessing I received. In every conversation I was met with excitement and love. In every conversation I was given support and wisdom for the future. For as long as I live, I will hold close to my heart the smiles, tears, and warm embraces I experienced during these blessed conversations. For as long as I live, I’ll never forget the looks on my daughters faces as they cheered and clapped and told me how much they love Courtney and can’t wait for her to be a part of our family. Everyone welcomed the news with open arms, my own family included, and each blessing was one step closer to one of the most amazing days of my life.
Everything was falling into place, and I knew it was finally time to prepare for the big surprise. Courtney is one of the most perceptive people I know, and considering we talk pretty much 24/7 when we’re not working or fulfilling other obligations, surprising her is far from easy. I was strategic in my planning, and made sure to do absolutely everything possible to keep her from finding me out. From buying a plane ticket for a date only a few days after we’d seen each other to making sure one of her best friend’s roped her in to go on an “adventure” with her after work… I did everything I could to ensure that this would be surprise that she would never forget. I even got my parents in on the fun, and coordinated with them to pose as my “alibi”. They offered me a reason to be out of town with them, therefore establishing that I was going to be in Dallas all day, helping them pick up a few things, then visiting with family… giving me plenty of time to follow through with “the plan”. All I needed at that point was for God to keep the rain away and for the woman I love to say, “yes”.
God did His part and so much more. There was no rain at all on April 18, 2015, and I’ll be honest… I feel like He even held the sun up just a little longer for Courtney and I. Throughout the day of the proposal my family and Courtney’s family stayed in contact with me, offering support and encouragement. They were all excited and nervous with me and I felt like this proposal was being backed by a united front of family. How blessed am I to get to say that?
When I finally saw her coming toward me—running toward me—her beautiful smile, glowing eyes, and tears starting to trail down her face, flashes of our relationship began to run through my head like a film reel. Our first messages on Facebook…the first time we heard each other’s voices in a phone conversation…our first Skype date over Spaghetti…our first Skype movie date, cracking up at Anchorman 2…the look in her eyes as I walked down the stairs at the airport and we saw each other in person for the first time…our first hug….our first kiss….the first time she told me she loved me…chocolate dipped Twinkies and Ale-8-1…our amazing hike at the Pinnacles…hearing Courtney sing in person for the first time…playing songs that I’ve written for her at her apartment…surprising her on her birthday…watching as my daughters rushed into Courtney’s arms after months of anticipation, skipping rocks together as a family…enjoying Dublin Black Cherry on the back roads of my hometown…sitting together in front of the fireplace on Valentine’s Day…traveling with the girls to Kentucky… our first trip to “High Rock Mountain” and this place… this waterfall… our waterfall. When I look into Courtney’s eyes I’m reminded of the realness of God… and I was reminded of that again as she finally came into view and leapt into my arms.
I was fully prepared for an adventure; boots, Summer, and the open road. Little did I know where this “adventure” would lead me.
We headed out to Flat Lick Falls(one of my favorite spots in the entire world!), and spent the whole ride chatting about my latest trip to Abilene and her latest stories from work. Just another day with one of my best friends, traveling down back roads, taking in the scenery…the fresh country air, and enjoying abundant conversation—it’s what we do.
After a 45 minute commute, Summer and I finally arrived at our destination, both of us leaping out of the truck, ready to hit the trail. As I walked around the back of the car to the driver’s side where Summer stood, she asked me to grab something in the back of her truck for her. As I popped the hatch to the back of her SUV and reached in the left pocket, I froze… tucked inside the pocket was a very familiar journal with a marker sticking out of the top of it that said, “Read Here”.
I was immediately confused. You see, this wasn’t just any journal… this was OUR journal. Jeremy and I have been passing this notebook full of memories back and forth between our visits since his first trip to Kentucky back in October. It’s full of our thoughts, dreams, & adventures—all noted during our time apart, and shared when we are together again. It’s become something that I absolutely LOVE doing together. When I first met Jeremy, I was drawn in with his beautiful writing(my first introduction to Jeremy was through this amazing blog, actually!), and for the first month of our courtship, we shared beautiful letters with each other. We talked about our lives, our interests, our feelings for each other and how unexpectedly connected we were so early on—it was undeniable that we were going places. Being able to physically hold something in our hands, full of that writing and laced with photos of our time together has been such a huge blessing through the distance. I adore it. With that said, you can imagine the mess my brain was in when I saw our journal here … in Kentucky? …in my best friend’s vehicle? Huh?
To make matters worse, my mind raced back to earlier that morning when I insisted with the poor lady at the Post Office that the yellow slip that was “accidentally” put into my box HAD to be for me—I was expecting a package! Under normal circumstances, Jeremy would have given me the journal before I left Abilene during my last trip… but he said that he was doing something different with it this time, and that I needed to make sure to check my mail, because it would be arriving one day this week. I checked my mail relentlessly, but the journal never came, and after a week of frustration(and fear that our precious book of love had been lost in the shuffle), I finally unleashed my aggravation on the USPS… in the sweetest way possible, of course, but still… I didn’t make the clerk’s morning easy. I don’t know what the lady’s name is who was working the lobby on Saturday morning, but I owe her an apology… and maybe a cookie. And you’re about to find out why.
When I looked up at Summer, she was smiling. While I obviously knew what I was holding in my hand, I was still baffled as to why she had it. After a few seconds, she piped up and informed me that she had bad news. She had to go…. and I had to find another ride home. Exasperated, I immediately panicked, and got even MORE confused. Then, with a smile still plastered on her face, full of secret, she assured me that if I just read my journal, I’d find that there was someone there who’d be more than willing to take me home. So, I began to read…
My heart sank as, with each word, reality set in that he was HERE! I ran to Summer, hugged her tightly, and bolted for the tree line. What an amazing surprise! Jeremy and I have grown used to going months without seeing each other, and I had just been with him 4 days prior—this was a dream come true for us!
As I neared the forest, I could see his tall, lean shadow. Soon I caught a glimpse of his boots, his jeans, his plaid, pearl snap shirt… and I was immediately taken back to the day that I first saw him face to face. Seeing him appear before my eyes in that exact same pattern as he walked down the steps at the Bluegrass Airport is a moment I’ll never forget. It was a moment that changed my life … and though I didn’t know it at the time, as I raced down that path toward him, I was running toward another monumental moment… one that would change my life forever.
When Jeremy finally came into clear view, I saw him smile at me, and I was immediately breathless. He looked so handsome standing there amongst the many trees of Kentucky, alive and jubilant as the plentiful world around him. I was so excited he was there… that we were HERE! We’d visited this place together 6 months ago, and I can still recall how completely awed Jeremy looked as he took in his surroundings. The trees, the moss-covered boulders, the sunshine glistening on the water as it flowed over into a pool, 40 feet below us. It was a special moment then, and I was touched that he’d chosen this place to surprise me with a visit to Kentucky.
After plenty of apologies for having to misinform me of his whereabouts, and TONS of hugs and exclamations of excitement, we walked toward the falls. This makes the 2nd time that this man has surprised me with visits to Kentucky, and I can’t tell you how much it warms my heart, not only to be surprised… but to know that it hurts him to be dishonest with me. Trust and honest communication is such a huge thing in a healthy relationship, and he never ceases to confirm that we have that. That, in and of itself, is pretty amazing… when you factor in the trouble he went through just to make this moment possible, it truly overwhelms me. The love this man has for me is incomparable. I am so lucky.
Once we reached the top of the waterfall, he told me that his mom was really interested to see what this place was all about. His parents had known about this surprise for a while, and were excited to see a place that was so special to us, so when Jeremy whipped out his iPad, I didn’t think anything of it. Most of our interaction in the last 9 months has occurred using this snazzy gadget, so it made sense that he would use it to capture a few pictures and video for his mother—anything he could do to capture the essence of this amazing place for his parents, I was on board with. I should have known something was up when he paused before he began, laid his iPad down on his backpack, and told me there was one more thing in our journal he’d like for me to read aloud… but I didn’t. Jeremy is an extremely romantic man, and never ceases to find unique ways to display his affection for me. Our entire relationship has been such a fairytale, and the fact that he works so hard to make me feel special is a gift that I treasure and appreciate more than words could ever describe. From childhood, our tiny minds are trained to believe that there are knights in shining armor… amazing men that adore us, provide for us, love us, cherish us, fight for us, and want to spend a lifetime growing old, building families, and living happily ever after. I don’t think that dream ever really goes away… and I am blessed to say that I have found my prince charming. So I read the words he had written without question… and was immediately blown away.
He left plenty to the imagination… but as I looked up at Jeremy, his eyes wet with tears, I knew something was different. He gently touched my face, and with shaking hands, began speaking the sweetest words I’ve ever heard; words about his love for me, this place, our amazing God who had brought us here. He told me that he always knew this place was special… that I was special… that he knew, from the moment he stepped on the ground of Kentucky for the first time, that I was the woman for him. Before I knew it, he fell to one knee and lifted his hand, the most beautiful ring twinkling between his fingers…
Her surprise was evident in the tremble of her lip, and as I bent down to one knee, I couldn’t help but admire the look of excitement in Courtney’s eyes. In that moment I realized that, despite our surroundings… the crash of the water against the rocks, the rustling of leaves in the wind, the chatter of people roaming about… it was truly just Courtney and I. Nothing else existed in that moment but the incredible woman before me and the overwhelming presence of the amazing God who brought us together. I held up her ring, and with tears in my eyes, asked her to marry me.
I’ll never forget the look of love on Courtney’s face. I’ll never forget the joy that swelled my heart as she said “yes” again and again. I never in my life thought I would find a woman like Courtney. I honestly never felt deserving of someone as incredible, beautiful, and Godly as her; but in that moment, as I slid the ring on her finger and pulled her tightly into my arms, I was reminded that, first… this woman is a gift entrusted to me by God… second, love is real… and third, this woman in my arms… this woman that I will cherish for the rest of my life… loves me for all that I am and more. I am blessed beyond every possible measure, and I knew in that moment, I was experiencing our love take the next step in our journey together.
I am so excited to build a life with Courtney. I believe God has an amazing and purposed future for us, and I can’t wait to walk down that path with her and our family. As I think about the future God has for us, I do so with closed eyes. I know by doing this, I am putting my trust in God to guide our steps as we take on this adventure together, hand in hand. I can already picture God’s plan unfolding with visions of purpose, joy, and a life lived well for Jesus… and while our walk may not be perfect, and won’t always be easy… it will always be good. I know that even when we’re old and gray, we’ll always remember April 18, 2015, and smile as we recall the day that I surprised her on a water fall… the day we said yes to forever.