If you haven't read the beginning of our story, start with Part 1, here. And in the meantime. . .
. . . our courtship began. As defined by our parents, this time was for us to get to know one another, with the end goal being marriage. We spent time together with each other's families. The Coach took me to meet his grandparents, we spent time with our siblings and their families and I went to football games! Of course, the Coach was. . . well, coaching them. But I sat with his family, met their friends at school, watched his little brother play football. Such a fun time. We had a lot of questions from people about "courtship", but we weren't following any steps or some kind of plan. We were just following the Lord's leading, under our parent's authority and with their blessing and counsel. It was amazing.
There were a lot of things we didn't say to each other. Purposely. But I wanted to. In just a few short days I had already began to realize that I was beginning to love him. I didn't SAY that, of course, but I began to feel it. It caught me off guard, really, that it happened so fast.
I suppose it was a long time coming, though. Watching him in church all of those months. Knowing he was meeting with my dad (and impressing him!). Knowing that he cared for me at some level during that time. Getting to know his family and loving them, too. My love for him was coming quickly, but it was months in the making.
Except now, we could actually sit together in church, talk on the phone, spend more time together. Reservedly, of course. But it was fun to actually be able to admit that something was going on. That we were heading in some sort of direction together. To look at him and not look away when he met my gaze. To hear him say that he enjoyed being with me, that I looked nice. Things that made my heart began to give way.
In conversation with my parents, friends and some of his family, it began to be discussed that as a teacher, it would probably be Summer before we could marry. The Coach and I never talked about this, but we talked about it with others. It was early October. Summer seemed a LONG way away. We had set very high standards for our relationship (we hadn't even held hands) and it seemed impossible for it to go on that long.
However, after two weeks I began to accept the fact that Summer it would be. After all, Christmas was the only other time he would be off - and it was too close. I knew he wouldn't tell me he loved me until he asked me to marry him (and it was getting harder and harder NOT to say it). I knew he didn't want a long engagement. We were having fun and enjoying the time together. But it was growing into something more.
The Coach had been telling his students (5 classes worth of high school kids) all about me. Telling them about meeting with my dad, our courtship, etc. He even did a bonus question on a geometry quiz that asked what my name was! I think there were a few heart broken high school girls - he was quite a catch!
Two weeks after our courtship began, the Coach invited me to have lunch with him after church. Usually he came to lunch with my parents and me, so this was a strange invitation. As of yet, we hadn't gone anywhere "alone". We either went with others or met other people somewhere. Never just us.I remember exactly where we went (it's not there, anymore) and even what we both had to eat. We talked about all kinds of things. Football (that meant something - if I'd only known! HA!), our families. He told me this whole experience had really been amazing for him. It was sweet. He took me home with the plan of having dinner together (alone) at my house the next Wednesday. During football season, Wednesday is the only night they get out a bit earlier and don't have a game (to allow the kids to go to church), so it made sense. I was going to cook dinner for us. Whew!
We didn't talk every day. I know that seems amazing in today's world, but we didn't have cell phones, he worked all day and coached until early evening. Two nights each week he had football games and sometimes we'd talk after that. But we spent relatively little time on the phone. His mother was right there (he lived at home) and would tell him it was time to get off the phone. She always said if you talk long enough you'll say something you shouldn't. It definitely made us cautious. I'm so grateful for that, now.
He came to dinner that Wednesday with his very first gifts for me. 6 red roses. Beautiful! A CD of the soundtrack from "Last of the Mohicans." A movie he liked and music we had listened to in his car. For the first time, I fixed dinner for us. I think it was grilled chicken, salad, something like that. It was simple. And I thought, tasted good.
But he hardly ate! I couldn't believe it. And before I really had a chance to finish, either, he wanted to go sit on the back porch. Odd.
We sat down on the porch swing (the one we had made a habit of sitting in and talking on Sunday afternoons) and he began to talk. He told me about what led to that "first call" he made to my dad. His shock when my dad told him he really couldn't get to know me until he was sure I was "the one" (what he must have thought!). About the studies he did all those months with Daddy and seeing me at church. About time with each other's families. About our courtship and how God led every step of the way and gave peace.
And then he said he had to go get something out of the car for me.
When he came back, he had a large (8 1/2" by 11") sized card. He handed it to me and I opened it.
Inside it had three words.
"I love you."
My heart stopped. I knew he wouldn't say that unless it was followed with. . .
And then he was down on one knee, in front of me, holding out a beautiful diamond ring and asking me those amazing, unbelievable words.
"Will you marry me?"
14 years ago. Today.