Adam would say I was a bit cranky as he pulled into a field near his parents’ home in Indiana. It was summer and we were using some vacation time to visit his family. That day he wanted us to have some alone time, so he planned a picnic by a river: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a half-eaten bag of Cheetos.
It turns out that menu was just to throw me off his scent, but he lucked out because we almost did have to eat it.
“I’m not going down there,” I adamantly stated. “Let’s try a different spot.”
“Oh come on,” Adam replied. “This will be nice.”
Nice?! All I could see was an overgrown meadow and trees.
“There are TICKS in there! And I’m wearing flip-flops!” I shot back.
“You’re not going to get a tick, plus the river is really beautiful,” Adam said. “Come on, it will be fun. There is a path, I promise.”
I wasn’t convinced, but I reluctantly got out of the car and followed his lead. Sure enough, there was a path. As we rounded the corner I saw why he insisted we eat the picnic at that spot. Sitting in a clearing near the water’s edge was a cloth-covered table, a bouquet of flowers and a cooler filled with specialty foods and champagne.
I thought, this is it, he’s going to propose! . . .or is he? We sat down to lunch and whatever we talked about I can’t remember. I was so caught up in whether he was going to propose or whether it was just a wonderfully romantic date. Finally, he got down on one knee and talked about how marrying me would be his greatest adventure, how leading me and our children would be the greatest mission God had for him. He asked, and I said yes.
The next two weeks were filled with wedding plans: setting the date, booking the church and finding a reception hall. After that it was getting a photographer, finding my dress and picking a color. I remember all of the decisions being overwhelming at times, especially since we had a budget to stick to. But between picking flowers and discussing table linens, Adam and I were able to still work on our relationship. We weren’t just planning a wedding, but planning a marriage, and so we needed to put time and energy into those preparations, too. We did this by attending marriage preparation classes and workshops, and by reading books together on the topic. We also focused on furthering our careers in ways that would be conducive to family life.
Most importantly we prayed and talked about what kind of marriage we hoped for. We talked about what it meant to be giving our lives to each other. We cried – or maybe it was more me who cried – a lot during our engagement. For many couples engagement is such a beautiful and happy time. But for us it was hard and painful. We remained long distance up until three months before our wedding, and there were other external factors that made this time difficult. It wasn’t the engagement I had always imagined and it’s something I at times still mourn today.
Thankfully an engagement isn’t the end of the story, it is just the beginning. I was, and still am, much more concerned about Adam’s and my marriage than I am about the months that lead up to it. Our engagement gave us an opportunity to focus on the big picture, that we were about to embark upon something greater than ourselves. We were giving our entire selves to each other and once that gift was given we wouldn’t be able to take it back. Was that something we really wanted to do? Was it something we were ready to do?
I don’t think anyone can fully be prepared for the awesomeness and the struggle that is marriage, but I can say that thanks to our preparation for our marriage, we both went into the commitment with our eyes wide open. And the flowers and pictures turned out pretty great, too.