It was rather strange telling family and friends from opposite sides of the world: I admit it was a little hard not seeing my family as I shared the news with them, but I was oh-so-glad Eric hadn't waited until I came back to the States! There was a new freedom and certainty in our relationship now that we knew where we were headed: and I was so glad I could love, love love him!
The pictures we used to tell our friends we were engaged!
I did love sharing the news with my students and their family-they had become family to me, and I was so thankful to have them share my excitement. They even threw me a little party!
He sent me a box-and mail from "home" is incredibly rare and precious where I was, so I was absolutely shocked! I sent him a card here and there when friends were traveling back to the States.
|Contents of "the box." Just to clarify, the coloring pages are from his younger siblings...|
Still, truth be told, our hearts often ached. It was really, really hard to be apart! Some days we just couldn't connect, couldn't communicate well. Some days we felt a million miles apart instead of 6,300. Some days we wondered if we had done the right thing to become so close when we were so far apart. I had no idea how you could ache so much, miss someone so much when you had only spent 2 weeks together in the entire course of a relationship.
At last (and yet far too soon when it came to saying goodbye to the dear people around me), I prepared to head Stateside. Only 2 more weeks...and I would see him! Call me silly, but I was literally counting the hours. As I traveled mile after mile, I had plenty of uninterrupted time to reflect on the last months and realize that I was in a time of serious transition. I was going home...but only for 4 months. And then I would...I would...marry Eric!!! The thought became real.
After remarkably smooth travel, I reached Chicago late. Then my luggage was lost. After coming so far, I missed my last short flight home. The last flight of the night. I was exhausted, tired, jet lagged, dirty. Neither the international nor the domestic airline would take responsibility for me or help me. I was calm, cool, and collected until I finally picked up the phone and called my dad. As soon as I heard his comforting voice, I melted into tears. "I think I need to spend the night in Chicago." After calming me, he assured me the family was praying and encouraged me to try one more time to see if I could get on a flight to Omaha. Was it worth it, I wondered? No airline even wanted to take me, plus they had told me all flights to Omaha were full. Still, I did as he asked...
"You're in luck! There's one seat left on the flight to Omaha." That's not luck, that's God. A very good, very kind God. As I landed in Omaha late that night, I grabbed my backpack, thanked my good God, and gladly prepared to end 4-1/2 long months away from my family. My exhaustion seemed to melt away, and I could hardly contain my excitement.
There they were, real, happy, chattering, hugging. I happily lost myself in their embraces, just savoring the chance to be with them. My family. At last we all turned and headed up the sloped hallway towards our van.
As I rounded a corner..there he was. My best friend, my love, the man whom I was to marry. The one I most wanted and least expected to see. Eric!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I screamed, and he knelt, asking me once more, but for the first time in person, to marry him.
Don't worry, I said yes.
"You're real," was my intelligent remark as he stood and we clasped hands. We stared at each other for a moment, laughing, gasping from the pure happiness of the moment. Truly, the rest of the world slipped away as I gazed on my beloved fiancé for the first time in so long. The next moment, I was in his arms, as I had yearned to be so many times before.
A crazy summer and many, many happy memories later, we now stand on the threshold of marriage. In 2-1/2 weeks we will pledge ourselves to each other for a life time: divorce is not even an option. It is a big change, bigger than I even realize at this point. And yet, as I stand here on this threshold and look back, I see the workings, the kindness of a gracious God in so many places and in so many ways. I know that as we step forward into our new life together, He will be with us, enabling us to magnify Him and to love each other.
Now that's what I call living happily ever after.