the proposal

My sisters are chatting about candle lighting ceremonies.  My cousin has made herself available to help with questions and contest entries.  Local friends have given me names and websites for photographers. My aunt and mom have already started planning.  I now own several magazines.  I have a rather large rock on my hand.
It’s official, I’m engaged!
For the story of how we met, click here.
And without further ado, here’s the detailed engagement story you’ve been waiting for…

Our engagement story:

On Friday, November 1st Cason went in to work and I planned an afternoon of shopping followed by an evening of studying.  I was at Target when Cason texted me to let me know they had too many people for his shift, so he got to go home.  I asked if we were making plans for the night, and he said he wanted to have a nice date night since we hadn’t planned one in a while.  (This is not unusual–we like to randomly plan fun nights, spur of the moment, where I put on a dress and he wears something besides athletic shorts.)  He picked me up at 6:30pm and we ended up going to dinner downtown at a place called Sam’s on the Square.  They had about 10 different kinds of tacos to choose from–I got fish tacos, and they were surprisingly delicious.  At dinner we did our fair share of people-watching; we constantly overhear tons of hilarious conversations among “college kids.”  So at first I didn’t notice how quiet Cason was being.  Towards the end of dinner I remember asking why he was so quiet–come to find out, he was super nervous.

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After dinner we went to one of my favorite places in Waco–Katie’s Frozen Custard.  We get Katie’s at least twice a week because it’s so delicious!  Then we took our frozen treats to Baylor instead of to my house to watch TV, which is perhaps when I realized something was up.  We parked on campus and walked towards Pat Neff Hall, passing the Judge Baylor statue and stopping in the gardens to sit and enjoy our frozen yogurt.  At one point in our walk I got pretty excited about the shrubs because they were cut to spell “Baylor Bears,” and I remember thinking it was strange that Cason seemed indifferent.  (We usually get excited about random/new things, but he had seen the shrubs before when he scoped out the location, and he had other things on his mind–which is obvious in retrospect.)

So we sat down in the middle of the garden looking at the glowing green Pat Neff Hall.  I’m trying to eat my frozen custard, but it was unusually cold outside for Texas so I gave up and listened to Cason tell me the history of the glowing green light.  (I’m still rather shocked that he did his research.)  After sitting for a few minutes I told Cason that I had to go to the bathroom, so he said, “Well then I will make this quick.”  (This is it!)  Then he got down on one knee, with the glowing green building behind him, and he told me how much he had always looked forward to finding the right person, how at times he wasn’t sure it would happen, and how he was blessed to have found me.  Then he said my full name and asked me to marry him.  I said, “Yes” through my tears and I got down to hug and kiss him.  Then he stood up and asked me if I was going to say yes (which apparently happens in more engagements than you would think), and I told him that I did say yes and that I do want to marry him.  So he put the ring on my finger and we smiled and laughed and kissed and hugged.  Then, since it was dark, he pulled out his iPhone and turned on his flashlight so I could see the ring. (It’s perfect, by the way.  We previously looked at rings, so he had a good idea of what I wanted, and he just took it and ran with it. 🙂

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We walked back to the car, giddy, and I asked all sorts of questions like, “Were you nervous? Did you think I would say no?” etc.  (Yes he was nervous but not because he thought I would say no.)  Once we got back to the car, we called my parents and face-timed them so they could see the ring.  Then we face-timed Cason’s parents, who were on their way to Florida with his youngest brother.  It was all very exciting to start sharing with family.  I also called my aunt and my nana, and my cousin’s reaction was priceless.

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People asked me if I was surprised, but I think the better question is, “Were you pleasantly surprised?”  Truth be told, if I had no inclination that it was coming, I would have been surprised, but I’m not sure that I would have liked it.  Cason’s proposal, for me, had the right balance of expectation and surprise.  So yes, I was pleasantly surprised.  It was a special moment shared between the two of us, which we will never forget.  Even now when I drive by campus at night and see Pat Neff Hall glowing green in the distance, I get this big grin on my face.

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how our paths crossed

Our dating story:

Cason and I met back in high school through a program called Teen Advisors (TAs).  He was homeschooled, but he came to my high school for TA sessions.  We knew each other, and we had plenty of mutual friends, but we weren’t close at the time. (Cason says he had a crush on me at one point, but he steered clear because I was dating someone throughout high school.)  After I graduated, Cason and I didn’t stay in touch.  When I was home from college during Christmas and summer breaks, I went to a young adult ministry called The Door, and we ended up reconnecting through that ministry.

During my sophomore year in college and after a recent breakup, I bumped into Cason at Fantasy in Lights over Christmas break (2011).  We chatted like old friends–he asked about my experiences at Mercer and shared about his adventures in Australia.  Given my introverted nature, a conversation this detailed, however brief, was a big deal to me.  Cason, naturally social and chatty, probably didn’t think twice about it.

The next time we saw each other was during the following summer break (2012).  We both attended The Door one evening, and afterwords Cason invited  me to Buffalo Wild Wings with him and some friends for his birthday.  I accepted his invitation, which was also probably a pretty big deal for me–if you know me, you know that in all honesty, I probably just wanted to go home for some alone time after being with a group of people for two hours.  We talked about our travels including one pub in London that we thought we had both visited.  After I got home that night, I sent him a photo of the pub that I took during my travels, but I never heard back from him.  (Thankfully, we can now laugh about how he never responded to me.)

By the spring of this year, I had graduated college and returned to our hometown to prepare for my trip to China.  However, Cason was interested to hear about my travel plans, so he messaged me on Facebook one night and invited me to grab coffee with him.  It’s funny because the day before he messaged me, I was feeling pretty bored at home without all my friends.  So I was trying to think of people to hang out with, and I saw that he was online on Facebook.  I went to message him–opened the chat window and everything–but I got distracted by my parents and ended up not messaging him.  (Though it’s unfortunate that the trip to China never happened, I think now it’s obvious that God still had great things in store for me.)

If you ask me about our first date, I would say it was that February night at Starbucks, though Cason will admit that he didn’t think of it as a date at the time.  I was quite surprised by how naturally we hit it off, and I remember wondering why we never hung out more in high school.  Cason is genuine and very forthcoming about his life and experiences, and I appreciated that very much.  I think we can both agree that at that point in our lives we were tired of unhappy endings and playing games with people; we were both looking for something real.  I must have seen that right away in Cason because that night after Starbucks, I told one of my friends, “I’m gonna marry this guy.”

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Our picnic in the park on the day Cason officially asked me to be his girlfriend.

In our dating relationship, we were very intentional about getting to know each other.  (We knew of each other for so long, that it made it easy to transition from the general to the more specific.)  Early on, we both realized that we had found what we were looking for, so to speak, so naturally we talked about getting married; we already had the mindset and the devotion–we wanted it to be “official.”

Over the summer, I found out that I got into Baylor, and I was both thankful and surprised to find that Cason was more than willing to move with me to build on our relationship and embark on this new journey with me.  Not only was he willing to move 700 miles from home with me, but he also would have married me before-hand, had we not been brought back down from cloud nine.

So we moved to Texas together, and though it has been difficult at times, Cason has been a great blessing to me during this transition.  I know that the move has been just as difficult for him, and that helped us grow together and closer to Christ in the process.  We’ve found a church and made new friends and just have generally done life together from day one here in Waco.  We had talked over the past couple of months about getting engaged so needless to say, I knew that a proposal was imminent.

final China update

Here it is…the post that you all knew was coming, and the one that I have honestly been putting off for a while.

I’m not going to China.

I still don’t have the words to explain why or what changed in my heart, but something changed.  It was taking forever to get an invitation from the government, and I saw the potential time I would be spending there slowly dwindling.  I didn’t like that.  I wasn’t a fan of the fact that my 5 months in China was going down to 4 and eventually only 3.  Sure, any length of time in China would be an experience of a lifetime, but I was putting my entire life here on hold and it was unhealthy.

I was afraid to build friendships and relationships in my hometown.  I was afraid to go back to my college town and hang out with my friends because I knew I would be leaving them soon.  It felt pointless to get a part-time job when I had no clue how long I’d be available to work there.  Everything was in limbo, and while I was doing my best to trust God’s plan for the situation, I was emotionally overloaded and highly stressed.  That’s when it occurred to me that God’s plans for this trip perhaps changed.  I can’t explain it, but I felt and still feel like I need to stay here for now.

It was terribly difficult to decide not to pursue a dream that I had been planning for so long, but after the decision was made I felt relieved.  Life is not always about making the right or wrong choices; it’s about making wise choices that you can live with.  That’s exactly what I elected to do in this situation.  Would I still like to be going to China? Sure!  But do I regret the decision I made not to go? No, I don’t.  Later down the road if I find myself saying, “Man, I wish I had gone to China,” then hopefully I will be in a position to plan a trip at that time.

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And that’s how I feel about that.

P.S.   I know this blog started as a way to document my path to China and my journey while I was there, but obviously that has changed. I definitely plan on updating the blog regularly with info about my life, relationships, and graduate school.  However, I’m still trying to figure out a clear direction and plan for the blog, so bear with me while I work to bring the best to the table here.

tears of joy

Tears are funny things, aren’t they?  We all cry for a variety of reasons, but never in my life have I cried so many tears of joy in one week.  Over the past year I have cried…a LOT.  I was struggling to get over past relationships, battling depression, and oftentimes just trying to make it through to the next day.  So I’m very familiar with tears of sadness.  However, it has been a while since I cried from pure joy.  As a matter of fact, I believe it has been quite a while since I actually experienced pure joy.  I’m sure that was a contributing factor to the tears that accompanied the joy that I experienced this week.

I’d like to go into some detail about each event that triggered a waterfall of joyful tears this week, but I’ll start by listing the three occurrences:

  1. Becca’s wedding on Saturday
  2. A new relationship that God has blessed me with
  3. Good news about graduate school

  1. BeccaOn Saturday my friend, Becca, got married to an amazing Christian guy, and I cried from the moment I saw her start to walk down the aisle and pretty much throughout the wedding ceremony.  Becca and I have been in an S-group together since my sophomore year in college.  S-groups were implemented at Mercer RUF shortly after I started attending, and they are intended to be “sanctification groups” or accountability groups.  S-group was a place where the five of us sophomore girls could share our lives together and be led by an older RUF student.  We read scripture, prayed together, and shared the happenings of our lives with each other.  I don’t think I realized how much my S-group really impacted my life at college until I left, and I certainly did not realize how closely I had bonded with these women until I practically cried through all of Becca’s wedding.  I had experienced the ups and downs of her life through her recollections during each of our weekly meetings, and I have always been encouraged by her unwavering faith in Christ even through the toughest and most unimaginable moments in life.  It was no surprise to me that God blessed her with a man rooted in the Word and ready and willing to love Becca as Christ loves the Church.  Becca & Phil’s wedding exemplified all that a Christian wedding should stand for; it was a beautiful public profession of their commitment to one another in Christ…and it made me cry tears of joy.  Even reflecting on this beautiful union or trying to communicate it to others brought tears to my eyes.  So that was my first joyful cry of the week.
  2. CasonThen on Thursday I had a date with
    Cason, my now-boyfriend.  We have been dating for about a month now, but it seems like I have known him forever.  We met back in high school through a program called Teen Advisors (TAs).  He was homeschooled, but he came to my high school for TA sessions.  We knew each other, and we had plenty of mutual friends, but we weren’t close at the time. I started going to a young adult ministry called The Door when I was at home from college on Christmas and summer breaks, and we reconnected through that.  Over a week ago we went on a picnic in the park, and he asked me to be his girlfriend.  I was more than ready and willing to enter into an exclusive relationship, but I was hesitant about one thing: Facebook.  Cason had already met my parents when he picked me up for our first date, and I thought it only right and respectful to grant his parents the same courtesy before publicly broadcasting our relationship to the world.  (We’re getting closer to the point, don’t worry!)

    So, Thursday evening I went on a date with Cason to meet his parents, and I was very encouraged by the experience.  It allowed me to learn more about how Cason and his family relate, and it was evident that he comes from a family that cares deeply about God and one another.  I was so thankful for the opportunity to meet such Godly parents who lovingly raised such a respectful, “faithful,” Christ-centered young man.  While sitting on the couch with Cason on Thursday night talking over the evening, I was overwhelmed by all of these thoughts….and it made me cry tears of joy.  How embarrassing to sit on a couch in front of your boyfriend of a month and overflow with joyful tears, but he completely understood, which made me feel that much more thankful and blessed to have him in my life.  Two months ago if you asked me  where I thought I would be, I never would have said, “In a relationship,” but it has been my experience that God always has better plans than I could imagine.  For that I am eternally thankful.GodIsDoingANewThing

  3. Finally, on Friday I received an unofficial email from Baylor expressing their “SIGNIFICANT interest” in me attending their School Psychology grad program.  WHAT?!?! WAIT, ME!?!?  I re-read the email at least five times…and it made me cry tears of joy.  Throughout this whole graduate school application process I have continually reminded myself not to get my hopes up, obviously for no good reason.  I think I built such a wall that I did not allow myself to believe that my dreams and risks would actually see positive results.  Even when I received the email, I found myself thinking, “This is too good to be true,” and I had to quickly remind myself that I love and serve a God who is ever faithful.  I’m constantly reminded that he brought me to the specific profession of school psychology for a reason, and it is even more clear to me now that school psychology is where I am supposed to be, as God continues to remove barriers on my path to becoming a school psychologist.  He has put my mind at ease so many times over the course of this application process and constantly reminded me that my future is not really mine at all, but His.  I am so eager to continue on this path to becoming a school psychologist via this new avenue of grad school.

I am truly overwhelmed with all of the blessings that God has placed in my life, especially now that I have enough perspective to look back and realize that He’s had his hand over all of these events in my life even before I could have imagined they were possibilities for me.  Even during this last year when I had practically given up on so many things in my life and at times wondered what God was doing, He was working in my life to bring fulfillment and thus bring even more glory to His name.  I am beyond blessed and overwhelmed with joy and forever thankful to eternally serve a God who is always faithful.

SpiritLeadMe

the opposite of love

Today I requested Dave Matthews tickets from my dad for ‘graduation,’ in December.  The concert is actually during finals week, which I think will be the best option for escaping the madness of studying and testing, at least for an evening.  When I found out The Lumineers are opening for DMB, I instantly opened Spotify and put their album on repeat.  Love them.

The more I listened to the CD–at work with nothing else to do but that and a psychology report–the more I began to recognize the particular songs that felt most familiar.  You know, the songs that you hear and you wonder how in the world someone could know you well enough to write a song about you, especially considering they’ve never even met you.  That is how I define good music.

She’ll tear a hole in you, the one you can’t repair
But I still love her, I don’t really care

Stubborn Love is one of those songs, for me.  Listen to it.  Read the lyrics.  (Trust me, you’ll want to do that or else everything I am about to say won’t make a whole lot of sense.)
The guy is singing about a girl who seems to get love all wrong, but he loves her anyway.  I know that girl, and I’m pretty familiar with that guy.  What I know about that girl is this: something happened to her to make her the way she is.  I believe that the most basic desire of any human being is to love and to be love, and I just don’t think that anyone pushes that away or runs from it without having been burned by a false, incomplete version of ‘love.’  This guy gets that, and he recognizes that to leave her is to confirm her newfound belief that love just doesn’t exist.  He chooses to love her through her pain, and I respect that because I feel like those guys are so hard to find…especially when you think about the fact that there are also guys out there who have been just as burned by ‘love.’  The idea of “stubborn love” is really just committment in a nutshell.  Love is about comitting to a person regardless of their past or the long road ahead.  After all, we all have scars from all the times we have fallen on this path we have been walking.

Also, stubborn love makes me think about how stubborn I am, and there are people who choose to love me anyway.  That’s a blessing I take for granted all too often, and being stubborn makes it even harder to accept the love that people try to give.  Anyway, I like this song.  I like how it sounds.  I like the lyrics.  I like that there are deep underlying meanings and themes.  I like the psychology of it.  I just wanted to share that with you.

It’s better to feel pain than nothing at all
The opposite of love is indifference.

In closing, here’s some other questions I’ve been pondering:
Am I in a ‘stubborn love’ kind of relationship with anyone?
Am I the stubborn one or the loving one?
And what is it that I am indifferent about that I really should be loving more?