It feels like a thousand years ago that my husband chose to drop to one knee and “pop the question” to me on Valentine’s Day, of the year of our Lord, 2003.

Where we were chaperoning dozens of youth group teenagers during an annual winter weekend of church camp. We had been officially, and unofficially, dating for over a year, and in that era of our lives, in which we were rooted deeply within christian church culture, that felt like an eternity to be waiting on a marriage proposal, but that topic alone is an entirely different blog post.

Back then, our lives were totally dedicated to hanging out with teenagers. Serving within our church, and learning and growing within ministry leadership together, as our friendship rapidly grew into something more. So, becoming engaged right smack in the middle of one of our big youth events of the year, was (as the kids say nowadays…) a big FLEX.

But, at the time, I would not have had it any other way! If you know me…you know I’m prone to dramatics. 🙂

When I think back on who we were at that time, and how we had no idea who we would become in the here and now…it makes me excited about the future versions of ourselves that we have yet to step into.

Even though many people discouraged him from a cliché Valentine’s Day proposal, especially one that would provide very limited alone time, I was absolutely in love with how he planned and was able to pull it off. He had arranged for us to be able to cut away during some of the scheduled afternoon free time, to take a walk around the old mill pond at camp, for a Valentines stroll. Doesn’t that just sound like a Hallmark movie dream?

I did not know that everyone was in on it, and that he had arranged for one of our dearest friends to be hiding out, waiting for us in the wintry woods, to take pictures.

Over time, Mikey and I would come to master the art of telling our story, each of us perfecting our part to preform. Something we would unofficially learn how to do together as the years went by. The seamless, co-narrating of the stories around our biggest milestones, and finding the most entertaining way to share them at gatherings and dinner parties.

Such a small, unnoticed display of closeness and intimacy that I am even, JUST NOW, realizing the power and depth of.

Appreciating in this very moment as I am typing this, that I am so lucky to have felt that kind of connection to someone?! Long enough to build that kind of history together.

Weaving and passing the stories of our shared life, back and fourth to each other, in a choreographed dance.

Perhaps that revelation alone is its OWN right of passage?

The “thug life/goteeeeem” face he makes in that last one tho?

The pictures taken that day would forever capture how he led me to sit beside him on an old bench, on an even older dock by the water.

They capture how he got up and acted like he was seeing something suspicious in the pond, as a way to get me to stand up and look. So, that when I turned around I would find him on one knee holding up my ring and asking me to be his bride.

The pictures would document me, throwing my hands up in disbelief, and even thumping him on the shoulder in surprise. (His version regarding this detail would later evolve to such an extreme, exaggerated claim…of my having “punched him as hard as I possibly could” that we would come to fight about it each time, and sometimes still do. Lol)

That day, when we headed back to camp, everyone had been eagerly waiting for our return to congratulate and celebrate with us.

We would come home from that trip and have the most fun calling our family’s and friends to share the news, (this was before Facebook after all!) and begin our wedding day count down and feverish planning, as we would only stay engaged for 7 short months!

Every Valentines Day I think about it, of course.

I like re-living the memory in my head, and thinking about all of the memories we have made, and share together now. Its funny because, I have never, EVER, gotten another over the top Valentines Day gift since that day, and that is the way I prefer it.

Because, it means so much to me.

The truth is, I can remember being the girl who NEVER had a Valentine.

There were no candy grams delivered to my classroom from a secret admirer.

There were no armfuls of flowers, nor single stem roses or carnations to walk around the halls of my high school with…proudly on display.

I had to harden my heart for many years towards the “Valentine’s Day” vibe.

The hopeful expectations and inevitable disappointments.

Thinking I would just have to adapt, and learn to live forever without knowing what any of it would feel like. I was always the “best friend” or “little sister” and thought that was just the way it was ALWAYS going to be.

I never would have imagined or believed that eventually, there would come a Valentine’s Day where I would be the one chosen, and asked to be someone’s wife.

Let alone, been able to imagine what that would ACTUALLY look like.

Marriage is not the flowers, cards, corniness, candy, candles and lace of our dreams.

(I mean, it CAN and MUST be at times!)

But in all honesty, it has not always been easy.

It can be really hard and exhausting sometimes.

It has been the reality of two, very stubborn people, who have committed themselves to a lifelong partnership, literally growing up together.

Learning who the heck we even are, and what we believe.

Over and over again.

Together and individually.

Always changing, evolving and learning how to love each other in new phases and spaces.

Embracing who we are becoming, while still being able to tell our same old stories in faithful harmony.

I am so grateful for that young, skinny, quiet guy with the go-tee who decided I was worth all this trouble, way back then.

And, even MORE grateful for the no-nonsense, much more filled out, much less shy, always hilarious, ginger-bearded, man that he is now.

There is no one else who has seen ALL my sides and angles, and has STAYED.

Remained by my side.

Literally through the good, bad, thick and thin.

Happy Valentine’s Day to YOU.

Mikey, the faithful.

May we be fortunate enough to see much MORE of what else this life has up its sleeve for us.

And let’s be real, the only thing I really want for Valentine’s Day at this point, 18 years later, is a solid 20 minutes of uninterrupted access to popping the blackheads on your nose without a fight.