Hey friends. You may have noticed I haven’t blogged for about two weeks now. It’s not because I don’t like you. It’s because I was busy in the lab, hashing out the ultimate plot to propose marriage to the woman of my dreams. And, as you likely inferred from the title of the post, it worked. I proposed to Jessica Patricia Aja on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009 at 7 p.m. at the Espresso Royale on State Street in Ann Arbor. I chose that location because it was the place where I had my first-ever conversation with her on Friday, December 7th, 2007 at 2 p.m. You might think it strange that I know the exact date and time of that first conversation, but I made sure to record it right when it happened, because it marked the day I first fell in love with this woman I hardly knew. And I had a faint suspicion at the time that we might have a future together…
I decided that I wanted the whole thing to be a giant surprise, and that it would mean a lot to her to have her friends involved on her (hopefully) special day. So I gathered four of her best friends and told them that I was proposing to her, but that in order to make it a surprise, I told one of them to tell her that some of her friends were planning “Jessie Aja Day”. It was to be a day of celebrating her entrance into full-time ministry (on staff at New Life Church at U of M) and move to Ann Arbor by looking back over the last 4.5 years of her life together.
Each of the four girls was to individually take Jessie to a significant place in Ann Arbor; a place that marked a pivotal moment in their relationship and a story of redemption in their lives. There they told her how she had played a central role in their own personal stories of redemption, and also what they had seen God redeem in her life over the last few years. Then they passed her on to the next girl…and so on. I was stop #5. By this time she had spent the last 3 hours in the freezing Ann Arbor winter weather, hearing memorable, poignant stories of pain, brokenness, and spectacular delivery. She was feeling emotionally overwhelmed and generally unguarded…which was right where I wanted her.
Before she came to the coffee shop, I had to set everything up. I positioned a hidden audio recorder on a nearby chair so that we could have a record of this (hopefully) memorable night and the truths I was to soon speak to her. I asked students sitting at nearby tables if they could please study for their final exams elsewhere, because I wanted a private corner so I could propose to my girlfriend. It’s hard to say no to a guy who asks for that, so they all consented. Then they all watched. (A marriage proposal makes for a perfect distraction from studying for finals). Then I positioned my good friend Levi (my bouncer) at a nearby table (at her back) so that he could escort anyone who tried to sit near us and ruin our perfect corner. He did a great job.
We stepped into Espresso Royale at 6 p.m., and I told her that I wanted to take her here because it was where I first fell in love with her and first took a risk on her (I had first asked her to date me in that coffee shop as well). For the first time, I read her my journal entry from the night I first met her. It described my surprise at feeling such strong and overwhelming feelings for this remarkable woman I had just met earlier that day. I literally wrote that I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Then I proceeded to read selected journal entrires about our relatinship from the last two years to tell her how the story of our relationship, which includes all the telltale marks of an amazing redemption story: rejection, betrayal, pain, loss, sacrifice, grace, and love…served to refine me into the man I am today. More than anything else in my life, my relationship with her has taught me what it means to love with a Savior’s love. And I let her know that.
Then I told her I wanted to continue that story with her for the rest of my life. I told her I loved her, got down on a knee, and pulled out a ring. She was shocked…to say the least. The response looked something like this: “Oh my gosh………holy s***!……(awkward laugh)…………OH MY GOSH!!!………(tears)……………yes.” Except that whole sequence took about 46 seconds (I have an audio recording, remember?). And yes, it was quite possibly the longest 46 seconds of my life. I distinctly remember having the presence of mind to take the ring and scoot it closer to her on the table, as if to influence her decision with its beauty because I literally didn’t know what else to do in such an uncomfortable moment. It was long, people. But she agreed. And then half of Espresso Royale began to clap for us and she got even redder than she already was. We then got up and left that place in a state of euphoria and an inability to comprehend what exactly had just transpired between us.
I’m still not sure why she said yes, but I know I could have never imagined a more perfect woman for me to spend the rest of my life with. She challenges, supports, wounds, heals, and loves me in all the right ways. I’m convinced there is no better ministry partner, lover, helper, or future mother for me in this whole world. Jessie, I cannot wait for the days that lie ahead.