A new ring.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I have a callous on the ring finger of my left hand.

It was my twelfth birthday, and I was getting ready for my very first date. I knew I wasn't allowed to date until I was 16, so this came as a bit of a surprise. I put on my favorite long black skirt and sky blue cardigan, curled my hair, straightened my bangs, and headed downstairs for a photo op with my date - my dad - by the fireplace.

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We headed to J. Alexander's where I ordered the usual - a baked potato with butter - and during dinner, Dad pulled out a handwritten letter on yellow legal pad paper that he had written in honor of my birthday.

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In it, he explained the meaning of a gift he held in a small box in his hand. It was a ring, sized to fit my left hand ring finger.

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Dad explained that the heart in the middle was blue because my eyes are blue and his eyes are blue. Dad hoped that as I entered into my teenage years and beyond, we would be able to see eye to eye with openness and honesty. The two hearts behind the blue heart symbolized my parents who promised to be behind me, supporting me at every turn. The three little diamonds on the side represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who are always right beside me, guiding me. I would wear the ring as a sign of my own commitment - and my parents' commitment to me - to purity on every front.

If you knew me from age 12 to 22, you probably recognize this ring. I wore it to every Homecoming and Prom dance and on my first (and last) dates with several guys, and I would habitually feel for it to make sure it hadn't inadvertently fallen off. I played with it so much that it formed a callous underneath, so even if I took it off, it was obvious that something belonged there. I think I only took it off twice in all 10 years.

Two years ago, on March 16, 2008, I wore that ring for the last time.

My boyfriend, Shawn, had given me a card the night before that asked me to meet him downstairs in my dorm lobby at 5:00am the following Sunday morning. I knew something was up and hardly slept that night.

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{The card Shawn made for me.}

The next morning, Shawn met me and we huddled together as we walked into the dark, frigid morning, only to find a white stretch limo waiting for us on the street. I thought he might be taking me to see the sun rise over Lake Michigan. (I had such low expectations in comparison to what Shawn had in store!) We would be flying to New York City, just for the day.

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{Us at 5:30am on our way to NYC.}

Shawn had planned out every minute of our time in New York. We enjoyed New York bagels for breakfast, then walked around Times' Square and reminisced about the year before when we had visited as friends. We had tea in China Town, sushi in Greenwich Village, took a carriage ride in Central Park, saw the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park - all before 3pm. I knew by the time we were on our way to NYC that an engagement had to be involved, but I really didn't know when during the day it would happen.

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{Carriage ride in Central Park.}

Around 4 in the afternoon, we ended up at the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center. It was there the year before that I began having feelings for Shawn, realizing he might like me too. He had helped me fulfill a life goal by skating there, and he held my hand. I thought it was to "help" me because I was such a terrible skater, but the truth has since come out. :)

So we were back. And it was magic. I'm no avid skater, but holding onto my (very good skater) husband's hand helps a lot. We skated for about 30 minutes and at the end, I thought we were onto our next appointment in the city.

Just then, over the loudspeaker, an announcement came for everyone to clear the ice. But as I pulled toward the edge of the rink, Shawn pulled me the other way and said, "Wait just a second. I want to get our picture." He snapped our picture, then handed his camera to a man working at the rink as we posed in the same spot we'd fallen for each other the year before.

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{Our last photo before getting engaged. I'm still clueless at this point.}

As we took the picture, everyone had cleared the ice. I heard a song come over the speakers. A very familiar song. It was "I Believe in You and Me" by Whitney Houston - my all-time favorite love song. I knew at that moment exactly what was about to happen and the emotion overwhelmed me.

Shawn took my hand and we skated, just the two of us, to the entire song in front of a crowd of about 300.

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"Just take it all in," he said.

I did.

I have never been a confident ice skater, but by God's grace in that moment, I felt like I was flying!

Toward the end of the song, Shawn led me to the center of the ice, got down on one knee, and the place went WILD. I never actually heard him pop the question. I just saw him mouth the words as I leaned down and kissed him and nodded, "Yes."

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We skated a "victory lap" with a large bouquet of red roses in hand, then headed to the skate shop. That was when I finally saw the ring. My jaw dropped as soon as I saw it. It was one of a kind (literally) - designed by my love. A gorgeous diamond in the center from Israel with 46 diamonds on the side. More than I had ever hoped for or expected to say the least.

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But engraved on the inside was the most beautiful part: "I will pursue you always."

We held each other as happy tears streamed down our faces in the humid skate shop. Shawn slipped off my blue heart ring - the one I had not taken off for 10 years - and put my new ring on. It was a symbol of the transferring of responsibility from my dad to Shawn (not complete until our wedding day 9 months later, but it had begun). And it was breathtakingly beautiful.

It was beautiful because I was able to honestly say that the ring I wore and the man behind it - and his commitment to protecting my heart - allowed me to walk into another man's life free of baggage. Sure, I had my share of dead-end relationships and heartache, but I had always committed to purity before marriage and to guard my heart as much as possible. I knew I was worth it, because my dad had taught me through his words and actions.

Just in the last few months, Shawn and I have been first hand witnesses to the failing of two marriages. One is on the bumpy road to forgiveness and restoration. The other is not. In both situations, at least one spouse has brought in emotional baggage because of a difficult relationship with his or her father. I can only wonder how different things would be today had they had dads that loved and looked out for them.

So when I look at this callous on my ring finger, I am thankful that the callous didn't have to be on my heart. And I'm thankful for the two incredibly godly men who have loved me enough to protect me, pursue me, and most importantly, lead me to Jesus.

Today I am away from Shawn (in Houston), standing beside my best friend as she puts on a new ring and begins a new season of her life. I know that there are women who are reading this blog post today and are waiting for that man to come around. If I could offer a bit of advice, it's this: keep waiting. Don't settle. From one who waited, I can't say it enough: it was so worth the wait.



PS - Shawn, whenever you read this, open our corner cabinet in the sunroom to find something from me. I miss you.

21 comments:

  1. Is it embarrassing that I started tearing-up when I read this? Are you trying to pull my heart-strings Whitney? The date with your Dad...and the "I will pursue you always." I'm also glad that the callous was on your hand and not on your heart :) You are one lucky gal!

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  2. so, you don't really know me, but i found your blog from kirra's blog. i check your blog from time to time - it's so cute, and my sister was diagnosed with celiac, so i love getting recipes for her. and then i found out about your etsy store and loved ordering from it especially during your fundraiser for haiti!! all that to say, this post made me cry! your husband is SO sweet with the proposal and all and the pics and your telling of that day were so beautiful!! i love to hear couple's engagement stories - and yours is up there in the all time greats!! i love to hear and see true, joyful, pursuing, God-honoring love in marriages - there is too few of it out there!!

    Sarah K

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  3. I made it to this post and I am literally sobbing right now. What an amazing story. It brings such joy to my heart reading this and I don't even know you two. God is seriously so good and so faithful! What an amazing gift from both your dad/parents, now husband, Shawn, and God himself.

    <Emma
    http://emmalately.blogspot.com/

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  4. Do you have any idea how cute you are?

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  5. Wow. I am totally crying right now. This is a really beautiful love story. You wrote it out so well and I honestly would read a book written by you!

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  6. Whitney, I wanted to thank you for this post. I literally just stumbled across your blog from your box clutch tutorial pinned on Pinterest, but this touched me so much. I work with teenagers through a ministry called Young Life, and if you don't mind, I would love to print this off and share it with my girls...what a powerful testimony about the importance of waiting for the man God created just for you! Even if my girls don't necessarily have earthly daddies who knows enough to guard their daughters' heart, we all have a Heavenly Daddy who is more than up for job!

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    1. I would be so honored. Your words brought tears to my eyes!

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  7. Hi Whitney,

    This is the best love story I have ever read or heard. I actually know your husband's parents-they are missionaries supported by my home church and attended my current college-but I didn't know until now the amazing love story behind the marriage of one of their sons. :) Wow. It's beautiful. And your last words about waiting being worth it are very encouraging to me. It isn't easy to wait for God's best, but He works out all things in His perfect timing and ways. Thank you for sharing!

    Lauren Purser

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  8. Great love story you got here! God bless you both and congratulations. :)

    college dating

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  9. When I started reading your blog, I planned on reading one post and saving the rest for tomorrow (as it is REALLY late at night, almost AM and i'm exhausted). But I forced myself to stay awake and read your love story because it was just SO BEAUTIFUL! I couldn't hep but get teary-eyed while reading this! I can only pray and wait that God will grant me a man as passionate and devoted as yours is. Thank you for taking time to write out your story and touching others hearts! ~Ellie Blair

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  10. Wow, this is so precious! I am touched from what you have written, and will wait for God to deliver the man who will always love me and be one after God's own heart. Thanks for the inspiration, and I am happy for you both!

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  11. Wow, this is so precious! I am touched from what you have written, and will wait for God to deliver the man who will always love me and be one after God's own heart. Thanks for the inspiration, and I am happy for you both!

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  12. This is such a beautiful story. I cried my way through the entire thing and I have never met you! {i may or may not have read the daddy-daughter date part to my husband as a great idea of how he can be there for our hopefully one day daughter} love this.

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  13. Wow. I just cried a whole lot. I wish I could have walked the same road to my marriage, but I can only hope we're able to provide it for our daughter.

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  14. So so so so sweeeet. Brought tears to my eyes, what a beautiful story. God bless your home.

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  15. I stumbled across your blog randomly. I can just say I believe God meant for me to see this story. I am struggling in a relationship right now and also in my relationship with God. I was sobbing reading the last part. Thank you for sharing your amazing love story.

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  16. Wow, Whitney!! I just found your blog this morning (after messaging you on Facebook!;)), and I have just teared up several times reading your posts on your love story with Shawn. SO awesome and such an encouragement to everyone! Love it!!

    Sara :)

    lifeisgoodasabrown.blogspot.com

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  17. Hi Whitney!

    I just want to say that your story has been such a blessing to me! What I love about it most is the fact that you pursued Christ. Even while you were still unsure about Shawn, you didn't spend all of your time just moping about him etc but that you entrusted him to GOD and just went with the flow so to speak :) Too many times we try to take matters in our own hands but you were just trusting the Lord. You sought Him first above all else which made the unfolding of your love story even more beautiful :) Thank you for sharing this with us!!!

    Blessings,
    Steph

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