Sometimes, when I’m absent from this journal for a long stretch, coming back to the composition box feels like stepping into a dusty, old, abandoned house. I imagine my voice echoing off the walls, because everyone gave up on me long ago and moved on. But even if that’s the case, I want to speak the story into the cracks and corners, so they can whisper it back to me when I slip through the back door to remember.
I returned home Wednesday after two weeks out of town, and I plan to post some stories and pictures from my time away soon. Right now, though, I have other, exciting news.
When I walked in the door Wednesday, George said, “Well, you haven’t changed any. You’re still as beautiful as ever.” Romantic music was playing. A rose bud in a vase adorned the table. Did I ever mention (a billion times) how spoiled I am by this man’s love?
Several years ago Grace said, “Mom, how will I ever find someone who loves me as much as Daddy loves you?” I realized it was a tall order, but I hoped and prayed she would.
And she has. As of March 18, Grace and Curtis are engaged.
The current trend to combine celebrity couple names–TomKat, Bennifer, Dashmi, Brangelina–maxes out my cheez-o-meter. But when I realized Grace and Curtis’ names combine to make Gratis, I liked it. Gratis means free or without payment. And if there’s anything that exemplifies these two’s hearts, it’s freedom and giving to others. Also, I thought it would be fun to start a private blog called Gratis just for them–a place where I can share thoughts about love, forgiveness, sense of humor, communication, faith, putting the other person first–all those things that work together to build a resilient, joy-filled marriage. I can offer my thoughts and advice “gratis” and they can take or leave them as they desire. I haven’t started it yet, but I plan to soon.
And now, for all the romantics in the crowd, here’s the fairytale-but-true story of Curtis’ proposal:
They went to Bellingham that weekend to sing in a wedding. Curtis said he needed to get back to Seattle early Sunday, so they took off from his parents’ house right after breakfast. He drove the route they normally take to Seattle, but then he turned off the main road and stopped at a friend’s house on the water. Grace assumed he wanted to drop by and say hello on their way out of town.
It was drizzling slightly as they walked down to his friend’s dock. Just as they got to it, the sun came out and a rainbow formed framing a small island and a sailboat anchored out in the bay. The mast of the sailboat looked like a cross. Grace pointed to the scene and said, “Wow! It looks like that rainbow is telling us to come to the island.”
Curtis said, “Okay. Let’s go.” He had planned to go to the island anyway, but he didn’t plan the rainbow! That was God’s artistic license coming into play.
So, they stepped into his friend’s dinghy which was docked right there beside them (also part of the plan) and motored out to the back side of the island. There was a white sand beach there surrounded by beautiful vegetation, affording views of water and other San Juan Islands, but no civilization. The island is a bird sanctuary; there are no buildings on it. At this point Grace started getting nervous.
They sat on a piece of driftwood and Curtis pulled out a booklet listing 23 (her age) significant events that had shaped their relationship since they met. They talked about those memories, then he asked her to stand and he knelt in front of her. He gave her a closed clamshell, and when she opened it, there was a hand-carved koa-wood ring he’d made for her. He said something like, “So, do you wanna marry me?”
She said yes. (Big surprise there.) Then she knelt, too, and they prayed together.
After exploring the island a while, Grace said she was getting hungry. They got back in the dinghy, and Curtis started motoring back toward the mainland. But then he headed for the sailboat anchored in the water. Turns out it was his dad’s boat. When they got there, the boat was decorated with orchids and plumeria. (Curtis grew up in Hawaii, which lends significance to the koa wood and choice in flowers.) He’d prepared a lunch they ate on pottery he’d also made. A CD mix of songs that held special meaning for them played in the background.
It had been raining for several days, but the sun stayed out all afternoon from the moment they stepped onto the dock and saw the rainbow. They sat on the deck of the sailboat in the sun for a while and finally motored back to the marina where Curtis’ parents were waiting for them.
When Grace told me this story, I said, “And the amazing thing is all this flowed from who Curtis is. You’ll be living with this kind of love every day.”
“I know,” she said. And her joy was alive in the words.
Life is hard. No one gets a free pass to ease and comfort. In fact, Good Friday’s cross is the measure of the grisly price of freedom. But how wonderful to plow through the hard places with a strong arm of love steadying your steps.
My prayer for Grace and Curtis is that each new day they’ll remember that love is a choice, and they’ll joyfully offer it to each other. Free and without payment.