“Grant, you’re going the wrong way!” I told Grant as he turned off the road we were driving on to get to my parents’ house.
I had just picked him up from the airport an hour earlier, but he was driving my car.
Since Grant was behind the wheel, I was giving him directions, but I kept forgetting to tell him which way to go and I thought he had gotten confused again.
“Grant, I’m not joking, this is the wrong way,” I repeated as Grant continued driving down Old Sheldon Church Road. I thought the jet lag must have really caught up with him.
Then suddenly it hit me. He knew where he was going.
I stopped talking and looked at him. There was a faint smile on his face. “Hey, I thought we could go sit and talk for a while at the old church ruins,” Grant explained.
“Sure, I’d love that,” I answered, my heart pounding.
The historic old church, called Old Sheldon, was burned by the British in the Revolutionary War and by General Sherman in the Civil War during his brutal march through the South. It’s just a few miles from my parents’ house and I had taken Grant there when he had visited at Christmas time.
I had been there dozens of times growing up, and I used to pass it every time I drove home from Clemson. Sometimes I would stop there to stretch my legs and pray before arriving home. I’d always loved it.
It was dusk as we arrived and the church looked a little creepy in the darkening light. We got out of the car and weaved our way through the tombstones of dead soldiers and church members as we approached the giant arches of the old church entrance.
The brick walls and columns were still standing, but the church roof had been burned. I could see the moon and a few stars starting to shine in the evening light. It was quiet and the only sound to be heard was the chirping of crickets. We sat down on the grass inside the church.
It was hard to believe that this was only our second time visiting one another since we had starting talking the previous summer. I stared at Grant’s face, unable to believe that he was really there and sitting next to me.
The evening was so peaceful, but I couldn’t stop my heart from going crazy. I knew why we were here. At least I thought so. Nothing could be more obvious.
Grant was pretty quiet, which was very unusual, and now there was no mistaking the fact that he kept touching his left pocket.
I finally broke the silence, “I never get tired of coming here. It’s just so peaceful and beautiful.”
“Not as beautiful as you,” Grant said as he stared at me.
I blushed and looked down at the ground. I changed the subject and asked him about how his trip was and how he was doing. Grant’s answers were brief, as if his mind was focused on something else.
As we talked, I tried to ignore the fact that the sand fleas were biting. I knew, I just knew Grant wanted to propose to me and I didn’t want the bugs to ruin one of the most important moments of my life. I hoped they weren’t biting Grant.
Sure enough, as we talked, Grant began swatting his arms and legs.
“These bugs are terrible!” Grant finally exclaimed, “What are these things?“
“Honestly, they’re killing me, GraceAnna! You ready to go?” Grant asked abruptly as he stood up.
“Um, yeah,” I replied, standing up too.
I was confused. I was convinced that Grant had brought me there to propose. Besides the sand fleas, everything had been so perfect.
I hate you sand fleas! I always have and I always will! I yelled at them inside my head while slapping one viciously on my arm. Ouch!
It was almost completely dark now and as I made my way through the doorway of the church, I suddenly realized Grant wasn’t next to me.
“Grant?” I called frantically in the dark.
I turned around quickly and gasped at what I saw.
There he was, all six feet of him, down on one knee. The sand fleas now seemingly nonexistent.
“GraceAnna…” Grant began.
My eyes filled with tears and my legs started shaking. This was it. This was the moment.
“I love you, GraceAnna,” Grant continued slowly, “You are the girl of my heart.”
He took a deep breath, “You are the only woman for me in this world and I want to spend the rest of my days with you. I want to be your husband and I want to serve and love you all the days of your life.”
Grant paused and then said the words I knew were coming, “GraceAnna, will you marry me?”
Of course I knew what I was going to say, but for a moment I couldn’t say anything at all.
I didn’t know what saying yes would mean. I didn’t know where life with Grant would take me. I just knew that I loved him with all my heart and I wanted to be with him. I wanted to be with him even if it meant that I had to live on the other side of the world.
It was dark now, but I could faintly see the glimmer of the diamond that Grant held out to me.
“Yes, Grant. Yes, I want to be your wife,” I said unwaveringly as I stared into his face. His emotions were laid bare. He had held nothing back from me the past nine months. He had truly loved me from the start and had never wavered. And Grant hadn’t just loved me with words, but with everything that he did. Every phone call, every prayer, every word of encouragement and advice that he gave me. He had listened to me and gotten to know me, and he selflessly cared for my heart.
I had always felt that I could never love anyone that I couldn’t trust. But I could trust Grant. I could trust him with all of me.
I watched in awe as Grant slipped the diamond ring on my left finger. I could already tell it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
Grant took my hands in both of his. My hands felt small in his and they made me feel safe and protected.
And I couldn’t believe that the ring on my finger was as real as the man who had put it there. The man of my dreams.
I didn’t know how I had ended up here, but I knew that God had brought me.
As we made our way back to the road where my car was parked, my mind flashed back to a forgotten conversation I’d had with my mom an afternoon years before.
I was in high school and my mom and I were talking about engagements because my brother Jordan had just proposed to his soon-to-be wife, Maureen.
Jordan always does things “first class” and he had scheduled a special day trip to New York City and he had proposed to Maureen in Central Park! Wow!
We were talking about how awesome that was when my mom asked what my “dream engagement” scenario was as we drove down Old Sheldon Church Road.
I had to think about it for a few minutes before I gave my answer. As I answered we were driving by the ruins of Old Sheldon Church, “Just some place special. Maybe where we first met or something like that. I would even love to get engaged somewhere like Old Sheldon,” I had said while glancing at the church ruins.
That had been such a random conversation that day, it really had. And yet, God had heard.
I gazed at my shiny diamond ring from the light in the car and smiled, God always does things first class.
to be continued…