“Grant, what made you think of me that day last summer when you added me as a friend on Facebook? I really want to know.” Grant and I were sitting near the water’s edge in Anchorage, Alaska.
I had flown in the night before and had been greeted at the airport by Grant in his boots and hooded fleece jacket. It was chilly in Alaska, even in the middle of the summer.
After receiving a huge hug from Grant, I noticed he was holding a big brown paper bag.
“What’s that?” I asked as we started walking to the truck Grant was borrowing from some friends of Grant’s parents that I would be staying with during my visit.
Grant reached for my hand, smiling, and said, “Oh, it’s just a little gift I picked up for you.”
I loved it when Grant smiled like that. And of course I loved it when he took my hand.
When we reached the truck, Grant handed me the bag, and I opened it up excitedly. I had no idea what it could be.
“I love it!” I exclaimed as I pulled out a pale blue North Face fleece jacket. I’d never owned a North Face fleece even though it seemed that almost every girl at Clemson had one. I had always wanted one, but Grant didn’t know that.
“I thought this color would look good on you and you could wear it while you’re here,” Grant explained, “Put it on.“
I pulled the warm fleece over my light cotton sweater. It fit perfectly.
“I was right, it looks really good,” Grant said as he stood there staring at me.
“Thank you, Grant. Thank you for thinking of me.”
“Of course, it’s hard not to.”
I was touched that Grant had picked out the North Face jacket for me on his own.
I’ve always thought that gifts like that are unforgettable – gifts that are a complete surprise and that you love.
“Let’s get going!” Grant said as he closed the passenger door and made his way around the truck to the driver’s seat.
We drove out of the parking garage. I was amazed at how light it was even though it was around 11pm at night.
“Wow, I can’t believe I’m in Alaska!” I said as I stared out the window and tried to take in my surroundings.
The city of Anchorage looked pretty similar to most; though I noticed tons of trucks, and the skyline all around the city was lined with snow-capped mountains.
On top of that, it just felt different. The trees looked a little taller. The air felt a little crisper and smelled a little cleaner.
And, it just felt exciting. And I felt adventurous.
Maybe some of that excitement had to do with the fact that I was sitting next to the man that I was about to marry in just two short months.
I glanced over at Grant. He looked like a natural out here in Alaska. He was loving it.
We took a slightly longer route back to the family’s house because Grant had seen a moose earlier that day in a wooded area, and he wanted to show it to me.
Unfortunately, the moose was long gone.
“We’ll probably see it tomorrow in this area . They like to hang out here.” Grant pointed and explained as if he was an Alaskan tour guide.
Grant pulled the truck into the drive at the family’s home. Contrary to my imagination, the family didn’t live in a cabin in the wilderness, but on an Air Force base. Their house was very normal looking, and there were no animals in sight – dead or alive.
Grant walked me to the door.
“Good-night, Grant,” I said as I opened the screen door.
Grant grabbed my hand. “Wait…“
I stared into Grant’s green eyes, noticing how long his eyelashes were. Why do guys always get the long lashes?
“I love you, GraceAnna. I can’t wait to spend the next few days with you. And I can’t wait until you are my wife.”
We stood there for a few moments, enjoying the silence around us in the dusk. It was nearing midnight, and this was the darkest that the night would get.
“Okay,” Grant broke the quiet, “Get inside before I break one of your dad’s rules.”
The “rules” that Grant was referring to was that he had promised my dad that he wouldn’t kiss me until our wedding day. Most of the time, that was an easy rule to keep since we were usually half a world apart.
I had asked Grant once if it bothered him that my dad had set that rule. “Are you kidding me? I love it! I want it for my daughters.”
As I closed the screen door behind me, I thought about how wonderful it was that I had a guy who respected and honored my father . . . and me. That said so much to me about his love for me.
It was in small instances like this, times when he could have bent the rules, that his character really shone through.
As I watched him back the truck out of the drive, I thought about how wonderful it would be when we didn’t have to say good-bye anymore.
“So, really . . .” I asked that next day, “How did you find me? What made you think of me last summer and look me up on Facebook?”
I had spent that day on the Air Force Base with the family I was staying with. They were an awesome Christian family and I enjoyed getting to know them. I was so touched that they had welcomed me into their home even know they didn’t know me.
Grant had picked me up that evening as soon as he had finished work for the day.
We ate dinner at a pizza joint in downtown Anchorage, and now we were sitting on a little ridge, overlooking the water, on the outskirts of the city.
It wasn’t the first time I had asked Grant the Facebook question, but every time I had asked it before, Grant’s answer was always kind of vague.
“Honestly, GraceAnna,” Grant began as he stared out at the water, “I don’t know. It’s like you just popped in my mind one day and I decided to see if you were on Facebook. When I looked you up and saw that your last name was still Broggi, I couldn’t believe it. I thought for sure you would be married by now.”
“Yeah, and then,” Grant continued, “After I ‘added you,’ it didn’t appear that you were dating anyone, so I thought I would say ‘hey.’ I figured if you had stayed true to the teaching of your parents, and hadn’t rebelled against them, that you must be a Godly girl.
But, I really can’t answer your question GraceAnna, I think God just put you in my mind. When I arrived in Japan with the Marine Corps, I had time to really think about things.
When I was in college, I was always just so busy. I was hanging out with people, doing the yell leader thing, and traveling. There was never a weekend or a weeknight when I didn’t have anything to do. Even my summers were packed.
But when I got to Japan, all of that changed. Grant’s voice became serious and he shifted his gaze from the water to me.
I was so alone. . . and lonely and I’m not a guy that likes to spend a ton of time by myself, you know me, GraceAnna. I LOVE to hang out and have a good time with people. So being alone was kind of a shock. But I think God knew I needed to experience that.
When I first got to Japan, I would read for hours every night. I loved that, but reading for hours every night, every day, can eventually get lonely. Dead authors, or live ones, can’t keep you real company.
But God used that time though to shape my thinking on so many things, especially marriage and family. I knew I wanted to marry not just a Godly girl, but a girl who wanted to be a wife and a mom above anything else. I wanted a girl who valued that role over a career.
Also, I didn’t want to marry a girl who just had Jesus as one of her “interests” along with her love for Paris, shopping, and drinking coffee. I wanted a girl who was sold out for Jesus and who had a heart for ministry.
I was so amazed as I thought about how God had been working in both of our lives, separately.
Grant’s voice became lighthearted again. “I just figured I would have to wait until I came back to the States to meet a Christian girl. I knew I wanted to have sons who are football players, so I couldn’t marry a Japanese girl,” Grant said jokingly.
I thought I’d have to wait and meet a girl when I attended seminary. I never, ever, dreamed that I would start talking to you!”
Grant’s voice became more and more animated, the way it always does when he talks about something he’s excited about.
“GraceAnna, do you have any idea how excited I am that we are getting married!!! It was almost from the moment we started talking, I knew you were the girl of my heart.”
Now I couldn’t stop laughing at Grant’s excitement as he had jumped up from where we were sitting on the edge of the ridge and half shouted, “I am marrying GraceAnna Broggi, do you know how happy I am about that?”
Grant grabbed me and tried to start dancing with me. For some reason his conversation with me shifted to this.
“Wait, what dance is this?” I asked, laughingly. I was completely confused and stepping all over Grant’s cowboy boots.
“It’s the Texas Two Step. Here, follow my lead. It’s two steps fast, then two steps slow.”
I had expected Grant to just kind of swing me around, jokingly, but I realized that he was really dancing. I’d never in my life met a guy who could dance so well.
“How in the world are you such a good dancer?”
“I used to be on a Texas dance team in high school when I attended Lake Highlands.”
“What??? You are kidding me!”
“Yeah, they were called The Wranglers. Wait, now follow me. . .”
The Wranglers? I thought to myself while trying to keep up with Grant. “Like the jeans?” I asked.
“Yeah, like the jeans,” Grant said laughing. “It was actually really competitive.”
Suddenly, we heard a loud whistle blow and a huge passenger train rounded the bend. I hadn’t even noticed that there was a train track just slightly below us on the side of the ridge.
The conductor gave us a nod and a wave. We stood there and watched the train until the last car disappeared into the wilderness.
to be continued…