One Year Ago Today…

It’s hard for me to believe it’s only been a year since I started the greatest adventure of my life.  This time last year, I was in the middle of a fairytale day created by my boyfriend.  In the 365 days since, he became my fiance, my husband, my roommate, and my partner in life.  We waited so long for this phase of the journey and it has been more beautiful than we could have dreamed.

This year, we are remembering and cherishing the blessings of 2013 and looking forward to new chapters in 2014. May God bless you all as you explore what HE has in store for you in the coming year.

In honor of the tremendous creativity of my amazing husband, I am reposting our engagement day story from New Year’s Eve 2013.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights…” James 1:17

I’ve heard it said that, “Once in a while, in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairytale”.  On December 31st, 2012, the Lord gave me a good and perfect gift.  Nick Giardino, the love of my life, planned a perfect day and the Lord surrounded and protected it with love and beauty.

The entire day was a surprise adventure for me.  Nick planned everything with great love and attention to detail.  I met him at his house that morning and we set off for a day I’ll never forget.  It was beautiful to be able to rest and trust in him to lead me through the day.

The Lord gave us beautiful little moments and gifts throughout the day.  As we started on the journey, Nick said we needed to listen to some love songs.  He had a soundtrack for the day!  As he pulled it up on shuffle (it was in order for a different part of the journey), the first song that came on was our song!  We listened through some beautiful love songs and talked as we headed towards our first destination.

As we were driving down the highway, I noticed that we were passing the Chicago Botanic Gardens.  I made a mental note to tell Nick we should go there some day.  But, just as I was thinking that, he quickly turned the car into the entrance!  He had set the GPS to make me think we still had miles to go.  He had told me we were going to a new cafe that we’d never tried, so I was completely surprised to learn that the cafe was at the Botanic Gardens!

As we arrived and began to walk around, he told me that he wanted to take me somewhere beautiful.  He told me that I was the most beautiful person he knew and the gardens were the most beautiful place he could think to bring me.  It was beautiful and peaceful, all covered in snow and ice.  We walked around and talked of God’s creativity.  I love Nick’s heart.  He kept marveling in the wonder of God’s creation.  As humans, it takes us great effort, time and energy to create something truly beautiful.  Few people ever really do manage that.  But, yet, the Lord breathed all of this into existence!  How great is our God?  We spent several hours surrounded by the wonder of His creation.

After walking through the green houses, we found our way to a beautiful and peaceful spot by a lake.  Everything was covered in white.  Off to the right, there was a bell tower.  We took in the moment and talked a little about music.

Nick said to me, “Since we are talking about music, I have a gift to give you”.  (First, however, he reached into his pocket and handed me a packet of tissues with my initial on it.  Very thoughtful).  He reached into his backpack and presented me with a lovely box.
I was surprised by the gift!  I had a suspicion that I might receive a different kind of box on that day, but this was completely unexpected.  So, with great curiosity, I opened it.

Inside the box was a Pandora bracelet!  Before I had time to ask any questions, he presented me with another box.

Inside the second box was a beautiful music note charm for the bracelet.  He told me that he wanted to bring me somewhere beautiful and give me something to mark our beginnings.  With extreme thoughtfulness, he planned our day to reflect our journey.  The charm was meant to represent something about our story as well as remind me of the day.  I can’t believe how carefully he planned this!  Our journey began 18 years ago at Landmark.  We spent countless hours together in band, on band trips and celebrating our love of music.  We both have a deep love for music and it has woven a thread through our story.  Remember the soundtrack on the drive?  It was all crafted to weave these moments together perfectly.  (I must also note that he meticulously wrapped all of the boxes.  I thought they were professionally wrapped!)

After lunch and a tour through an amazing train exhibit, we headed to our next destination.  This man, who loves me so well, managed every detail of the day.  We had a long drive before our next stop, and this was intentional in his plan.
We arrived at Navy Pier and the Lord gave us another little gift.  We tried parking in the deck and drove slowly to the top with no success.  There were several cars ahead of us and no one could find a spot.  As we started heading down, the parking security guard stopped us, told us to turn around and he would park us.  We quickly followed his order and he gave us a premium spot in a no parking zone.  We were able to continue on our perfectly timed day.
When we arrived at Navy Pier, Nick gave me another charm for my bracelet.
The clock was to represent the time in our journey.  In fact, in another fingerprint of God, our drive was suddenly detoured due to traffic about half way to Navy Pier.  As I reflected on the day, I realized that the Lord was helping Nick’s plan along.  Our journey has been long, but it has also had stops, starts and detours.  And, so our day experienced a touch of the same.
Once at Navy Pier, the plan was to visit Winter Fest.  It was a beautiful explosion of Christmas wonder, complete with an enormous tree, an indoor ice skating rink and an amazing amount of fun.
And, because he knows me so well, he planned for my favorite Chicago snack…Garrett’s Popcorn!
We took a moment to stop and enjoy some time together (and amazing Chicago mix popcorn) and Nick gave me another box!
The snowflake bead was intended to represent Winter Fest and Chicago winters.  We have spent several New Year’s Eve Nights in the city.  And, it’s very cold here!  The Heart bead is a spacer bead (so you will see more of them), but it is intended to show his love for me.  Throughout the day, he just kept telling me that I needed to know how much I was loved – how much he loved me.  So, all of the hearts represent the best thing of all!
We spent some time at Navy Pier and he told me that the next place wasn’t as crowded and would be just for the two of us.  But, he was a little nervous because they didn’t take reservations on New Year’s Eve.  He was hopeful that it would work out.  We should have known that it would be perfect, because this day was a perfect gift from the Lord for both of us!
We drove into the city, parked the car and walked to a corner near the Chicago Water Tower.  And, to my surprise, there waited a horse drawn carriage!  Anyone who knows me knows that I love fairy tales, princesses and all of the things that come with them.  I have never been treated more like a princess than I was on this perfect day!  He made the arrangements and we got into the carriage.  The driver informed us that her name was Corrie and our horse’s name was Fiona!  Yet, another little kiss from the Lord, giving us a horse with a princess’ name!

If you can see, in this picture, there is a ring on my left hand.  That ring was given to me by my parents when I turned 16.  The ring represents my promise to remain pure before the Lord and for my husband until my wedding day.  As it became clear that this day was leading to something amazing, I sent a message to my Dad.  I said, “I’ve kept my promise and I will until we’re married, but if it’s OK with you, I’m hoping to trade this ring for one carrying a different promise tonight”.  It was a really beautiful moment for me and my Dad.  Nick had already taken great care to ask my Dad’s permission and blessing to marry me, but I wanted to honor them as well by wearing that ring on that day (and be able to hold true to its promise).

While we were on the carriage ride, Nick gave me another bead for my bracelet.

A Cinderella carriage!!!  I really did feel like Cinderella that night!  Nick knows that I have a soft spot for fairy tales and Cinderella has always been my favorite.  He absolutely gave me a magical day!

After our carriage ride, we stopped and had hot chocolate at the Ghirardelli store.  He had planned for more time in the carriage, but they do not let the carriage on Michigan Avenue until 7pm.  So, we had a few minutes to spare.  As we were enjoying our hot chocolate and each other’s company, we saw a fancy horse and carriage drive by!

His name was Socks and he just knew he was royalty!  We followed him and his driver Christine to their stop and took a ride down Michigan Avenue – the Magnificent Mile!

While we enjoyed the Christmas lights on this carriage ride, Nick gave me yet another bead for my bracelet!  I was surprised because I’d already gotten the bead to represent the carriage ride!  This man loves me so well!

He gave me a Christmas tree bead to represent the lights we saw on the carriage ride.  Also, he knows that I really love Christmas and one of my favorite things was buying our Christmas tree together.  We took great care, this year, in decorating his house for Christmas and he reflected that in our perfect day.

Once the carriage ride was over, it was time for our dinner reservation.  We drove to our hotel, the Fairmont Chicago.  He checked us into the hotel, took our bags upstairs, and then we went to dinner at Aria.  (Note: musical term!)

As our courses began to arrive, he took my hand and blessed the food.  Once he had finished praying, he gave me another box!

He told me that he wanted to give me this bead at the beginning because our story is not possible without the Lord.  He has been SO gracious to us!  He chose to give it to me later in the evening because of the placement on the bracelet, but, in truth, our story is built on a foundation of grace and mercy from our heavenly Father.

Once we had finished with dinner, it was time to go upstairs.  He told me that he needed to go into the room for a moment.  When he came back, he said, “It’s not what you think right now”.  I simply trusted him and walked into the room.  The sight that greeted me truly took my breath away.

It was simply amazing!  His parents had secretly helped him with his plan!  They arranged the room so perfectly while we were in the city.  There were 18 dozen roses beautifully arranged in vases set around the room (1 for each year that we have known each other).  There were princess touches everywhere!  There were candles, strands of pearls, crystals, and even glass slippers!  The walkway was peppered with rose petals and lead me to the table where another box rested upon Nick’s Bible.  He asked me to open it.

As I looked at a bead representing a ring bearer’s pillow holding rings, he said, “What’s in that one?”  As I turned to him, tears already streaming down my face, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him!  In his hand was another box with a different treasure.
Isn’t it beautiful!?!  There are so many stories that accompany this ring.  When he was shopping for it, he wanted to find the perfect ring for me.  He studied so much about diamonds and what makes them perfect.  He learned that Tolkowski (of Tolkowski diamond fame) was actually a mathematician.  He discovered new ways to cut and design diamonds so that they would reflect light perfectly.  Nick searched through thousands of diamonds and hundreds of settings.  He found a diamond that is almost mathematically perfect!  I love that my engineer has such a big piece of himself in the ring he placed on my hand!  It’s perfect for us!
Of course, I answered, “YES!” to his question and we both celebrated the moment.  It was absolutely amazing!  But, I also had a surprise for him!  I asked him if it would be OK if I gave him something.  (He was on quite the roll and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t interrupting his plan!).
A few weeks before Christmas, we had been talking about what we would give one another for Christmas.  He mentioned a few things and then surprised me by saying he thought he might like a promise ring.  I’m so glad he said that!  I started the search.  There’s a jewelry company that I love called Remember Me Jewelry.  The designer puts great care and thought into each piece.  They are meant to tell a story.  I found a ring called “A Man After God’s Own Heart”.  It’s perfect for our story!  Nick loves the Lord and loves me and honors us both really well.  I wanted to give him something that reflected that.

He accepted my ring as a promise to make him my husband!  At this point, it was nearing the midnight hour and he wanted us to watch the fireworks.  But, from our suite, we weren’t sure we were going to be able to see them.  As we welcomed the new year, as an engaged couple, we heard the fireworks begin.  We ran to the windows and found that we were able to see the fireworks just over a building by Lake Michigan!

Nick was so excited!  It was the final piece of the puzzle and he had been afraid it wouldn’t come through for us.  He rushed into the other room, grabbed the champagne and poured a toast for us.  As we welcomed 2013, he gave me one last gift.

He completed my bracelet with a firework!  He really thought of everything!  It’s such a gift to know that someone loves me enough to give me such a perfect day!

It’s so amazing to see my bracelet every day and remember each moment!  It was like something out of a movie!  I truly felt like Cinderella at the ball with my Prince Charming!

The next morning, as we were thinking over how well everything went and all of the little things and moments the Lord gave us, Nick said something I will never forget.  He said, “The only way we got a perfect day like that is because the Lord said, ‘You are my daughter and I love you and I want you to have this perfect gift”.

I can’t wait to marry this man the Lord has given me!

We can’t say it enough that our journey, our beautiful story, is only possible because the Lord has been gracious to us.  He loves us so much and He has good things for His children.  Truly, every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from a heavenly Father who loves us more deeply than we will ever understand.  I hope you find hope, love, and peace in the sharing of our gift.  The Lord is good and His mercy never fails.