Our story began at work. "Who is that cute blonde who just got hired?", I mused.
I had been employed with CCLI for 3 years when she started in Customer Support.
Later down the road, my mind got creative in thinking of ways I could make small talk with the beautiful Ciara. My first attempt was after our "Birthday Monday" party at work.
Did they pronounce your name wrong this morning?", I asked, clearly grasping at straws for conversation topics."No, I think they got it right, actually" she said with a smile and a tone that gently accepted my first attempt to break the ice. "Well, have a great day!" I said, walking out the door. The ice was broken.
Through observation, I formulated my next advance. "Hey, I noticed you park awful far from the entry door, is that intentional? You know you can park closer, right?"
"Oh, yeah, I've just made a habit of parking there, I guess."
That conversation didn't really take off, but wouldn't you know, the very next day, she parked in a new spot, which sprung open more opportunities for chats. Eventually, I invited her on afternoon walks in the park that my co-workers and I would go on during break time. Quickly, we learned we had a lot in common: healthy eating & fitness, love for the outdoors, passion for ministry and commitment to the church -- the list goes on.
So then I found out Ciara was getting friends together to run a 5k, and I was invited. Score!
"Well, hey, we should start training for the 5k", I suggested. (That's a logical next move, right?)The following day was booked: we parked at OMSI and jogged the Portland waterfront, crossing several bridges and at times, running through the rain. For lunch, we stopped at a coffee shop (in the same area where I would later propose) and each got an algae smoothie. How Portland is that, right? There, we shared our life stories. No fluff, no pretense. We shared our personal journeys in raw form, while giving praise to God who has always been our guiding force and close companion every step of the way.
From that moment, our friendship started to bloom and God faithfully demonstrated His love through the grace we showed to each other. Our compatibility was quickly recognized.
Our first summer together was a blast: hiking in the beautiful northwest, paddle boarding, kayaking, pumpkin carving in the fall, admiring Christmas lights in the winter -- it has never been hard to share fun activities together. And since we both value eating healthy and saving for the future, meal prepping has become a staple every week. Ciara is a fantastic cook & baker, and it's been a delight to enjoy meals with her.
Of course, we've had things to learn, but we've both been diligent in reading books together, and becoming a student of the other person. Identifying love languages and enneagram types happened very early, and we still go the extra mile to appreciate the uniqueness of the other person. Besides book learning, we've gained so much through mentorship and community.
I asked her to be my girlfriend during a beach trip with friends, and we began co-leading a Small Group at church, which has been such a joy to be a part of. Not long after getting plugged in at Mannahouse, Ciara signed up for a mission trip to Thailand & Laos. Her heart for missions was stirred, and her faith was expanded after witnessing the lives of missionaries in South East Asia, as well as the everyday challenges of Lao & Thai Christians.
Over the next few months, we took time to get to know each other's families. (Her mom and I threw her a surprise birthday party where both families were present) and later we shared special times together around Christmas. The support of our families, friends and pastors was keenly felt. My Mom even asked, "Are you planning to propose soon?"
Soon after, Ciara and I visited my family in their home state of North Carolina. After returning home, I planned my next move.
With an engagement ring picked out, I took her back to the Portland waterfront, where it all began. After reliving those early memories together, I walked her down the sidewalk and pointed out a guitar that was conveniently placed in our path. "Hey, look, there's a guitar, wonder how that got here!" (My trusty friend, Ivan had planted the guitar there moments before we arrived at the "spot".) As I removed the guitar from its case, I pulled out a crumpled piece of paper with lyrics written on it. "I wrote you a song", I told her. The song is called, "Row", which was inspired by a beautiful card she wrote me once. It was about "rowing together through life", meaning that no matter what we do, we do it together, in sync, in alignment, on the same page. It only took her reading the title for tears to start streaming down her face. After serenading her the best I could, I walked her by the water, where I dropped to one knee and asked her to marry me. Ivan emerged from his hiding spot to film and photograph the moment. Cue lots of kissing, hugging and tears of joy.
Once we had called each of our families to share the exciting news, I promised her, "I've got one more surprise tonight". Puzzled as to where we were driving, she remained a good sport until we reached the final destination.When we walked through the door, a boisterous "SURPRISE" rang out from the living room. Present were our friends who had helped plan a surprise engagement party. Lots of fun times, tasty eats and funny photos ensued.
Our story is one of God's redemptive power and grace. We're constantly amazed at God's kindness toward us, and his ability to Father us into greater levels of maturity. We're excited about what's ahead, and want nothing less than for the Lord to be glorified in our lives