Let me tell you about engagement.
I was running late, like that’s new.
It was the second football game of the season, and considering this was the first time in eight years I could actually go to the game because I wanted to, not because it was my job, I’d taken a little longer to do my hair and makeup and pick out my outfit (which involved wearing a red and white scarf in 80 degree weather, because I’m Allie and I don’t know how to not wear scarves or how to dress for football games in something other than a marching band uniform). There was a tailgate just before the game hosted by the Graduate School, and my friend and I saw it as the perfect opportunity for a. free barbecue and b. new friends. She and I had met at the Graduate School orientation, so what’s to say we wouldn’t meet some more people at a tailgate?
Unfortunately, the event was not quite as well attended as orientation had been. We found a couple of people we knew and stood in a group of the eight or so students there chatting. I watched as a couple of girls walked up, grabbed food, walked away, then a couple more stood apart from our little circle talking to themselves. I had been debating going over and striking up a conversation with them for about five minutes solid, but then two girls and a guy walked up who seemed right around the same age as me.
They stood a few feet away, looking confusedly at the barbecue table. You could basically see the question marks on their faces - they had no idea if they were at the right place. I’d held back the other two times, this time felt like the chance to make friends. There was only a second between that thought and my feet moving towards the little group. I’m pretty sure my opening line was something like, “I’m Allie! Are y’all graduate students, too?” But these kind people pushed past my awkwardness pretty quickly, and soon I was having a conversation in which I tried to establish where all three of them were from, what they were studying, what they had studied in undergrad, what they wanted to do with their lives, and whether they wanted food. They did. At least, the girls did. The guy stayed and talked to me awhile, and the faint trace of butterflies started up in my stomach.
. . . Woah woah woah. That's not quite how it happened.
This is Grant now. I had just moved to the state and the only people I knew at this point were the 7 other people in my cohort. Two of them decided to come with me to the game and, since none of us knew anyone else, we thought it would be a good idea to go to the graduate school tailgate before kickoff. Expecting a large canopy that apparently did not exist, we ended up getting lost and loitering through other organizations’ spaces. An employee of the graduate school noticed we were hopelessly lost and invited us to the correct table and offered us a plate of food. As my friends and I exchanged pleasantries with the employee, I realized she was remarkably cute and we had an incredible amount of life in common. I had taken a year off of dating and wasn't necessarily looking, but this employee had definitely caught my eye. The PA system from the stadium rang out announcing it was time to get to the stadium, and I felt disappointed that I had to leave but she could not leave her post. That is, until my friend asked her is she would like to come sit with us.
Turns out, she did not work for the graduate school. Allie is just like that as a person. The entire night and our first date about a week later was like catching up with an old friend, but with hearing stories you had never heard before and wanting all of the future stories to include you. I am so thankful she just waltzed on up.
Okay, now you can return to your regularly scheduled blog post.
Okay . . . so maybe Grant’s version is a little more accurate. I don’t have any explanation for why I walked up to Grant and his friends, except that sometimes God is louder than our hesitation and I knew some place deep in my bones it was important to do. We sat by each other at the football game, and the thing I remember the most from the first half of the game was that he kept laughing at my jokes and sarcastic comments - and though I think I’m fairly funny, most people don’t laugh quite so hard. Somewhere in the second quarter, he asked if my friend and I wanted to come with their group to dinner close to campus. Going to a sports bar with virtual strangers is not my usual scene - but I had that same little nudge in my spirit to say yes. I even offered to drive.
At this point, Grant definitely had my attention - but I’d learned in undergrad that being on the same level of maturity and investment spiritually is the single most important thing to me in a romantic relationship, and I didn’t know anything about this guy’s faith life or relationship with God after just a couple hours. So I tried hard not to even let my mind wander to romance. As I drove us all to dinner, I let the flow of conversation move around me, and shot up a quick, cautious prayer that if there was a good reason to keep getting to know the cute guy in the backseat, to make it obvious.
Over nachos and some burgers, the five of us kept talking. Newly minted graduate students that we were, we had settled on swapping stories from our different undergrad experiences across different states. Grant was telling us about the friends he cooked dinner with every night, when he said something along the lines of “. . . and a lot of times after church on Sundays, we’d all go shopping for groceries for the week.”
And loud and clear in my mind, God said Go.
I pounced on his comment, we started talking about finding a church in Bowling Green, and suddenly we were swapping numbers and he was promising to come to church with me the very next morning. The first three times we saw each other after that were church and small group, and I love it that our relationship started that way, that pursuing community and God was the context we first got to know each other. Like Grant said, our first date was a week later. He had an assignment to give someone outside his cohort a practice IQ test, so he asked me to help him out, and offered to make me dinner in return. After dinner and a couple of hours, it was clear that for both of us, this was more than just a get-to-know-each-other date. We were talking through life stories, things God had done and dreams He had placed in us for the future, careers and callings and complicated topics you usually don’t get into on a first date.
As our relationship took off the first couple of months, I was simultaneously startled and relatively unsurprised. I felt completely blown away by the common ground we shared and the ease and peace our relationship had to it, but I also know my God, and somehow the idea that He would bring someone who complimented me so strongly directly into my path didn’t surprise me in the least.
Don’t misunderstand me - loving Grant and these seasons of dating and engagement have been overwhelmingly wonderful and joyful, but they haven’t always been easy or simple.
I’m a crier. When life gets overwhelming, it’s my first natural response. Between school and some health issues, I could come up with about a hundred reasons to be crying on the couch on a weeknight about six months into our relationship. And I really tried to find one of those reasons, to find something I could change or address, thinking that if I could just solve what was wrong myself, I could tone down the tears, be less of a bother. But like a puzzle piece with just the wrong edges, not one of those reasons would fit the strangely-shaped hole in my chest causing me to cry.
I had gotten up off the couch to grab some Kleenex, and as I turned to go back to where Grant was waiting for me, concern in his eyes, I was overcome by just how wrong this really was. He is so good and patient with me, I thought, he deserves so much better than this. As I stood there clumsily smearing mascara across my face and blowing my nose, painfully aware of how rapidly my appearance and my facade of capability and calm was eroding, I knew he would continue to comfort me, whether I could explain the sadness or not, because I know the kind of person that he is. And I felt deeply that he shouldn’t have to, for the exact same reason. So I didn’t walk back to him. I sat on the floor a little ways away from the couch, took some deep breaths, and tried to get my eyes under control.
When I looked up at Grant at last, he was holding out his hand. He didn’t ask me what was wrong, and he didn’t tell me everything would be okay. He just held out his hand and said, “Would you like to come up?”
And I took it. I let him wipe my eyes and hold my hand, and he let me continue to cry. And as I sat there, overwhelmed by the gentle grace of his response, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Isn’t that the whole point of a relationship built on God’s love for us? That we refuse to let the other cry alone, regardless of what we’ve done or deserve?
It’s been important to me and Grant throughout our dating relationship and engagement to keep in mind that in those seasons, God has ultimately been preparing us for marriage. Marriage is a biblical, covenant relationship that reflects the relationship God ordained between Himself and His people, between Christ and the Church. When Grant held out his hand to me - not because I deserved it, or because it particularly made sense, but because he choose loving me over any kind of logic or his own needs in that moment - it perfectly reflected God’s response every time we fall into doubt, sin, or despair in the way that a marriage relationship is designed to do, the way I understand it.
God doesn’t ask us to stop crying or to fix it all ourselves. He stands with his arm outstretched, ready to bring us back to Himself and hold our hand. He doesn’t ask if we realize that our makeup’s a mess and there’s snot on our face and we’re not as capable, deserving, or good as He thought we were. Those are the things we tell ourselves. All God asks is if we want help picking ourselves up off the floor.
Part of building a life together is learning to trust another imperfect person to do their best to love you the way God has loved us. When it comes to meeting your spouse, people say when you know, you know, and now I say it too. But I don’t know that it’s because I knew all along that Grant was “the one” for me. I think it was that I knew, with more certainty and peace than I’ve known most things, that God had written our stories very intentionally to prepare us to love another out of the way God has been and continues loving us, with more grace than we could ever manage without Him.
That wasn’t the night I knew Grant was the person I was going to marry. That was just the night God showed up and confirmed to me it was true.
At our first meeting with our officiant for our wedding ceremony, he leaned forward at the very end and said he had a very important question for us before we left.
There are 7.62 billion people in the world. Why, out of all those humans, did we know we wanted to marry each other?
Grant smiled. “I think of us like puzzle pieces,” he said. “Where I’m strong, she comes and meets me, and those are the things I can support her in, where she’s weak. And likewise, where I’m weak, she fills in those gaps and rounds us out.”
Our pastor said that was one of the best answers to that question he’d ever heard, and I’ve got to agree with him.
Naturally, that made it awfully hard to follow, but it was my turn, and I love Grant, so I gave it my best shot.
When Grant and I were getting to know each other at the start, there were pieces of our stories that overlapped, echoed, and intersected each other, so clearly and directly equipping us with the experience and understanding we needed to do the hard work of loving each other. There’s just no way to explain all of those similarities except that God was writing our stories to meet each other, and preparing us for the story He would write with and for the both of us.
Engagement has been a lot of things - exciting, overwhelming, filled to the brim with planning, transition, and preparation for the changes of marriage, moving, and full-time jobs that are to come. It’s required both of us to recognize and reject fear and lies, and identify and accept love and grace from one another that’s as close as we’ll get to unconditional on this earth.
But it’s never, not for one second, been doubtful, because I know what God did in both our stories to make them meet, and make us best suited to be together than apart.
We are grateful to Him and grateful to you, for reading this far and being a part of our story. We can’t wait to see what He writes next!
We are endlessly grateful to Robb Davidson Photography for our beautiful engagement photos and can’t wait to see how he captures our wedding day! Robb is one of the most friendly and kind people you will ever meet, and made our whole shoot relaxed and fun. Find him on Instagram, Facebook, or at his website if you are looking for an event or wedding photographer!