This is our engagement story. A story of love. A story of us.
Clay proposed to me on October 23, 2015. I woke up the next morning and wondered if it was all a dream. It’s moments like this in life where you find yourself wanting to slow down time, to soak it all in. It’s moments like this – milestone markers of life – where you find they come and go all too quickly.
While Clay’s proposal may have come and gone, thankfully our story has only just begun.
I met Clay in May of 2014, the week I started going to Foundry, the young adults group at our church where he is assistant pastor. It took him ten months to ask me out though I was intrigued from day one! I had the chance to get to know him over that time, so when he finally took me on our first date on March 20, 2015, I knew I admired this man so greatly, respected him, valued him, and truly already cherished him. Dare I say I knew I wanted to spend my life with him?
This photo from our first date is one of my favorites of us. My hair is messy and the photo is blurry, but I will never forget the feeling in my soul of that night…
Clay had told me ahead of time to make a playlist of my favorite songs. I had no idea what it was for, but we had bonded over music early on and I knew I already loved whatever he had planned. We walked around downtown Santa Monica and took turns listening to our playlists, people watching, and he slipped his hand in mine for the very first time.
There was this moment when we walked up from the boardwalk and onto the bluffs when the sweet and soft voice of Daniel Martin Moore singing the hymn It Is Well filled the night. I rested my head on Clay’s shoulder for a moment and I truly felt in the most unique way that it was well with my soul.
If I didn’t know for sure that I wanted to spend my life with this man on our first date, it was confirmed in my heart and in my mind over the next few months. By June, I knew.
I was pretty verbal about my feelings of certainty, too. From early on Clay had to remind me to guard my heart and to not jump into “future speak” too quickly.
The certainty I felt so early on in our relationship made the short seven months we dated seem like much longer. I think God knew I needed a sign – some sort of reassurance, some sort of promise – that He would deliver, that He would remain faithful, that I could sit back and enjoy the journey instead of dwelling on what was further down the road.
So I believe He gave me 10.23.
I had been seeing the number everywhere it seemed – on the clocks of the microwave and stove, on my alarm system panel, in my car, when I checked my phone. I even saw it on a Facebook post. Honestly, it was a bit creepy.
I asked God what 10.23 could be about. And then one day Clay and I were joking around about him waiting seven years to propose. I had told him seven was my favorite number, and he loved to give me a hard time about it. Finally this one day I said, “You know… there’s another kind of seven.” His quick-witted reply, “Seven decades!” caused me to promptly slug his arm.
But it was at that moment that I hit him that it finally hit me… Seven months! 10.23 was almost exactly seven months after our first date!
I felt God was possibly telling me Clay would propose on October 23, so I could just relax and enjoy dating him without being anxious about the future.
Of course despite all of these signs – these little reminders that so faithfully continued to appear – I still had my moments of doubt. I still had my moments of “making Clay miserable” as I’ll call them – trying to get him to give me a hint as to when he might propose even thought I had specifically told him I wanted the whole thing – the proposal, the ring, all of it – to be a surprise!
Isn’t that what we often do in life? Doubt despite God’s faithful reminders of His promises? I know I have so often in the past, and I know I will continue to do so in the future. Yet my hope is that the manifestation of God’s promise of 10.23 will help me to trust in the signs that I know the Lord will provide for me in the future.
It was undeniable God was speaking to me through 10.23. I even opened my Bible to my reading in Jeremiah to find Jeremiah 10:23 was so applicable:
At one point I was on a video shoot for the Lift16 conference and had just finished telling the girls I was with about 10.23. “I think God’s telling me Clay is going to propose on October 23. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve been seeing the number everywhere.” And sure enough not two seconds later we rounded a corner and saw this:
We all had chills.
Call me crazy if you want. I don’t blame you. I even thought it crazy myself. But the more I saw 10.23, the more I felt God’s reassurance in the weeks leading up to 10.23.
And then the day finally came. I awoke that Friday morning with a mixture of excited, nervous and anxious energy. It was like Christmas morning. You know surprises await, but you don’t know what they are.
I was a little worried about knowing Clay would propose that day because I knew I was supposed to be surprised! I decided I would definitely tell Clay after the fact (I didn’t want to start my marriage out on a lie), but I would enjoy each moment of the surprise date he had planned. After all, many surprises did await as I had no idea of the details that would unfold over the next few hours.
Clay brought that same iPod splitter from our first date. We walked hand in hand through the park as we listened to a few songs he’d picked. Children were laughing and playing in the grass nearby. I put my hands out and threw my head back, admiring the perfect feeling of the evening air.
We rounded a corner and began to walk down a beaten path, just the two of us now. The sun was beginning to set over the ocean. We stopped and danced along the way, laughed and joked, and reflected a bit on our relationship – our first date, our first kiss (an excruciating three weeks later!), the first time he told me he loved me.
And then It Is Well came on, just as we rounded that final corner. I audibly gasped at the sight of all those sunflowers, that blanket covered in rose petals, his guitar, Bible, and champagne.
He pulled me in close and we danced. The same sweet sound of that melody that filled my soul on our first date, filled me up yet again. And truly, yet again, it was well with my soul.
He had me sit on the blanket and told me there was one more song he wanted me to hear but it hadn’t been recorded yet. He played a song he had written just for me – the sweetest, most meaningful and beautiful song I have ever heard. This man can sing and play the guitar, let me tell ya!
When he finished the song, he picked up his Bible and read from Colossians 3. Ironically I have been memorizing this exact chapter throughout the course of our relationship. He read verses 12-15 and told me this is what he wanted for our future:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful…”
He prayed for us, a prayer of thanksgiving for this great gift of our relationship. And then He had me stand with him, saying wonderful things about me and our relationship and how he knows we will do more for God’s Kingdom together than we could do separately. He said so many beautiful words I’ll keep just for the two of us… And then he got down on one knee, and he asked me to marry him.
I cannot explain to you the joy I felt in that moment, the relief of my soul, the peace in my heart, and the laughter… so much laughter. I said yes, through that great laughter, and I could hardly even kiss him I was smiling so wide.
He popped open the champagne – the cork went flying in proper celebratory fashion – and we had a few moments to sit and enjoy each other. Then our friends popped out of the bushes where they were hiding, taking photos and videos. And the rest of the night was the most glorious chaos from there!
He took me to his parents house “to show them my ring” where really all my family (who flew in from Texas!!), his family, and many of our friends were waiting to celebrate with us! Turns out they had all been in on it for weeks. My friend Jecca even had 10.23 cookies made!
My mom got this book for all the guests to sign, and on the first page she wrote the following verse:
Hebrews 10:23. A verse about God’s promises and holding tightly to them. While I may have had my doubts – as I mentioned – of trusting 10.23 along the way, I hold tightly to the fact that God was working in my life. Not only was He reassuring me through his signs of 10.23, but beyond that, Clay even said today:
“God was working out His promises in your life long before 10.23. I was planning on proposing long before you ever started seeing it. He knew what was going to happen the night I sat you down on that bench at church and talked to you about how I liked you and wanted to take things slow. He knew when we were driving up to family camp going through the ‘100 questions to ask before you get married’ and working out all our differences. And He knew before I ever asked your dad. He put us in each other’s hearts long before He ever put a ring on your finger.”
I see so much evidence of God’s faithfulness in our lives. 10.23 was only a small sign of His reassurance for my doubting heart. The bigger picture is just that – so much bigger than we could ever have imagined. God’s plan encompasses so much more than our minds can grasp and so much more than our hearts can feel.
I am so grateful for the faithfulness of God’s promise in providing this godly man for me to spend my life with – not that I deserve him, not that I am guaranteed him – but only because God is just that loving and truly wants the best for us.
I am so glad I waited for this man. And I am so glad that my waiting was never in vain.
There was one more surprise of the evening: a second original song written by Clay and his friend Eric for me and Eric’s wife, Bre. Performed by Clay Collier, Eric Stuhlmuller, and Kyle Collier, it’s called “I’ll Meet You There.”
My sweet Clay, my fiance, my love. Thank you for the most magical seven months of dating and for planning truly the most magical engagement I could have ever imagined. I am so blessed by you, your heart, and your soul. You point me so much to Jesus every day. I truly believe we will do more for His Kingdom side by side, hand in hand than we could ever do apart. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us in this next chapter of our story. But mostly I can’t wait to spend all the days of my life with you.
“Darlin’ I will be lovin’ you ’till we’re seventy.” – Ed Sheeran, Thinking Out Loud