I woke up last Friday morning anticipating engagement the way a seven year old anticipates a pony on Christmas morning. Sure, I wanted it... but practically speaking, I knew mom and dad weren't about to let me keep one in the backyard.
I had the day off work, and my (now) fiance had taken a personal day "to spend time with me" and instructed me "not to make a single plan." Intrigued and somewhat expectant, I agreed to be ready at 7:30 (that's A.M., people. Clearly, I'm crazy about the guy.)
Since Friday was day nine of a novena (which I had written) that we had been praying to St. Joseph, we began with Mass at St. Joseph's parish, a gorgeous 100 year old Polish church north of downtown. I'd never been there, and I was astonished by the simple beauty of the place. It looked as though it had been plucked from rural Poland and dropped into old industrial Denver. The ceiling was a brilliant cerulean blue with depictions of the life of the Holy Family, and the beautiful old priest who celebrated Mass had a thick Polish accent ala JPII, which delighted me to no end...
After Mass (which was all of 15 minutes), Dave had planned for us to stay for a holy hour and Benediction, but the regular First Friday devotion had been moved to later that evening, and would be completely in Polish, Fr. informed us. We declined his invitation to return later that evening, citing previous obligations, but told the good father that we'd be back.
"Why you come a here thisa morning?" He asked us, grinning broadly as we exited the back of the church. We paused under a giant picture of JPII to explain that we had been cultivating, of late, a devotion to St. Joseph, and had desired to visit a parish of his patronage.
"Oh, St. Joseph es thee most powerful saint...he died in za Blessed Lady's arms you know."
We nodded our agreement and chatted with him for a few minutes about the virtues of Joseph and his own devotion to the Patron of the Universal Church. Well, Dave chatted... I just reveled in his accent and pretended I was in the late Holy Father's local parish.
Upon returning to the car, I sweetly inquired whether Starbucks might be on the itinerary for the day, (I believe my exact words were: take me to Starbucks or lose me forever) and my beloved acquiesced, pulling up in front of a local coffee shop to feed my addictio-er... to get a morning cuppa. Mocha's in hand, we headed west on I-70, winding our way up ski highway into the high country.
No more than an hour into our journey, we had traded Denver's sunny skies for torrential snowfall, and about 15 minutes east of Breckenridge, the state patrol closed the highway and was diverting traffic to lower elevations. Dave, much to his credit, was seemingly unperturbed and suggested that maybe we'd just return to the city and catch a movie. This perturbed me, however, dampening my expectations significantly. Which was probably the point.
On our journey down to lower ground, we stopped to picnic in a quasi-mountain town called Evergreen, which is high enough to feel alpine by low enough to be spared from the inclement weather. After a few minute's driving and a foray into a sketchy local Exxon station to buy a scratch ticket (I was feeling lucky), we obtained directions and successfully arrived at Evergreen Lake. The lake itself was ringed by running trails and pine trees, surrounded on all sides by mountains and set in a natural valley. There was a golf course along the south shore, so we parked and hiked up to higher ground, ending up on (I think) the ninth green, overlooking the entire lake and enjoying a spectacular view of the valley.
Upon arriving on our fairway, Dave spread out a blanket for us to sit down. I plucked a few broken tees out of the closely shorn grass and teased him about how impressed my father would be that we'd chosen a golf course for our picnic site. He insisted that, no, we were at a lake and just happened to be sitting on the edge of a golf course to enjoy the view. I laughed and let him have his way (note to self: practice this)
After settling onto the blanket, Dave pulled out his folded copy of the novena I'd penned, suggesting that this was the perfect place to finish it. We began to pray, reciting the now familiar lines invoking St. Joseph's intercession and protection. After we'd finished, heads still bowed, Dave continued his prayer, asking each member of the Holy Family for specific graces upon us each.
First addressing St. Joseph, Dave asked that he would be strengthened in the virtues of courage, fidelity and fatherhood. (Is that a virtue?) Then he asked the Blessed Mother for her intercession on my behalf, that she would be my model for gentle strength and motherhood. (At this point I had a decent idea where things were heading.) Finally, he addressed Jesus, thanking him for our love and for His presence in our lives. Getting up on one knee (we were sitting, after all) he took my hands in his, and with a surprisingly steady voice made his offer.
"Jennifer, I've been waiting for you for a long time. I've been praying that God would bring you into my life, and He has exceeded every expectation. I want to spend the rest of my life with you - I will never leave you - will you be my wife?"
I'm sure there was more to his proposal, but I was dumbfounded and rendered temporarily silent, which is extremely rare for me. Sensing this, Dave prodded a bit: "I have a ring for you...but I want your answer first."
Nodding, I said "yes" and threw my arms around his neck, and then deafened him with my squeals. Then he pulled the ring out. And now... he is profoundly deaf.
He pulled out a bottle of champagne and some strawberries and chocolate, and we sipped and celebrated and hugged and screamed and spent the next hour talking about our future, about our family, about our new lives together. "We're engaged!" I shouted to the random man in the North Face fleece walking his dog in the distance. "He's my fiance!" I shouted to the Canadian geese populating the lake.
After a calming dose of some really good champagne, (well, half the bottle) we packed up and headed back down to Denver to hit up our favorite adoration chapel to tell Him the good news. After some great prayer time, my wonderful man pulled into a strip mall parking lot and took his vain fiance to get a manicure, lest anyone ask to see the ring and be put off by my unkempt cuticles. After I'd been polished and we'd made a ridiculous amount of phone calls, (Verizon called me yesterday and offered to upgrade me to the next service plan. I swear) we headed for Hacienda Colorado, the place we met last summer, and lingered over a fabulous Lenten Mexican dinner. (Who says cheese enchiladas aren't celebratory?)
The night was not yet over. After dinner, Dave told me there was one more surprise - that he'd called our friends, family and co-workers the night before and told them of his plans, asked for their prayers, and invited them to our surprise engagement party the next night. This man is confident.
And that's the story. We partied (responsibly) into the evening, (okay, until 11...we're not in college anymore) sharing the story with a huge group of our favorite people all at once (highly recommended) and toasting to the beginning of the rest of our lives. We decided not to plan at all during this, Holy Week, and while it's been really, really tempting... it's been a blessing to be able to focus on this new thing which has transpired. I guess the stress will come later, and in greater force. But for now, I've got a gorgeous ring, a great story, and a future husband whose number one goal is to get me to Heaven. It doesn't get much better than this...