Last Sunday, I set off for a picnic with my boyfriend, and I came back with a fiancé.
After nearly three and a half years of dating Jake, I had started to hope for a summer proposal. We both secured stable jobs this spring and knew for a while that we wanted to take that next step in our relationship. I tried my best to stay patient and trust it would happen at the right time, but the waiting provoked a certain restlessness that hopeful daydreams couldn’t seem to cure.
As much as I wanted it to happen, I was stunned when the moment actually came. An afternoon picnic was a welcome end to a busy weekend, and I was naïvely happy that Jake took care of all the preparation for it. Perhaps a small part of me willed the proposal to happen as I put on a dress while I was getting ready, but I wasn’t suspicious enough to give it a serious thought.
Ironically, Jake brought me to a park we visited a couple months prior on a day I was certain he would pop the question. It hadn’t happened then, and I wasn’t even thinking about it last weekend when we returned. I had talked myself out of any latent expectations on the fifty-minute drive to meet up with him. I wanted to enjoy the afternoon regardless of any outcomes.
At the park we picked a shady spot to spread out the blanket, and Jake knelt down to start unpacking the cooler. “Why don’t you open the picnic basket?” he asked. I lifted the lid, expecting to find plates and napkins, but instead I saw a framed photo of the two of us, along with concert tickets, movie passes, museum brochures, and other mementos from our shared experiences.
Suddenly I was keenly aware of everything. The ring box that he slipped out of his cowboy boot. The click of a camera shutter from several feet away. The tears that welled in my eyes.
“Will you marry me?”
One thing I’ve learned about myself in recent years is that I have a difficult time living in the moment. I’m constantly hoping for “what’s next” and anticipating new and seemingly better seasons of life. And yet there’s always the anxiety surrounding the what-ifs and what might happen in the future. It seems I scarcely have a spare thought to dedicate to the present.
But when Jake asked me to marry him, I wasn’t thinking of anything else except for the happiness that consumed me in that moment.
Now, of course, it feels natural to start thinking about the wedding. We don’t have a date in mind or any solid plans. For me, the ring wasn’t the last piece of a wedding planning puzzle; it was the start of this whole new adventure. Perhaps this means I am learning to focus on the present and take things one day at a time.
I know there will be a lot of work and preparations to come, but for right now, I just want to enjoy this. I want to keep that fluttering feeling in my stomach every time I glance at my ring. I still want to feel tempted to look at our photos every five minutes. I want to keep reliving that day over and over in my mind.
In this time of continued uncertainty, here’s to savoring every moment of our engagement and clinging to this God-given blessing. Here’s to grace. Here’s to happiness.
Here’s to love.
Photo credit: Monica Grace Photography
Kayleigh (Fongers) Van Wyk (’18) graduated with a degree in writing and resides in West Michigan. She works as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal and Grand Rapids Magazine while also making time for freelance writing. When she’s not behind a screen, she enjoys going for walks, eating ice cream, and buying more books than she’ll ever read.