Part 1: A Lion, A Horse, A Ring… Oh My!

As we begin our three-part series leading to our wedding day, I must first say that I could never express my gratefulness for my wife, Annalise. She has cared for me and loved me in the way Christ calls her to. She has shown me grace and mercy. She has been better to me than I could have ever dreamed. She has truly been a woman after God’s heart, showing me forgiveness when I struggled and stumbled. She has stood by my side no matter what and I am truly honored to have her. I simply do not deserve her. With that said… How did I convince her to say yes?


My heart was pounding. I felt the cold of a Chicago night on my nose as I stared down the train tracks. Waiting. Checking my coat pocket over and over. I had been waiting for this day since our first date over 3 years ago. She was taking the train in from the suburbs where she attended Wheaton College. This was a normal weekend routine for us as she often came to visit me at Moody Bible Institute in the city.  Waiting. I saw the train coming in and off stepped Annalise, innocently thinking we were going to see the Lion King Broadway show downtown. I don’t even know what happened next. It’s as though I blacked out as we walked to have dinner at her favorite place downtown, the Grand Lux Café. How could I even attempt to focus on what she was saying as I felt for the ring box in my pocket? Could she feel it in my pocket? I wondered as we walked side-by-side through the city. For once I was thankful for the cold because it just looked like I was trying to stay warm  with my hand in my pocket holding the ring box in a death grip.


Before I knew it, we were sitting at our table and I was scrambling as the waitress asked us what we wanted to eat. I was frazzled. I was so focused on repeating over and over in my head how I’d say it, what I’d say when the time finally came. Who knows what I even ordered. All I remember from the meal is Annalise asking me why I was so distracted. I lied saying I was worried we’d be late for the Lion King show, knowing we didn’t actually have tickets for that night in December. Annalise knows I hate dressing up, so the show was an easy way to keep her from suspecting anything (I wore my button-down shirt and dress pants!).


Dinner was over. My heart was pounding so hard. I was thankful the city noise covered my nerves. We headed to the theater where I planned to act shocked when I ‘discovered’ I had bought tickets for the wrong night and the evening was ruined. When we arrived, I asked her to wait as I pulled out the tickets. I gasped and showed her that I had bought the tickets for a night in January not December (don’t worry, I still took her to the show on another night!). I acted like I was distraught and profusely apologized for my blunder. She didn’t suspect a thing. But as she started suggesting alternative plans, I began to panic. Thankfully she just assumed it was because I was upset about my ticket mistake. I wasn’t. I had planned for a horse drawn carriage to be waiting for us outside the theater, but it wasn’t there. I lied and told Annalise I needed to step away to call about the ticket mishap. Instead, I called the carriage company to ask where our carriage was. They answered telling me it was stuck on the opposite side of a protest. Of course. Only in Chicago. As I walked back over to Annalise, I made up some random story about why we needed to wait to try to stall. Then it finally arrived.


(The picture she wanted before she knew the tickets were for a different day!)


As the carriage pulled up I grabbed Annalise and said “what if we try to hop on that!” We had never been on a carriage ride and Annalise had always wanted to go on one. But every time she asked, I had always found an excuse not to knowing it would come in handy down the road. “Let’s see if its available.” Knowing all the while it was there just for us, I asked her to wait and ran over and let the coachman (looked that word up!) know it was us she was picking up and reminding her that it was a surprise for my plan to propose. I grabbed Annalise, who still hadn’t caught on, and we hopped up and pulled a blanket over us on this chilly night. The fear of her noticing the ring box in my pocket set in again. And the fear of Annalise catching on to my plans got worse as soon as we got going. The coachman turned around and apologized for being late! I panicked as she told us her story about driving up on the sidewalk to bust through the protest and not ruin our exciting night. I froze. She had already forgotten that this was a surprise. Annalise looked at me in confusion, so I quickly distracted her and changed the subject.


As we rode through the streets of Chicago on this magical night, I wondered if my friends were able to track my phone. If they knew we were coming. I had planned to have them waiting hidden nearby ‘the spot’ so they could capture photos of the moment. I don’t remember what happened after distracting Annalise from our coachman’s blunder. I couldn’t focus until we stopped and hopped off and began walking into the night towards the spot I had picked out: a bridge with a full view of the Chicago skyline.


At this point, Annalise knew something was up. We climbed the steps to the bridge and in the middle I stopped her. I grabbed her hands and turned her towards me. I cannot tell you what I said in that moment. I think it was good, but I was so excited, so impatient. My knee barely grazed the ground as I pulled the box out of my jacket. Opening it to reveal the ring I had picked just for her, I asked Annalise to marry me. “YESS!!! YESSS!” And before I could even rest my knee on the ground I was back up kissing my new fiancé. YES!