Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Goods: We're Engaged!

When Steven left June 10th, 2008 for the Peace Corps, we had known each other for about eight months, five of those we spent as a couple. From the beginning, we knew that the chances of him leaving were good, meaning he'd be away from the U.S. and electricity for two years. Knowing that made us cautious, nervous to sign up for such a spaced-out commitment, especially with having had so little time together. Then we went on a missions trip in March to Arkansas which hugely impacted our life as a couple and because of it, we decided to embrace who we were together, expecting to make it through the distance.

He came home once, the summer of 2009, for a month-long visit. While he was home, we spent every day together catching up and reaffirming that we still wanted only to be with each other. When he left to go back to his village, we were certain we could make it one more year to the end of his service. We talked constantly over a terrible connection, imagining what we would do once we were together and where we would go and when. For my graduation gift, Steven bought me a plane ticket to west Africa.

On August 12th, 2010 I walked out of the Ouagadougou airport and saw him in person for the first time in over a year. Hugging him, knowing that we wouldn't have to say goodbye like that ever again was so freeing. And we spent the next three unrealistically wonderful weeks together in his village and traveling through Europe. It. Was. Awesome. I would go back to Burkina Faso tomorrow. His friends and neighbors blessed me with how proud they were of Steven and how much they valued his time there. They loved him so well for all of us who couldn't be there when he needed friends and family. Seeing how much he meant to them and how hard it would be for him to leave ALMOST made me want to let him stay... But I didn't. I brought him home with me along with five hundred pictures and a suitcase of souvenirs.

Early in October, under the pretense of putting together a birthday surprise for me, Steven printed hundreds of those pictures from our trip and pieced together a photo album of our memories and negotiated for days for the perfect moment to present me my surprise. I wish I could say that I was patient while I waited for my gift... I even begged him a time or two. But he made me wait for the perfect sunset over Lake Shawnee on a beautiful October day before he slipped my leather-bound album from his bag. Along with the pictures, he wrote letters and notes describing not only why he loved our trip but why he loves me and why he will always love me. At the end of the album, he told me that even though he doesn't know where we're going, he wants to go with me. He promised to love me and to adventure with me. And on the very last page, next to the last picture, he placed a sticky note over the words "Will You Marry Me?" When I looked up at him, rambling on like a crazy person and happier than I've ever been, he had my ring in his hands.

Do I even have to tell you that I said yes?

I did.