The One About the Ring

Part I

A few weeks before I bought my ticket to New Zealand, I made a trip up to NorthPark Center to have my laptop checked out at the Apple store. It was an odd feeling walking out of the Apple store with fewer Apple products than when I arrived. As I walked out my eyes were glued to the brand new iPad; I nearly caved–in to the temptation to buy one on the spot.

As I made my way through the mall, heading back to my car, I saw another store full of expensive things that I had no business looking at (this is not very hard to do at NorthPark). “Won’t hurt to look” is what I told myself as I walked into the very intentionally lit store.

We hadn’t talked specifically about marriage, but it was heavily implied by the two of us as we each painted a picture of a future that included the other. That, and the fact that I would not be visiting, but moving to New Zealand were enough for me to decide that I should start looking for a ring.

I figured Tiffany’s was just as good a place as any to start, given that I was already here. I just wanted to see what makes them so different, or as special as they would have me believe. I was prepared for the worst as I didn’t really fit in, but was met with an inviting look and a smile from a saleswoman. I wanted to reply that I was “just looking” but what came out of my mouth was a summary of my little love story which must have motivated her because despite my minute budget (that I was sure to clearly mention up front) she spent the next 15 minutes calling around to different stores until she found it. Classic, simple, elegant; perfect, except it was in California and I hadn’t actually seen it.

It was my most memorable trip to NorthPark ever. I walked out overjoyed with nothing more than a receipt.

Part II

For fifteen days I kept it a secret. There wasn’t anything special about May 22; I hadn’t chosen that day because of any special significance. Infact, I didn’t choose that day. When I woke up that morning I had no intentions of proposing—I couldn’t anyway because I hadn’t worked up the courage to ask her father for his blessing. It just so happened that he and I would be cooking breakfast for the family the following day and had to pick a few things up from the store. The car ride made bringing up the topic a little less awkward, denying him the opportunity to stare me to death. We spent the rest of that morning talking (for whatever reason, we had the house to ourselves) and ended with prayer; I had his blessing.

It was a relief to have that out of the way, and I started to think about when a good time would be. Maybe the following week once we’re both up in Auckland? Maybe in a month or so when we’re back in Tauranga?

It happened to be a beautiful and unusually warm day, so much so that we decided to get in a good walk as I was assured there wouldn’t be so many nice days as we headed into winter. I’m not even sure why I did, but I put the ring in my pocket before we headed out. While I used the word “walk”, the proper term is “hike”. Up a mountain. Okay, not a mountain, but an extinct volcano. Mount Maunganui stands 761 feet above the sea and the beach and the shops of the similarly named town at its base. At the top we did the usual touristy things, gazing at the beautiful views and snapping a dozen or so pictures. As we walked to the more secluded side of the summit, I uttered a phrase that would make our casual climb up the Mount a day to never be forgotten.

“So, I talked to your father this morning…”

I didn’t even have to finish my sentence; she knew exactly what he and I discussed and what was coming next. A rush of emotions flooded her face—confusion, a smile, tears building up. My pulse is racing and I know that I’m saying something but for the life of me I can’t recall the words; I’m kneeling and produce a ring from my pocket. I take her hand—then I take the proper hand—and some how manage to steady my hands enough to slip the ring on her finger. A perfect fit.

This is my favorite part: the ring had not been resized. There wasn’t anyway for me to find out her size when I bought it so I just left it as is assuming we’d have to have it sized after the fact. It didn’t even occur to me when I had placed the ring on her finger that it fit perfectly.

Now, you probably know that I’m not married and that I’ve never been married. I’m sharing this story because for a long time I didn’t think I’d get to share it; I didn’t think I was allowed to share it since it doesn’t end with “and we lived happily ever after”. Not all stories do. I love this and other stories from my engagement because it reminds me that God really does care about the little things in my life. That I can enjoy these memories for what they were—they were good moments in my life, independent of the final outcome. It reminds me also to live my life this way—one moment at a time, one day at a time.

Losing a Day

Three years ago, today didn’t exist for me. Seriously.

If you’ve ever flown west over the international date line, you’ve experienced this phenomenon.  I boarded a plane in Los Angeles the evening of May 5th, and got off the plane in Auckland the morning of May 7th. It was a long flight, but not that long.

Sometimes, I wonder what happened to that day. I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t missed that day. Kind of a “two roads diverged into a yellow wood” moment here; what if I went to sleep on May 5th instead of getting on that plane, and woke up on May 6th in my own bed. My life would certainly be different, but better?

I arrive in Auckland early in the morning, eager to stretch my legs after the long-haul flight over the Pacific. It all feels like a dream as I make my way through customs. There’s a little hang up over my visa, but it’s sorted out soon enough. I smile as I look at the fresh new stamp in my passport; I get to stay 12 months.

Lydia is waiting, patiently, for me as I enter the arrivals area. It doesn’t seem real, not just where I am, but also why I’m here. I’m not sure anyone in the entire airport was smiling as big as we were. We embrace; time stands still.

There were only two people in all of New Zealand that knew about the ring in my bag. Me, obviously, and the customs officer who asked me if I had any valuable items to declare. He wasn’t impressed. I, on the other hand, was eager to show just about anyone willing (or unwilling) to take a peak at what had to have been the smallest diamond engagement ring that Tiffany’s sold. Remind me to tell you the entire story about “the ring” someday 🙂

Seven months later, I experienced the other phenomenon that occurs when traveling over the international date line. I left Auckland on a Friday evening, and arrived in San Francisco Friday afternoon. There was a gently used diamond engagement ring in my bag; it didn’t seem real, not just where I was, but also why I was there.

I’ve replayed it over and over in my head, and have gone through all of the “what if” scenarios. I’m thankful for losing that day. What I have gained these past three years, what God has taught me and shown me, has out-weighed what I lost. Eventually, it will cost me everything—indeed, my very life—to stand in the presence of the King. I must hold on to the things of this world with a loose grip.