From Belfast with Love: An Engaging Tale

9:33 AM

Standing there with Nathan on one knee before me, my heart pounded wildly. Was this really happening? Is there some way to possibly misinterpret your boyfriend kneeling before you, ring in hand? It all came flashing back in a moment; our first date, the phone calls, the cheeky banter, the prayers and confirmations from the Lord, seeing him again for the first time in 7 years... 

A year of memories swirled through my mind.  His eyes started to register panic and I realized I hadn't actually answered the poor man! 


He breathed a sigh of relief, got off the floor and took me in his arms. 

(1 year earlier)

Sitting across from my dear friend in a bustling cafe in Germany, I smiled as she tried to adjust herself more comfortably in her wooden-backed chair. She was nearly nine months pregnant, and though clearly at the height of discomfort, she beamed with God's joy at her own miracle. After chatting a bit over life, she abruptly changed the subject. 

"Rachel, I have to tell you, God has strongly put it on my heart that you should not give up hope in waiting for your future husband."

I gave her a wry, slightly disbelieving grin. How many times had people given me a "word" about some enigmatic, dream-boat of a man? 

A few days later, another close friend and I prayed together. "Rachel, I keep getting a picture of you in a wedding gown with God putting on the final touches. It's almost as if you're ready to get married but He's just finishing working out some things in you. "

"More lovely words," I thought to myself. Where had all this cynicism come from along the way? Where once I would have gratefully tucked such amazing promises in my heart, I now felt only a deep sadness and mistrust. 

And yet, the promises kept coming. In April, another friend sent me a necklace with the word "beloved," inscribed on it. My eyes welled up with tears as God reminded me of the verse He'd so often given me in dark times:

 "I will call ...her who was not beloved, 'Beloved.'"(Romans 9:25)

Then, out of nowhere, came this striking Northern Irishman. From the beginning, it was easy with him. He pursued me as a woman wants to be pursued and in a way that deeply appealed to me. In many ways, it was like walking into a story that had already been written; it was just so right.

After my visit in September, the months seemed to drag on till Christmas. Then finally, he was there. Having my Ulsterman in America was a dream come true, but neither of us was prepared for the very difficult weeks that followed his arrival. 

From the beginning, it seemed as if everything was trying to push us apart. Family commitments, Christmas, and a host of unexpected curve balls were lobbed our way. What should have been a chance to enjoy each other's closeness quickly became a mad dash to grab even half an hour together. Finally, we managed to steal a few days to invest in each other, to talk, pray, listen to God, and walk through the deeper parts of being in a relationship. 

"Who is your favorite female Bible character from the Old Testament?" Nathan asked me out of the blue one day.

Giving it a quick thought, I replied, "I suppose I've always admired Ruth. She left everything to follow God. She was faithful even in ridiculously hard circumstances and that speech of hers! 'Where you go, I will go etc...I mean, wow! Why do you ask?

"Oh, no reason. I was just wondering." Nathan gave me one of his frustratingly knowing smiles and let the conversation drop. 

Little did I know, this was one of his signs from the Lord that it was the right time to ask me to marry him. 

After what seemed like a visit of only a few days, we came to our last day together. I had become so accustomed to him being there; cooking together in the kitchen, enacting our silent but effective truce of no-talk mornings, driving down the road with him yelling about my driving...I would miss him dreadfully. 

On the way home from dinner with my family, the  bizarre behavior began. 

"I need some matches," Nathan said with some urgency. 

"Um, I think we have some at home," I said, slightly puzzled by his request.

"Can we please just go to a store and get some?" He requested with greater urgency. 

Deciding to accede to this small but strange request, (had my boyfriend suddenly become a desperate chain smoker overnight?)  I pulled over to a nearby gas station. It was after hours and the store was shut. Nathan gave me a crestfallen look that seemed slightly over the top given the size of the disappointment. Spotting a little window with a cashier, we asked if it was possible to buy matches. 

"Sure. Just take these," she slipped out a small packet. Nathan stared at the matches as if they were gold.

Upon arriving home, the erratic behavior continued. From the kitchen I heard grumbles amidst intermittent rustling. Unable to contain my curiosity, I started to peek through the door.

"Don't come in here!" He called out. "Here, hold this but DO NOT open it," he handed me a small, rectangular box. 

 What on earth was the man about? Clearly, he must have been planning some romantic gesture for our last evening together. He'd joked in the past about proposing on the last night, but surely not....

After about an hour filled with mysterious requests for screwdrivers, CD players, and other random objects, he called me into the kitchen at last.

 The entire room was lit with tea candles and fairy lights. My breath caught and I felt suddenly shy in his presence.  Nathan smiled at me warmly and I noted the music playing in the background.

"Go ahead. You can open it now," he gestured to the box.

Opening it slowly, my heart about leaped out of my chest as I read in chocolate:

Kneeling down in front of me, surrounded by flower petals and fairy lights, Nathan asked me the biggest question of my life. As I searched his face, I knew my answer; I'd known for months. He was everything I'd prayed for and more. Strong, handsome, thoughtful, intelligent, humble, and wise, I trusted him. I loved him. This was my "dear boy," I'd written all those letters to. This was the man I'd hoped and prayed for since I was 12 years old. He was here! It was like seeing Nathan for the first time and recognizing who he really was to me. I'd seen him every week for a year and never knew....Peace and a sense of the sacred honor it is to be a wife settled on my heart. Taking a deep breath, I gave the answer I knew was written all over my heart. 

"Yes, Nathan. I will."

"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." Ruth 1:16

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