Friday, January 25, 2008

The Beginning

Once upon a time in a land far far away (Arkansas) there lived a handsome boy and a pretty girl. In the fall of 1993 the boy and girl, let's call them Joel and Stephanie, each embarked on a pursuit of valuable knowledge and life long social networks at one of the greatest institutions of higher education the Land had to offer, Ouachita (pronounced wash-i-taw) Baptist University.

Shortly after their arrival at the Great Institution of Higher Learning (also referred to as OBU), Joel and Stephanie became friends. The beginning of their relationship was so momentous for each of them that neither remembers it. Despite an unmemorable beginning, these two enjoyed a fun filled friendship for three years. They attended movies together (but not on a date!). Worshipped at church together (First Baptist Church of Arkadelphia). And consumed countless questionable meals together at the Land's Cafeteria of Wonders (known as Walt's to the locals).

As the final year of their educational career loomed on the horizon, both Joel and Stephanie devoted their last summer of freedom to learning art and music humanities, economics, and business. Each felt this investment of time and energy during the lazy days of summer would yield great benefits in the years to come (in other words, Joel wanted a light class load during his senior year and Stephanie wanted to graduate in May).

Lest you feel sorrow and pity for our hard working hero and heroine, let me assure you they took time from their studies to indulge in much needed rest and relaxation. Bike riding trips on the walking/cycling path were taken. Star Wars (the originals!) and other videos were watched. A weekend trip to Lake Ouachita was enjoyed. And just before the summer ended, Joel decided to make Stephanie his girlfriend. A night momentous enough neither has forgotten!

Their final fall semester at OBU included a wide variety of educational and social activities for Joel and Stephanie. Weeknights found them, with two other couples, hard at work studying in the library (Right! Are you buying the studying part?). Weekends found them, along with the same couples, at competitive sporting events (also known as soccer games), where Stephanie cheered Joel on from the sidelines; or at theaters viewing emotionally intense cultural films (any one remember Eraser?); or at Taco Bell consuming large quantities of inexpensive foods similar to those eaten by the people of Mexico.

As the fall semester drew to a close our young couple began to discuss the future of their relationship. It was decided that each would spend the Christmas Holiday break praying about a potential marriage between them (Joel's prayers were along the lines of "should we" while Stephanie's were more along the lines of "please let him decide yes!"). Upon returning to OBU a few weeks later, in January 1997, our couple agreed that God did indeed want them to marry.

And so, approximately two weeks later, Joel gallantly helped Stephanie onto his white steed (OK, it was really into a white two-door Olds Calais) and whisked her off for a night of romance. Their destination was a restaurant known for serving small deep fried crustaceans (Red Lobster. Don't you just love the shrimp?!). After indulging in far too many cheese biscuits the couple began the half hour drive back to OBU.

Their route home required them to drive passed DeGrey State Park and lake. As they approached the entrance to the park Joel slowed the car and turned. Within a few short minutes he parked the car at the edge of the lake and set up a CD player. As the couple slow danced by the edge of the lake they started to shiver violently from the cold temperature and brisk wind blowing over the water. Joel quickly decided the time had come for him to ask THE life altering question; Stephanie said yes; and a ring was placed on her finger.

And so began the brief (four months!) engagement of Joel and Stephanie on this day eleven year ago.

PS. I love you, Sweet! Thank you for deciding God said "yes" and for finding the courage to ask.


stephanie said...

Awww, that's so sweet. :) Happy engagement day! (I have that on my calendar, too). :)

Alicia said...

That IS sweet! Fun pics too! It's nice to read the whole story altogether. Wow, that world feels like such a lifetime ago!

Amy said...

Great you dance much anymore? That was a sweet detail!

Julie said...

How romantic. I'll never forget our engagement anniversary. It was April 1st, April Fool's Day! This is what I'm dealing with over here. One of these days I really should get that ring checked. Although after 13 years, I guess it wasn't a cruel joke after all.

mer said...

Such a sweet story!

OBU, Lake Degray, Red Lobster, and Walts worked their magic on us too!

Marc and Charity said...

Oh, the memories...Lake Degray made me laugh, how I could I have forgotten about all the memories there...and Walt's.

Those pictures took me back, thanks!

Sarah said...

Awwwwww! Congrats! I love the story and the pics are great.

Sarah said...

WAIT!!!! Do you mean to tell me that while attending a Baptist University you, um, FUNCTION-ED (ie. danced)?? The one "redeeming" point is that it was "off campus." :) Ah, the memories of Ouachita! Congrats again.

Stephanie said...

I should have explained in the post that the top picture was taken at Easter '97 in the lobby of my dorm. I had helped Joel pick out the suit a month or so before to have for job interviews. At least I think it was Easter. Lots of men wore suits to our church but I don't remember Joel doing so on a regular basis. = )

The bottom picture when we returned to my dorm after he proposed. For the record, that's Sparkling Cider in my glass. = )

Kelly said...

Fun story - all of those familiar spots! :-)

Dawn in KY said...

What a great story! And adorable pictures too. Does it bring back memories of when Joel had hair (before he shaved it off, that is)?

Isn't it funny to think back on those dating and engagement days. Seems like SOOOO long ago. When I think about Mike and I, I think: "man we were young and CLUELESS". God has a way of shaping and re-shaping and re-shaping us over the years (and now that I have had a baby, I mean that in the physical sense too - YIKES).

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