This 2023 month of May marks five years since Luke proposed. It was on a Monday, a clever move on his part to make sure it was a surprise. I was super camera shy when I met Luke - and through our years of knowing each other, and even into dating seriously, his camera was always ready and my excuses were even more readily available. So for a long time Luke had been talking about how one of these days I was going to have to get fully ready, have "just the right outfit" and zero excuses, and we would do a little photoshoot. So that Mother's Day weekend of 2018, after I drove my little Honda Accord up to Toronto during a stretch of days off from work, I had clothes at the ready, got my nails done with Luke's sister (well done homework on that one, Luke) and we had the best Monday. My expectations of him popping the question had faded into the background because the weekend was over, and my phone call to my sister on my drive up north really threw me off - she seemed appalled I was driving way up to Toronto by myself, and acting like it was brand new news to her.
So my photoshoot came to an end - well almost, and Luke asked pretty casually if we could get just a few more "urban feeling" shots to complete the gallery, and I went for it. I remember seeing a little convenience store with all kinds of flowers in front of it and trying to point it out to Luke of how pretty it was, and he seemed distracted. We kept walking a bit further, just down the street from Luke's apartment (later that year to become my home as a newlywed), and now it's time for a little necessary back story. Back in University, I found myself in charge of the decorations for a senior year nursing banquet, and it was a "we have no budget" type of situation, so creativity was a must. I decided on an all white theme, in the spirit of looking forward to our all white pinning ceremony. It involved a plan of hanging installations of white folded paper cranes, and clouds made of pillow stuffing, of all things. We also had portraits of not only our class, but classes past, blown up and put in giant paper frames. Anyway, although I was confident in the scrappy plan that involved a frantic trip to Trader Joes to scoop up all of their white flowers the morning of, I found myself short on paper cranes. It felt slow going, all of the folding and limited hands volunteering. So back to where this is relevant to Luke - he was my friend on campus at the time, and I can't remember if I ran into him or somebody else told him about the paper crane shortage, but I had a large box full of perfectly folded paper cranes delivered to my dorm room the morning of the banquet - courtesy of my now husband of five years, Luke Cleland. So I had enough for my party decor, and what did we stumble upon that day strolling down Greenwood Ave in Toronto? A storefront full of hanging white paper cranes.
Second necessary back story, fast forward a couple years after we graduated from University, we dated long-distance - me in Arkansas, Luke in Toronto, and so we had virtual dates regularly, and decided to read through Harry Potter together, yes for the first time, and we also were both exploring the world of wine and cocktails for the first time as well, so we would both do some reading and learning and report back both on our Harry Potter chapters, and some fun facts about the world of drinks. And over time, these virtual coffee shop dates were named Harry & Gin. Gin just has a nice ring to it, ya know?
So that same storefront filled with white paper cranes also had a sign hanging in the window that said "Harry & Gin: Private Event". First, I saw the cranes, and was like Luke, look! And then my gaze fell to the sign and I knew something was up, my heart leaped, and pretty sure tears filled my eyes. He asked if I wanted to go inside, and it was filled with candlelight, photos of us from over the years, my favourite flowers, and he didn't waste too much time before getting down on one knee. After saying yes and doing our celebrating, Luke suggested we go back to his apartment to grab a tripod so we could document our newly engaged selves together. The surprises continued when I opened the door to his apartment and found my family waiting there, ready with congratulations, secretly touring the city with Luke's family through the weekend, ready to celebrate into the evening.
It's hard to believe it's been five years, but I'm so grateful for the growth, the memories, the radical change of life that has shaped me into the person I am today. I'm thankful for marriage and my husband's consistent thoughtfulness, and I'm excited for this next chapter as we prepare for a little girl to join our rhythms and routines.
Thanks be to God for His good, good gifts and this beautiful gift of marriage, the picture it is of Himself and the church, and the hope we have navigating it everyday by His grace.
I love these memories, caught in those days of early love, there's something really special about wearing just one ring on that left finger.
Thanks for walking down memory lane with me! Til next time,