Friday, October 1, 2010

A Season of Engagement - Lessons Learned

In all reality, you can't live in a dream world, and in real life, the little throat tickle that started the night we got engaged had turned into a full blown sore throat. I tried all the tricks, but nothing I did was getting rid of this bug.

In the midst of it, wedding plan was already beginning - appts. were being made for bridal dress shopping, and there was eagerness from family for me to start making decisions on what I would do with bridesmaid and candle light and flower girl dresses.
I started to feel pressure... pressure.. pressure... I think the pressure that a lot of brides may feel, to start working out all the details.

And then in the midst of everything, I found out I had strep throat. So, we brought on the antibiotics, pushed ahead, and life got busy.

And then interest rates went up. Which meant I lost my job.

Can I stop and share a quick finance lesson that Nick helped me out with when we were dating? Actually two lessons. The first one was on my own. No okay, three total. I just keep thinking of little lessons God taught me along the way and I can't leave any of them out.

I got my first credit card when I was 18 - it was through my bank, and I thought why not? That few weeks after I got it, money stopped having any sort of concept to me, and I saw, I wanted, I bought. And then I got my bill and realized I had charged $900 in less than a month. Thankfully - by the grace of God - I had been working two jobs that month, being in transition from one job to another - and because of that I had enough to pay it. But it was enough of a scare for me, so I took that credit card, cut it right up, and so was the end of that bad choice for me.
Do I think credit cards are all bad? No, I think there is a time and a purpose for them, but you should only spend on them what you have available to pay when the bill comes(treating your expenditures like it's coming out of your checking right away). And if you can't handle that sort of choice, then you should not have a credit card. Period.

I look back, and I was pretty spoiled and blessed by my parents. I muttled through college the first year after I graduated. But I really didn't know what I was doing. I was going to get married and have kids, that's what I was waiting for. And my parents knew that and wanted Nick to be done with school, and I wanted that too.
After my first year, I got a job working at a real estate office that turned full time, and then the next door mortgage company hired me on and trained me to be a loan processor. For not having any sort of degree, being able to get that on the job training, and be paid decently for that, I was pretty grateful. And then having parents that didn't want me to move out, to save my money, I really only had two mandatory expenses.
One, my cell phone bill, and Two, my car insurance. Oh, and Three, I loved to buy presents for people at Christmas. The problem for me was, the car insurance bill wasn't monthly, it was every six months. And Christmas was once a year. So when the months for insurance due, or Christmas time, I would be hit with an extremely big bill, that would make me pinching pennies the rest of the month.

Nick suggested I set up a savings account, and put money aside every month for car insurance and towards Christmas, so that when those bills came I would have the money all set aside and wouldn't be stressed where it was going to come from. I totally freaked out about the idea in the moment, but I finally calmed down and tried it out, and you know it worked so beautifully, that to this day I now am the opposite extreme in that. I will save monthly for my Costco Membership renewal. That is how nit picky I am in this, and how much I stand behind that concept now.


My first car was picked out by my dad. It was this weird half car half truck from dodge, that rode low to the ground and had the longest front hood ever. So long that I drove it into the rear of someone else's car because I had looked down to fast forward a DC Talk song on my tape player, and looked up to brake lights and could not stop in time. There went all my graduation money to fixing that.

Second car - I took over driving my dad's black manual transmission Dodge Challenger with a sun roof and let him take the red weird car truck to be back into his possession. I drove that Challenger to the ground - literally having black smoke come out of it on 99W right before I was ready to get on the freeway.

Left without a car, my boss let me use one of his cars, which was a nice gesture - until I knocked off the electronic side view mirror dropping of a real estate sign for him and not guaging the distance from the railing on the side to my car very accurately. Two hundred dollars later...

Finally I saved up enough money to purchase my car from our friend Joel - a red toyota corolla that did the "I think I can i think I can" up any little hill. That gutless mobile was passed on from friend to friend to friend. So where is the 3rd financial lesson?

I wanted a new car - or at least a newer to me car. I had grown up my whole life with old cars, because my dad was great at fixing cars and they saved lots of money by not having new ones. This also meant that sometimes we would be that stalled car on the side of the road that everyone felt sorry for. So I did not have a happy taste of older cars.
My parents went on a business trip and I stayed home, and got it in my mind I was going to purchase a new car.
I started looking around. I found the car that I wanted! And it was a great price too. The exterior looked awesome - Nick went with me to check it out. But right before we left to go talk to a bank about me getting a loan, Nick asked to look at a title, and we saw the words TOTALED on the title.
We found out this sporty little Nissan with a SUNROOF had been involved in some flooding in the midwest. After irritating but none the less wise counsel from Nick and my dad, I submitted and let that one go.

Then I drove by Kia. They had a brand new car with less than 2000 miles on it, for $7500. I purchased it - well, me and the bank - and had my very own new car. I shortly after began to see the downside of a loan. The bank earned a ton of money on it. I got motivated, and started paying double the payment, and I got my car paid off in less than a year.

Best decision I ever made. Because I paid it off quickly, I ended up being able to save enough to go to Hawaii with a friend, and then I started saving the difference from my payment, to go towards my future possible wedding. So I think the lesson here is the blessing of savings.
I had no idea how much God would use that little decision to pay off my car quicker, but He is amazing and I love how He continually puts His finger prints on how He provides.
So back to the story.

Then I lost my job.

Interest rates had gone up, I was the only one in the office most of the time. My boss told me when I had nothing to do to just have fun looking at wedding dresses on the computer.

But after a few weeks of that she told me the news that they were going to have to close shop. That she might work from home sometimes, but at this point I had two weeks notice. This wasn't the worse news in the world, because I had planned on stopping work right before I got married anyways, because you know the plan - I was going to get married... and.... have kids. So why would I want to work if we started whipping out those babies.

At that point, I had $7000 saved. See, I didn't know when I started saving, that I would need the money at the end, but God totally knew. I tried to find a few temp jobs while on unemployment, but in the end it was hard to commit to anything because I would be quitting in 4 months.

I remember a night being very overwhelmed and stressed about everything from a dress to cake flowers to photography. I went back to my bedroom with all these thoughts and plans and feeling completely out of control. And the Lord took me to the passage in Philippians 4 that talks about being anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God, and His peace which surpasses all comprehension shall guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. So I prayed over that verse and took out my journal and started listing all my prayers and supplications before the Lord, and I gave them to Him. I said you take them. And He totally did, and being engaged was one of my favorite seasons in life.

The crazy thing is, that not having a job ended up being the best pre wedding present God could have ever given me. It gave me the last few months of my unmarried life to be able to be at home, spending time with my family, and wedding planning with them. Things like, making my veil for $30 instead of spending $100, or seeing a ring bearer pillow in a magazine for $40 and making it for $6. I had a blast planning my wedding. There were a few things that had to go, like throwing a nice dinner reception with dancing at it. But instead, my big splurge: I got a beautiful cake - for a great deal of $600, (which a year later they showed my cake at bridal fairs and were charging twice as much for it).

Truly being engaged is has some of the funnest memories of my life, and if it weren't for the things that looked like trials to me in the moment, I would not have enjoyed it nearly as much as I did.

The Engagement Story - Part 4

So there was no ring at that College Group Winter Retreat. And the funny thing to me was, after I had ached to hear the words "I Love You" for so long, now that I had heard them I didn't know how to respond. So I ended up not telling Nick I loved him back right away.

Once I did get past our "rule" and opened my heart to sharing what had been true for so long, I asked him, if we could maybe take some time to write out what it meant to love each other, since we had waited so long to say those words to each other. Nick agreed to it. And of course I had mine done that night - all written on pretty stationary ready to share what it meant to love Nick.
I read it to him the next time I saw him, and he told me he was still working on it.

A few weeks later Nick picked me up during my lunch hour at work. We drove to our "lunch park" with Macdonalds in bags, and found a picnic table. We hadn't had much down time since the retreat, so it was just so nice to catch up.

Nick seemed a little rushed to finish his fries, and for the first time ever, he finished his food before me. I soon found out why. He had completed his letter to me and he wanted to share it with me.

He started to read that letter. As he read it and opened his heart out on what God showed him what it meant to say he loved me,
my heart soared with dreams of the future. And when he got down on one knee I froze, and all I remember was the last words he read. " be wholy devoted to you. Kari Anne Kirkpatrick, will you marry me?"

The moment I had dreamed of for the last 6 years, was finally happening. And I meant to tease him when he proposed, saying something sassy like, "hmmm... let me think about it..." But the words "YES!" flew out of my mouth and then he brought out the ring.

Let me just take a moment to share a few details about my ring.

My ring is beautiful and special in so many ways. The stone came from Nick's Nana, and had been passed down the family. It's shape was called the Amsterdam cut, and it was made in 1885. Just under a carat in size, to me, it was a huge rock.
Nick and I had done a little ring browsing. I hadn't ever seen the diamond until that moment,. However, I wanted simple white gold bands, nothing fancy or flashy. Nick did an amazing job picking out a setting for my wishes. And he actually spent a lot of work having it appraised, insured, reset in it's new band, and reappraised, and reinsured.

But not only that, he had purpose and symbolism behind the setting he chose. The big stone sits in the middle, and wedding band holds another tiny diamond on the bottom right. He slid the ring on my left ring finger. As he held my hand and we looked at it, he shared that the engagement band and the tiny diamond on it represented me, and the wedding band that had the other one would represent him, and the big stone represents God. He told me that reason why the stone was so big, was to serve as a reminder to us that we would always keep our focus on Him. And so often throughout these first 10 years, I have glanced down at my hand and been reminded of those words. It was perfectly designed in every way for us.

I looked up at Nick, and felt like I was living in an amazing bubble of a dream come true. He actually pulled it off. He surprised me with a proposal and done it romantic and well, complete with McDonalds on a sunny day at Gabriel Park in February. It was perfect in every way.

My lunch break was coming to a close, and as I started to pick up our lunch trash, Nick stands up, and says, "Okay, now let's go to Seattle."

"What did you just say Nick?"

"Let's go to Seattle! I talked to your boss a few weeks back, and she gave you permission to have the rest of the day off, so let's go!"

In that moment I flashed back to when I was getting ready to leave for lunch, and saw a knowing expression with a big smile on Patti, and her words came back to me: "take your time on your lunch break today, don't worry about coming right back." And I realized she knew and had done an awesome job keeping a secret.

Before we left for Seattle we had a few people to stop and tell along the way. The first was my family. I saw my mom and this time when I showed her the ring she says, "What is that, a cracker jack box ring?" Not this time Mom. No cracker jack box rings on this ring finger. We then stopped by my friend Katherine's work place, and I held my hand up to her with a goofy grin on my face and she screamed and hugged me. It was definitely fun to surprise people.

We headed up to Seattle, a place I had always wanted to go, but never had been before. I felt so out of place in my pink handmade jumper that I had been wearing during the day. So Nick took me to Old Navy, and bought me an outfit that I felt much more confident walking around in . I stared and people watched as we walked through the big hilly city. It was the end of the work week for people, lots of suits, neutral colors, men and women walking around with some place more important to be. Then we walked down to our dinner restaurant - Isabella Ristorante. Nick had a reservation at a cozy little italian restaurant. After dinner we drove to the other side of the bay, and looked out across the Seattle night skyline. The night was turning cold, so we quickly snapped a picture, then back into the car to head home.

The ride back to Oregon was a little bit more quiet. It was getting later, and the closer we got home the more raspy my throat started to feel. Nick stopped at a convenience store to pick me up a soda to help soothe my throat. We stopped in really briefly for quick hugs of congratulations from Nick's parents, and then he drove me home. (it was a 45 minute drive in between our homes). I fell asleep in lala dream land, and the whole weekend I was on cloud nine. I was going to be getting married and soon would be Kari Anne Adams.

Engagement Story Part 3 - Hold on not yet :)

We went on plugging away at daily life. I always wondered every time we went on a date if this might be "the" date that he would ask me to marry him. But time after time passed and still no proposal.

On Friday nights that year we took swing dancing lessons. Our friends Paul & Katherine did it with us one term. Katherine and I decided to have an old fashioned sleepover after one of the classes, and when I came to her house she handed me a box. Inside was the most beautiful fake engagement ring with a matching wedding band marked with the price of $18.99 from Nordstrom Rack... I had to smile. She told me that I could wear that on my finger until Nick asked me to marry him, since "you guys are practically engaged already!"

I didn't actually wear it, but the next day we were having our annual Christmas party at Nick's parents house. My family was invited every year, filled with fun of a homecooked meal from Sue (either a turkey tetrazinni or a chicken in a crockpot... or maybe a lasagna. You never wanted to miss out on Sue's cooking), a white elephant gift exchange, and lots of laughs and fun fellowship.

As I pulled into the driveway there was my mom whom I hadn't seen since the day before. Hmmm... this might be fun. I reached into my bag and pulled out my most beautiful fake ring ever. Sliding it onto my finger, I step out of the car and I smile at my mom.

"So mom," (pause)... "last night, Nick and I... well I forgot to tell you!" and I held that glittering sparkling ring placed onto my appropriate finger right up to my mom's face.
Her eyes got wide as she looked at the ring. In shock she blurted out the first thing she could think of.

"What? No... I thought Nick was going to propose to you at the college group retreat in January?!?"

I blinked... and then stared blankly... my worse engagement fear ever just had come true. I spoiled the surprise of the when and the how in that very moment. My little prank came right back at me. Tears started to fall.

My boyfriend followed me back to his room, and I told him what I had undone. Nick looked a little frustrated. Well, a lot frustrated. He had put a lot of thought into things as well... more tears fell from feeling as though I had ruined that moment for him.

But once again, God had a bigger plan and I just love how He takes those moments, that to me are so funny now to look back upon, and turns them into something way better.

We forged ahead into the new year/millenium of 2000. No ring yet on my finger. My patience was starting to get a little thin... I was hoping for a wedding in September and really would like 6 months to plan for it, which would mean a ring on the finger by March. So Nick had a DEADLINE.

We went on that college group winter retreat in January. Nick and I led worship together during that season of life. I don't remember exactly what happened while we there, but I do remember this. We were asked to go before the Lord about some things, individually. While I was praying, Nick slides up next to me and takes a seat. He looks at me intensely.

And he says: "Kari, I have been so wrong. I am sorry I haven't expressed my feelings into words. I got stuck onto a plan, but I realized that God has released me to say these words to you:"

Could it be??? Really was he going to propose anyways?

"Kari, I love you." There was a pause.

Then he talked again about how he had been released to speak these words, and that he knew God had been telling him to say them to me for awhile, but he was scared. But no proposal followed those words. I was very confused.

See Nick and I had made a few "rules" in our relationship. My rule was no ring no kissing, because I really wanted the only other guy I kissed in my life to be my husband. Nick wanted to not say I love you unless he was proposing and he was saying those words to his wife. And my response to that was that I believed the guy should be the initiator and I didn't want to initiate those words first.

So I addressed that "rule" with Nick. "Kari," he responded, "I was wrong not to tell you sooner. And I want you just to be patient a little longer."

There was no ring that weekend. Patience was beginning to feel like a dirty word again. But once again I knew, I could wait.

Engagement Story Part 2 - The wedding dress

So... for the next lesson leading up to our engagement story. Full of many little God lessons along the way. Nick was in the summer before his senior year of college at Portland State, and I had a feeling, that sometime in the next year I would be an engaged and very happy woman.

So I planned a fun little outing, with my mom, Nick's mom, my sister Abbie, Nick's sister Rachael, and my friend Katherine. We went to this place in Portland called Daisy Kingdom. They were a fabric store with all sorts of cutesy and frilly fabrics. But they also had imported wedding dresses. It was a beautiful summer day, and we were having a blast looking through everything. Now mind you this was a trip to just have fun looking. That's right, you heard it from the mouth of the bride to be... "LOOKING." There was no plan to purchase anything. I started sifting through the dresses, when I stopped. There it was. My dream dress in perfect form. A full ballgown skirt, laced up in the back, a beautiful handmade dress imported from Italy, for $250. I had to try it on. I went into the dressing room, pulled it over my head... perfection! I emerged and surrounded by so many ladies that I loved, every one agreed that it was the perfect dress for me. It fit perfect, it was everything I had dreamed about, the price was beyond perfect.

So I called Nick to tell him. I just knew it was meant to be. I started to explain all the details to my future husband to be, when I heard one word on the other end that halted me in my dreamworld. "No."

Excuse me? what did you just say to me?

"Kari, no. I really want you to wait until I propose. I want you to have fun looking at dresses once you are engaged and I think you need to wait until after I have proposed."

"But Nick, it is the PERFECT dress - it's from Italy, one of a kind, it may not be there later."

"No, I want you to wait." Oh I hated those words.

Okay, fine, I would wait until we got engaged. I could be a submissive. This would be a good practice for me. I didn't buy the dress. Nope, I was going to "honor" Nick. So instead, I became that drip that it talks about in Proverbs.... I figured, we just needed to get engaged and that would allow me to get my dress. Problem solved.
Thus began the project called: "Operation Nag Nick." Bugging. Annoying. Drip drip drip. I didn't really care at that moment about getting engaged. I wanted the ring on my finger so I could go to Daisy Kingdom and get my princess dream come true dress that I had wanted all my life.

A week went by... another week went by... I figured a few weeks into this the dress had to still be there. But then a month went by. Next thing I knew it was fall and my hopes of getting that dress became lesser and lesser. Soon my nagging took a turn for the nasty. I was angry at Nick. If he really did care, why hadn't he proposed? Why wouldn't he let me get my dream dress? Didn't he understand what a good deal it was?

So one autumn evening I decided to let him have it. I told him everything I had told him before. When you are getting married you are a princess, and a princess should always get what she wants. I wanted him to hear me, loud and clear. I wanted to be told I could go get that dress. But when I paused for a breath,
Nick spoke these words:
"Kari, it's not there anymore."

My eyes blinked and stared back at him.
"What did you just say?"

"It's not there anymore. After you found it, I worked at saving up the money to buy it for you. It took me a few weeks, but once I had the money I sent Katherine to go get the dress for you. Then when I would have proposed to you it would be back in your bedroom afterwards, waiting for you. But when she went there, it wasn't there anymore. So please stop bugging me about getting engaged, because it's not there."

Silence. So much for being a princess. I just got knocked off my royal throne and found myself sitting in the category of major spoiled brat. Those words that my amazing wonderful boyfriend spoke to me put me in my place. It took me a moment to recognize what I had almost done, and when I figured it out, I knew from that moment on I would not be nagging Nicholas anymore about proposing to me.

I had almost ruined the thing that my heart deep down had truly been dreaming about. I almost missed out on allowing God to give us an amazing engagement story because I was obsessed with a piece of fabric. I was focused all on me. I knew my place now. I would wait. I would be patient, because my beloved, the one whom I had waited 5 years for so far, was planning our future, and this was one surprise I did not want to ruin.

It was a lesson in submission and trusting and waiting all rolled into one. And it was a lesson that a wedding was not about me. It was about committing myself to love and to submit and to cherish my best friend for the rest of my life. About a God who loved us so much and had so much more than what we could plan.

Engagement Story Part 1 Christmas morning...

Engagement Time

Six Years. Too Long. But we were almost at the finish line of this particular season of life.

I was patient. As patient as a little kid on Christmas day. Can I tell you opening a present early is never worth it. One year, when my brother and I were in elementary school, our parents put this wrapped box under the Christmas tree. We wondered what it might be. One night our parents left me in charge, and so, out came the scissors and the repair tape. We pulled out that rather large gift, addressed to everyone in our family. Could it really be what we had hoped for for this last year? We stared at it. Was it really worth it? We slowly and very carefully removed one side of the tape. Pulling down the wrapping paper on that side, there we saw it was... A Nintendo! With a power pad! We were esctatic. Quickly wrapping the present back up and returning it under the tree to it's positioned spot, we waited for Christmas day.

Christmas morning arrived... and as we opened all the presents one by one, we slowly worked our way through to that last box. My dad, pulled that box out, and he put it in front of Michael and I. But he didn't say we could open it. You know what he did? He spoke to us: "Do you have any guesses on what this might be?" he had a sparkle in his eyes. One that showed how much he had worked hard to give this to us. One that was ready to be delighted in the reaction of his children when they opened up this gift. Trying to hide our guilty faces, we came up with every other answer in the book than what we knew it was.

We opened it up, but let me tell you, it was not nearly as exciting as it would have been if we just had waited. If we just had been patient. Our parents didn't find out until several years later of our sneak peek confession, and we did enjoy the gift and used it all the time, but that is one moment in life I wish I could go back and have just been patient a few more days. Given my dad the full gratefulness of receiving the special gift that he deserved. that both our parents deserved.
Hmmm... thinking about that story, it is a good childhood illustration on why it is important to wait. To be patient. God's timing is much better than ours. As you will continue to see, this is a lesson God has had to teach me over and over and over again.
Okay, that was a side track, but I thought about it when I said impatiently waiting like a child on Christmas day, there it was waiting to be spilled out. So that is my one experience of peeking inside the presents.