|The night of the engagement.|
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I'm going to marry the woman in the above photo............Her name is Abbie............crazy.
I left for Nairobi on the 29th of September. It would be the first time Abbie and I were apart over the last three months. We were ready to see how much we would miss each other, and I was ready to get out of the Coast for a while as I usually am.
The week before that on the 21st of September I had looked at rings with Dennis & Victor (our intern). We had gone to a graduation North of Mombasa and we were able to break away to try to design a ring. A couple of days later I put down the deposit, breathing a little heavier before and after ;).
The ring was ready just before I left so I didn't get a chance to look at it, though I'd seen a picture.
My desire was to figure out a way to propose to Abbie on Thanksgiving Day, possibly on a trip to Muscat to visit some friends. But I kept thinking that it was too far away. I really wanted the significance of Thanksgiving Day though. We have both realized (but more so me) that gratitude is central in our walks with the Lord as well as our relationship. In fact I feel it is so central to my entire well-being that I think the Lord has used my relationship with Abbie to show me how necessary a heart of thanksgiving and praise is in order to live for the Lord well. Thanks Abbie!
After my trip to the North in the Kenyan desert, I came to visit some friends who work in Nairobi. Their whole family was actually caught in Westgate mall during the terrorist attack and stayed their several hours separated from one another. It was God who protected them and shielded the children's eyes from seeing anything. As I was speaking to them, they were both thinking earlier is better. "He who finds a wife, finds a good thing. So go get her," Jamie Suel said. Then she suddenly had a thought, "When is Canadian Thanksgiving Day?" I didn't even know they had one! I googled it and there it was staring me in the face….next Monday, in one week. But shouldn't Canadian Thanksgiving Day be more like the 26th or 28th of October? Wow! That's so soon!
I started communicating with Dennis to make for a way possible to ask Abbie to marry me on the 14th of October. Remember I'm in Nairobi, the ring is in Mombasa.
Send Dennis to see the ring.
Get it from the Jewelers.
Get a wire transfer to get Dennis the money he needs to pick up the ring.
I was just trying to provide a way for it to happen on the 14th, without having to make a decision right away. Are you sensing any fear yet?
I was still in Nairobi because I was planning on heading to Meru for Daniel Gitonga's first graduation of pastors. I would leave the 11th and not get back to Nairobi until the 13th. On the 9th, I had two ideas:
1) Travel down early and surprise her. Maybe go to the beach and say, "What do you know about Canadian holidays?"
2) Create an emergency reason why Abbie needs to come to Nairobi that would require her to carry her own ring to me! (Thanks to Timm Njuguna for a great idea).
Very quickly Idea #2 won out. I needed a story. We are currently transitioning into a partnership with African Leadership to help oversee all the BTCP classes in Kenya. We will also be handling the manual shipments from now on. Our first shipment is awaiting clearance from the port of Mombasa. So I made up a story about important paperwork which had to be signed by Benson, the previous African Leadership Coordinator, and that it must be signed in person immediately otherwise it will affect future book shipments for a long time. I told the idea to Dennis and he was sold on it.
Ok….I have a plan. I have the money. Dennis is going to the jewelers to see if they can deliver the ring from Mombasa to Ukunda. Today, Thursday, October 10th. It is morning. I'm at the Africa Inland Mission Guest House (Mayfield) in Nairobi, one of my favorite places to rest in Kenya. I just had breakfast and I'm nervously pacing around the grassy basketball court. Am I really going to propose on Monday? That's in 4 days! Heart beating faster, breath shorter. FOUR DAYS! I paced and I paced and I paced. By the way, if you know me well, all this makes perfect sense. The Lord is increasing my ability to live by faith, but it's a slow climb because I tend to insist on living by sight especially before major decisions. Decisions, oh decisions. So very difficult for us melancholy's.
Do you love Abbie?
Are you going to ask Abbie to marry you?
Yes, of course….eventually.
Then why not on Monday?
Ahhhh! It's just…..so…………….BIG!
I don't adapt to change….quickly….never have (right Mom?).
Two of my friends told me this year that they've never seen someone struggle as much with commitment as I have. Ouch! That stings like a jellyfish!
The battle in my heart on the 10th of October was not about my love for Abbie, it was not about my desire to marry her. It was a battle with God.
God give me peace as a gift from you.
Can I trust you? I mean really? Can I trust you enough to give myself to another person? Can I trust you enough to make a lifelong covenant of commitment? Can I trust you that my life won't end up worse as a result of this? Divorce? Death? Disease? What will happen in my future?
Father deliver me! Not from the things I fear, but from the fear of them. Deliver me from doubt. Deliver me from distrust in you. Deliver me from the hellish thought that you do not love me enough to give me good things and to protect me from harm.
And then peace came in the evening. Like a warm bath.
"My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore."
- Psalm 131
My anxiety is so centered around pride and seeking control over my life. Using God for his benefits rather than appreciating and enjoying His presence.
The decision was made.
Dennis, "Operation Uriah" is a GO. [Dennis made up that name for it because David made Uriah deliver the letter with his own death sentence…I guess the ring is more of a life sentence :)].
Then I left the following morning for Meru where I got to be a part of Daniel Gitonga's first graduation of 16 pastors in a place so deep in the village that there are no other opportunities for theological training in that location.
By Saturday, Dennis mentioned that someone had to go to Nairobi to deliver an important package…Abbie volunteered falling directly into our trap! Dennis did it so well that Abbie thought it was her idea to go to Nairobi!
I told Abbie that I would be leaving Meru Sunday morning and spending the night at James Muthee's place where he grew up in Kagio and then heading out to Mombasa Monday morning. When I spoke to her on the phone on Saturday night she mentioned,
"Or you can just come back to Nairobi and we can travel together?"
"Nairobi? You're coming up? Oh the port thing, I didn't realize you were the one being sent." I said. I lied.
"Too bad, we've already booked our bus tickets to Mombasa." I lied.
Meanwhile Dennis had picked up and payed for the ring and was now trying to figure out a way to package it so that it looked like paperwork. Plane ticket purchased, everything is underway. I was excited. Abbie bought in to it fully. It was nice to focus on the next few days rather than the next 40 years. Much less overwhelming ;).
I had lunch in Kagio with James, Fred Munyithya (a new elder of Word of Life Church who came with us to the graduation), and James' parents. And by 3pm I was on a small bus to Nairobi. I sent Abbie a text message saying that my battery was dying and the charger was not working and that I'd just have to see her when she gets back to Ukunda. Then I turned off my phone in case she called. Ahhhh…good. The last lie.
I got checked into Mayfield, plugged in my phone which was dead but had Jim Mitchell's phone number saved. Jotted down a few notes. Exhaled a few times like a pregnant woman and dialed the number.
"Hi this is Ben Warren from Kenya."
(nervous voice nervous voice)
"How's everything in Ruston?"
(Gosh this is awkward. I wish we would have met before or talked at least once before. Hi, hi, my name is Ben….can I marry your daughter? Geez!)
"Is everyth….is everything alright with Abbie?"
(Oh crap, I sound so nervous he thinks Abbie's hurt!)
And the conversation went on, and shifted to its purpose. Blessing was given not only to marry Abbie, but to take her back to the mission field with me. Thanks Mr. Mitchell.
7 minutes and 48 seconds later, the last piece was ready before asking Abbie to be my wife.
I was restless in the morning but managed to do a little reading and praying. I left Mayfield in the car I hired for the day a couple hours before Abbie's plane would get in. Went to the mall. Bookshop. Oooh, Bear Grylls has an autobiography "Mud, Sweat, & Tears" (was I unconsciously saying something to myself?). Something for Abbie….hmmm. How about "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking"? This will be helpful for being married to me!
Dennis calls. Uriah is on her way. Everything is set. "Don't screw it up," Dennis says.
I pick up a rose. One single red rose. I bought her one on the corner of Valley Road & Argwings Kodhek when we were just friends. Made her turn as red in the face as the rose itself - July 2012.
I'm at Wilson Airport, 45 minutes early. It's a small airport for local flights. Waiting. Reading Bear Grylls to keep my mind off of it.
Her flight arrives. I stand to the side and see her come out of the gate looking for a taxi driver or someone who is supposed to be meeting her. I come close from behind and say, "Taxi?" Full surprise! She didn't expect it at all. Now I'm feeling relief because some of the surprise is laid out and I can play off all that I've been doing as being for this purpose. I tell her that I forfeited my bus ticket and decided to come hang out with her. All we have to do is get the business with Benson done and then we have the day together. The car, the rose, the surprise. Everything points to this and this alone. Yes! Success. I confess my lies with the lie that all of it was pointing to this initial surprise.
We go to Mayfield Guest House and check in just in time to eat lunch there. As we are eating Abbie's phone is blowing up with text messages. Allison, Dennis, "Mom". Suddenly her demeanor changes. Oh no. Someone's said the wrong thing! Spilled the beans! She knows what's coming…worse, she looks a little rattled. Uh oh. This does not bode well for my confidence. After finishing lunch, I tell her Benson will be meeting us soon, so we should go sit outside and hang out as we wait. So I go to my favorite spot in Mayfield, a table outside with grass, bushes, flowers, and sunlight. This is the very spot which I spent hours pouring over Philippians and being renewed in my spirit in June of 2011 just before my 30th birthday and during the biggest depression I've ever had. Coincidentally, she was in Room #6, the very room I stayed in during that trial, and the place God gave me so much comfort.
I was waiting for her to come out. Mosquitoes started biting. I'm anxious. Where is she? I get up to go look for her and knock on her door. She's reading. She's reading the Bible? Oh man, something's wrong!
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah fine. I'm fine."
That means something's wrong.
"I'll be out in a minute."
I go wait again, but she comes quickly. We small talk. I'm trying to get a feel for whether or not she knows what I'm about to do. Mosquito attack. Move the chairs into the sun. Small talk. Who knows what is coming out of my mouth. All I'm thinking about is the package I so nonchalantly threw on the grass beside me.
"Well, Benson will be here soon so let me make sure everything is here."
I start going to work on Dennis's 15 staples he secured the envelope with. I pull it out. Newspaper. I look at it, look at Abbie and say, "What is this?"
The first portion contains nothing. And I see the second portion has duct tape in the middle. I pull back the tape and a flash of white gold behind a small plastic bag hits the sun. I'm too scared to look up at Abbie. I pull out the ring. It's the first time I've seen it as well as Abbie's. I show it to her. She says, "Shut up!" And I say, "Abbie, I love you. Will you be my wife?"
Please pray for us! It is a long and incredible journey that we are going on, and I personally could use some more faith. And I'm sure I can speak for Abbie as well that we desire to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our marriage. Pray for Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.
Thank you for celebrating with us! God is good!