Yesterday Hallie at Betty Beguiles had the great idea of asking bloggers to post their engagement stories. It was so much fun to go back to my old journals and read about our early months together. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the romance when you are dealing with the every day busyness of raising little ones. It was a good reminder that Brian and I need to carve out a little alone time no matter how busy.
I don’t have time to write out the story (I’m typing with one hand and holding a restless baby with the other) so instead I’ll just repost the story of how we met, which includes our engagement. Brian and I wrote this together so you’ll get his side of the story too.
(Here’s a photo of us from our first year of marriage.)
Also, after we were married I found the notes Brian used write down what he wanted to say when he proposed. I was so happy to find that because in the emotion of the moment I don’t think my mind was registering all the beautiful words he was saying to me. Now that they are in my scrapbook I can go back and relive them word for word.
Now, on with the story…
BOBBI: In my late twenties, it started to become the family joke that if I was not married the age of thirty then I was going to pack my bags, move to Zimbabwe, live with the natives and die for a noble cause! (Okay, so I was a little dramatic.) Time was ticking and I was trying to grow closer to God and accept my singleness at the moment. My younger sister Elena suggested I try the website Single Catholics Online (now known as Ave Maria SCOL). I laughed at the idea, insisting that I was not desperate enough to look for a good Catholic husband on some dating service! She gave me that knowing look, smiled and walked out of the room saying, “Instead of crying about wanting a husband, get to work and check it out.” How does she know me so well?
I immediately logged onto the site…just for fun, of course. I was amazed at what I saw. It was not a “dating service” as I imagined but a cyber community of like-minded faithful Catholics who desired to live a life of holiness in the vocation of marriage. The extensive questionnaire alone was enough to allow me to find out more about each man’s likes and beliefs than weeks of “surface dating.” I also liked the fact that you had to pay a fee to use the site, knowing that the required time and effort would tend to attract more serious Catholics.
I decided to take the plunge but I waited a few days for October 13th on the anniversary date of Fatima’s Miracle of the Sun. I knew that finding the right guy was going to take Our Lady’s intervention and the Miracle of the SON. For the next couple of weeks I browsed through the profiles and met a few nice guys but nothing serious. Then it happened. A new member named Brian posted his profile and although he didn’t have his photo up yet his answers immediately caught my attention. He seemed perfect for me! In fact, he seemed too good to be true and I thought to myself, this guy must be a phony; either he is a fake, writing from a prison cell, or he’s real and should be in the seminary!
I couldn’t find the nerve to write him so I printed out the top 7 or 8 profiles of guys that I thought best matched what I was looking for. Out of all those guys I knew Brian was my top choice but I still feared that he seemed “too good” for me. I went back to my sister Elena and gave her the stack of profiles I printed. I told her that I planned to start writing one of them but I wanted her to choose the one that would fit me. She came back with Brian’s profile and said, “Write him.” That was enough confirmation for me. I took a deep breath and composed a short email that would open the opportunity for conversation yet was still ambiguous enough for him to not respond if he didn’t want to.
BRIAN: On November 1st, the feast of All Saints, I was on my way to the Monterey Peninsula. That day I left the seminary after a year and a half stay. I realized it was not my vocation and God called me to start a new chapter of my life.
Previously, while reading Catholic publications in the seminary library, I came across an article about a Catholic single’s organization called “Single Catholics Online” (now Ave Maria SCOL). I read the article and felt encouraged that someone was trying to establish a forum over the internet where single Catholics could contact one another and find a potential spouse. When I decided to leave the seminary I thought about marriage but did not know where to turn in regards to finding a spouse who was orthodox, wanted a family, and desired to raise children in a Catholic environment. All of a sudden SCOL came to mind and I decided to give the website a shot.
The day I left the seminary is the same day I filled out the questionnaire on the SCOL website. I started a novena to God that night praying that He would help me find the right spouse. I also promised God that I would not write anyone, but only respond to those individuals who wrote me first. I thought it was the best way to assure that this was God’s will and not my own. On the ninth day of the novena Bobbi wrote me. Her initial e-mail was short and at first I was not sure if I should respond. But after thinking it over for a day I responded and so began our friendship. We e-mailed one another frequently and our relationship began to blossom.
BOBBI: I was at work when I received Brian’s first email and it was so kind and funny that I had to refrain from jumping around the room with glee. I had gotten lots of emails but I knew in my gut that there was something different about this guy and that he would be significant in my life. Also realizing that I didn’t want to be rash, I went to Adoration on my lunch break and consecrated to Jesus my new friendship with Brian and asked Our Lord and Our Lady to guide me every step of the way.
Over the next five months Brian and I shared countless emails, letters and letter-tapes until Brian finally felt it was time to talk on the phone. (I, being the more impulsive of the two, was ready to talk to him after the first few weeks but Brian felt we should pray and take matters more slowly. God was teaching me patience AGAIN! )
BRIAN: On March 4th, the feast of St. Casimir, I called Bobbi and we spoke over the phone for the first time. I was nervous when I called and I could tell Bobbi was a little nervous as well. Though I can’t remember what we talked about I do remember thinking that the conversation went well. We decided that on April 16th, the feast of St. Benedict Labre, we would meet for the first time. I would fly from Monterey, CA to LAX to Ontario, CA where Bobbi was to pick me up.
BOBBI: The day finally arrived and I paced the airport terminal with butterflies in my stomach. This was no ordinary “meeting a friend.” After all the months of revealing our deepest selves to one another through pen, computer and phone, I was 99% sure that Brian was the man I was to marry, but I had to talk to him face to face to be completely sure.
BRIAN: I remember being extremely nervous when I got off the plane. Bobbi told me that she would be wearing a miraculous medal and a medal of the Holy Family so I wouldn’t miss her. We met and briefly hugged, talked a little and headed out to Bobbi’s parish. When we arrived at the parish Bobbi and I went inside the quiet little Church and prayed the holy rosary together. It was beautiful praying the rosary with Bobbi for it gave me the opportunity to see her put her faith into practice. It became a pattern for us to start off each visit on a spiritual note by praying the rosary, attending Mass or practicing some other devotion.
BOBBI: After beginning our weekend in prayer I took Brian home to meet my family. I knew the biggest test was to come – passing “Mom Inspection.” When we arrived at my house my mom looked out the window just as Brian was going up the walkway. She had been praying earnestly for my future husband and she told me later that when she saw Brian for the first time her “heart leapt.” She knew he was the man God had chosen for me. Needless to say, he passed inspection from my parents with flying colors.
Afterwards Brian and I headed to Oceanside to visit the Prince of Peace Abbey where we walked the grounds and attended Vespers. Afterwards we drove to the beach to watch the sunset. Unfortunately the clouds were not cooperating and covered the majority of the sky. However, we found an old log on the beach and sat there talking and marveling how wonderful it was to finally be together. Just then we looked out towards the ocean and saw the clouds slowly separate to reveal the most breathtaking sunset that filled the sky with gorgeous shades of golden red. We were bathed in light and it was as if God was giving His final blessing on the most wonderful day of my life. I felt like I was watching a movie – it all seemed so unreal. (In fact, had this been a movie I would have complained, “Fake! Stuff like this doesn’t happen in REAL life!”) But this WAS real…I sat there next to Brian with my heart completely full. I looked at him and was deeply struck because I knew he was the one man I had been waiting for all my life.
I had another surreal moment like that the following day. Do you remember that one scene in Emma (with Gwenyth Palthrow) when Mr. Knightly professed his love to Emma? The music swelled and small flower blossoms fell from the tree. It was picture perfect.
On Saturday we attended a Marian Conference and during the lunch break we found a grassy area under a tree to have a picnic. Suddenly, a nearby building turned on their sound system and classical music stared playing in the background. Then a breeze rustled through the tree and small flower blossoms started falling from the sky as Brian turned to me and gave me that “look of love” that said he wanted nothing more than to kiss me. Part of me was reeling and the other part of me was again inwardly yelling, “Fake!” Stuff like this does not happen in real life. But it does. It really does.
BRIAN: The weekend Bobbi and I spent together was awesome! Not only did I get to meet Bobbi’s family but we also tried to cram as much as we could into the weekend. We attended a small Marian conference, went out to dinner, enjoyed the beach, and visited a state park. Every minute was wonderful and the whole visit was a true blessing. However, the weekend went by too quickly. Before I knew it Bobbi and I were heading back to the airport so I could catch a plane back to Monterey. It was very hard to say good-bye because I was saying good-bye to my best friend. I shed a few tears as I got on the plane, but realized that Bobbi and I would soon be together again. In four weeks Bobbi would come visit me.
BOBBI: After an incredible weekend, it was finally time to say our good-byes. A few hours before arriving at the airport I talked to Brian about our friendship and how it was developing. Ever cautious, he said that he cared for me but didn’t know what the future held. I understood that he wanted to go slowly and that he was just not as emotionally attached to me as I was to him. I knew he would get to the same level I was at, but I had to be patient. Knowing this helped me control myself at the airport so I could hug Brian good-bye without shedding a tear. However, I was taken aback when I saw that it was Brian, not I, who was shedding tears. He walked away and as he looked back I could see that it pained him to leave me. Later Brian told me that as he sat in the plane to go home he suddenly realized that he did not want to live his life without me and that he loved me. It was after that first airport goodbye that we reached the same emotional level.
The next few months were filled with a tremendous amount of joy and new love, as well as pain from being separated by 400 miles. As difficult as it was we knew that Our Lord and Our Lady had brought us together and that they would also give us the strength to endure a long distance relationship. I had read somewhere that love is like a spark of fire and that distance from the one you love will either extinguish that spark or set it ablaze. For us, it united our hearts even closer. We were able to truly appreciate what we found in each other because we were constantly reminded of what it was like without each other. However, by the time summer approached we had to face the fact that as our love deepened for one another the separation was causing emotional havoc. Something had to be done.
BRIAN: In the beginning, this pattern of visiting one another every 4 to 6 weeks worked out, but as I started to fall deeper in love with Bobbi our separation became more difficult. On one of her visits Bobbi raised the question of marriage. I must admit I was a bit shocked since I thought it would be some time before we would get engaged. That weekend I thought about what Bobbi had said and decided that she was right. I loved her and I knew we would get married. Plus our separation was taking a great toll on both of us. It was time to get engaged!
After telling my parents, who were both surprised and a little shocked, about my decision to get engaged to Bobbi we made plans to get married in December. On my following visit to So. California I asked Bobbi’s parents permission to marry her. I remember being very nervous, but I told them how much I loved their daughter and how I wanted to marry her. They gave me their blessing and permission to marry Bobbi – tears and joy followed. I proposed to Bobbi under the moon and stars. When Bobbi said “yes”, I slipped the ring on her finger. We were engaged!
BOBBI: That night I felt like I was walking in a dream. After Brian asked my parents permission we went outside to look at the beautiful starry night. Brian went down on one knee and professed his undying love for me. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought to myself, how in the world could I have been so blessed to have the love of this wonderful man? (I still get tears just writing about it…) I said yes and hugged Brian as he slipped the most gorgeous ring I had ever seen on my hand. There in the moonlight we held one another thanking God for His mercy and goodness in bringing our lives together.
BRIAN: The following day Bobbi and I attended Mass with her family. During the Mass we had our engagement blessed in a beautiful ceremony. (As a side note – for those of you who are engaged, I highly recommend that you have your engagement blessed). Preparations for the wedding were made during the fall and winter months. One of my assignments was to find a priest to marry us. On September 13th, the anniversary of the Blessed Virgin’s fifth visit to the Shepherd children of Fatima, Fr. Ryan celebrated the evening Mass at Carmel Mission. When I saw him come from the sacristy and stand behind the altar I knew at that instant that he would marry us. After Mass I asked Fr. Ryan if he would marry Bobbi and I. He kindly said “yes”. The following week I secured the Carmel Mission Basilica for December 28th, the feast of the Holy Innocents. The Basilica was free the entire day so instead of choosing a morning time I chose 3 PM, the hour of Divine Mercy.
BOBBI: Living 400 miles away from the wedding site made matters a little harder to plan but thankfully Brian’s mom took on the job of coordinating the entire reception. A week and a half before the actual event my parents helped me move all my things to Carmel. It was a bittersweet feeling. I rejoiced at the new life I was going to start with Brian, but at the same time it pained me to say goodbye to my family. Luckily the last minute preparations for the wedding kept my mind occupied for the time being.
BRIAN: The night before the wedding we had our rehearsal and then we went out to dinner with our families and the wedding party. We ate at a Swiss restaurant and had fondue; everyone had a wonderful time and our families enjoyed one another’s company. After the rehearsal dinner Bobbi and I said goodnight and we both went our separate ways for the last time.
BOBBI: The day of our wedding finally arrived. As I stood dressed in my bridal gown with the long train and veil, I felt like a princess about to marry her prince. It was the strangest feeling…as if I was walking through a dream. I remember standing at the side door of the Carmel Mission and listening to the procession music start. Soon I was walking down the aisle on the arm of my father. I had to hold back the tears as he led me to Brian and then placed my hand into his. I kissed my Dad on the cheek knowing that he was happy for me but also sad to let his “little girl” go.
I looked over to Brian and his eyes were brimming with joy and love. My own heart was brimming…not only because I was about to marry Brian but also in thanksgiving to God for showering his mercy upon me and for answering my prayers above and beyond my imagination. There had been a time not too long ago when I thought that I’d never find the man of my dreams but on this day I married him. Together we vowed our love, standing no longer as two, but as one. I don’t think the day could have gone more beautifully or could have touched me more deeply.
BRIAN: On December 28, 1999 Bobbi and I got married at the Carmel Mission. I will never forget the day. The sky was crystal blue and it must have been about 75 degrees outside, which is unusual weather for December. But the weather was only the icing on the cake; what made the day so special – one that I will never forget – is that I entered into a union, a covenant with the woman I love. The woman God gave me to be my wife. God called me to the vocation of marriage and I responded with a “yes”.
“To Thee be praise,
to Thee be glory,
to Thee be thanksgiving through endless ages,
O Most Blessed Trinity!”
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Update (February 2015) – I am happy to report that 15 years and 4 kids later, we are still happily married and loving life. 🙂