Last Wednesday (May 6) marked six months that Mark and I had been dating. I left that day for a business trip to Atlanta. Upon my arrival in my hotel room, there were six GORGEOUS white roses waiting for me, along with a handwritten note from Mark. I was overwhelmed at the gesture and the planning it took for him to make that happen. It was a wonderful surprise. All the gals that were with me were super jealous. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep that night. I couldn't stop thinking about the incredible blessing God has given me in a man like Mark Stenberg.
On Thursday, we went to the conference and returned late to our hotel, where I found these even more incredible pink roses and another handwritten note. Now, by this time, I'm thinking, "There is a definitive turn in the tone of these notes. Something major is happening here!" I was once again humbled and thrilled at Mark's effort to send these flowers and shower me with words of love and affirmation.
On Friday we went to the conference again and had a great day there dreaming of ministry at Cornerstone. Well, I was trying hard to think about ministry at Cornerstone but it seemed that visions of roses kept creeping into my mind. And yes, to my sheer joy and delight, when I arrived at the hotel after another long day at the conference (and a very challenging session by Louie Giglio!), there were a dozen perfect red roses and a final note, signed "Love, Mark."
My conference friends and I arrived back in Des Moines on Saturday afternoon. Mark picked us up at the airport and boy was I glad to see him! We were in two separate cars after the airport run, so he dropped me off at my car and said that he would pick me up at 6:30 that night for our six month celebration. He told me we were going to dinner at The Cafe, here in Ames. It was the sight of our first date on November 3.
I was still trying to guard my heart, even to this point in the day. I mean, I was really convinced that we were not this close to marriage. Don't get me wrong, I knew that I loved him and that I wanted to marry him. I was pretty sure he loved me and wanted to marry me. I just thought it was still a little ways away. So, I told myself that this day was really mostly a celebration of the past six months. But yeah, somewhere in the depths of my heart, I wondered what the night held.
After a very relaxing, enjoyable dinner, we ordered dessert to go and headed back to Mark's parents house. They were at the lake for the weekend. He said he wanted to drop the desserts off there and then go to Borders to look for a CD. OK. Sure. Normal date night stuff. So we headed to Borders. He was buying some time for the sun to go down. Becuase . . . he had transformed the back deck of his parents house into a breathtakingly beautiful scene.
There were tons of candles, lanterns, and lights strung along the deck. There was another dozen red roses on the table. He lit a fire in the chimnea. The stars were out. The moon was bright. It was amazing. It was romantic. It was perfect. He asked me to dance - that is one of our most favorite things to do. He had carefully chosen songs for the playlist. We danced for a while and talked about the past six months. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life.
Until . . . .
He asked me sit down on the couch with him. He read the poem that he had written in the three cards from the week before. (Sidenote . . . each stanza of that poem began with the word, "YES.") Then he read his life purpose statement that he had written 10 or 11 years ago. It reflected a heart that longs to love God, glorify Him, and serve others. He asked me if I could see my life lining up with that purpose, if I could see myself joining him on that journey. My answer? "I asked God continually to give me someone who I could easily follow, someone who I could put my hand in his and walk the road of life. If you are following God, and I'm following you, how could we go wrong?
Then, Mark got down on one knee. He said, "I love you Mandy. Will you marry me?"
And I said "YES!"
He put this amazing diamond engagement ring on my finger. It is white gold with a round stone. It is beautiful. And I can hardly believe that this is all happening.
I am so blessed to even know this man, much less to understand that God has given me a lifetime to know him more and to spend the rest of my days loving him. The most beautiful thing about that is, God alone will get the glory for that as He brings us into closer relationship with Him!
Mark I love you. And I'm so glad to finally be able to tell you that every day!
Details? We don't have them all worked out yet. It will probably be a early fall wedding in Ames, Iowa, with family and close friends. We'll have two receptions. One LARGE one here for our church family and Mark's Ames connections (he's born and raised here in Ames!). Then we'll have a BIG LOUISIANA party! I'll keep you posted on the details so you can make plans to attend one of the parties and help us celebrate just how good our God is!
Mandy B. (Stenberg!)