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Last night, Shane and I went to the Pink Tie Ball which is a fundraiser to support breast cancer awareness and research. We had gone last year and had a great time so we wanted to go again. At one point I had thought to myself that it would be cool if Shane proposed at the ball. But because of how we got my ring, I thought it wouldn’t be until March or April. So I was completely shocked.

I told Shane that he could propose after we took our vacation to LA last November. I wanted to make sure that we traveled well together and that he didn’t stress out easily and lose his mind over little things. (That, apparently, is my job. :-P) But we traveled just fine together so I told him that I was comfortable with us getting married. This began his four month search to find a ring for me.

We had gone to a number of jewelry stores, just looking to see what was out there, and I was so not impressed. I found the rings to be ugly (looking more like a class ring than an engagement ring) or they just didn’t wow me. I wanted a ring that I would love, since I have to wear it for the rest of my life. I ended up finding two rings online that looked like flowers that I thought were really cool and told Shane that if he could get one of those or something similar, that was what I wanted.

He tried to get both rings and neither were available. He searched for about 40 hours trying to find someone that had something similar with no luck. So he decided that he was going to have to get my ring custom made. This began a whole process of finding someone who would do custom work, finding a diamond that both he and I liked, finding someone who would set the diamond, etc.  Four months, six jewelers, and four labs later, he finally had the ring.

He got the ring on Friday, after cracking the whip on these people to get them to beat their usual 8-10 week time frame. After the design had been finalized, he got them to get the ring done in 2 weeks instead of 2 months. I knew he was getting the ring custom made and had some say in the design. But I thought we were stuck with the 2 month time frame, so I was completely shocked when he had the ring at the ball.

We got to the ball and walked around looking at the items they were auctioning off to raise research support. Then we wandered off to look around the Scottish Rite Cathedral. It is a beautiful place with multiple ballrooms so we snuck off to a dark empty one. Shane started dancing with me (which is what we had done last year in the same empty ballroom) but what I didn’t know what that he was working on getting the ring out of his pocket so he could propose.

Earlier that night, I had taken the ring that he gave me for Christmas in 2008 and put it on my left ring finger as a joke. He started laughing and asked if I was going to be his fake fiancee for the night. So when we stopped dancing, he said “Will you stop being my fake fiancee?” I thought he just wanted me to move the ring to my other hand so I was like “Oookay”. Then he said “Will you be my real fiancee?” At first I thought he was just joking around but then in the faint light I saw a flash of metal and realized he was holding a ring. I was all “Is that really it? Is it done?” He grinned and said “Will you marry me?” I started to cry a little and hugged him and kissed him. Then I realized I hadn’t actually given him an answer so I said “yes”. Then we walked out into the light so I could actually see my ring that he worked so hard on.

The diamond is a lab grown blue diamond. Shane and I both feel very strongly about not supporting blood diamonds and since 90% of the diamond industry is owned by one company, we didn’t want to give them money even for a conflict-free diamond. I also love the fact that the diamond is blue which would have been next to impossible had it been a mined diamond.

So that is the story in a nutshell. I had absolutely no idea that he had the ring and was going to propose last night and since I am very hard to surprise, he did a very good job. 🙂 We couldn’t be happier and our families support us completely. Both of our moms said that we seemed “perfect for each other”. 🙂

Wedding date is yet to be determined. We have my school schedule to take into consideration, which of course throws a huge kink in things. But we’ll work it out. 🙂

Yes, that’s right. Even now that I am happily in a relationship with the most wonderful man I’ve ever known, I still hate Valentine’s Day. I’m sure plenty of you believed that I was just another single who was unhappy and so claimed to hate the holiday as a way of dealing with not having someone. But you were wrong. Yesterday was Shane’s and my first Valentine’s Day together and we didn’t celebrate. I asked him not to do anything and he honored my request. (Such a breath of fresh air to have someone listen when you say “No”…)

My friend Rashid asked me if I hated love. I said no. He asked if I hated Shane. I said no. I simply hate Valentine’s Day. I am all for love. (And I’m definitely all for my Love.) But Valentine’s Day is not about love. Not really. It’s about the contrived Hollywood version of love that isn’t real. It’s about commercializing and making a profit off of people’s (i.e. women’s) emotions. It’s about making money off of chocolate and flowers and jewelry and fancy dinners and red lingerie and cards.

If Valentine’s Day was truly about love, they would not be pushing flowers that have been over harvested and over priced. They would not be pushing diamonds that someone probably spilled their blood to mine and transport. (Yes, Tom Shane, I’m looking at you and your commercials condemning lab grown diamonds which are *truly* conflict free.) They would not have rows and rows of chocolates that up to 40% of was made with child slave labor. They would not be marketing thousands of cards that will eventually be thrown in the trash, which is such a good use of the trees sacrificed to make them. They would not show commercials of young, beautiful couples having fancy, expensive dinners and spending hundreds of dollars on…well, her. (Although, face it boys, that lingerie you bought with the heart on the string of the thong isn’t *really* for her. 😉 ) They would not focus on the kind of love that sets people’s (again, mostly women’s) expectations too high and makes single people feel like shit for being single.

Love is every day. Love is doing the laundry because you know that your girlfriend is going to come home from school exhausted and that a heaping pile of dirty clothes will stress her out. Love is stopping to talk to a homeless person on the street instead of rushing past them while throwing some change their way. Love is friends, single, dating, and married, surrounding one another and supporting each other through good times and bad. Love is consuming less so that others can have enough to live. Love is the couple who sticks together even as they begin to grey and get wrinkles and forget more often where they parked the car. Love is the sacrifices made in order to take care of a mentally handicapped child. (Which usually turn out to be not as big of sacrifices as they first feel like compared to the love that grows.) Love is little children who come and give you a big hug and kiss just because you’re you.

If Valentine’s Day was geared toward that kind of love, I would celebrate with abandon. I would be yelling from the rooftop how much I love Valentine’s Day. Couples do not need a once a year holiday to show each other that they love each other. That’s what anniversaries are for, to remember why you got together or got married in the first place.

I’ve heard a lot of women say “Well, if I don’t have Valentine’s Day to guilt him into it, I’ll never get anything!” I don’t want Shane to buy me flowers or jewelry or take me out to dinner because he feels like he has to. I want him to do it because he wants to. And if he doesn’t want to, then there are deeper issues in our relationship that a forced night of romantic gestures isn’t going to fix. (Please keep in mind that there is a difference between not wanting to and not being able to afford to. Your SO may want to do all of these things for you but needs to spend the money on necessities like food and shelter. That is love too.) Because when you love someone, you want to make them happy and you want to do what is in their best interest. This is something that the past five years has taught me. Shane has shown me he loved me before by walking away when I asked him to. He was waiting with open arms when I came back. He continually makes sacrifices for me and I make sacrifices for him. Because that is what love does. I don’t need flowers or candy or jewelry or fancy dinners. What I need is a man who loves me and stands by me through the best and worst of times. That is what I have. And I don’t need a commercialized, consumer-driven holiday to remind me of it.

I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I supposed the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again. God risked Himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand this gravity that drew Him, unto us. – Donald Miller, ‘Blue Like Jazz’

But what exactly is love? Love is willing the good. We love something or someone when we promote its good for its own sake. – Dallas Willard with Don Simpson, ‘Revolution of Character’

We cannot do great things on this earth; only small things with great love. – Mother Teresa

Love sought is good but, given unsought, is better. – Shakespeare

Sometime last week, a friend of mine retweeted (on Twitter) the person whom I have been struggling to forgive. Because of some changes Twitter has made, doing so brought up this person’s picture in my news feed. I instantly felt violently ill and wanted to throw my computer across the room. I immediately wrote “I wish forgiveness was a switch that you could flip and be done and over with. Instead of random “F*cking piece of sh*t a**hole” moments.” Needless to say, that whole forgiveness thing has been an….uh…..uphill battle.

I had been doing alright with it. I had erased every picture of them from my computer. I had untagged myself from every photo associated with them on Facebook. I had deleted every link to their blog, every comment they had ever written on mine, and every reference to them in my posts. I had sold or donated every gift they had ever given me. The only thing I couldn’t do was break the links that they have to my blog from theirs. (Without changing my blog AGAIN. And I wasn’t going to do that to you all. Though you didn’t get that consideration with my email and phone number changes, so maybe I should….) There was almost nothing left to remind me of them which meant that there would be fewer instances for any hate to rise up in me. And when I was reminded, I was able to say a prayer for them.

But over the past couple of weeks, things that they had done kept coming up in my mind. Lies that they told me. Lies that they told others. Things they did to hurt me. Things they did to hurt my sister. Things they did to hurt an innocent man who, because of his location across the ocean, never should have been caught in their web. Things they did to hurt the only man I have ever truly loved. Things they did to hurt their own spouse, the one person they are supposed to love. And I was angry.

I was sooooo angry. There were times that I had to restrain myself from driving to their house and punching them in the face. I wish I was in my self defense class now because I could have beaten the crap out of my instructors and not gotten in trouble for it. I did not wish this person well. I wanted them to suffer. I wanted them to feel all of the pain that they have caused.

The most frustrating part of this was the knowledge that I needed to forgive them. Not for their sake but for mine. But I was soooooo deep in my hate that I couldn’t see a way out.

At the Dwelling Place a few weeks ago, Shane Fuller took us through a gratefulness exercise. First we pictured something or someone we truly loved and were grateful for. Then we picked something we really had no feeling toward. (I picked the chairs at school.) Then (and I so knew this was where he was going with it) we had to picture something or someone that we really couldn’t imagine being grateful for. I picked this person that I have been struggling to forgive. (And my Shane knew exactly who I had picked due to the pressure I was putting on his hand…)

Then at the Dwelling Place this last week, we prayed through a liturgy that had us praying for those who had hurt us. I prayed for that person. On Sunday, at Trinity, we sang a song in which the chorus says “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. And I started to cry. I do have the freedom to forgive this person. I do have the freedom not to let hate for them continue to damage me. I do have the freedom to wish them well. I do have the freedom to hope that they remember “Today I Start”. I do have the freedom to love my enemy.

This person may never change. They may continue to be toxic to those around them and to hurt them. But, outside of praying for those people and hoping that this person does change, that is not my concern. As Isha wrote, “Forgiveness is not approval of the wrongs that someone did to you.” I do not approve of what this person did to me. I do not approve of what they did (and may continue to do) to others. Just like I don’t expect people I have hurt to approve of what I did. It was still wrong. I still made bad choices. I still hurt them. What this person did was wrong. They made bad choices. And they hurt me and others. But that doesn’t mean that I have to let their bad choices ruin anymore of my life. So here it is:

I forgive you.

I forgive you for the manipulation.

I forgive you for the lies.

I forgive you for trying to control me.

I forgive you for emotionally blackmailing me.

I forgive you for hurting my sister.

I forgive you for hurting the man who traveled an ocean to meet us.

I forgive you for hurting Shane.

I forgive you for hurting our friends and church body.

I forgive you for hurting your spouse.

I forgive you for hurting yourself.

You may never read this but that’s okay. This isn’t for you. It’s for me. You will never be allowed back in my life in any way, shape, or form because you are someone that I need to love from afar. But I believe that one day I will be able to love you in the way that I should have these 5 years. In the way that hurts when it needs to, is firm when it needs to be, and is in a way that honors Christ and the people who are still a part of both of our lives.

Today *I* start by forgiving you.