So, I have a very sweet story to tell. A love story. An unconventional love story that couldn't have been written for a better person.
The heroine in this story is Elaina. I met her in the year prior to our Bible Study and she fit the "profile" we were looking for when starting our group - so we extended an invite. I had spent a lot more time with her younger sister Sarah, so I found myself surprised as I got to know Elaina. She looks a lot like her sister. But Elaina is an "old soul" - as kind and gentle and compassionate as can be - and a classic introvert. (Sarah is a lot more boisterous and outgoing, but equally as sweet!) She admits that she literally squeals when she gets to go to bed every night - and is so very content to spend her post work hours with just a candle burning and a good book. (Not even a tv going....wow!). Her job is the perfect fit for her as well. She's a nurse - and I'm sure every hospital patient she visits literally sighs when she walks into a room as her spirit is so soothing and comforting.
With all that said, though - Elaina's life hasn't fallen into place in exactly the way she'd always dreamed of as a little girl. Choices made by her father just as she reached adulthood were crushing. A boyfriend that her family didn't approve of was hard to let go. She came in to our study very heavy-hearted and cautious. She's someone so easy to love, but she is so careful in how she exposes her heart. It didn't help that she was living away from her mom, away from her sisters and brothers. She went back and forth with what she thought God might be wanting her to do - because, living alone in bleak and unwelcoming Eugene was not a a balm to her heart.
It was hard watching her hurt. She longed for God to bring a husband in to her life - and yet, no doors opened. Instead, the gloom was overwhelming. Summers were better, but Elaina realized that especially once she hit winter-time, she was merely "going through the motions". Eventually, over a year ago, through encouragement within our group and an actual intervention from her family members, Elaina sought out a doctor. She was prescribed an SSRI (like Lexapro) and it literally changed her life. Her story is very similar to mine in that it was that profound of a change - an obvious chemical lacking in her brain that medicine was able to fix. Elaina became alive again - and not just when it was sunny outside.
Within months (maybe even weeks) - figuring out what God had in store for her future wasn't as much as a priority for her as simply embracing each day that He gave her. She found an apartment in a sweet little community (close to us, yay!!) - and found her peace. It was a transformation we all got to see unfold and it brings tears to my eyes just thinking of it as it was something we'd all longed for her to have, but beyond our prayers, there was so little we could do to help her get there. She came to Bible Study opening up, sharing her profound insight, and giggling....oh, to hear Elaina's giggle...there's very little to compare with the infectious joy it brings.
Then, in September, she mentioned this guy's name - "Brad". His family lived near her family when they were kids. His mom actually led her mom to the Lord. They are an amazing family. She hadn't seen him since she attended a wedding in high school - and barely remembered what he looked like. But, somehow they had started connecting via the internet. Emails started picking up in frequency. He lived in Michigan and suggested visiting Oregon - and not just for the beautiful scenery. Pretty soon, Elaina was planning a week with Brad - a guy she still hadn't seen a picture of (not on Facebook) - and even bought our Duck/Utah tickets and borrowed gear to attend a game with him when he was here. That was October. And, actually, on the very day of that game - her whole "game" plan changed - it became clear that they would be much more than email pen pals. Brad asked Elaina's mom for her blessing of marriage before her returned to Michigan by the end of that week.
The next time they saw each other was the day after Christmas. She flew out to meet his family. And, while she was there - they took a horse-led carriage ride amidst snow falling down and he presented a ring to her and asked her to be his wife.
She will see him again next week when he uses his ONE-WAY ticket to fly to Oregon. And, two days after Valentine's Day, they'll be married. It will be a small, family-only ceremony - and then they'll spend a short honeymoon in Hawaii. He'll then move in to her apartment with her and they'll be "one".
Oh, I know, so much could be said of how crazy this is - what kind of person would advice this and think it's a wise choice? Well, I would, and I have. It's almost more "Biblical" than most relationships I've seen unfold, in that their parents have watched them both and know what a match they are. There lives have been laid out there, exposed to in depth to the family and friends and siblings that have surrounded them, and can vouch for them. So, pretty much, if the attraction and compatibility really are there (which they definitely are)- then it comes down to making a decision to stick with it for life. I love that. Let's face it. Marriage is hard - but, we don't get to give up on hard - we work through it. For them, I am happy that the doubting and wondering gets to be taken off the table. They are diving in, in (GOOD) faith - and will grow together - working out the kinks in tandem and not losing any days to the sometimes pointless time period of "waiting" just to be able to "make sure" and plan a wedding. I'm on board, Brad and Elaina. It's not many people I could say that to, but for you two - I'm so on board. (And, for sure, the families are too!)
You can only imagine the giddy enthusiasm our Thursday Night Life Group has responded with. We are so beyond happy for Elaina. Perhaps a little bummed that we aren't going to get to witness the exchange of her vows, but this is really just perfect for her, and none of us would change it a bit.
So, in light of that, it was especially important that we "shower" her with love with a shower. Her birthday is also on February 5th - so she's getting a lot of love from us. Kaela did a phenomenal job planning it from start to finish - and worked it out so that we could all contribute in one manner or another to make it her night just as special as it could be in honor of this girl we have all fallen in love with.
She knew something was up - we had to reserve the night. But, she didn't know the extent - who was involved or what the night would look like.
The first surprise was seeing us in the parking lot at Oakway Mall and being draped by Heather with a "Bride to Be" sash.
We then walked into Sabai Restaurant - her favorite - and all these ladies were here for her. The gal sitting between Kaela and myself on the right is Kara - a friend since childhood to Elaina - and the look-alike to Elaina on the left (closest) is Sarah. If it weren't for that very curly hair vs. very straight - you would really do a double take, despite the three year's difference. The rest of the group is our TNL.
Following dinner, Sarah and Kara did a brief bit of shopping with Elaina while we put the food out and final touches on the Bridal Shower spread at my house. Kaela and Christi did such an outstanding job of making it so classy and beautiful. Just like Elaina.
Then, she walked through the door and found everyone waiting to keep celebrating her.
We dove into the food, and had her open presents. We go to ask a "Hot Seat" question when she chose to open the gift we provided (as dirty as we wanted, which was pretty darn PG when all was said and done) and then after she opened the present we got to tell her what we loved most about her. It was PERFECT, and I think, the most relaxed and enjoyable shower I've ever attended.
Along the way, Heather recorded each of her comments and exclamations as she opened the presents to be read aloud later in the theme of "What Elaina will say on her wedding night". I was sitting next to Heather throughout and found myself cracking up with her when something really odd was said....just perfect!!!
Finally, Elaina was presented with a book Kaela put together with a letter each of us had written to Elaina and previously sent to Kaela to compile along with pictures of us over the years. It was priceless and had Heather choked up reading it next to me knowing she'll be leaving us all behind in May to move to Boston.
Some of these life changes fill my heart with so much joy, and some leave such a hole. But, that's a topic I'm not ready to address yet - shouldn't have even brought it up. So, let's just keep the focus on Elaina - and rejoice in this love story written just for her by God. The night was ended with a group prayer for her - and then this picture. Sigh....so sweet....the prologue to the "Happily Ever After" set before her.