One of those Nashville summers, a friend of mine from church started hosting supper clubs once a month at his home and I received a coveted invitation to one of said events. Dinner was good, the wine was nice, the company was friendly but then a question was posed to the group that did not bode well for little, ol' me.
"What is the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you?"
Uh oh. I held hands with a boy at Six Flags? Eh. I got lost on a hike with a boy I liked once? Nope. I got asked out at an airport? Ummm. No.
It was a bit of an awkward situation as each person shared increasingly romantic, and occasionally TMI, antidotes from their apparently VERY romantic dating lives. I had zilch. It was a teensy bit humiliating. And, obviously, twelve years later, it still haunts me. Ok, not really. But, maybe the memory still stings a little.
Anywaaaay, I got over it.
Fast forward a few boyfriends later to the summer I met Matt in a series of random run-ins, which turned into emails and then phone calls and finally a real live date in Knoxville, Tennessee that ended with Matt leaving early to go to a family member's birthday party. Blergh. He also cancelled on me the next day, which drove me to O'Charley's where I drowned my sorrows in sweet tea, yeast rolls and caramel pie. Luckily, this was not the high point of our relationship. It got better.
The next three weeks were a tornado of dates, hikes, movies, dinners, family visits and finally an official declaration of intention (of sorts).
And then Matt moved to Sweden. To be a missionary. It was not awesome.
Ok, the missionary part was nice. But, the transatlantic boyfriend thing was not. Skype was my best friend that year.
I'll spare you the drama of dating someone overseas for a year and skip ahead to the fun part.
I went to Sweden in the spring of 2007 on what was called a "Vision Trip" with some other Campus Crusade for Christ staffers. We were supposed to get a feel for the ministry that was happening at the university there to give us a better idea of what we were talking about when we got back to Knoxville and encouraged students to go share the gospel with Swedish college students.
It was snowy and cold and beautiful and there were H&Ms on every block. Everyone was tall and thin and stone-cold attractive. I felt like I had stumbled into the GAP's winter catalog with a few five-hundred-year-old buildings tossed in. In a word, it was MAGICAL.
Matt and I had been officially dating since August, so this was around month eight of our romance. We'd had a minor breakup in the fall and then he'd come home at Christmas, surprised me by showing up at a conference I was working and then there was a Smoky Mountain night hike that convinced me he was the one. All in all, things were going well, but I had no illusions about getting engaged anytime soon.
A couple days after we arrived in Swede-ville, we all took the train to Stockholm, Sweden's capital, and explored the city, which was incredible. Matt had planned a date night for us that evening, so we took the train back early afternoon to make our dinner reservations. I was completely unsuspecting, otherwise known as clueless.
He dropped me off at the place I was staying so I could get all gussied up and then he ran home to get ready, whilst also placing a quick call to my dad back in the good ol' U.S. of A. to ask for my hand.
When he picked me up, it was in a black Mercedes taxi. Fancy. He said we had to make a quick stop to drop something off for another member of his team who was meeting with a student in the city. Sure, I thought, just make it quick so that I can have a date with my boyfriend who lives across the ocean so I never get to see him.
The taxi dropped us off at the city's local governor's mansion, which is actually a very old, very large, pink castle. Yes, pink. Still, no suspicions on my part. I was a teensy bit concerned though that the taxi had left us because I had on heels and the streets were cobblestone.
Our friend let us in the side door of the castle where the student she was meeting with, also known as the governor's daughter, lived. Interesting.
We climbed some stairs up to the governor's family's living quarters and we were offered a tour. No thanks, I'm on a date with my transatlantic boyfriend so let's get this little errand out of the way so I can hang out with him, mkay? No dice. A tour was happening.
But, after only a few minutes, the girls had disappeared and Matt and I were walking down a hallway where every window was lit with candles. I think I even mentioned how they probably had a butler do that for them every evening. What? At the end of the hallway was a turret room, large and round and fancy. There was also music playing in the background. And there were roses in every window that looked out over the city.
I was still oblivious, people.
I kept thinking that if we actually ever did get engaged, how was he going to top THIS date?
We walked to each window and looked out over the lovely, snowy city. When we got to the last window, we turned toward the table in the center of the room where a few books were stacked up. A Bible, a book of poetry, and I think A Severe Mercy (a favorite of ours). I started to get a weird feeling about things.
Matt had me sit down at the table and before I knew it he was reading something biblical about a bride. Um, what is happening here? I glanced at his hand to see if it was shaking because that was supposed to give me some clue as to whether or not I had misjudged the serious nature of this current situation. It wasn't shaking. OK, must not be getting engaged.
Then a poem was being read. And then there was some shuffling around as Matt got down on one knee. AUGHHHHHHHH!
A ring, a yes, a kiss, a hug, a dance, a picture and then we had to leave because the governor needed to use the room for some state business later. Ha.
We walked down the cobblestone castle driveway to a little restaurant where we celebrated with champagne and reindeer steak (surprisingly, yum) and some kind of chocolate. It was perfection.
And, so, dear readers, I finally had my romantic story. And, it happened in the land of Ikea, H&M and Abba.