This was taken from Richard's blog, which is currently down. I'm putting it here for safekeeping. He wrote this shortly after we were engaged.
We’re interrupting our regularly scheduled broadcasts to talk about a very important subject. In fact, it’s almost the most important subject of which I can begin to think. This post is about Sophie.
Yes, Sophie. I was 14, I think, when I first really started to get to know her. We’ve been fast friends since then, I guess. Sophie is 4 years older than I. When you’re 14, that’s a lifetime. So I was the little brother, and she was like an older sister. We had a lot of the same interests and the same circles of friends, were involved in some of the same activities and groups. So it wasn’t hard for us to become close friends. Sophie encouraged me greatly in spiritual areas. I was challenged by her example to commit large portions of Scripture to memory. Perhaps most importantly, God used Sophie to point out certain attitudes I had that were damaging many of my relationships with the people around me. She is, as Dickens might say, my “good angel.” That is, she has always motivated me to good things.
It wasn’t until I was 18, though, that I started realizing that our relationship might be headed toward being more than just friends. Toward the end of the summer of ’08, I wrestled with the Lord and with my own heart and mind regarding the subject. I distinctly remember walking one cool August night, praying that God would show me His will. I prayed then as I had prayed many times before: “Lord, if my relationship with Sophie is not what it ought to be, I pray that you would remove her from my life.” And then, as before, that was not what He chose to do. And the long and the short of it was that I decided that there would be no realistic way for me to ever start that kind of relationship with her because of how long it would take to be in the state of financial readiness that I felt necessary.
On about November of ’08, I was driving my Dad back from Tyler and he asked me point blank, “So what are your plans regarding Sophie?” We ended up talking about it the whole way home, and in the end I felt myself even more confused than before. I lost sleep for two weeks while I wrestled with God, but in the end I yielded to His timing and His plan. In December of ’08 I got my father’s approval to pursue Sophie. The next step would be to get her father’s approval.
I have to say, I always thought I’d be a lot more nervous about that part than actually asking the girl herself. But, as it turns out Jeff (Sophie’s dad) was very easygoing about the whole thing. Probably much more so than I deserved. So I got her father’s permission (he wasn’t surprised by any of this – both sets of parents had foreseen our match for years) and all that was left was to plan exactly how it would be done.
I probably need to interject at this point that there are a lot of people who have a lot of different ideas of courtship. For some people, courtship is a period when two people who don’t really know each other that well get to know each other better under the supervision of their parents. That’s when they figure out if it’s God’s will for them to be together, what their beliefs are and if they’re compatible, and all that fun stuff. It was a little different with Sophie and me.
Having almost grown up together, and having actually had the opportunity to shape one another’s thoughts and beliefs, we two were already pretty certain of those things. And we both knew without a doubt that it was God’s will that we should marry. In fact, Sophie probably knew before I did – but that’s her story, and she can tell it better than I. This is not to say that we did not have our fair share of challenges and learning experiences in store for us. We are not the perfect couple by any means. But we are of one mind and one accord – and that is worth the world to me.
So with the help of my Dad and a lot of other people, we made plans for my church’s Valentine’s Day banquet. We pulled out all of the stops, down to the detail of renting a suit of armor. Dad gave a lecture on courtship, engagement, and marriage, and God’s purposes in each stage of a relationship. Toward the end of the lecture, when Dad was talking about a man’s calling to be a woman’s “Knight in Shining Armor”, I entered, crossed the floor, and asked Sophia Grace Rhoades if she would do the honor of allowing me to pursue her. She said yes. As it turned out, she knew the whole thing was coming – but that, as I have said, is her story.
Skip forward over a bit of time – the best year of my life, so far, though I’m sure that’s going to change in 2010 – and I have been working at Reliable Reports Inc. for nearly a year. The only thing that’s kept me from making the next big step forward has been finances. I needed to be able to support a wife. That all began to happen in January, when God provided in a way that would allow me to move from courtship to engagement – and a wedding. So I began planning another special Valentine’s Day event.
But God’s ways are not our ways. Providence decreed that February was not a good month for such things, and so money I had hoped to spend on an engagement ring ended up going toward a new car instead. By His grace I was able to accept this. A few weeks later I was able to get the ring and plan for the next big day – Sophie’s birthday. April 4th – which also happened to be Resurrection Sunday.
So again, with a lot of help from my Dad and others, we proposed that after Sophie’s birthday festivities (after Church services) our two families should go to the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens to have family pictures taken. Sophie agreed (she likes pictures). I spent much of the previous week handwriting a long letter to my beloved, and arranged to have a page of the letter hidden at a different location of the Japanese Garden (which is the prettiest garden on the property). After we’d taken family pictures for an hour or so, I took Sophie off alone and announced to her that she could have her birthday present from me now – but that she’d have to find it first!
There is a book called the Five Love Languages that is recommended reading for anyone thinking about marriage. I think, though, that if I had written it I would have called it the Six Love Languages and the sixth love language would have been “Letters.” Sophie absolutely adores letters – probably the more so because I am really bad at writing them with any kind of regularity.
She ran me all over the garden looking for them. When we got to the last page, I told her to close her eyes so I could give it to her. And that’s when I went for the ring. I reached into my pocket, pulled it out, opened the box and…
My heart literally skipped a beat as I found was not where it should have been. But the horror was only momentary. In all of our running around the ring had somehow fallen into the other side of the case. I righted this quickly enough, got down on one knee – or maybe it was both? – and held the ring up to her. “Open your eyes,” I said.
Her mouth gaped in half-confused, half-stunned, and absolutely glorious surprise. You see, Sophie hadn’t the slightest inkling of how God was providing for our needs, or that I had purchased a ring, or that any of this had been planned. I hadn’t told her about any of it because I wanted her to be surprised. And if you know me, you know that that in and of itself is a miracle.
“Will you marry me?”
I think know said yes, but I really don’t remember the exact words. I was too happy and she was too excited. And then we talked. And talked. And she read my letter. What did we talk about? Well… I’m sure you can imagine.
After a while we went to rejoin the rest of the world. There were hugs and congratulations to be had all around, of course. Afterwards we went to one of my favorite restaurants. I got a pie in my face.
But that’s another story.
Sophia Grace Rhoades – I love you, I take great joy in you, and I cannot wait to make you my wife. And get rid of that annoying “Rhoades” part of your name.