Life has moments hard to describe...
About a week ago, I received one of the most life-changing surprises ever and I can't believe I didn't catch on before. But that just shows how much school distracts me from other (and often way more important) things in my personal life.
I am still reaching out to speak with those who are close to me to share the full story of my engagement to Liasor Dima. But the main thing I've been wanting to do is reflect and write down everything that happened. I decided to turn my need to reflect and my desire to share with those I care about into a single effort through my new blog/website space.
So here is my version of last week's precious, funny, surprising and lovely moments.
The main question I've received in the past few days is whether I expected the proposal or whether I knew it was about to happen.
The answer: Honestly no! Not because I didn't want it to happen (because I definitely did!) but because of a few external and planned factors. Liasor and I had openly discussed our plans and hopes for the future, and we both knew we were headed for marriage, so that was not a secret. But a few weeks before we got engaged, he had told me some things that made me believe a proposal wouldn't happen until further down the road. First, he told me that he would need to ask my parents' blessing before proposing (which was important to me) and mentioned that he should probably plan a trip to do that sometime soon. So I was excited and giddy that he would ask them soon, but I knew that he hadn't gone to Cleveland to visit my parents between the time he mentioned that and last week. Little did I know...he had already talked to my parents months in advance and was just messing with my head. He had spoken with them when he came to visit my family over the Christmas holiday!
He had planned that my sisters would get me out of the house by taking me shopping one snowy afternoon while he took a "nap". I remember coming back from the mall and asking him about his nap and he said he wasn't able to sleep. Mmmhmm. Yeah. Secondly, I also thought a proposal was further down the road because he shared with me on multiple occasions that his finances were tight, but I didn't realize that he was being frugal because he was saving for the ring.
Another question I've gotten a lot is how did we end up wearing matching outfits during the proposal. That actually wasn't completely planned. The red sweater that he was wearing on the day of the proposal was my anniversary gift to him. He had planned to wear something completely different but upon receiving my gift he decided to wear it. I also was planning on wearing something different, but before going out for our anniversary date, he asked me if I had something that matched his new sweater. I happily searched through my closet because I LOVE when we wear matching outfits and I always try to have us match when we go out somewhere fancy. So I didn't think too much of it. I thought he was playing into my love of matching and I thought it was sweet.
So here's how it all went down:
A little over four years ago, Liasor and I met in Granada, Spain. We were both studying there for 5 months. We became friends during our program's week-long excursion to Morocco. The story of how we met and fell for each other is one that still takes my breath away today. But that's a tale for another time!
Weeks in advance of the proposal, Liasor and I made plans that he would visit NYC for a few days for our anniversary. For the night of our anniversary we planned to go to a restaurant we always go to when he visits, Shalel Lounge, which is an underground Moroccan restaurant. It's great, and we especially love their bacon-wrapped dates with almonds. Yum. Anyways, Liasor just wanted us to spend time together and he didn't want to do anything touristy during this particular trip, but I convinced him that we should also visit the Brooklyn Bridge for our anniversary. I told him it's awesome and iconic and he'd enjoy it because we could walk and talk with awesome views of the skyline. He had never seen the bridge before, and when I told him more about it he seemed truly excited.
Before Liasor arrived, we got gifts for each other. I got him the red sweater I mentioned and he got me an engagement ring. I love surprises, but he hates them. So I gave him his gift right away and he told me he would give me my gift at Shalel Lounge for dinner.
On Wednesday April 20, 2016, one day before our anniversary, Liasor flew into NYC early in the morning. I met him in the airport after only 2 hours of sleep (thanks to schoolwork), so I didn't suspect anything when he said he hadn't been able to sleep the night before. All I said was, "Me neither! I had so much work!" We spent the day together and it was so great! That evening I had a graduation dinner for a scholarship program I'm in. Liasor told me that he would meet up with his friend David while I attended the dinner. I knew he had a friend named David who lives in NYC so I didn't think twice and simply said, "That's works perfectly!"
But...(I found this out later of course) he didn't meet up with his friend David while I was at the dinner! He met up with my good friend Audrey who is also a photographer. They went to Shalel Lounge to scope out the place because he planned to propose there the next evening. But once there, he and Audrey agreed that the lighting was too dim for pictures (mind you, it's a VERY dim place underground with candles, which creates a wonderfully romantic environment but is not the best for pictures). So he had to figure out what to do because he really wanted to capture the proposal. He told Audrey that I was also taking him to the Brooklyn Bridge but he had never been. He asked her, "Would that work for the proposal?". She told him, "Let's go and check it out!"
So while I was still at my scholarship dinner, they went to the Brooklyn Bridge and scoped out the perfect place for some photos and made a whole plan that entailed Audrey slipping out of work the next day to sneakily take pictures of us. They decided on a time frame (some time around 5:00pm) and planned to carry out the surprise on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. Liasor knew that we would have to get to the bridge on time so that Audrey could get the photos and get back to work. But anyone who knows me knows that I struggle with punctuality...which brings me to the next day.
On Thursday April 21, 2016 (our four year anniversary) I spent the entire day until dinnertime doing schoolwork. I know, that's horrible. And that's what put us behind schedule. Liasor told me he wanted to get to the restaurant at 6:00pm to get a good table and he said in order to get to the restaurant in time, we HAD TO get to the Brooklyn Bridge by 5:00pm. But...I was finishing up a newsletter publication for my job at school. I meant to have the newsletter finished before our anniversary, but between procrastination and a few smaller assignments, it dragged on. We needed to leave at 4:00pm to make it to the Brooklyn Bridge by 5:00pm safely, but at 4:15pm I was just wrapping up my work.
While I was finishing everything and getting ready, he asked if we could transport my gift (the ring!) in my purse. I was in such a frenzy I didn't even think much about the gift. I switched to a bigger purse and looked away as he put the ring box in one of the pockets and covered it with napkins. I admit, I accidentally opened that pocket multiple times on our way to the Brooklyn Bridge, but those napkins saved the surprise. I still can't believe I was carrying my engagement ring during the whole trip!
By 4:20pm we were on our way in matching red outfits. I almost canceled our trip to the bridge so we could get to the restaurant in time, because I thought that was most important. But I'm so glad I didn't cancel our plans and ruin the surprise. And since going to the bridge was my idea, I didn't suspect that anything special would happen there.
So thanks to the express train that came to 96th St right as our 1 train pulled up, we made it to the bridge in record time! I asked Liasor if he wanted to start on the Brooklyn side or the Manhattan side of the bridge. He got mixed up and told me he definitely wanted to start on the Manhattan side. He probably freaked out when he realized he was on the wrong side of the bridge. But to me, he seemed so calm and happy. I think it was good that we had the long walk on the bridge before the proposal, because it gave me time to calm down from the frenzy of finishing my schoolwork earlier and it was the first time all day that we really got to fully talk and take in our surroundings. It was such a nice day, 75 degrees. Halfway across the bridge, we ran into a gentleman who had an awesome camera and was taking high quality photos of people passing by. He approached us for a photo and we said why not! He had a printer right there on the bridge and we purchased two copies of the amazing photograph he captured of us. We're so excited to share this picture with our families!
I wanted to take a few more photos with my phone and snapchat our experience, but Liasor suggested that we really take in this moment together without worrying about our phones and technology. He's great at reminding me of fully living in each moment and being present. Still, I noticed him checking his phone quite a few times which confused me. Later I found out he was trying to sneakily communicate with Audrey about where she was on the bridge. And soon her phone died so they both had a lot to stress about, but again Liasor seemed so peaceful and content that we were together crossing the bridge.
When we got to the other end, we came to an empty bench. I was surprised that the bench was empty because there were a lot of people and all the other benches were packed. Later I asked if Audrey had cleared the bench for us, but she said no, it was just empty. I think it was divine providence because that was the exact bench that she and Liasor had chosen as the spot for the proposal the night before. Before we sat, Liasor saw Audrey (I have no clue how I didn't see her too, he must have distracted me), and she went and hid near a spot they had selected beforehand.
Liasor asked to sit and talk, and he made sure my back was to Audrey. So we talked for a few minutes and it was such a wonderful moment. I felt myself breathing deeply and feeling the stress of school and work lifting as it often does when I spend time with him (that's the reason I went to his family's house two weeks prior to finish my thesis!). And with the work I had finished earlier, I was almost done with all my assignments! I felt great and light. As we stood and took in the stunning views of the skyline from the opposite side of the bridge, Liasor told me he was ready to give me my gift. I, of course, said, "It's okay, you can wait until the restaurant. I know you were looking forward to surprising me there!" I was determined to get him to the restaurant in time to show I cared about his desire to be punctual and so that we could get a nice table in one of the few secluded spaces the restaurant has. He just smiled at me and said, "Now's the right time."
Mind you, I thought he had gotten me a scarf or some other small accessory, especially since it was so light in my purse. So he made me close my eyes (and scolded me for peeking haha) as he retrieved the ring from my purse and put it behind his back. He proceeded to look me in the eyes and began to speak about us and his feelings in a much deeper and more romantic way than I was expecting in that moment.
I won't disclose the words he said because they were personal and sweet, but slowly my mind was realizing what was happening. I cannot fully describe the wave of shock, warmth, excitement, surprise, paralysis that rushed over me as he got on one knee. When he said those words- "Christine Olivia Bell, will you marry me?" - I couldn't respond and I stood there speechless. Not because I didn't want to scream yes!!!!, but because he had surprised me so well and I had not even anticipated that moment. I had been thinking of the quickest way for us to get from the bridge to the restaurant, not realizing that being at the bridge at that time was a major part of our anniversary and our lives. So he patiently waited and I finally exclaimed yes!!
Then he asked me to look to my left. I did and he kept repeating "your left, Christine". I waited to see if there was something in the water, the sky, or hanging off the bridge. Then he realized his mistake and said, "Oh, if you'd please look to my left". (Haha I laughed about that moment for days after).
I turned quickly and saw Audrey there snapping photos. It was in that moment that the shock started wearing off and all the other emotions flooded in more fully.
Everything was more perfect than I could have ever dreamed of, especially when I learned of all of the imperfections and changes that came together so beautifully in that moment. Those imperfections and Liasor's adaptability were so special and dear to me.
Afterwards as we made our way to Shalel Lounge for dinner, I bombarded Liasor with a thousand questions. I couldn't stop smiling and the warmth in my face didn't cease until days later. At the restaurant we got a good table, although not any of the ones we wanted which are tucked away from the rest of the room. Our table was perfect nonetheless and the acquisition of those secluded spaces suddenly became unimportant as all we wanted was to find any table to sit and talk. We spent the first half of dinner calling our parents who were sitting by their phones anxiously. Liasor's mother, his sister, my sisters, and my mom had all helped him choose the ring and I think he made the perfect decision (they all knew I love rose gold). But honestly, I didn't fully see the ring until a lot later. It was such a great day and a great moment.
I can't even fully put into words how I feel about Liasor. He's absolutely incredible and cares so deeply about the people around him. From knowing him and being loved by him, God has taught me so much about loving other people. He goes out of his way to make sure everyone around him feels included, and he's always inviting new friends into our lives no matter their background, or past, current situation, or whether he even shares the same language as them. He loves people so well and that was the very first thing I noticed about him.
He's also a great listener (besides when he's watching soccer/futbol of course) and he always offers me space to cry about my life struggles (which probably happens way too often lol). He's sensitive to my feelings and opens up about his as well. Even on days when I'm upset with him, he'll somehow make me smile or laugh and he will look to fix the issue. And he is quick to forgive me when I upset him. I'm learning to be more forgiving in that way. He is always willing to work through hardships, disagreements, and the perils of long distance with me. He never gave up on us and our relationship, even when we had international distance one year. He encouraged me to see the world and chase my dreams and I encouraged him to do the same.
No one makes me laugh as he does (Liasor if you're reading this, I know you're smiling thinking of our moments of explosive laughter or how we can spend hours in our favorite cafe until closing laughing about things I can't even remember, with our ole crazy selves!). We can talk for days, and as my mom says, I probably "talk his ear off" and I'm sure Liasor would agree. Our life goals, our faith, and our interests are very similar, which is why we became such good friends in the first place back in January 2012.
I know marriage won't be a trouble-free fairytale by any means, no matter how much Disney exerted its influence over my mind as a child. But I've been learning what it means to work through the messiness and imperfections of life along with someone else and make something beautiful out of it, by the grace of God alone. I can't wait to be a part of Liasor's family and for him to join mine. We crossed a bigger bridge than the one connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan that day, and I'm so content and excited for the journey ahead.