On June 18, 2019, Liasor and I welcomed our precious son, Simeon, into the world. He is already quite the character and a sweet companion!
Pregnancy was such a journey - one that I enjoyed. Early on, I realized how little I actually knew about gestation and childbirth - despite high school and college biology - so I mustered up the courage to ask my doctor one embarrassing question after another. Books, classes, pregnancy apps, and Google were also helpful!.
My favorite parts of pregnancy:
The toughest parts of pregnancy:
Simeon was born on his due date after 26 hours of labor, including four hours of pushing! (I pushed for one hour, then rested, then pushed for three more hours!) Towards, the end, I was falling asleep (i.e. passing out) in between each push. I also experienced labor tremors, which caused my body to shake throughout the experience. As my friend Audrey said so eloquently: childbirth is synonymous with intense.
Reflections on childbirth:
Our Hospital Stay:
Adjusting to New Life:
Sleep...what is that?
Before Simeon was born, I cannot tell you how many people told me: "Make sure you get rest now before the baby comes!" "When the baby is born, sleep when the baby sleeps!" All these people were so wise! We are still functioning on very little sleep, but Liasor and I have been taking turns letting each other nap. Having our moms help out the first couple weeks was invaluable, but things got real when they went back to work! I'm proud of us for how we've grown as parents and as a couple in just a short time. The learning curve was steep, but learning comes quickly when thereʼs necessity!
Time Flies! I try to take as many pictures and videos as I can because Simeon changes so much week to week. I rejoice - and cry a little inside - each time Simeon reaches a new milestone.
Breastfeeding can be difficult for momma and baby to learn!
I used to get so flustered when trying to feed Simeon and watching him get more and more upset as I floundered around, trying to figure out how to feed him. It was heartbreaking to me at first, but I quickly found out I wasnʼt alone and got so much support and help from family and lactation specialists. Now, Simeon and I are becoming pros.
The illusion of balance.
I'm a perfectionist by nature, but I've had to learn that sometimes the dishes wonʼt get done. Guests may come over and the house may not look like Pinterest and thatʼs okay. It was okay even before Simeon was born, and itʼs okay now. Still, this lesson has been hard for me. Even as I'm typing this, I'm staring at a basket of clean laundry that has been sitting in our living room for what feels like eternity. I remind myself of gratitude. Being thankful for all the blessings so that I donʼt have to sweat the unimportant. Yes, at some point we should put our clothes away, but if it doesnʼt happen today, we will survive and life goes on.
I'm also learning the new rhythm of motherhood. I have historically been very independent and I like to get up and go do something fun and interesting when I get the urge. Now, I'm learning the beauty of sacrificing some of that independence in order to pick up new responsibilities and sweet cuddles! There are times when Liasor will take Simeon so I can go out for dinner with family or friends, and I'll do the same for him to go to his soccer games. But I recognize that life is very different now that our little guy is here. It is an adjustment for sure, but I'm thankful that we had 9 months to prepare for this new stage and that we have support as we continue to learn and adapt.
Liasor and I are also in the process of learning more about Simeon and his quirks. We are discovering that he makes certain sounds and cries based on his different needs, and he has quite the set of lungs to accomplish this. He also likes to fall asleep on our chests and has proven to be rather cuddly so far. He loves to make animated faces and do exaggerated stretches all day long!
Celebrating my 28 years and his 1 Month:
On July 18, Simeon turned one month old. The next day, on July 19, I turned 28. We spent the past two weekends celebrating. Our friend Suzanne also took the beautiful photos below!
Other Life Updates:
Uduk Hope and international projects: Visit liasor.com to read more about Liasorʼs time in Ethiopia this past winter. For those who follow Uduk Hope, be on the lookout for updates via our newsletter, which should come out in the next few weeks (or sooner), Simeon permitting. You can receive the newsletter by joining our mailing list through udukhope.com or you can follow us on Facebook or Instagram (@udukhope).
Thank you everyone for your support, prayers, visits, and sweet gifts. It has meant the world!
"Hear the Word, roaring as thunder
With a new future to tell
For the dry season is over
There is a cloud beginning to swell..."
These Elevation Worship lyrics rocked my soul as I drove home from work on Monday. Perhaps because I'm entering into a new season, with a fresh overflowing of joy as I leave what felt like a dry patch. I'm excited about the new things the Lord is about to do!
Itʼs been 10 months since I last wrote here on my blog. The past 10 months have been incredibly busy and sometimes agonizingly tough, but now I'm stepping into a new rhythm. :)
When I returned to the USA from Oxford, England last autumn, I started a job at which I worked until this past August. It was a great learning experience, but it wasnʼt a good fit and caused me a lot of stress.
Just last week, I started a brand new position which is an answer to prayer, and I'm EXTREMELY excited about it! I'll be advising for a portfolio of study abroad programs in a few regions around the world - and my most popular program is in Granada, Spain!! (where I studied abroad myself, where Liasor and I met, where we honeymooned, and where I've had life-changing experiences). I get to talk with students about the Universidad de Granada and the CLM (Centro de Lenguas Modernas), which I know all too well. Talk about full circle! I'm also looking forward to working with our university partners abroad!! Last year, when Liasor and I went back to Granada for our honeymoon, I had this gnawing feeling deep down that I wanted to find a job or a project that would connect me to Spain again and utilize my Spanish-speaking skills again. Who knew that a year - and a bumpy, winding road - later, here Iʼd be.
My commute to work is much longer now, but itʼs incredibly scenic. The ride allows me to get in the right mindset before and after work, and I LOVE listening to the Bible, audiobooks, and podcasts during the drive. Itʼs like a breath of fresh air.
Continued Work with Dr. Wendy James:
Apart from our full time jobs, we've also been able to tap back into the work we did last summer in Oxford, England with Dr. Wendy James. She visited us in Rochester last week and we did some more work on her recorded songs from Bonga Refugee Camp in the 1990s and 2000s, and earlier songs from the 60s from the Uduk people. It was great making more headway on that project!
Uduk Hope Incorporated (UHI):
The past few months have been tough ones for Uduk Hope. Liasor and I have found it increasingly hard to balance working full time jobs to support ourselves while also managing all of the operational tasks of Uduk Hope on our own. Once Liasor returned from Ethiopia last winter, we set out to find more active board members, which proved difficult since Uduk Hope doesnʼt have any paid positions at this time. All of the work we do is volunteer. We were able to bring on an amazing new member, Tabitha Inna, to the team and sheʼs been a tremendous help. We spent a lot of time trying to reshape UHI in ways that would be more sustainable for us to manage, and we've finally arrived at a new strategic plan!
We're focusing on developing small businesses (local stores) in each of the four refugee camps, which will generate money to help support education scholarships, school feedings, faith-based observances, and community needs. In this way, we wonʼt have to depend on donors here in the USA to keep programs going in Ethiopia and South Sudan - although we still appreciate and accept any and all donations!
This model was already in practice on a smaller-scale in Doro Refugee Camp. Back in 2016, when we went to South Sudan, we started a local shop run by our UHI team in Doro with only $500. The shop sells salt, sugar, and tea which are in high demand in Doro. The proceeds go towards needs in the community. The local UHI team has the ability to decide based on their needs how they will use the money as it relates to UHIʼs three pillars of education, faith, and community development. Our Board provides guidance to the team on the best ways to use the proceeds.
Our plan is to start the same type of stores in the other three camps in Ethiopia that will generate revenue for community needs under UHIʼs pillars. We are optimistic that this model will allow the refugee communities to be self-sufficient and have a sustainable source of support, not solely dependent on our busy schedules and the unpredictable nature of donations.
We're expanding the store-model to the USA as well, and I'm so excited about this next initiative which was one of my dreams from over a year ago! Here in Rochester, we will hold "pop-up thrift shop" events to sell gently-used clothing and household items to our local community. Half of the proceeds will go toward Uduk Hope (pouring back into the refugee-camp stores and initiatives). The other half will go toward supporting our churchʼs Bible Quizzing team! Liasor and I are leading the Bible Quizzing team at Heart & Soul Community Church. Liasor participated in bible quizzing when he was younger, but it is a new program to me. Basically itʼs just as it sounds: Itʼs for youth in middle and high school who want to memorize passages of Scripture in a fun, and competitive way. Itʼs been such a thrill coaching our team of 7 students together. Right now we're focused on memorizing passages from Jonah and Luke. Our first competition is tomorrow!
But back to the pop-up shop: Itʼs called a "pop-up" because we will open our store periodically in different locations and communities around Rochester, and maybe in other cities in the future. Our first pop-up shop is next month at Heart & Soul Community Church! Check out the flyer below. If you are in town, please consider stopping by! You can also help by donating clothes and spreading the word! A great portion of items in the shop come from our own wardrobes as we've decided to be the first to donate to this cause. :)
I've always dreamed of running a boutique, and this feels like the best way to do that for the best reasons - at a schedule we can control. And it doubles as a way for me to clear out my closet and be a blessing to others!
New Initiative: beyondBeanie Ambassador
I'm also excited to announce a new initiative that I was chosen for. I'm now an ambassador for an organization called beyondBeanie. Itʼs a social fashion brand that combines fashion with solidarity. Each purchase supports the work of 23 talented artisans from El Alto, La Paz, and Cochabamba, Bolivia. The proceeds go toward providing essentials such as school meals, school supplies, school uniforms, and dental care to children who need it.
Check out their awesome handmade beanies, bags, bracelets, and ponchos at my personal ambassador link:
Use the code CHRISTINE25 to get 25% off any purchases!
•1 beanie = 5 meals •1 bracelet = 1 dental care
Another big update: Thereʼs a church in Salt Lake City with many Uduk members that has completed the translation of the Jesus Film into ʼTwam Pa, the Uduk language. The Jesus Film is the story of the Gospel told through film. Itʼs been an ongoing interest to have the film translated into ʼTwam Pa and that project has finally been completed.
Leaders from the church reached out to Liasor to request that he take copies of the film along with projectors and sound equipment to the refugee camps in Ethiopia, on a fully-funded mission. They knew that he had traveled to Ethiopia around this time last year and they know he has access to the refugee camps. So he heads there in December.
We're excited that he was chosen for this opportunity and we're hoping that I can come for a portion of the trip to visit him, if I can work out the vacation time at work. While in Ethiopia, he'll also have the chance to get the Uduk Hope local stores started in Sherkole, Tsore, and Tongo Refugee Camps.
On his way back to Rochester, Liasor will have a short stop (about a week) in Oxford, England to do more work with Dr. Wendy James on the translation project. It will be a rich time indeed. This all works out well with Liasorʼs teaching schedule here in Rochester, so that is a true blessing!
The difficulty will be spending a period of time apart again.
Please pray that everything works out for me to visit Liasor for a portion of his time in Ethiopia.
Life in General:
Life in general has been good. Liasor has been busy teaching, coaching soccer, and leading Bible Quizzing with me. We decorated the house with pumpkins, flowers, and scented pine cones this week and it officially feels like my favorite season. Oh, how I love fall!
I had a month away from work before transitioning to my new job. That month was a sweet period of spending time with people I love, learning new recipes, making our home nice and cozy, and going on small adventures around Rochester. I got to go on a retreat with the women at my church, which was refreshing. That resting period has prepared me to re-enter the office-life with renewed energy and excitement. My month break was also a huge leap of faith, because my contract ended at my former job while I was still waiting to hear back from this current role. I'm counting every blessing because I was not chosen for the position I applied for at first here in my office, but my current position was created so that I could also join the team. I'm immensely honored and content. My position is temporary with an end date in the summer, but I trust God that He already has plans for what the next season holds - whether that means a renewed contract or another leap of faith! But today - yes today - His grace is sufficient and I need not worry about the future - what I will eat, what I will wear, where I will work. Instead of worrying, I offer gratitude for this exciting work experience here in the present.
No matter what happens, I'm in awe of just how this new season is saturated with blessings. These blessings come with their fair share of difficulties, growing pains, and lessons learned. But after the dry season of so much searching, figuring things out, and uncertain late night prayers - this rain sure feels good.
Indeed, there is a cloud beginning to swell.
Liasor and I have been back to work in Oxford for a little over a week now, but we wanted to share some photos and reflections after a wonderful honeymoon vacation in Spain.
Rewinding back to when we were planning our wedding a few months ago, we really loved the idea of going to Spain for our honeymoon because 1) we had met each other in Spain and 2) we had never been back to Spain together since then. But financially, it just wasn't a possibility at the time. We looked at other locations closer to home, but nothing affordable was panning out. We weren't sure what we were going to do about a honeymoon, until one of our close friends gifted us their lake house in the Finger Lakes region of New York for a honeymoon week. We were so blessed by that gift, and I experienced the beauty and the peace of the Finger Lakes for the first time.
We still held onto the idea of one day going on a belated Spanish honeymoon, but we figured it wouldn't happen until maybe a few years down the line. When we found out about our current opportunity to work abroad in Oxford this summer, we were overjoyed and decided that we would try to save up and still make a trip to Spain a possibility (since it would be relatively closer and cheaper to travel to Spain once we were in Europe). And this month, we made the trip happen!
We started out with a week in Granada, the city where we met. (For the story of how we met, check out our wedding website here). During our time in Granada, I took a day trip to Córdoba (where I taught for a year from 2013-2014) to visit former colleagues and friends. The year that I taught abroad in Córdoba was the first time Liasor and I experienced international long distance. (For former blog posts on my time teaching in Córdoba, check our my travel page here). Finally we ended our Spanish honeymoon in the beach city of Alicante, a city that Liasor had visited before and wanted to experience again with me.
It was so great to take a break from cozy, chilly Oxford and soak up the sun and <extreme> heat of Spain.
Here are images from our 10-day vacation.
Our time in Granada was so sweet. I really enjoyed walking through memories: from taking our old route to school together to meeting up with former teachers and church family members - our hearts were completely full. We even accidentally ran into my former host mother, Camila, who was taking a walk in my old neighborhood. It was so good to run into her! She immediately took us to her house and we had a lovely evening laughing and catching up together. She and her family vividly remembered Liasor and how he used to meet me at the front door of their apartment. They were thrilled that we are now married.
Oh Córdoba. The city where I grew so much on my own. It was good to be back and meet up with people I care about, but I realized that I have less of an emotional attachment to this city. After a long, hot, full day of meeting up with friends and colleagues, I almost felt relieved to head back to Granada. When the bus pulled into the station and the driver announced that we were back in Granada, I felt a strong sense of familiarity rush through me. Homecoming. Back in the city of my love story. Even though I lived in Córdoba for a longer time than Granada, this trip allowed me to reflect on how much more Granada means to me and how much my time in both cities contributed to my life narrative. In Granada, I had been much more plugged into a church family, which is one of the main ways Liasor and I grew closer back in 2012.
The pictures below show my favorite tea shop in Córdoba where I used to go when I needed to get away from it all, the street that I lived on (called Mucho Trigo, which means 'a lot of wheat'!), and the door to my old flat.
We ended our trip with a few days in Alicante, Spain on the beach. It was so nice to finally make it to the beach after a mild summer in Oxford. Overlooking the beachfront in Alicante is the Castillo de Santa Barbara (castle). Liasor and I went on quite an arduous hike to get to the castle, and later we found out that there was an elevator that most tourists take and we also found out that there was an easier route to the top that we had missed. But our longer, harder trek allowed us to witness some of the most breathtaking views at sunset.
Now we have one more week in Oxford.
In my last post, I mentioned that there has been unrest in the refugee camps along the Ethiopian/South Sudanese border which we were planning to visit. Because of that unrest and uncertainty, we've decided it will be best for Liasor to go on to Ethiopia alone while I return to the States. I'm saying a special prayer for Liasor's safety as he heads to Ethiopia. I'm also praying for open doors for partnerships and meetings on behalf of Uduk Hope Inc. I'm proud of the work he is doing, and just this past weekend Liasor got the great opportunity to present at the Society for the Study of the Sudans U.K. 2017 Symposium held at the University of London. He was the first person from the Blue Nile region, and more specifically the first Uduk person, to present at this conference. He spoke on the complex relationships that affect the state of the Blue Nile refugees and offered thoughts on the way forward. It was a moving and powerful speech. Liasor was only notified of this opportunity to speak a week in advance while we were on our honeymoon in Spain! He did a great job no matter the time constraints, and I know he will continue to fight to find ways to stand up for and support the Uduk people and other Blue Nile refugees. I recorded his presentation and I will either try to post the video in my next blog post or he will post the video on his personal Facebook page.
There will definitely be challenges ahead since we'll be spending several weeks apart so I am truly thankful that we were able to spend such a beautiful time together in Spain and I look forward to savoring this last week together in Oxford.
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.