I'll admit, I was suspicious. There was that tone in his voice that was trying to hide the surprise, the eager questions from mom, the determination to make a hike happen this particular Saturday — despite the dinner and concert the night before, despite the looming rain.
So I threw my camera in my bag, just in case. I figured to bring my tripod and paint my nails might seem a bit presumptuous, but I could give good reason for a camera.
It was hard to sleep the night before. I tried to convince myself that it was going to be just like any other day, that I had exaggerated all the signs. But it only made my heart race faster.
I show up at Ben's house for a meeting the next morning though and all is well again. My heart can rest. (Naturally, we show up wearing matching outfits.) Following the meeting, he wraps up a couple sandwiches, grabs his bag and picnic basket and we hit the road! The rain is already falling steady, so we cue the perfect soundtrack for a dreary drive and count the waterfalls as we drive through the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.
Thankfully, by the time we reached Hood River – an easy hour drive from Portland – the rain had let up for our picnic by the river. We took our time eating and enjoying the change of scenery and trying to keep the wind from stealing our napkins.
We roamed the small town for a couple hours until the sun finally decided to make an appearance. So Ben subtly suggested we head towards home and maybe make a pit stop along the way for a short hike or lookout. Of course the rain started pouring again as soon as we left town, but we found a little peninsula jetting into the river that offered rocks to climb and cliffs overlooking the water—absolutely worth braving the weather.
All that happened next is quite a blur — I kept asking if it was all real. But this ring on my finger reminds me every day of the glorious truth that it was in fact entirely real – I get to be his wife! Ben really did ask if I would marry him, if we could spend the rest of our days loving Jesus together and serving His people. And I really did say yes! Yes to the most kind-hearted man, who listens to understand, who pours his heart into his work, who is always always giving, who wrestles with kids and dances with me in airports, who helps me see and love Jesus more.
As dreamy as this day was, though, our love story is not a perfect one. It has been a long road, and it's wild to me that we've made it to this point. God has carried us and His grace is undeniable.
It was over two years ago that Ben and I first started dating, just nineteen and twenty years old. As excited as we were, I was in turmoil inside—how could I really know if I was supposed to be with him for life? Looking back, we were both still insecure, struggling to find who we were and what we wanted our lives to be about. And so, six months in, we broke up and I broke his heart. It hurt much more than I anticipated and launched us into a year and a half of growing up and evaluating and learning.
Our lives continued to weave together though, as we led groups, attended weddings, traveled to four countries, played music together, and ran into each other seemingly everywhere. The proximity was painful, but it became increasingly clear, as we both grew into our own skin, that we shared common passions and dreams, that we were chasing the same things, and that our strengths and weaknesses could pair together to launch us further. Also that I wasn't getting over him anytime soon.
So last summer, the day after we returned from teaching an English Camp in Slovenia with a team from our church, I sheepishly handed him a letter sharing the deepest parts of my heart. It was a risk, but I knew I couldn't live with the regret of words left unsaid.
Long story shortened a bit—a couple months later we finally became "Ben & Lauren 2.0". They say with great risk comes great reward, and we have found the deepest joy in seeing what was once broken now made new. The confusion has been replaced with peace; the wounds with love. We know what it is to have lost and to be lonely, and it has made us all the more overwhelmed at God's kindness to us.
I say all this, because more than being a story of Ben and Lauren, it is a story about a God who resurrects the dead and enters into the stories of lost causes. He sustained me in the dark hours and He leads me still through the happiest. So wherever you are in your story — not just of love, but of life — there is hope.
"You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again."