our love story: questions and answers

This New Year's Eve, we celebrated our five-year anniversary. Those past five years have been harder and better than we could have imagined. And with this big milestone on our minds, I thought it would be fun to share our story. (You can read part 1 here.)

Our relationship blossomed over the next two years. Two months in, we said "I love you" while discussing 1 Corinthians. We went to every K-State football game together, and talked almost every day even if it was only for 10 stolen minutes. Over our first summer, we planned as many meet-in-the-middle dates as possible until we were back at school. Love was everything I dreamed it would be.

anna & ian at the marshall game

But it didn't come without challenges. Ian was my first boyfriend, so I had a crash course in balancing a serious relationship with other friendships and failed often. Ian's hectic schedule contained countless hours in studio, singing at both church and a college ministry, and even one semester with a part-time job. Mine involved stacks and stacks of reading, leading a small group at church, and odd hours at campus jobs. We had completely different rhythms to our college lives. This sometimes resulted in me feeling left out, and Ian feeling like I expected more than he could give. But we grounded our love in our faith and grew with every challenge.

We even weathered a summer apart, him in LA for an internship and me in Arizona working at a summer camp. Our communication improved leaps and bounds but we agreed we didn't want to do long-distance again if we could help it.

I was with Ian when his parents rushed to Manhattan to let him know that Micki's cancer was back, and walked with them through treatment. This was scarier than I imagined, but my admiration for him and his family grew as I watched them find hope and grace in adversity.

anna and ian

I never doubted that we would eventually get married. That changed the winter of my senior year. One cold night, after driving around for a serious conversation about my upcoming graduation and ensuing job hunt, we were back at Ian's house sitting in the driveway with the heat on full blast. "Don't wait for me." I was crushed. Did he understand those words said to me that we had an expiration date? That the kind of post-school moving on he was hinting at meant, in my mind, leaving us behind?

The next day we met in the Union for lunch. I braced myself for the breakup I was expecting. Instead we tried the conversation again. He said he didn't want to hold me back. To be the reason I wouldn't pursue a job I love. I told him it was enough if I could count on us, together, wherever I landed. We patched things up, but I could still feel the seams as we finished the semester and headed home for the holidays.

In January, after another late night drive as a break from studio, he told me he couldn't say that he wanted to marry me. I didn't understand. When we started our relationship we agreed that it wasn't worth continuing if marriage wasn't a possibility. Was this a breakup? He took me home without a resolution. I vowed to myself I wouldn't be the one to end it, but I was waiting again, heart aching, for what seemed inevitable.

My roommate Megan reminded me love requires an open hand and I needed to trust God knew what He was doing in my life. But I was hurt and confused. Since we had started dating, I only grew in my conviction that God was guiding us to a life together. What did the past two years mean if there was a different ending?

After days of tiptoeing around the issue, it came to a head. We knew if we did nothing our relationship would fall apart. Ian told me he wanted to fight for us, and that's all I needed to know. He hadn't given up. I wouldn't either.

I learned much later that he had a conversation with one of his best friends while I was waiting in limbo. As I had suspected, he was ready to break up with me. He told Jordan. Jordan slapped him (literally) and told Ian he couldn't throw away the past two years. The love Ian and I had built was worth saving, cherishing, fighting for. (Jordan, we are eternally grateful.)

anna and ian

On Valentine's Day, with a renewed sense of love and joy, we made a nice steak dinner at my apartment. As we sat down to eat, he handed me a stack of index cards. It was a story about a girl named Anna, who lived at the top of a 99-story bookcase. She had everything she could ever want. Then one day she heard a voice from the bottom of her bookcase. She went down and discovered an amazing boy. And she had a choice. She could go back up to the top of her bookcase and continue her charmed life, or she could take a chance and stay with the singing boy forever. That was it. No more cards. I looked up at him and waited, listening to my heart thud. Then he handed me a box of blue wine glasses and we watched a movie in my living room.

A month later I was on a mission trip to Mississippi to help with continued Katrina relief efforts. On one of our evening phone calls, Ian suggested when I got back we should sit down with my parents to talk about marriage. And so we did. They gave us advice and a premarital financial planning study, which we started shortly after getting back to Manhattan. This once distant hope was beginning to materialize and become tangible. We talked timing. A wedding before his required 8-month internship, scheduled to start in January, seemed optimal.

In April, Ian came over for dinner. We made pancakes. Manning the griddle, I answered a call from my mom. She had breast cancer. Ian was there supporting my family as we began the journey his family already had traveled twice. Because of that experience we knew my mom's diagnosis would bring challenges, but it also gave me confidence that she, with her early detection and thorough treatment, would win.

In May, I graduated with an English degree and landed a job as communications secretary at our church, in charge of all print and web communications. It was a great fit for my passions and skills, and they were willing to be flexible with my not-yet-confirmed-by-a-proposal 8-month hiatus to Philadelphia with Ian.

anna and ian a tria

On Ian's birthday in June, we attended his cousin's wedding. Not wanting to skip over his birthday celebration, he and I headed downtown after the reception. Still dressed to the nines, we stopped at a wine bar then headed to the riverfront and strolled around the park. When I got cold, he wrapped me in his suit coat. Every time he turned or reached into his pockets, I held my breath for a little sparkle. The clock was ticking to plan a wedding before his internship. I reminded him of this the next day, and he assured me he had everything under control.

The next week, Ian came over for dinner after working in studio. He'd sent me flowers at work that morning, which didn't raise any suspicions as he had a penchant for surprising me with quirky arrangements from ACME Gift, where he was known as "the flower guy." We made Hamburger Helper, then I suggested a walk after Ian insisted we enjoy the cool summer evening. He directed us to Manhattan Hill, so of course we had to sit at our spot, the first T, which naturally led us to reminisce about our first date exactly two years and nine months prior.

He reached into his bag, but I assumed he was putting something away. He continued the conversation, telling me how thankful he was for me, and how I made him a better man. I briefly thought he was proposing, but brushed it aside. The walk had been my idea. But the more he talked, the more I realized that, after two previous unintentional proposal setups, it was really happening.

He slipped the ring on my finger, we hugged, we prayed, I cried and developed unromantic sniffles. We watched the fireflies dance before heading back on the path home. Surprise number two was waiting in the parking lot: a huge group of friends to help us celebrate. We piled into cars and toasted back at my apartment with bottles of Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc, my favorite from my flight at the wine bar for Ian's birthday. He had remembered and tracked it down, the exclamation point to his perfectly executed surprise.

the first hug
an engaged kiss

Fun fact: Britni, one of my best friends and roommate at the time, headed out on a second date while Ian and I were making dinner. I attributed her excitement to the date, when in reality she was giddy that I had no idea what was coming in just a few hours (and also excited about the date). And in that sometimes-real-life-is-like-a-movie way, she married that date a little over a year later.

Stay tuned for the wedding and lots of photos!

(I blogged the proposal not too long after it happened, which you can read here.)