As I stood in front the mirror, in the bathroom of the gorgeous mountain home John David’s family had rented for us, carefully applying make-up in preparation for Taylor’s big surprise dinner, I suddenly stopped and laid my brush on the counter-top. Tears filled my eyes and my heart swelled at the sweetness God sifts over our lives, even when the cake has seemed dry and tasteless of late. Here I was, about to take part in the greatest happiness of my sister’s life to date, and it was all unfolding much like the books I love to pour through. I was having one of those moments where I suddenly say, “Stop, breathe it in, feel it all, because right now you’re living something too beautiful to miss.”
Taylor has always been our boy in a host of girlie girls. She dominated every sport she ever played and never had to do any more than the minimum requirements to be on the team. I spent countless afternoons in our yard with Dad, throwing and fielding ball after ball, in a desperate attempt to A) Not throw like a girl and B) Not take every fly ball I didn’t duck my head and hide from, on the mouth. In stark contrast stood my little sister, who played every position with agility and an innate ability to be a card while she did–just fascinating to watch. In high school, several boys liked her (liked her a lot, really), but they all just seemed to either get on her nerves or just be too good of a friend to view in any other light. I was sincerely worried that she would never find a boy that she could be excited about.
She went to Auburn, and while she still was much more excited about the fact that she would now be able to live out her dream of playing football (since KD had an intramural football team) than she was about date parties and formals, we couldn’t help but notice that she started dressing considerably better and even put on some make-up from time to time. Then, in the fall of her sophomore year, a Fiji from Arizona, named John David Cleveland asked her out on a real date…and she actually said yes. When she finally fell, she fell hard, and suddenly this girl who Mom had asked me to try and teach what flirting WAS because all her efforts had failed miserably, was suddenly in a constant state of hand-holding, close-face talking, and playful punching (instead of feeling the need to show the boy that she could punch just as hard as he could :)). I was in shock.
(A KerieCleveland picture–John David’s sister is a great photographer!)
When I look at Taylor and John David together, I just laugh at how much greater God is at match-making than I am. I could not have CREATED a more God-loving, intelligent, good-looking, caring, hard-working, ambitious guy, who also happens to be nurturing in my sister’s need and supportive in her ambitions. To really lay the icing on thick, he starts med school here in the fall, Taylor is finishing up her 5th year of architecture here…and they’re going to live about 5 miles away!!! Now, for those of you who are worried, as I was before I met him, about the logistics of a Southern girl marrying a boy (and a family) from Arizona…what kind of accent do they have anyway? Let me just put your minds at rest, in that his Mom is originally from Montgomery and his Dad is originally from Huntsville, making him Southern at least by blood :). As far as his accent, there really is NO accent, because he’s lived all over the country. I figure if we can get him to live down here a little longer, we might start to hear at least a little twang.
So, as you can tell, we’ve all been anxiously waiting for news that Taylor and John David were going to get married. In the meantime, Dad starts telling Caroline, Kendall, and I that in his search for a manly man trip for himself, he has run across another trip that he wants to take all of us on (I should mention here that he tried very hard to get Jeremiah to come as well, but there was just no working around his schedule). I was convinced, with the few clues he had given us for packing, that we were going on a cruise. We (the sisters) had all been fairly concerned about the fact that Taylor was not only not coming, but also that she had no idea we were even going on a trip. Dad just kept saying, “You don’t have any idea how hard it is to line up all of your schedules to take a trip. Taylor just got back from Europe, she’s in Phoenix with her boyfriend…and I’ve sent her on enough trips lately. She’ll understand that!” Even so, Dad’s plan to call Taylor once we got to our destination and tell her where we were and that we wished she were there, just seemed a bit cruel. We spent the night before we left all talking about how we were going to convince Dad that we needed to at least call and tell her BEFORE we left…Caroline couldn’t even eat dinner she was so worried about it.
After all of this worrying, Dad finally gave in about 11 pm on the night before we were supposed to fly out and told us that the reason we couldn’t call and tell Taylor was because we were going to Phoenix…she was getting engaged!!!!! I am surprised our neighbors didn’t come over to see if we were OK, all of us started squealing so loud. Dad was laughing and gloating over his big secret, and I could just hear Mom squealing her own, “EEEEeeee!” in chorus with the rest of us.
When we arrived in Phoenix, John David’s parents met us at the airport to drive us to the house they’d rented us for the weekend. Both of his parents are so fun to be around, and his Mom has one of those souls that feels like an old friend, even if you’ve only known her for five minutes. On our drive she listened as we all talked wedding plans and said she was so thankful to hear real details about Taylor and John David–apparently, as the mother of boys, you don’t get to hear mushy details very often. The hospitality they showed us was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. When we walked in this house, she had already stocked it with our favorite snacks and breakfast foods, everything I might possibly need for Mary Aplin (baby bed, bath, food, formula, swim float, sun tan lotion, toys, stroller…), a welcome package with wedding magazines, bath salts, and fun lotions (so that we girls could sit around and pamper ourselves while we started planning), I mean it was astounding all the details she had considered! There we were, feeling welcomed and loved by a family who’d cared enough to fly us all to their hometown (no, it wasn’t really Dad who’d done it all–that was just a ploy), in this home filled with fireplaces, flat screen televisions, more bathrooms than we knew what to do with, and a pool right outside our door. (Kerie pic again)
After I finished getting ready, savoring each sweet detail, we drove to an intimate Mediterranean style restaurant at the top of a mountain in their neighborhood. We were ushered through the kitchen, to a private dining room behind massive, oak, sliding doors. Once inside, we were greeted by an antique dining suit, with seating for 10 people, each with their own plush, deep seated chair. A fireplace stood at one end of our room and the other was hung with a large mirror that reflected the warm glow of the embers, while a dimmed chandelier completed our cozy sanctuary. As we all sipped drinks and munched appetizers, John David and Taylor were sitting in their own candle-lit room a few short miles away.
John David told Taylor that he loved and longed to be a part of the musical side of her life. While in Honduras the past few months (doing medical missions), he heard a song that made him think of her and he’d asked the man who was playing to teach him to play it on the guitar. He’d kept this all a secret from Taylor until this moment. So then, John David picked up Taylor’s guitar and played and sang her a song that was about service, no matter what the cost. When he finished, he told her that this song made him think of her, because he longed to spend the rest of his life serving…her. Then he got down on one knee and asked her if she would marry him. Taylor, the always unsupposing, actually jumped backwards and grabbed on to the couch when she saw him drop down on his knee crying, “Wait! What are you doing?” John David laughingly recalled to us later that there was a moment there when he wondered if she was going to say no…but of course she didn’t.
(Kendall has a REALLY great picture of them from the night this happened. Sadly, she can’t find her adapter to upload any of her pics. As soon as she finds it, I’ll add it to this post.)
From there, John David told her that he’d made reservations for them to have a nice dinner. As they got in the car and started driving, Taylor called Dad to tell him what had just happened. As she started relaying the news, she started weeping–filled with the excitement of the moment and the acute awareness of who she was not able to share the news with. Dad, standing in our little dining room couldn’t hold back his tears either, and I didn’t look around, but I know that I personally was overcome with the emotion of it all. As they talked on, walking that breathtaking line of laughter and tears, the doors slid open and Taylor saw that her long distance call home to the family she loved, wasn’t so long distance after all. There was a lot of laughter and hugging and squealing and eating and drinking and crying and sharing and pure joy throughout the rest of the night, as we celebrated the beginning of what is sure to be an incredible journey for us all.
That night, Taylor came over to spend the night with us. As we each dreamed our own sweet dreams of the night, Taylor had an extra special dream all her own. She came happily into the kitchen the next morning saying she’d really heard Mom’s voice in her dream. The specific details of what she said were a bit hazy, but mainly Taylor felt and heard that famous glee in her voice as she told her that this was the happiest day she’d seen in heaven so far. “There’s been a chorus of 10,000 angels” she said. “All singing praises just because of you and John David!”