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!”
To be honest, I can’t even remember how I found your blog. I’m sure you’re friends with someone I’m friends with, or friends of a friend of a friend.
Regardless, I just wanted to tell you I love this post. I don’t even know you (or your sister) and I was crying. What a wonderful time you all just shared. It sounds like you have a great family. Thanks for sharing it with all of us. 🙂
I can hear your moms delight and happiness as I read your words. What a precious gift God has given Taylor and all of you, being able to share this moment with her straight from heaven. His love and details always astound me. I had a feeling this had something to do with Taylor when I heard about the trip. I am so excited and can’t wait to be a part of what is going to be a blessed time for the Clark family. I love all of you..Mrs. Robin
Abby… You’ve done it again… there are tears dripping into my coffee! Somehow I need to not read your blog while drinking my coffee… I think this is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve had tears dripping in it!! What a precious, precious, precious account of such an amazing time in Taylor’s life!!! I didn’t need any pictures (although I’d like to see the ring) because you described the entire night so perfectly!!! I’m so thankful that all the girls (& dad) could be there together. What an awesome adventure!! Thanks for sharing all the details… I loved every word of your account!!!
I’ve been so excited about this post! I had some tears dripping in my coffee too. You are such an amazing storyteller that I feel like I was there!
I am so happy for Taylor and John David. Can’t wait to have them in B’ham! PS – Want to rewrite mine and Todd’s website?
Abby, I’m so happy for Taylor. Her dream makes me happy and sad at the same time. My dad always got such a kick out of how she always wanted to WRESTLE when she came over to play with Mary Ashley when they were really little. Good luck wedding planning. October weddings are the best!
Okay, the first time I heard this story from Mitzi I cried with happy tears. Reading your details of the story I feel like it was more of a happy sob. This is the sweetest story. I’m so excited for them, even though I don’t know either of them. I’m so glad you all got to be there for that. So sweet…I have to go find a kleenex to wipe these tears. Mary Selwyn is so confused as to why I’m crying right now.
Abby, thanks for sharing that story. I loved reading it and getting a glimpse into your beautiful family!
The night I found out Taylor was engaged I dreamed she won Miss Dothan and was going to have to make a choice between participating in Miss Peanut and getting married. I have quit trying to figure out that dream!
I vividly remember the ball practices in the yard. Your dad had (has)the most patience. And we always looked forward to the Christmas visits from you 4 girls. How about Pace and Mary Aplin continuing that tradition? We are so happy for all of you and look forward to sharing this special time with the Clark family.
Abby, It’s Mrs. Adams. I just had to leave a comment about my sweet, charming, talented, beautiful, and delightful Taylor. I have always been one of her bigest fans! Preston says John David is a great guy–and now, after hearing the skinny on the engagement proves it. What a beautiful family you all are! Preston will be in Bham also at dental school and living with Bob H. (med. school) Thanks for sharing your life with me. –love to you all.
I am so happy for Taylor! As you may recall, were “starred” in Annie together at SEACT. It has been a joy to see her grow and blossom into a fine young woman. I know your Dad and your sisters are so proud and happy and I just know your mom is smiling down from heaven! God bless you all and happy planning!!
Abby, congratulations to you all, what a wonderful blessing! You did an amazing job capturing not only the details, but the emotions as well. I cried like a baby!!
I felt like I was there with you the way you described every detail. I knew that you wouldn’t post until you had enough time to capture every single detail to it’s finest. You are such a great big sister and it’s obvious you are one of her biggest fans. Thanks again for sharing such a great glimpse into the Clark family! Your Mom and my Dad are great friends, I just know it! I’m sure she’s been telling him all about Taylor and her big day. I love to dream and think about things like this. It makes me long for the day that I can 1) be with Jesus and 2) be with Dad again. Lots of love to you!
What a wonderful story, I could hardly read it with all of the tears coming forth. I know your mother is so proud of all of you and so happy for sweet Taylor. You were a beautiful matron of honor at Whitney’s wedding and it was so good to talk with your Dad. I look forward to reading more sweet chapters of the story. “Miss” Karen
Abby, that is such a wonderful story. Congratulations to Taylor!
P.S. I love reading your posts!!
I wish you would quit making me cry at work! That was a beautiful account of the whole thing!
That was beautiful! Just like everyone else, I cried AND felt like I was there also! People that work with me think I’m a basket-case! Cant wait for the next one!
Hey! I loved getting to catch up on your site! I have just entered into Blogland myself. Come by my site. I have loved reading your posts and can’t wait to read more! What a joy it is to stop and sense the Lord literally moving among us….Thanks for sharing that with us! Love you!
Abby, I do not know you. I found your blog through many links of friends of friends of friends. I too have read many of your post and almost been brought to tears. Your look on life, family, The Lords importance is for lack of a better word, beautiful. I find myself reading your blog whenever I get a down moment at work. Just wanted to let you know. Keep it up!
How wonderful all that sounds – your family is awesome and I am so excited for Taylor. About your posting on the “inappropriate girl with children” – I know just how you feel – I’ve been in that situation so many times I cannot even count, mainly b/c I hate to miss out on things myself, so if it means taking the children – so be it! It will be much harder to do that now with 3, but I am sure it will happen again sooner or later. Love reading your blog! Kellie
Hey Abby and Family! I came across this randomly and wanted to tell you just how lovely this story is, and like many have said in their comments, I’ve found myself crying at my desk for many reasons. I’ll look forward to reading more of your adventures, and I know that you will inspire (and amuse) me daily with your stories of family and faith. I hope all is well with you and yours today, and I’ll look forward to seeing your pretty face soon!
All the best,