I promise, p.12
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       I Promise, p.12

           Robin Jones Gunn
 
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  “It goes very fast.” A tear glistened in Grandma’s eye before finding its way down her wrinkled cheek. “It’s over so soon. Keep short lists, honey. Learn to forgive quickly and go on because one day you’ll wake up and find that somehow you got old when you weren’t looking. Your lists won’t matter at all then.”

  Christy wrapped her arms around her sweet grandmother and held her close in a warm hug. She could feel her grandma shaking as she sobbed quietly into Christy’s shoulder. Tears flooded Christy’s eyes.

  She blinked them away and noticed a photograph only a few inches away from her. The hallway in which they stood was one long family photo gallery. The photo in front of Christy was a picture of her parents’ wedding. Her mom was wearing the dress that now had been dissected to create Christy’s wedding dress. Her parents looked so young. Mom had rich brown hair that fell gracefully onto her shoulders, and Dad stood tall, strong, and straight. Beside her parents stood Christy’s grandmother and grandfather, dressed in their finest and smiling wildly.

  For the first time, it really struck her that her grandfather was gone. She drew her grandmother closer and cried her eyes out.

  Several hours later, when Christy and Todd were in their seats and the airplane was taking off, Todd took Christy’s hand in his. He drew it to his lips and tenderly kissed the back of her hand again and again. She leaned her head against his shoulder and cried some more.

  For the first half of the flight, they didn’t speak. Todd had lifted the armrest between them, and they sat as close as they could, with her head on his shoulder and his head resting on hers. She stopped counting the number of times he pressed his lips to her hair, showering her with tiny kisses like snowflakes that melted as soon as they touched her.

  Christy studied Todd’s hands. The wounds from his horrible car accident had healed, but the scars remained. For the rest of his life, Todd would bear the marks of the places where the shattered glass had pierced his skin. Christy traced the scars with her fingers, as if her homework assignment were to memorize each wound.

  When they finally spoke to each other, Todd’s deep voice rumbled through her ear all the way to her heart. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

  Christy pulled up her head so she could face him. They were only inches apart as she whispered, “We’re going to get old, Todd. We’re going to get old together. Lord willing, we’ll have fifty years or more like my grandparents did. When it comes to things that upset me, I promise to keep a short list. I’m determined to learn how to communicate with you in a way that allows me to express my opinion, but kindly. Love is patient and kind, right? I’m also determined to learn how to forgive you quickly. I don’t ever want to hold as much against you as I have this week.”

  Todd stroked her cheek. A funny little expression played across his eyes.

  “What were you just thinking?” Christy asked.

  Todd looked into her eyes. “I said I was sorry because I was thinking about your grandfather. I didn’t realize you had been mad at me all week.”

  Christy paused before answering. This was a good time for her to practice speaking the truth in love. “I was mad that you missed our counseling session. I’m not mad anymore.”

  “What about the invitations?” Todd asked.

  “What about them?”

  “We missed our appointment to look at invitations this morning,” Todd said.

  “We can look next week. Or I can look and tell you what I’ve found. Or you can look and tell me what you found. I have to learn to be more flexible.”

  “And I have to learn to be more dependable.”

  “Okay,” Christy said with a tender smile.

  “Okay.” Todd returned the smile. His lips traveled the tiny distance that separated them, and he met her mouth with a warm kiss.

  “Excuse me,” the flight attendant said, leaning toward them. “Did you want chicken or lasagna?”

  Christy straightened herself and made a quick decision. “Chicken.”

  “I’ll have the same,” Todd echoed.

  As they ate, they discussed their busy schedules and how they could find more time to be together. This semester was the fullest for Christy, and as she had predicted, Todd often worked more than fifty hours a week. They talked about what could be adjusted in both their schedules and ended up coming to the same conclusion. Every Saturday would be theirs. Their weekly schedules left them little time to see each other, so every Saturday between then and Saturday, May 22, would be set aside for them to do whatever they wanted or needed to do together.

  “Do you realize,” Todd said, “that’s only thirteen Saturdays? Or is it fourteen?” He moved his fingers as he recounted.

  “It’s not a lot, no matter how many it is,” Christy said. “Whatever I can do without you, I’ll try to do. I’ll make certain I tell you all the details, though.”

  “Are you sure that will be all right? Because I can try to adjust things if you want me to go along shopping or something.”

  “No, it doesn’t bother me now that I have a more realistic view. I was being sentimental, thinking we should do everything together and trying to make a memory out of every wedding detail. I’ve watched too many movies. This is reality. You’re working fifty hours a week so we’ll have enough money to eat after we’re married; I’m finishing my toughest semester so far and working part time. We have to make adjustments.”

  “Your mom and your aunt are dying to be involved and do more of the planning. Can you delegate some things to them?”

  Christy handed her finished meal tray to the flight attendant and closed her tray table. Todd did the same.

  “You’re right,” Christy said. “I’ll go down the list and delegate like crazy as soon as they get back from Wisconsin.”

  “Good. Do we have plans already for what we’re going to work on next Saturday?”

  Christy wasn’t sure how to answer that. It was the weekend before Todd’s birthday, and she had been thinking about a party for him. Nothing had been arranged yet, but she wanted to have a big surprise party. “I’m not sure yet,” she answered. “I thought maybe you and I could go to the beach for the day. We could cook breakfast on the beach, and I could try out the surfboard my dad gave me for Christmas.”

  “It’s February,” Christy said. “Won’t it be cold?”

  “Yes.”

  She knew that was a poor excuse if she was trying to dissuade him. He hadn’t been surfing for months, and she realized he was eager to get back in the water. They had cooked their breakfast on the beach in cold weather more than once. Christy decided to come right out with it.

  “It’s right before your birthday, and I—”

  “I know. That’s why I want to go. Just you and me. Breakfast on the beach. What do you say, Kilikina? That’s all I want for my birthday.”

  Christy decided not to mention the plans she had been formulating for his surprise party. Todd’s idea of a memorable party obviously was a private affair.

  “Sounds perfect,” Christy said. “I’ll organize the food.”

  “That’s what I was counting on.” Todd reached for her hand, stroking her Forever ID bracelet with his thumb.

  They were quiet a minute while Christy readjusted details in her mind. It could work. She could stay at her aunt and uncle’s, and she and Todd could have an early breakfast. That would leave them the entire afternoon to look at wedding cakes and invitations and—

  “Kilikina,” Todd murmured, breaking into her planning. He drew her hand to his lips and kissed her ring finger. “I just decided something.”

  “What?”

  Todd adjusted his position and reached into the back pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a wadded-up tissue and held it in his hand.

  “I was going to do this on the way home from my graduation dinner, but neither of us was in a very good mood that night. Then I thought I’d take you to a fancy restaurant this weekend, but here we are on an airplane eating chicken. If I were a patient man, I’d wait ti
ll next Saturday on the beach or come up with a special plan for Valentine’s Day. But I’ve waited too long, and I’m too eager for you to have this.”

  Todd unfolded the wad of tissue, and there, in the crumpled nest in his hand, sat Christy’s engagement ring.

  “Marry me, Kilikina.” Todd slipped the ring on Christy’s finger. “Marry me and grow old with me.”

  At that moment, flying thirty thousand feet somewhere over Colorado, Christy knew more deeply and more profoundly than ever that she always would be in love with Todd Spencer. The intensity of her love for him at that second made it seem as if she hadn’t even begun to love him until now.

  “Yes,” she whispered. “I will marry you.”

  They kissed a long, slow, promise-sealing kiss.

  Christy glanced at her hand on which she now wore a glorious, one-of-a-kind engagement ring. “It’s beautiful.”

  “Yeah, I was real happy with how it turned out. It fits you perfectly.”

  “Yes, it does. In every way.”

  Even though they had been engaged before this moment, and even though Christy never had thought she needed a ring to prove she was promised to Todd, the ring seemed to change everything for her. It reminded her that one day very soon she and Todd would become man and wife. It also was evidence to everyone who noticed it that she was taken. She was going to be given in marriage very soon. She was loved and desired and waiting for her wedding day.

  Christy jotted all those thoughts in her diary on Thursday night of that week. Katie still wasn’t back from work, which was typical. Things still were moving along at a steady pace with Rick and Katie, and she seemed happier than ever.

  With Katie gone so often and Todd not around on campus for Christy to meet in the cafeteria for meals, she found herself spending a lot of quiet time in her dorm room doing homework, working on her embroidery, and thinking.

  At ten o’clock that night, Christy put away her embroidery and crawled into bed, full of thoughts. She pulled out her diary to record what Todd had said to the group of teenagers he had taught Sunday morning. He had told them about giving Christy her ring on the plane the night before and how her face had lit up.

  Then Todd made the most incredible analogy between us being engaged and the way God views us. In the Bible God describes the church as the Bride of Christ. Todd said the Holy Spirit is like the engagement ring that God gives us as evidence of His promise that He will always love us and one day will come and take us to be His bride to live with Him forever.

  It was amazing the way the students responded. Todd said that weddings on earth are a reflection of the great wedding feast of the Lamb that will happen when the Lord comes to take His bride, the Church, to be with Him.

  I realized more deeply what a mystery that is. I felt so different and so much more in love with Todd after he placed the ring on my finger. I find myself growing more deeply in love with Christ as I see these parallels acted out in my life. Christ wants me and is waiting for me one day to be with Him forever. Until that day, His Holy Spirit in my life is evidence to others that I am promised to Him and I am waiting for Him.

  That verse in Ephesians 4:30 makes more sense to me than it ever did before. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Todd told the class it would be like my covering my ring finger with duct tape because I didn’t want anyone to know I was engaged. He said that as my fiancé, it would break his heart if I did that. Yet we do the same thing when we don’t let the Holy Spirit work in our lives.

  Todd’s charge to the class was to boldly let the whole world know that we’re spoken for, that we belong to Christ. Then he said, “But if you’re really in love with the Bridegroom, people will know instantly when they look at your face. Just look at Christy.”

  The whole group turned to stare at me, but I didn’t care. My face and my heart were so brightly lit on fire with my love for God and Todd that I didn’t feel at all embarrassed. I felt as if I were floating on clouds.

  Christy stopped writing for a moment and thought about how clouds figured into the future of all Christians everywhere.

  That’s what’s going to happen when Christ comes for His bride, isn’t it? He’s going to meet us in the clouds.

  Her thoughts reminded her of a certain magnificent early morning, when she and Todd had met in the chapel and had walked in the meadow. She had felt as if the clouds had come to earth that morning.

  Reaching for her Bible, Christy looked up all the references to clouds she could find. She remembered 1 Thessalonians 4:17 was the one about being caught up in the clouds and meeting the Lord in the air. A lump grew in her throat as she read the last part of the verse and underlined it. “And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

  Christy grabbed her diary and wrote,

  Todd was right about what he said to the teens. My brother was right about what he said to Aunt Marti after the funeral. My grandma was right, too. What we’re doing here isn’t about this life only. The real us, our souls, will last forever. God wants us to say yes to His Son so we can be with Him forever. It’s the ultimate “I do.” The eternal “I promise.”

  Overwhelmed by the intense insights, Christy put away her diary and turned out the light. Then quietly, she turned her face into her pillow and cried. Part of her tears were a good-bye and I’ll-see-you-in-heaven to her grandfather; part were for her joyous love for Todd; part were for the mystery of God’s loving her and wanting her to be with Him forever. The final batch of tears was for her aunt, who still hadn’t said yes to Christ. Christy knew that according to God’s Word, Aunt Marti wouldn’t be with Him forever unless she surrendered her heart to Him.

  The door opened, and Katie slipped in, humming. “You awake?” she whispered.

  “Hmm,” Christy responded. She didn’t want Katie to turn on the overhead light and keep Christy up talking all night. Yet, if Katie had any big announcements to make, Christy didn’t want to miss them.

  “I’m leaving early in the morning for the Natural Food Fest in San Diego. Rick is picking me up at six. I just wanted you to know.”

  “Mmm-hmm,” Christy answered.

  “Are you okay?”

  “Mmm-hmm.”

  “Good. Everything is going great with Rick. I’ll see you sometime tomorrow night.”

  “Mmm-hmm.”

  Christy fell asleep to the happy sound of Katie humming her way into her pajamas.

  12 The calendar that hung on Christy’s wall in her dorm room stared back innocently at her as she tried to find some white space to write down her scheduled trip to the dentist. She had made the appointment at work that afternoon without the benefit of consulting her crowded calendar.

  “March twelve,” she muttered to herself. “How did it get to be March twelve already? If I go to the dentist at four o’clock next Tuesday, that means I’ll be late for our counseling appointment at church.”

  Christy chewed on the end of her pen and tried to decide if she should ask Todd for the car that day or for him to take off from work to drive her to the dentist. They could reschedule their counseling appointment for a little later.

  Christy was trying hard to remain flexible. It was getting more and more difficult to coordinate schedules, what with Todd working so much. The past few weeks had flown by. The only fun time the two of them had managed to fit in was their Saturday breakfast on the beach. The morning had turned out to be clear, crisp, and sunny, and they had enjoyed every minute of it. Christy had bought fifteen small gifts that she had wrapped for Todd. He opened the first one at seven o’clock while the bacon was sizzling over the dancing fire. It was wax for his surfboard.

  From then on, every hour on the hour, she gave Todd another little present until nine o’clock that night. The last gift was a picture of the two of them that Tracy had taken years ago on the beach. They were sitting with the rest of the gang, and the late-afternoon sun shone on their faces just right. Tracy had captured them on film at the very
second Todd and Christy were exchanging glances. Their expressions were lit up with the glimmer of wonder and joy at the birth of first love.

  Christy didn’t remember the picture being taken, but the morning they had eaten omelets at Doug and Tracy’s, Tracy had pulled it out of a photo album and given it to Christy.

  She loved the picture and had made a special mat for it by gluing on dried, browned carnation petals extracted from the first bouquet Todd had given her. The flowers had been stored for more than five years in an old Folgers coffee can and smelled a little funny. In her nicest printing, Christy had written at the bottom of the mat, I hold you in my heart. Forever, Your Kilikina.

  Todd got choked up when he opened his final gift and stared at the picture. “We were so young.” Then he held Christy close and told her this was the best birthday he had ever had.

  The warm memories of that special day had been Christy’s only company in the midst of her overly full schedule. The only good thing was that the time was going by quickly.

  Every free moment Christy had, she spent working on embroidering her wedding gown. She nearly was finished with the string of tiny white forget-me-nots that lined the neckline and was trying to decide if she wanted to put the time into adding the flowers on the sleeves or to leave them plain. The embroidery was taking a lot longer than she had thought it would.

  Katie’s opinion was that it didn’t matter. She said no one would notice the flowers on the sleeves. Sierra, however, said the little things would matter the most to Christy on her wedding day. At least, that’s how it had been for Sierra’s sister when she got married.

  Sierra had come to Christy’s dorm room two nights ago and had arrived just in time to hear Katie’s opinion on the sleeves. A freshman, Sierra was one of the most free-spirited young women Christy had ever known. Katie and Christy had met Sierra three years ago, when they had shared a room in England while on a missions trip.

  Sierra’s visit to the dorm room had been prompted by her need to ask if Christy could pick up Sierra from her job at the local grocery store Friday night.

 
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