Friends! I am so excited to introduce today’s post. Some of you may recognize this sweet gal’s face, especially if you follow Lara on social media. Meredith is Grace’s nanny, so she is a daily part of all of our lives and an honorary member of the Southern Weddings crew! When we found out she was planning a wedding in just six months (after a proposal we had a slight hand in!), we knew y’all would love to hear some of the details. Meredith has a heart of gold, and I’m excited for you to hear about the special things she has planned! Oh, and don’t worry – Lisa will be back soon with the next installment in her story, too! :) — Emily
Where to begin… we are a little bit all over the place, but that’s kind of how Beau and I are — literally all over the map! Our story begins in the wonderful town of Norman, Oklahoma. It’s not necessarily a small town, but if you have lived there long enough, you can’t go anywhere without seeing at least three people you know. So, I have “known” Beau since I was little. He was the sweet little boy my momma always mentioned as “the man I should someday marry.” He dated my life-long best friend in elementary school, I watched him speed past every runner in our town’s Hershey’s Track Meets, we attended the same summer camp, and eventually attended the same high school, where we would pass each other in the hallways with a semi-awkward half-smile… you know how that goes.
According to Beau, he began falling for me our sophomore year of high school, but someone must have been a little nervous :) Thankfully, God gave him a giant nudge when placing us together in a small “class” of only four students, where we had plenty of time to talk. One month later we went on our first date to a Mexican restaurant, followed by a trip to Super Target where we ate ice cream and “chased” each other down the aisles in motorized shopping carts (real mature, I know). From that point on, Beau and I were inseparable. I would love to say that “the rest is history” or “and here we are today!”, but Beau and I didn’t really do normal – in fact, we chose to be abnormal.
Beau went away to play football in college, and against most people’s advice and judgments, we chose each other: staying together through dating long distance and traveling for the occasional game or holiday. The next part of our relationship went a bit like this: Oklahoma to Iowa, Iowa to Oklahoma, back to Iowa, visits to his family in Florida, Oklahoma to Ohio, Ohio to Oklahoma, repeat…
I would love to say that those next two-and-a-half years were easy as pie, and that we made it through without a hiccup, but it was hard. We missed each other, and it was difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel with another two years ahead of us and no sign of the long-distance struggles letting up. Fall semester of our junior year of college, we decided to take some time apart from each other, allowing ourselves to realign our heart priorities with what truly matters – loving the Lord above all else, and allowing the overflow of our love for Him to spill into other areas of our lives. God gave us that time apart to become stronger as individuals, so that we could later be stronger as a couple that serves, gives, and loves more abundantly.
After reconnecting in the spring of 2013, it was like no time had been lost. We were different. Not selfish but selfless, more giving, patient, and caring… we knew that we were supposed to be together. We had talked about marriage, and how we knew we wanted to be together, so I expected a proposal at some point. Since we were still in a long distance relationship (me in North Carolina and Beau in Ohio), I was certain that Beau couldn’t surprise me in a million years. All of our visits were planned out months and weeks in advance, and only for short spurts of time. This thought made me a little sad, and I even expressed to my mom and Beau (two nights before he proposed) how I was “sad there probably wouldn’t be any surprise elements.” Little did I know that on December 11th, 2013, I would come to work and get the surprise of a lifetime.
My boss, Lara, asked me to bring a change of “holiday party appropriate” attire to work later that week to take some pictures with Gracie, my little-bitty best friend. I went into a full-blown search through my closet, and in my typically-indecisive fashion, narrowed my outfit choices to three then sent pictures to my sister, mom, and Beau to ask for their opinions. (Jokes on me, but I didn’t know that at the time! I though Beau was at a football Christmas party at his coach’s house!) With the help of my decisive family, I picked an outfit, packed it up, fixed my hair, did my makeup (this is a rare occurrence for me), and headed off to work.
On my way there, I was talking to Beau, as usual, and he thoroughly interrogated me for being “too happy.” Could I not be happy in the mornings? Am I never happy? These thoughts were running through my mind while thoughts of me discovering that he was in North Carolina were racing around in Beau’s head. Later that afternoon Beau sent me a message saying, “There was a fight in the locker room! My friend was punched!” Lie. If even a small part of me had thought he was in North Carolina (which it didn’t), it certainly didn’t now. A win for Beau!
As the day went on, I got busy with Gracie at work and didn’t have time to change into my holiday-red outfit for pictures (ha-ha at me again). As the sun went down, Lara told me she wanted to finish off pictures at their church where there was a beautiful Christmas tree surrounded by pretty decorations. A beautiful Christmas tree? Pretty decorations? Let’s do it! As we walked toward the church, I was telling Lara and Ari all the important things that had happened throughout my Gracie-adventure-filled day, when I saw a figure walking toward the door. Is that…? No. It can’t be… wait, that’s Beau. My beau… my Beau! From that moment on it was a dream. I think I repeated the words “I can’t believe you’re here” and “oh my gosh” one hundred times.
Beau led me up to the stage of their church, sat me down in a chair, and began to wash my feet as he shared with me how he was doing it in resemblance of Jesus’ act of love and service toward his disciples, and that he desired to serve me as Christ served and loved the church for the rest of my life. Not only him for me, but us for Him, striving to be a couple that serves the Lord, giving glory to Him in all we do. If you know me, or any McKinney, you know I was ugly crying in my hands at this point.
He surprised me. Not only did he surprise me, but he blew my expectations out of the water. As I unwrapped a final gift, I saw that he had had a new bible made for me with my future name engraved on it: Meredith A. Blankenship. (Yes, that is the longest name in the world.) Beau then asked me to marry him as he showed me the most beautiful ring, a family heirloom that had been passed down from my O’Bachan (that’s Japanese for grandmother), to my mother, and now to me. I could hardly mutter the words yes, so I just stood up and hugged him for a good while.
The moment was dreamy and yet beyond any of my wildest dreams. God is so good. He is sovereign and in control… he sees our future, and knows with certainty the plans he has for us. He is good, and I can’t wait to spend a lifetime with Beau, living and learning, growing and serving, all while keeping our eyes on Him, learning his methods of love, so that we may in return learn to fully love one another. We cannot wait for the joy that is to come in 2014!
P.S. Stay tuned for the next installment of Meredith’s story next week! In the meantime, you can follow her wedding planning via her instagram hashtag #merefoundherbeau!
Proposal photos by Emily March Photography, engagement photos by Sharlee Rother Photography