The North Meets the South - part 2
Christopher reclined on the living room couch after a full day working at a manufacturing plant. He wondered how much longer he would have his job. Refusing to work on the Sabbath, he continued to call in on the weeks when employees were expected to work Saturdays, fully aware that one day he would call in one time too many and be laid off.
Picking up his cell phone, he sent a text to his girlfriend. "What's up? :)"
"Sitting around," came the reply a few minutes later.
He could hear his mom, Tracy, pull into the garage and then enter the house. She closed the glass front door's shutter with a quiet comment "about the sun" and then disappeared as Chris remained in the living room. I wish Abigail was here.
Worn cowboy boots hit the gravel with a tiny thud as a car door closed softly.
“Good doggies,” a voice whispered in the direction of a regal Doberman and half-wild adopted stray standing at attention.
Tall bending straw thickly coated the ground of what used to be an old cotton field nearby. Song birds twittered in the forest beyond as southern sunshine seeped through the cool air and glinted across wavy hair.
A firm knock sounded at the front door and Christopher moved to open it.
"Hi," a familiar figure stood on the front steps, smiling.
“Hello,” he returned calmly, a serious look still resting across his face but making a sideways glance at his mother now in the living room and taking a step back.
“Well, I’m here." To his continued amazement, his girlfriend stepped into the living room accompanied by the knowing laughter of his mother who provided transportation from the Atlanta airport.
“So I see…” He flashed a broad grin. “I’m so glad you’re here,” warmly.
“It’s so good to be here," she replied.
“When I saw you standing there after I opened the door, my heart skipped a beat,” he said. “That doesn’t happen very often.”
Abigail was thrilled by southern hospitality and friendly faces at the church Chris's dad pastored. Together they led song service, Abigail played special music, and enjoyed nature in the afternoon with new friends. To Abigail's initial trepidation, she touched the first firearm she ever had in her life, with careful instructions from her boyfriend and photography by his mother. The weekend flew by all too quickly.
Blessing in Disguise
Chris continued to be a valuable worker at the manufacturing plant in town, often waking at 3:00 am to spend long hours switching from station to station in an environment anything but Christian.
One the occasion of a second visit from Abigail, efforts to take a single day off from work to drive her back to the airport were to no avail. Employees working at this site less than a year were not considered full time and had no option for a day off. Gingerly he clocked in at work, leaving behind a sorrowful but admiring young woman. Although she knew he wanted to spend that time with her, his sense of responsibility and dependability was keen and she respected this.
Christopher was indeed let go prior to the one-year mark, leaving him both stunned and strangely freed. It was a known practice of the company to lay off workers prior to a year in order to avoid hiring full time and paying benefits. That evening, he called a friend and church member, Rodney Golden, who owned an electrician business and had mentioned previously that he would like Chris to at one point work for him.
"We were praying that you would lose your job," he was told. "I've been wanting you to work for me."
Chris lost his job and was hired to work the next in a single day. With relief, he worked the following months side by side with a like-minded Seventh-Day Adventist, enjoying himself much more than he had in a long time and doing what came natural and easily to his hands.
Abigail's family learned of these new changes approvingly. It seemed that the Lord had a timing altogether perfect.
The South Wins
As the months passed, both Chris and Abby became more certain than ever that God was leading them to embark on a journey deeper than that of friendship. Both having finished school with jobs of their own, they were at the place of seriously looking for a life partner. Referring to an original list of qualities she desired in a husband (written years previously,) Abigail recognized that Christopher met every single one.
Chris himself knew what he was looking for in a life companion, and not being one to waste time began to plan for asking her dad, allowing Abigail to become increasingly mystified in the process with uncommonly vague replies to some of her curious questions.
In the month of June, Christopher flew to Vermont to spend time with her family and see the places familiar to her. As Abigail excitedly waited at the airport with her dad and sister, it wasn't long before she spied the plane where she knew he was.
In that moment in her excitement, another realization almost brought stinging tears to her blue eyes. A part of herself was on that plane. In that moment, she felt as if a part of herself was finally home now that he was.
That weekend on Sabbath as friends and church members of New England asked alike, Chris and Abigail's dad, Tim, trailed behind the main group. Abigail walked with her friend Katherine and cast a quick glance behind them.
"Do you think...?" her friend's eyes grew wide with a sudden thought.
Abigail brushed it away, although she wondered. "Oh, I'm sure that's not what they're talking about."
Later she would learn that her friend was right.
Later that week, she and Chris flew down south for a visit with his family. After saying good-bye to her family, the two began their journey to visit his.
"Let Chris know we really like him," Abigail smiled as she received a text from her dad. The support and approval of her parents made a world of difference.
"Cool summers of New England are great," he texted, "but total scores have the south as the victor."
It was an interesting remark coming from her dad.
The day after they arrived, Abigail spent a lengthy time in a lonely spot by the woods listening to the chirp of the birds, the quiet rocking of a hanging chair from two tall trees, and scamper of chipmunks over brown pine needles. The intense sun of the south sent beautiful beams through the forest as she danced among the pine trees, singing as she walked and reviewing the past events leading her to this time of life. Little did she realize how memorable this day would indeed be.
"You're driving," Christopher slid a black shoulder pack from his arm to the car and helped himself to the passenger's seat.
"Alrighty then," Abby grinned. Twenty minutes later the Honda Civic pulled into an empty parking lot adjacent to Talladega National Forest for a hike up Dugger Mountain.
Abigail wiped a wisp of hair from her brow as she pressed up the single-file path, marveling at brown vines clinging to tree trunks, scattered wildflowers hidden among foliage lining the path, and the winding trail's dips and turns as it wound along the sides of the mountain. It was easy to imagine Native American Indians walking this same path many years ago.
Spotting long dips downward in the trail, she scampered ahead of Christopher, laughing as she looked back to see him grin. Conversation switched from topic to topic - they spoke of each other's families and the adoption of her two brothers, discussed the habits of snakes and insects present in the area, and recalled events of the past together as the winding trail led them far around the mountain Glimpses of a view could be seen through standing trees but the trail dipped downwards again and eventually grew overgrown with leaves and long grasses bending into the pathway.
"Are you sure we should keep going?" Abigail slowed her pace, now slightly out of breath and warm with the humidity. "It doesn't look like this part of the trail is kept up."
"We can stop if you'd like," Chris approached a nearby log and set the shoulder pack on the ground nearby.
To her pleasure, he had been carrying water bottles for such a time as this. It would have been too difficult to resist pouring trickles of cold water down the back of his shirt as he grinned and they laughed together.
Minutes passed as they spoke and rested on the large log.
"I'm so glad that you're here," he went to his knees on the ground, returning the water bottles and then looking up at her face with an expression of contentment, silent for several moments.
"I have something for you." He reached into the shoulder pack to bring out a dark gray box, opening it to reveal a watch resting inside.
An expression of surprise spread across her face, eyes widening as what he would ask began to register.
"Abby Cosgrove," he said simply, "will you marry me?"
With an expression of delight she joined him on the hard-packed earth of the path. "Oh yes - I will."
"I love you so much," Chris embraced her in his strong arms.
"What kind of person were you looking for before we met," she turned to ask him curiously.
"I was looking for you."
Christopher could not have imagined the year previously that he would be asking a girl to marry him that day, or that his joy would be so complete. Yet the Lord had a perfect, wonderful plan all along.
Surprised at the proposal Abigail had not anticipated that day and thrilled at the joy swelling in her heart, she also trembled as she reviewed the past and realized how choices against the counsel of her parents and the conviction of God's Word would have led her down a very different path. With the realization that she could have said no to this overflowing happiness if she had not chosen to have faith that the Lord's dreams were more beautiful than any of her own.
As the couple began their trip back, they marveled not only because they had begun this walk as boyfriend and girlfriend and would end it as an engaged couple, but also because their journey had only begun.