Before asking Natalie out, Justin read Boy Meets Girl (Harris). This book gave good insight and wisdom for starting a Christ-centered, intentional dating relationship.
When they first began dating, Justin bought the following two books (though any comparable books would do):
- Your Autobiography (Munge)
- The Book of Myself (Marshall)
He took many of the questions from these books, as well as from similar websites, and wrote them on index cards. He put these in a small basket and gave Natalie the “Question Basket” as a gift. They spent much of their early dating relationship drawing and answering the questions for each other – a fun way to get to know each other’s personal details, preferences, expectations, goals, etc.
Relationship books we read together while dating:
- For Men Only (Feldhahn)
- For Women Only (Feldhahn)
- Should I Get Married? (Smith)
- 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged (Wright)
Justin took Natalie to Double Rock Park for a picnic on the boulders in the stream. After the picnic, he invited her to take a picture together on the rocks. As the camera recorded, Justin gave her a handful of stones with words of affirmation and love written on them. He then told her that he had “one more rock” for her, “but without words written on it,” as he got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. Natalie said yes!
Justin and Natalie had looked at rings together a few months before, but then hadn’t really talked about it since. Natalie was starting to wonder if he had changed his mind, while Justin had already secretly bought the ring and wanted it to be a surprise. Having had the ring hidden in his apartment for nearly a month, it was time for the proposal. About a week before the planned date, Justin started dropping ideas about picnics, parks, and nice dinners. Natalie became suspicious that something was up – maybe this was the proposal! To keep the cover for the surpise, Justin had Natalie’s best friend and roommate Grace throw her off, hinting to Natalie that Justin wasn’t planning to do anything for weeks. On his end, Justin mentioned having a nice dinner with Natalie a few weeks in the future too.
With Natalie in the dark, Justin moved forward with the plan. Justin and Natalie went to a meeting together on Tuesday morning, and were going to get lunch together afterward. Justin asked if she’d be interested in doing a picnic in the park – either picking up Chinese or heating up leftovers. Natalie said that could be fun, wanted to pack up leftovers, and let Justin decide which park. He casually suggested that they should go to Double Rock Park and picnic on the boulders in the stream under the shade of the trees since it was a hot day. Double Rock Park had been a special park for them – they had done several dates there early in their relationship, climbing around on the rocks and in the stream, with Justin helping Natalie on the hard parts.
When they arrived, instead of a quiet, tranquil scene, they discovered a bunch of kids running around and yelling. Justin set up the picnic blanket and waited for everyone to leave while they ate. Eventually, the area cleared out, and Justin brought out his new (used) camera. His plan to suggest taking a picture on their special rock almost failed when his camera batteries immediately died, but Natalie happened to have her camera along too. Justin brought Natalie up on a big rock and told her to pose while he set up the time delay so they could take a picture together. Secretly, he set the camera to record video. After letting Natalie stand there posing for several seconds, expecting a flash, he finally distracted her by pulling a bag full of small rocks out of his pocket.
Rewind ten years. Natalie sat on a different rock and committed her life to Jesus in the middle of the night her freshman year of college. Nine years later, Justin took Natalie to this same rock and asked her out on their first date. Throughout their relationship, Justin and Natalie had given each other small stones with words written on them in sharpie – words of promise and encouragement. A little over a year later, they were standing on this new rock in Double Rock Park – this one located in Baltimore City, where their hearts and lives are now.
Justin began handing Natalie the stones (some of which are pictured above), accumulated throughout the course of their relationship and kept for this day. Natalie read each one. By the end, there were so many that Justin had to help her put them back in the bag. Then Justin took her hands and began a speech he had prepared and practiced the sleepless night before – about Christ the rock of their relationship, and all the ways God had built them together on that strong foundation.
He ended by saying, “Now I have a new rock to give you. It doesn’t have any words written on it, but I think it speaks loudly of my commitment to you and my desire to spend the rest of my life with you.” Then he got down on one knee and asked Natalie to marry him. She started crying as soon as he got down on one knee and didn’t stop until they were back on the picnic blanket – but she did say yes in there somewhere!
Later, they went to dinner at Chiapparelli’s in Little Italy, and then for a walk on the piers in Fells Point. Justin’s last surprise of the night was a small gathering of close friends to meet them at Pitango Gelato to celebrate.