yesterday afternoon, april 3, 2012, around the sixteenth hour, sam called his girlfriend [and my very best friend] leanne. “hi leanne. today is a big day.” she replied, “oh is that right?!” — “yes. it is. a big day, for sure. come to the grandstands at 5.”
leanne took her time getting ready, and later admitted, listening to the audio recording of 1 corinthians 13 [the love chapter] twice — “i don’t remember any of it. needed something to calm me down.” when leanne arrived at the grandstands [“i took the long drive from my house; didn’t know what else to do with myself”] she saw our youth pastor justin in the distance. leanne was handed the end of a strand of twine and instructed to follow the trail. this twine started at the stands at the high school next door to our church, went onto church property, through both buildings, through the gym [where musicians were sound-checking for the evening service] and to the very far corner of the property. funny sight: little leanne running through buildings gathering twine like her life depended upon it. the church was anything but empty — and apparently she got some fun encouragement along the way: get the string, leanne! GET THE STRIIIIING! as she nervously stepped between instruments on stage, her ball of twine growing by the step.
there were four different custom-designed signs made by sam along this twine-path, finishing with this final sign, prompting leanne to come find sam… and we’ll make it official. sam was there waiting [and freezing cold after fifteen lone minutes] with two chairs, a blanket & a board game called “leanne & sam” — about their two-year relationship & nine-year friendship.
the board game included memories from their friendship/relationship… such as “leanne cut her hair and you thought it was cute. move ahead two” and “leanne shunned you a whole trip to alberta [where they traveled together in the same worship band] move back four” and my personal favourites “sam got involved with other girls. he was really really really dumb. go back to start.”
pause: let me explain their story a little bit. leanne and sam met at church when they were around eleven years old. leanne was a tiny, quiet, shy, nerdy homeschool kid. [sorry leanne.] sam was the charismatic, charming pastor’s son — and leanne, as with most girls in the church, had a crush on this boy. from a distance, of course. she tried her best to get around the boy — but he wasn’t taking notice. too busy with other girls. sam & leanne became friends around the age of sixteen, sam, of course, still into other girls — but their friendship started. sam flirted, leanne melted, sam flirted, leanne melted some more, sam flirted with other girls, leanne tried to ignore that, etc. after a couple years of this, they needed to “define the relationship.” they met at the grandstands [yes, the same grandstands] to have a talk. sam’s opening line was “i just want to be friends.” leanne paused, took some time to think and then let sam have it, “don’t you ever lead a girl on like this again.” he listened respectfully. she left the grandstands that day crushed and their friendship broken.
a year or so later, their friendship started back up again; this time closer than ever. they hung out a lot. like… every day a lot from around october to december of 2009 until one night sam leaned over and whispered, i think i have a crush on my best friend. two months later, at the grandstands [here we go again!] on february 15, 2010, sam asked leanne to be his girlfriend. eating the “i just want to be friends” words he had spoken a year and a half before. throughout their two-year relationship, leanne has always told sam “i am done with those grandstands. you cannot, i repeat, cannot, propose there.”
when sam was telling me his proposal plans over the last two weeks, he mentioned, “i’m having her start at the grandstands because she always said she didn’t want that — too much history — and she’s gonna dread that i’ll actually ask there. it’s gonna be awesome.”
at the conclusion of the board game, sam asked leanne to become his wife. forever and ever. [i don’t have any more details for this part, because i was at starbucks buying these two coffee. i don’t even know if sam got down on one knee. you can ask him later — they wanted the moment to be private.] AND THEN I SHOWED UP WITH STARBUCKS AND SMILES. leanne’s eyes were full of tears. sam was feeling like the mannnnn and i was there to capture it all.
in between photos, sam rapidly texted all the close friends and family members he could think of. leanne just smiled and didn’t let go.
i cannot tell you how excited i am that this day has come. i am blessed to have leanne as my best friend and to have seen the hanging out every day as friends stage morph into the i like you stage into the hey be my girlfriend stage into the hey it’s been two years please be my wife stage. i have loved every minute of my friendship with both of these beautiful people. they love the Lord with all of their hearts, give their lives to the church and to ministry, have a heart for people, a heart for prayer, are talented and kind and… i’m out. they are just great.
leanne and sam have been crazy about each other since day one of their relationship. head over heels. two weeks into dating, i was hanging out with both of them at a house sam was house-sitting. leanne was showing me around upstairs and whispered, i want to live in a house like this someday. with sam. i want to marry sam and i want to live in a house like this with him. i remember walking around the streets of philadelphia with leanne on a business trip late one night… and she was chatting about sam. she laughed at the end of the story, man i just LOVE HIM. leanne! love?! the L word? she didn’t answer me. only a giggle.
two weeks later, i got a text message at midnight. “i love him. he loves me. it’s official.”
i photographed them that month, october 2010, eight months into dating.
they also modelled for my workshop this past june. popular couple.
they loved each other, they were committed to one another, they knew marriage was the goal very early… but sam & leanne started dating at eighteen and nineteen. they were young. so they waited. they prepared. they saved. and now the timing is right.
and it is wonderful.
they will become mr. & mrs. sam cantelon in october of this year.
i will be the short blonde girl standing beside leanne on the stage weeping.
i’m signing off on this post today with a text from leanne this morning:
“i’m excited for you to blog us FINALLY as an engaged couple. i’m excited to FINALLY be able to plan. i’m excited to get my dress. i’m excited to marry the man i’ve liked for 9 nine years [yeah she wrote both, i guess getting engaged makes you so excited you make funny statements like 9 nine years] and who happens to be my best friend in the world. it’s a GOOD day.”
a good day, indeed.