She. Said. Yes!

It was June of 1997 and I was completely dejected. The girl of my dreams was just not that into me. Summer break could not come quickly enough. My mom’s van pulled out of the school parking lot as I tried to distract my mind from my unsuccessful endeavor to make this girl mine.

Life sure is hard on an 8-year-old.

Sharing the stage as the lead characters in the school play did not win me any points
Sharing the stage as the lead characters in the school play did not win me any points

Shortly after breaking my heart, Stephanie and I went our separate ways. Stephanie switched schools, not to be heard from again until high school. A new social media site created by a Harvard dropout enabled a message to pop up in my inbox from the girl I’d had my eyes on 10 years previous.

Was there really a question I would end up anywhere but UC?
Was there really a question I would end up anywhere but UC?

The conversation ended quickly. Little did we know how significant the words “Maybe I will see you again” would be. We ended up going to the same college, parking in the same garage throughout freshman year, and, regardless of the fact she walked by my dorm every morning on her way to class, we still never ran into each other. (May have had something to do with me neglecting my alarm clock every morning.)

That is, until the car accident in 2009.

Thirteen years after starring in the Clever Turtle play together, the same girl walked into my room. I had just returned home from my four month stint in the hospital and Stephanie was now in massage therapy school. After seeing the news of the accident on Facebook, she had reached out to my family to offer her therapeutic skills in whatever way she could help, regardless of the fact that we hadn’t seen each other in over a decade.

The relationship started off professionally. She would come over a few times a week to massage the tightness and knots from my body that had formed as a result of going through the grinder of car flips, ventilator weaning, and months of hospitalization. This gradually turned into a friendship and one day she brought over one of her assignments from our second grade class that she just happened to stumble upon:

What I learned about the Bible and following Jesus…
“I learned that God did many miricals. I like the one of the parelized man the most.”

Click here for previous blog about the project above

As I would come to find out over time, it could not have been mere coincidence that the two of us shared a page in her project with my future diagnosis. After a couple years of friendship, our relationship progressed to dating, and as time went on I became certain I wanted to make this girl my wife.

2015 seemed like the year to take the next step, but a seven month stint getting stuck in bed delayed my plans (click here for context to this story). Each day she sat at my side as we waited and prayed. As soon as I was healthy enough to be upright for an entire day I knew I was going to propose. Little did she know the plan that was hatching in my mind. It was time to put a ring on the finger of the girl I was chasing around the circle in second grade.

Trying to make moves
Trying to make moves

Now it was time for execution.

I didn’t tell anyone except for the most trustworthy crew known to man: a group of 16-year-old boys.

2017 huddle 8-17-14

Each Sunday when I met with them for a Bible study, we game planned a strategy to catch her off guard. The final plan was a scavenger hunt proposal, in which they would play a role.

My paranoia increased as the day got closer. Could she see it on my face? I deleted text messages with high school guys and disguised preparation emails with subjects pertaining to my college Real Estate courses in case she were to see over my shoulder. I did not want her suspecting anything and I was not taking any chances.

To avoid the risk of Stephanie making plans on my projected proposal date, I teamed up with her mom to get the day booked weeks in advance. With two little sisters, her mom got creative and planned a “half birthday party” to take place during the day. I put a mock “double date” with another couple on our calendar for later that same evening.

The day arrived and the high school guys huddled around in my parents’ living room with all eyes on me, waiting on assignments for each of the four scavenger hunt locations to be divvied up.

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Not too many years from now they will be in my shoes, making the same step forward. I took this opportunity to explain the importance of what was about to commence and how they should conduct their own search in the coming years. We opened up to Proverbs 31 in which the ideal wife is described in detail. Finally, it was time for them to go help me lock mine down.

Before leaving, the guys shouted “I do!” on the count of 3. Wrong occasion, guys…but I guess it works.
Before leaving, the guys shouted “I do!” on the count of 3. Wrong occasion, guys…but I guess it works.

We rehearsed our assignments and I sent out four teams of guys with roses, letters, and clues in the form of poems, and they were off. The entirety of my engagement plans were now in the hands of 14 high school boys.

And they're off

After months of planning and a morning of barking out orders to these guys, my healthcare providers, and my family, I was finally able to take a deep breath. I headed down to the basement to relax for a bit with my sister and wait for the text message updates to begin.

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As soon as the guys assumed their positions in each of the four nearby locations, a series of photo confirmations were sent in a group text message to confirm to me they were where they were supposed to be.

Guys texts

As soon as all four groups were situated, I gave Stephanie’s mom the go-ahead. The hunt was officially now in motion.

Gina text

Meanwhile, 20 minutes north at a “half birthday party,” Stephanie’s mom interrupted the festivities to share that Ryan was disappointed he had not been able to make it, but wanted to still play a role in the action with a scavenger hunt. Stephanie opened a box with a CD and instructions for the scavenger hunt.

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Her dad then proceeded to read her the first clue from yours truly.

unnamed

To which she responded…

Stephanie text

As she attempted to get her family to join her, they shoved her out the door, insisting she head out alone. The first clue was leading her to her childhood home.

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She arrived to find four high school guys waiting in her former driveway, dressed in shirts and ties despite the 90 degree weather. The guys handed her a rose and read her a letter I‘d written. As per my scavenger hunt instructions to Stephanie, she texted me a photo from the location of herself with the boys so I could keep tabs on her whereabouts. The guys then proceeded to read the next clue which led her to her favorite childhood park. They gave her another CD to listen to on the way, consisting of a recorded message from me and a song.

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The same process with a different group of guys ensued at the park. As she took the rose and CD from this second group of guys, who began yelling and cheering as she walked back to her car, it dawned on her this may be a little much for a “half birthday.” Her suspicion heightened as she proceeded to location number three: the elementary school where we met in 1996.

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This group of seven guys wanted to arrive at the last location before Stephanie, so she was told to listen to the CD in the parking lot before heading to the next spot. Tears flowed down her face as everything sunk in as she looked at the building where we met 19 years prior with one of our favorite songs playing in her car. She dashed off to the park where we have spent quite a bit of time together, wondering what awaited her.

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The last clue let her know I was waiting back at home. Stephanie then made the final 2.3 mile trek down Snider Road, into my neighborhood, parked out front, burst inside, and made her way down the steps:

Stairs

And into the basement…

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As she walked in the room, I caught a glimpse of the smile on her face as my heart was pounding. Her beauty glowed as I waited for her to approach me. With Red Lobster takeout waiting in the kitchen (a throwback to our first date), and our families on call to arrive for a celebration later that evening, I directed her to remove the sheet covering my feet:

Ring

And after all that, I’m thrilled to announce that…

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SHE SAID YES!


A video to capture the day:

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37 thoughts on “She. Said. Yes!

  1. Goosebumps and tingles as the story unfolded…thanks so much for sharing your joy with us….I know David and the rest of the boys were honored to be a part of your proposal…you and Stephanie are in for a lifetime of blessings!

  2. You are quite the romantic one Ryan Atkins! Bravo and well done. Your love story is amazingly beautiful, and hand crafted by God. Be blessed you two!

  3. There are NO words!! I am overwhelmed by God’s precious orchestration in our lives!! I’ve always heard how life is like a quilt/tapestry and it may look messy on the backside of the design being created, but OOOHH the glorious front we will see one day!! Your blog reminded me of that!! And God has blessed you (I believe, anyway) with peeking in a little early on some of the amazing things He is doing that we just don’t see?!! :)) The incredible part about Stephanie’s “favorite miricels” is a priceless example. — Congrats and God bless you both!!❤️

  4. Ryan, Congratulations! What a wonderful, wonderful story. I am so happy for both of you. May the Lord make his face shine down upon you, bless you and keep you and grant you peace.

    Blessings and prayers,

    Tom

    • Hi Ryan! I just caught up on your last 2 blog posts. Mercy, you have had a really rough and trial-filled 7 months! What’s the secret to maintaining your sanity? I guess you had movies to watch and friends to visit as you stared at the ceiling… THANK GOD you are healed of that bugger!!!

      I LOVED reading the story of your proposal. How imaginative and keenly planned! I am super impressed and YES, you have raised the bar for all men reading this. 🙂 I am SO happy for you and dear, sweet, beautiful, amazing Stephanie! You certainly choose wisely. 🙂 As did she. The “God-incidences” along your journey speak volumes! What a great story! Thanks for sharing the ups and downs of your life with us. You are such a trooper! What a great attitude you have had and I admire the value you have for ‘your’ High School boys group. I bet they were super happy to be part of the plan. That is honor!

      You never seize to amaze me!!! Thank You Lord, for healing Ryan and for the tenacity, resilience, faith, love, sense of humor and wisdom which You have shored up in Ryan. You do make the best plans, Father! You really do!! 🙂

      SUPER DUPER HAPPY FOR YOU AND STEPHANIE!
      Virginia (Virgie or Virg)

  5. Ryan and Stephanie, Congratulations!!!!! Only God could have written this story … and knows the rest of it!!!!! Hugs and Prayers, Aunt Linda

  6. YEAH, Ryan!! Congratulations to you and Stephanie both. She is a really lucky young woman- as fortunate as I know you feel. I was crushed to read your last blog – I had been naively thinking you just took some time off while back in school. Very glad those 7 months are history for you. And now so much to look forward to!! You are incredibly creative – really making it tough for your unmarried friends with that engagement story! Congrats and continue to take care of each other.

    Terri Jones Wood

  7. Wow, Ryan!! What an amazingly creative marriage proposal! Congratulations to you and Stephanie! What joy and thankfulness I feel! God’s hands are so incredibly evident in every aspect of your blessed relationship! Sending you both love and best wishes! -Judy Parry (Mrs. Romer)

  8. I have been patiently and not so patiently waiting for this story and it was well worth the wait. Although, a tissue warning would have been nice 🙂 Congratulations!

  9. Ryan,

    I am sitting here in my office in tears. This is one of the most heart-warming stories I have ever read. It will forever be a piece of the jigsaw puzzle of my life, being a part that has moved my personal transformation to a new height. God is so amazing. Thank you for sharing this incredible moment with me.

    Blessings,

    Pierre Paroz

  10. Wow! You set the bar high!! I will be sending this to my son for him to aspire to someday. (: Congratulations and best wishes to you both! Thank you for continuing to share your journey.

    -Jennie Schretter

  11. Such an amazing love story Ryan…may you be blessed with many wonderful years together! Congratulations Ryan and Stephanie!!!

  12. Sitting at Reagan National waiting to board an airplane. I need to pull myself together. No misty eyes here!! Crying big tears and using my shirt to wipe away the tears so I can read the blog. Smiling at the same time. Glad I went through security before I read this…TSA would have held me in small room thinking I was on drugs or something. Praise the Lord for Ryan and Stephanie. Amazing story proving again the Lord is in charge, and His plans are perfect. Congratulations and best wishes!!

    Bob Buck

  13. Congratulations Ryan and Stephanie. Thank you for sharing your beautiful love story!!! Wishing you much love and happiness always!!!

  14. Congratulations. Our family is SO excited for you both! Thanks for letting us “in” on the whole story and beautiful way you planned out the special engagement event. It shows your beautiful, loving heart! I have NO doubt that God has WONDERFUL plans and a beautiful future for you two. God bless you both! Eph. 3:20-21!?✨?

  15. Dearest Ryan:

    I knew this post was coming.

    I never wanted the story to end.

    The text coupled with visuals allowed me to feel a part of the occasion.

    Congratulations to you and Stephanie.

    Loved reading in the “Comments” section your kindergarten teacher even read the story!

    Incorporation of the young men you mentor touched me deeply. Oh, Ryan, the impact you have on so many lives. All involved will never forget their part in process and joy of day.

    This is the most romantic use of social media I have yet experienced. With your permission, I’d love to share with my Mom.

    Much love, admiration, and sigh…..ah, the romance……

    P.S. Consider using turtles somewhere thematically at your wedding. They were there at the beginning. 🙂

    lisamarie

    ________________________________

  16. Congrats Ryan!!

    This story popped up on my facebook & I am realizing what a small world this is!! I am SO excited to work with you & Stephanie on your big special day. What a beautiful proposal for such a truly wonderful couple.

    I love this story & cannot wait to help with the big day!
    -Amber
    Your Wedding Coordinator

  17. Just read your wedding plans and your incredible proposal story, Ryan! Thanks for the good Friday morning cry!! Here’s to a life full of joy, gratitude and cherishing the great love you’ve found 🙂 Congratulations!

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