Colby contacted me months ago and asked if I would capture the moment he proposed to his precious girlfriend, Joanna on the GC&SU campus. I didn't even know them at the time but was so ridiculously excited! I've asked Colby & Joanna to write out "their story" on the blog. They both separately wrote about the event from each of there perspectives & then I'll end it with my version of the story(pictures).
Joanna and myself, Colby, have been dating for 5 years. I met Joanna attending a Phi Mu philanthropy event, Dance Marathon, during our second year of college at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. Dance Marathon is the philanthropy for Phi Mu Sorority at GCSU and it is used to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network. I attended Dance Marathon and was introduced to Joanna and her sister Mary by mutual friends shortly after the beginning of the event. Joanna and I began dating a few months after Dance Marathon; the date was April 26, 2008.
Joanna and I have been talking about an engagement for almost a year now, but waiting on jobs and school to be over became an issue both of us wanted to resolve before we took the next step in our relationship. I also wanted to be spiritually ready to lead both of us in our relationship with each other and with God as one. I told her that I would propose when I felt that the time was right and I knew God would place the date on my heart and give me a feeling of confidence. That was big for me because I am typically indecisive and if I had no faith in God that He would allow everything to fall into place when it was time then there’s no telling where I would be right now.
Joanna’s dad and myself met to talk about me marrying his daughter on August 15th, although our way of meeting was another round of golf. I took him to Callaway Gardens and treated him to a round of golf and a chat about marrying his daughter. It was one of the worst rounds of gold he and I had ever played but by the time we had finished the 18th hole and were on our way to the clubhouse I mustered the courage to ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage. You must know that he normally does not intimidate me but since I highly respect him and his family and could not make myself talk to him about marrying his daughter. After I had asked him and acted like I had to defend my reasoning he said this, “Why in the world did you wait until now to ask? I would’ve made this day easier for the both of us and our golfing if you had asked before we started.” That has been our relationship for the entire 5 years and I could not ask for a better future father-in-law.
Joanna and I decided to use her Great Grandmother’s (on her father’s side) center diamond from her engagement ring that her dad had given me not too long after talking to him. At this point Joanna had no idea that I had even began planning the engagement.
I wanted to include her mother in the talks of marriage and wanted to do so prior to buying her ring. It did not work out that exact way. Reason being I took her Great Grandmother’s ring to a diamond show in order to find out the size and worth of the diamond on behalf of her father wanting to know more about it. The diamond show ended up having a setting that was exactly the setting Joanna had been describing. I took no time and decided that was it. It seemed to easy but I felt super confident and happy with the purchase and the job of the jeweler placing the family stone on that setting.
After a few visits from Joanna to my house and trying to keep the ring hidden as well as her Great Grandmother’s ring (minus the center stone) hidden from her I decided to go ahead and meet with Joanna’s parents, together. I took the family ring and met her parents at their house when I was on my way up to see Joanna in Athens. I was not nearly as nervous this time and talked to both her mother and father. Her father was still accepting to the fact and her mother met the idea with a kiss on my cheek, which is something that does not happen frequently so I know how much the idea meant to her and was exactly the approval I had been seeking. I now had Joanna’s ring and had given her family ring back to her father. I told both of her parents that I knew not when I would be proposing but that they would receive a phone call when it happened, and I knew that her parents were itching to know when it would occur.
January came around before I knew it and the idea of where to propose came to my mind. I have to give credit to a friend of mine, Chris Kenley, for the encouragement when we spoke about engagement ideas. I had trouble deciding on where and how to ask Joanna and he simply told me,” The idea will come to you, I promise.” It’s funny how God puts people in your life that point you in the right direction. I never thanked him but I truly valued that advice because that’s exactly what happened. I got the idea of proposing at GCSU, the place where our relationship had begun. It was perfect and it needed someone to capture the moment on film.
I contacted Ashah through Facebook, then email and then through phone calls and text messages. We had talked about photos, ideas, what I was thinking and then what she was thinking. We decided to meet in person on April 26th.
I then had to figure out a way to get Joanna to Milledgeville without her questioning why we were going. I had a conferred with a friend, Shelley Lord, about planning a “Graduation Party” for her wedding party in her upcoming wedding. Joanna and I are both in her wedding and there were some other friend’s of ours that were as well and were also graduating this spring semester. It made sense and so Shelley took control and made up a group text message and sent it out to just me and Joanna. Let’s keep it simple and say it worked.
April 26th came sooner than I had ever anticipated. I drove to Milledgeville that morning, of course after calling Joanna and wishing her a Happy Anniversary and a congratulations on completing her student teaching. I met Ashah on campus and we began our planning. I was going to propose on the backside of the archway (connecting Terrell and Atkinson Hall) partly because of the lighting that would occur at 6 o’clock that evening and also because the graduation stage had been assembled two weeks early on front campus. I had Ashah’s phone number added to my phone and I gave her the nickname of a friend of mine so that if we were texting back and forth and Joanna saw it, she wouldn’t think twice about it.
I travelled up to Athens from Milledgeville after a visit to the Bookstore, lunch at Georgia Bob’s, and writing lyrics from a Little Big Town song called Bring It on Home on the back of a piece of card stock which on the front side had a Bible verse, that had been created and decorated by Joanna during our first few months of dating. I felt the significance of that Bible verse was great because it was a verse we both tried to live our relationship by and it was something that I woke up seeing every morning because it was placed on my mirror for the past 5 years.
I picked Joanna up from her apartment and we left shortly after taking a photo that I had sent to Ashah so that she would know what we were wearing and could look out for us. Joanna did fall asleep on our way to Milledgeville, which is not unusual. Since she did I could talk to Ashah and find out some specifics as to what was going on before we got to campus. She sent me a message that told me there was a Jazzfest on front campus and it was super loud where we were going to propose. The last thing I wanted to do was shout at Joanna to marry me. Ashah suggested we move to the fountain area that is in the courtyard between the library, A&S, Atkinson Hall and the testing center. We parked at the library just up from the shuttle stop. While Joanna was completing her wake up routine, I got the Bible verse, song lyrics and of course the ring out of my bag and in their proper pockets. We took off down the sidewalk approaching the fountain and wouldn’t you know 30 people sitting and talking around the fountain. We go down to the fountain and Joanna had to use the restroom. As soon as she got through the door I took off and found Ashah. I told her where we were going and she got ready in a new area. I went after Joanna and brought her out past the fountain and walked in between Parks Hall and the testing center. A garden area had been completely redone since our graduation and I had considered proposing there until I saw that GCSU had decided to place a “cherry-picker” in the middle of the garden. We kept walking, all the while hoping that Ashah was following me and that I would not say out loud what it was that I was thinking. I was panicking to say the least. Nonetheless I took Joanna to a garden spot in front of Russell. I walked her to the center and pulled out the Bible verse she decorated for me 5 years ago and told her that it was one of my favorite gifts she had ever given to me. I read the verse, “Trust steadily, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of all three is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13”. I turned over the piece of paper and read her the song lyrics:
"Bring It On Home"
You got someone here wants to make it all right
Someone who loves you more than life right here
You got willing arms that'll hold you tight
A hand to lead you on through the night right here
I know your heart can get all tangled up inside
But don't you keep it to yourself
When your long day is over
And you can barely drag your feet
The weight of the world is on your shoulders
I know what you need
Bring it on home to me
You know I know you like the back of my hand
But did you know I'm gonna do all that I can right here
I'm gonna lie with you till you fall asleep
When the morning comes I'm still gonna be right here (yes I am)
So take your worries and just drop them at the door
Baby leave it all behind
Baby let me be your safe harbor
Don't let the water come and carry you away
You got someone here wants to make it alright
Someone who loves you more than life right here
When I concluded I got down and opened up my blood sugar monitor bag and the ring box fell out of the bag and onto the ground. I was a little upset at myself but still picked the box up got down on one knee, opened the box, looked up and asked her very simple… “Joanna will you marry me?”
Friday was my last day of student teaching so I had a lot on my mind during the day at school. It was also our 5 year anniversary so I was excited I was able to see Colby right after school and travel to Milledgeville with him for Shelley & Kenny’s graduation party. I was actually happy that the graduation party was on the same day that way Colby & I could be in Milly together since it was the place we met and shared so many memories. Little did I know there was no graduation party. Colby & I drove to Milledgeville together and I even fell asleep in the car on the way there. Colby didn’t seem to mind either way, which didn’t allow me to suspect a thing. I woke up as soon as we were driving into Milledgeville, and I already knew we planned to walk around campus first before going to the restaurant downtown. What I didn’t expect was him parking nowhere near downtown. Of course I questioned this, and he said he just wanted to park there for now. I asked whether we were going to come back to the car before the party because I didn’t want to walk all around campus in my heels. He said he’d carry me. I agreed. I then questioned why he was bringing his sugar monitor. He said he just wanted to. I couldn’t get a real answer so I stopped questioning. He mentioned, why so many questions.
As we walk on campus, I have to visit the restroom first, of course. We then decide to walk past the fountain and towards front campus. Because there were so many people on front campus since there was a jazz concert, we take a turn to go the small garden with the new monument in it. We both see the forklift in the middle of the garden, Colby mentions how dumb it is that it’s there. We walk toward a small green area in between Russell Auditorium and Saga. The area was recently landscaped with benches, and it was gorgeous. Colby leads me to the center of the grassy area. He pulls out a Bible verse I decorated and sent to him in the mail when I was away for the summer during the first 3 months we dated. “Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, Love extravagantly. And the best of the three is Love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 He tells me it was one of the best gifts I ever gave him. My heart melted then of course. I was thinking this was something he planned since it was our 5 year anniversary. He had written the song lyrics, “Bring It On Home,” by Little Big town on the back of the paper. He then reads the two verses and the chorus once.
“You got someone here who wants to make it alright, Someone who loves
you more than life right here. You got willing arms that’ll hold you tight,
a hand to lead you on through the night right here.
I know your heart gets all tangled up inside, but don’t you keep it to yourself.
You know I know you like the back of my hand, but did you know
I’m gonna do all that I can right here. I’m gonna lie with you til you fall asleep.
When the morning comes I’m still gonna be right here.
So take your worries and just drop them at the door.
Baby leave it all behind.
When your long day is over, and you can barley drag your feet.
The weight of the world is on your shoulders, I know what you need.
Bring it on home to me.”
While he reads this, I notice how calm he is, the paper was not shaking because I looked to see if that was a clue to something coming. His hands weren’t shaking either.
Colby puts the Bible verse in his pocket and turns facing me. He says, “with that, and pauses and starts to take the ring box out of his sugar monitor. The ring box tumbles out of his sugar monitor on the grass. He says, shoot, and I can tell he is mad at himself for letting that happen. I didn’t mind or care at all. It actually gave me the chance to compose myself for what was coming next. He takes the ring box and gets down on one knee in front of me. He asks, “Jo, Will you marry me?” I reply, “Yes, Yes!”
He places the beautiful ring on my finger, and I immediately hug him so tightly. I felt overwhelmed with his love for me that I couldn’t hardly believe it was actually happening. I begin to cry and hug him so tightly for at least a minute. I haven’t even taken a good look at the ring yet. When I collect myself, Colby says he is going to pray for us. Unfortunately, I barely remember what he said in the prayer because I was trying to gather all my thoughts and realize what was actually happening. We hug again, and I ask if there was anyone taking pictures. He points and says, “yep, that’s Ashah taking our pictures.” I could not believe it because he knew I liked her work, but I had not mentioned it in a long time. He then tells me we have a photo session with her anywhere we want around campus. I kept saying, I feel like this is not real life because it really was more perfect than I could have ever imagined. The best part about it was I knew God had planned it all along.
Y'all are so precious. I have and will continue to pray for both of you as God leads y'all into this next chapter of your lives. Thank you for letting me tell your story through my lens.