Emily and Michael

Emily and Michael's Engagement in On top of a hill he's wanted to hike up since he was a little boy!

How We Met

I went to visit my twin brother during our junior year in college (we went to two different schools in Tennessee). One night, I went out with my brother and a group of his friends, which is where Michael and I met. We carpooled to a drive-in movie and I ended up riding in his car. The weird part about this story is the fact that my heart had this really weird feeling about Michael, and we hadn’t even had a full-on conversation yet. I sat in the backseat for the first movie (The Lego Movie), but ended up sitting in the passenger seat for the second movie (Son of God).

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I started ugly crying toward the end of Son of God and Michael hands me an entire roll of toilet paper from out of nowhere. It was hilarious! I was also in a not-so-good relationship at the time, so I didn’t think anything else about this night. However, after I had my heart completely crushed and had spent some time seeking healing from that, God placed Michael on my heart and I had the same weird feeling within that I did the first night we met. I say that because I believe that it was God’s way of leading me to the man of my dreams and to the answers of every prayer! My twin brother knew that I thought Michael was cute, and eventually word got out and Michael couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Wink wink. Our first date was amazing and it has only gotten better ever since!

How He Asked

Before I share our story, I’ve got to preface it with the fact that I was a part of a rigged bouquet toss at one of my best friend’s wedding, just two months before my (now) fiancé proposed. Guess there was some meaning to it after all, haha!

This past weekend (August 5-6, 2016) was the absolute best weekend of my life. I am so grateful for the goodness of God and the favor He has shown on Michael and I over the course of the last year and a half that we have been together. I am still soaking in the bliss of my best yes moment with friends, family and the love of my life. Saying yes to Michael Paul was so easy to do, and boy am I grateful for that.

I remember the first time I drove to spend the day with Michael. I was driving down the highway he lives off of, nervous to bits, really hoping I hadn’t missed his house yet. As I was getting closer to his address, I spotted a huge hill in the distance with trees scattered across it in random places. My initial thought was that it looked like a hill from a Dr. Seuss book or something (I can say that since I’m a children’s minister, haha). Seriously, this hill was the tallest hill I have ever seen, just sitting there in all its glory…which is why I’ll be referring to it as the “mountain hill” from this point forward. **Side note: It’s really called “Pilot’s Knob,” but “mountain hill” is more my taste.

Proposal Ideas On top of a hill he's wanted to hike up since he was a little boy!

Anyway, when the mountain hill eventually became a topic of discussion, Michael shared with me that he had imagined climbing it since he was a little boy. We talked about this hill quite often when it would sit in our sight. And Michael would say the same thing each time: “I need to meet the owner of that land and get permission to climb it!” I agreed.

I even remember telling him at one point a while back, jokingly (but not really), that standing on top of that hill would be a beautiful place to propose. Little did I know…

Fast forward to this past weekend (Friday + Saturday, August 5th + 6th). . .

Michael had done a lot of planning up until this point. What he didn’t plan for, however, was the eye infection I arrived to town with. By Friday afternoon, my eye was only getting worse. Michael was freaking out on the inside and insisted that we stop by the eye doctor to get some medicated eye drops. Thank goodness that was all I needed! Just a few hours after use, my eye was starting to return back to normal. Imagine proposal pictures with a bloodshot eye. Yikes!

After our trip to the eye doctor, Michael surprised me with dinner at our favorite restaurant on Friday evening. We arrived to CJ’s right as a musician was taking the stage to jazz up the night. We both ordered our go-to dish (his being the raspberry chipotle chicken with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus, and mine, grilled salmon with a house salad and grilled asparagus) and enjoyed each other’s company.

As we were eating, Michael received a text from his dad, “informing” him (I’m giggling at the thought of how sneaky they were about all of this) that he had run into the owner of the mountain hill property and got permission for us to go climb it the next afternoon. Michael was so giddy about it, but I didn’t find it weird that he was excited because I knew he had wanted this since he first laid eyes on it as a child.

Fast forward to Saturday morning. . .

It was a glum and grey morning, and all through the house, every creature was stirring…except for me.

AKA I slept in while Michael and his family were up at the rooster’s crow, brainstorming what he was going to do if it rained at the time Michael had planned for us to hike the hill. I woke up around 9 and Michael and I spent the first half of our day dreaming about the future. When it was time to start getting ready to hike the mountain hill, Michael became insistent that I looked cute (my hair needed to be washed) and that I wear jeans (in 90+ degree weather). I laughed at him and told him “No thanks, I’ll just wear my running shorts and a tank top to hike.” Then he pulled the guilt trip trigger on me…”Em, I always abide by your picture taking requests. I really want a new Facebook profile picture. Imagine the view up there!”

Here’s the thing- I wasn’t prepared to take pictures. I had a hiking outfit ready to go, but it wasn’t cute. So when I had to throw on random articles of clothing I had thrown in my suitcase in order to climb the tallest hill in the world [of Readyville, TN], I was a little grumpy. But, I had the perfect shade of lipstick to match what I was wearing and that made me feel better (two words here, people: lipstick addict). Michael also hates lipstick, so I considered it my “evil” way of coping with his request…wink wink. While he went to load up the 4Wheeler with waters and etc., I applied a pretty shade of purple onto my lips.

When it was time to go, Michael said that we were going to ride the 4Wheeler down the highway to the property. My first response? “Uh, Michael, that’s dangerous. Do you have helmets?”

“No, but we’ll be fine. I’ll drive slow!” I tried to roll with it instead of imagining the two of us getting rolled over by an eighteen wheeler. This did not last very long and Michael really had to work on me before I gave in to being what I considered a dare devil. I had never been to the property before this…I had just seen it sitting beautifully a long way ahead of me while driving down the highway. Turns out, though, it was only a mile and a half down the road. Phew!

When we arrived, Roy (the property manager) was waiting at the gate to give us directions to the top of the mountain hill. Roy slipped up a little bit when he was talking to Michael because he said, “You probably remember the way, but…”. You would think that I would catch on at this point, right? Well, I didn’t. But, I did zone out of the rest of their conversation to think it through. I had it engraved in my brain that we would not be engaged until October (because I can read minds, duh), so I justified what Roy said by telling myself that he had given Michael’s dad the directions and just assumed he had relayed the directions to Michael, which he didn’t. When we were on our own to find our way, Michael brought it up and suggested exactly what I had told myself. So, I really did not think the proposal would happen just a few minutes later!

When we started to ride up the incline, it got to a point where we needed to stop and climb the rest of the way because it was just so tall! So that’s exactly what we did. Michael started making his way to the top while I was Snapchatting our whereabouts. Even from where I was standing, the view was phenomenal. When I realized that Michael hadn’t waited for me, I started to run up the hill so that I could catch up with him. **Side note: Michael left me behind while I took it all in because he was checking to make sure Jeremy and Rose, our photographers, were out of my site.

So, I’m running up the mountain hill in a cute outfit with hiking boots (it actually kinda matched, maybe?) and once I made it to the top, I had a sweaty face and even messier hair. Michael is letting me take a breather while I also continue to take all of the magnificence from the top of the hill in. He finally tells me to walk over to him. Once I do, I turn back around to look at the view. In the process of doing so, he taps me on the shoulder and says my name.

I turn around and Michael’s got a really serious look in his eyes. In those moments, everything started to make sense and as I was putting the puzzle pieces all together in my head, he starts speaking so much life over me and tells me how much he loves me, my love for people, my love for the Lord, my love for him, and so forth. Our eyes were locked, but my mind was racing and next thing I know he is down on one knee opening a box [that he handmade himself] to the ring of my dreams!

It took a minute for my emotions to process everything, so before I started crying I gave him a loud Y-E-S! And proceeded to kiss him purple (remember my lip color?). Then I start crying and laughing at all the lipstick on his face and he doesn’t even care. We are both just overjoyed in this moment that nothing else matters. We get the lipstick wiped off and then out pops our two photographers (Michael’s brother and one of my best gal pals) and then I really lose it! **Side note: Jeremy, Michael’s brother, had left an hour and a half or so before Michael and I left to hike the hill. He told me he was going to visit his friend in Knoxville, so I had given him a hug and told him goodbye and everything! That little stinker!

Where to Propose in On top of a hill he's wanted to hike up since he was a little boy!

I hug and kiss on Michael some more before I transition into doing a happy dance. We spent the next hour taking pictures and soaking in the beauty of God’s love, grace and favor in those special moments and in our lives altogether. And, we had one of the most unforgettable views of His creation that I’ve ever seen all while doing so. It was seriously perfect.

We climbed back down the hill and headed home right before the rain hit. The Lord made a way for Michael and I to have this special moment [without ponchos] and we are so grateful for that! Once we turned into his driveway, Michael said “I have one more surprise for you.” A few seconds later (Michael has a long driveway), I spot a handful of familiar cars- all of which belonged to my closest family and friends. This is when the ugly crying took place. I was so embarrassed to walk inside a hot and sweaty mess with an unrecognizable face because I was crying so hard, but I did it anyways. Because you know what? This was a day that God had made just for us, and in it we found His goodness!

We spent the rest of the night celebrating with friends and family and looking forward to the future that our hearts had both been longing for for quite some time now. I’ve known for a while that I wanted Michael to be my forever friend and mate. I just can’t believe it’s actually true…God took the time to write a love story so sweet for the two of us…my very heart’s desire. I get to spend the rest of my life doing life with the love of my life! Praise God!

Saying yes to the answer of all my prayers was the easiest and best yes I’ve ever had the privilege to proclaim. I love you Michael Paul Cardel! I cannot wait to chase dreams with you and advance the Kingdom together.

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