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The Perfect Night

On August 13th, 2012, I went shopping with money from my 30th birthday. I bought a five-year journal called “The Happiness Project.”  There was a page for each date in the year, and five places to write on each page, one each for five years. I began writing one sentence each day. 

By the time my sister’s wedding was over last weekend, I was a bit draggy.  We had stayed up late, eaten too much food, and done lots of running around. I drove for awhile on the way home from Wisconsin, and then I tried to sleep while Marnell drove, but to no avail.

We were planning to stop at Promontory Point in Chicago.  I have often stopped at the Point on the way back from Wisconsin, many of these cases recorded in my five year journal called “The Happiness Project”. My state of mind invariably improved beside the water and the skyline.  

By the time we rolled into a Subway restaurant at 53rd St., I was already feeling much better. The ivy-covered brick buildings of the Hyde Park neighborhood always lifts my spirits. The idea of eating a sub instead of more chocolate was promising too. 

“Look at all the people out on the street,” I said. “I guess it’s because of the nice weather.”

The subway was exceptionally convenient. We slid into an open parking space, we didn’t have to wait in line, and the young man behind the buckets of black olives and banana peppers and pickles was efficient and fast.

“It looks like you’ve done that before,” Marnell told him. 

“Once or twice,” he replied, snapping a bag of chips into the plastic bag with the sub, his demeanor visibly expanding at the compliment.

Marnell has a knack for making people behind cash registers relax. Once I was with him at an upscale city venue and the man behind the counter was a cold, hard-looking snob much too good for normal humans, dressed in black in the spirit of the FBI. Our interaction took about two or three minutes, and in the last 20 seconds or so Marnell said something and the man actually laughed.

“How did you do that?” I hissed to him as soon as we were out of ear shot. 

“Do what?” he asked. 

Anyway… we got the subs and arrived at the lake. 

“There are so many people out tonight,” I told Marnell again. “But it could be that I never come here much during August, in the summer like this.”

I had been to Promontory Point when the sky was winter gray and ice dripped off the rocks. I had been there when fall leaves piled among them, and when waves crashed in and washed over my feet. 

But tonight, the temperature was perfect: not too hot, not to cold. There was a light breeze and just a few clouds. There was a handmade sign by the tunnel announcing a farewell party.  There were people swimming off the rocks and people sitting watching the water and the smell of the campfire. We found a spot to sit and eat our subs and watch the water and the sunlight draining out of the sky above Lake Michigan.

“So many people,” I said yet again. “I guess I’ve never been here on a perfect night.”

I told Marnell I was glad I had anticipated before the trip that I might be a little cranky by the end of the weekend. 

“But I’m feeling better now, and this is such a perfect end to the day.”

I had come to Promontory Point with my friend Angie to scope out a field trip in 2008, and we went home on the train giggling about the “defined” man at Subway. I had come with my students from UCS Room 3, and eaten Egyptian food with them at the Nile Restaurant. I had come after my friend Rosie got married in 2009, and keenly felt my aloneness, yet God’s presence. I had come and run the 18-mile path beside the park around Thanksgiving that same year when my mom was dying of cancer. I had come for a day of solitude, and time with God, and bought lunch for a beggar at a neighborhood cafe. I had come with my friend Velinda after we attended the funeral of a friend’s father, and we took bad selfies on the rocks in the wind. On August 27, 2012, I went apartment shopping there and applied for a job, at perhaps my most dismal time of life. On November 10, 2012, I took my dad there with me apartment shopping. He walked around the Point, and then went out for coffee. I tried to convince him that it would be therapeutic for me if I moved to the city alone, and we both cried.  I had come there again, after I got my job in heart surgery in Elkhart, and felt secure that God’s direction had been best. I had come with my baby sister, the one who just got married, on March 28, 2016, and we walked the rocks clutching hot drinks and took bad selfies. On November 21, 2016, I ran the lakefront path again.

On April 23, 2017, I had coaxed Marnell to take me there one Sunday afternoon, when I felt I had to escape for a few hours. I sat on the rocks with him and cried because… well, I wasn’t sure why it was so emotional to me, but I know they were happy, cleansing tears. 

Now, on August 6, 2017, as the darkness traded places with the light (my favorite time of day!) the clouds above the city changed from deep coral to slate gray. The lights in the city blinked on and airplanes and a helicopter crossed the sky. As the water turned deep, shiny black, the skyline began to appear in it. 

A nearly full moon slid up over the rocks above us. We watched as it hid behind clouds, and then emerged out of the clouds, bright with the sun we could no longer see. It was so like a person coming through a hard time in life, and reflecting God’s greatness so much brighter for having walked through shadows. 

“That’s how I want to be,” Marnell said. “A small reflection of God’s light to the people around me.”

“Right,” I said, and I sighed, thinking of my capacity for grouchiness, even earlier that very day. “Sometimes I feel like a crescent moon! I mean in the amount of God’s glory I’m reflecting. But maybe we don’t always know when we are reflecting Him best.”

“That’s right,” he said. 

As we sat there, fireworks popped in the park above us. We watched the sparks crowning in the dark tree tops above the rocks.

“Must be an important person,” Marnell said, referencing the farewell party sign.

It was a perfect night…

…even before he asked me to marry him!

ENGAGED. (Another bad selfie? 😂) By the tunnel that goes under Lakeshore Drive. 

OPENED. The birthday package from my friend Rosie!

COMPLETED.  Isn’t God so interesting? As we officially announce our engagement, today, August 12, 2017, I complete the final entry in my “Happiness Project”. On this line, I write, “Thank you God for a wild and beautiful ending!”


77 thoughts on “The Perfect Night”

  1. It looks like a lot of us thought, “Oh, he should propose here!” and then he DID, and I am honestly sitting here in tears. You have been on a long journey and and this story has that sense of coming home.

  2. Steve & Deborah Yoder

    Congratulations!!! We’ve been reading your blog for awhile, and have enjoyed it, but THIS one needs a comment!! 🙂 Wish you God’s blessings in the planning and all the details.
    You might remember us from “Blue Christmas.”

    1. Oh yes! I do remember you! And my brother Scott confessed that he told you we were engaged! He claimed that he thought it was public 😀

  3. Linda Sprouffske

    Another delightful crowded kindness of God shining through!! Indeed, congratulations as you press on to His high call on your life with Marnell. He’s getting a very precious treasure in you.

  4. Harvey & Carolyn

    What great news!! We have only recently learned to know you, Katrina, but have known Marnell for years. We have often said that he would make a great husband for some lady sometime! We are praying that God will lead you together down the path He has planned for you! God bless! And we hope to see you up here next summer again!

  5. I’ve been lurking here since I found your blog, by way of another blog, several months ago. I could see how much you cared for Marnell from the first post where his name appeared. The photos of you two at Pickle Lake looked like honeymoon photos to me due to your glowing faces. I felt a proposal coming on as I read this. It’s been wonderful to read your story, and seeing God at work in your lives
    It will be fun to “attend” your wedding, after the fact, through your blog.
    I wish you every happiness now and always, and – – above all – – Godly lives.
    Best wishes to you both!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. Pickle Lake certainly wasn’t a honeymoon but it was a very nice trip! Thanks for reading.

  6. What a special place. Congratulations!!!! So happy for you and Marnell!!! I think it’s awesome how the book ends as a new phase in your life is unfolding, but I am questioning how you could have possibly started the book in the middle of the year in the middle of a month no less!! Happy wedding planning.

  7. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Was so exciting to hear your news! Wish you the best as you plan for your wedding!!

  8. We are so happy to hear! It’s always a blessing to observe ladies who are living happy, fulfilling lives as singles…but I’m always happy to see them get married to Godly men, too. 😊 I know what a tremendous asset marriage has been to me! As I loved hearing when we were engaged… “You have so much to look forward to!”

  9. Congratulations! I’ve loved watching your journey the last several years. So thankful that God continues to direct you and give you beautiful stories.

  10. I read this…and thought….Maybe he’s going to ask her to marry him. Oh, not after all, and then I skipped ahead a little, because I had to know!!!!😀 Congratulations!!! I wish you many happy years together!

  11. Such a wonderful article, and wonderful news. I’ve been praying for God’s perfect will for you for many years, and know that this is it!! Congratulations to a beautiful friend!

  12. Thanks for working so hard to build suspense, but your title was kind of a give away! Thanks for sharing your story on here. And a big CONGRATULATIONS from someone you don’t know and that’s okay:)

  13. Congratulations Katrina! It was so exciting to read your news. God bless you and Marnell as you journey life’s path together!

  14. Wonderful to hear more details about That Wonderful Lake Michigan Place and The Moonlight Night you were telling us about Monday evening. I’m SO THRILLED to be getting another delightful sister-in-law!!

  15. I love this Katrina! A beautiful story, beautifully written! I’m so glad I wasn’t disappointed in the ending I was hoping for. 🙂 God continue to bless you both. Thanks again for sharing your life for His glory.

  16. Katrina that is the most perfect ending/beginning ever. So full circle with The Happiness Project. I can’t get over it. And I’m so happy to know and welcome you into our family. 😚

  17. Beautifully written, Katrina, with a beautiful ending. God’s Richest Blessings to you n Marnell as you look forward to serving God together as 1. Congratulations!!!!!

  18. You got the right man Katrina!! Again I say congratulations! And I am so so happy for you. Oh I wish we could do coffee at Daily Grind and discuss God’s marvelous ways!!

  19. THIS! was so well written! I thought,”Oh good! He’s going to ask her! Oh dear! No, he isn’t! Wait! HE DID!!! So very happy for you and Marnell!

  20. Congratulations!!! Blessings to you! And I confess I too was thinking that’d be a perfect place to propose!😍

  21. The End … and … The Beginning! I am blinking back tears of joy. I have been reading your blog for a while, enjoying your words, savoring your stories. May God richly bless you two as you serve Him together!

    1. Thanks Pauline! Sorry we didn’t make it to visit you… I guess my man had other things on his mind that I didn’t know about!

  22. Katrina, that is so interesting because as I was reading I was thinking, “he should propose to her there, how perfect would that be!” And wouldn’t you know, it did end perfectly!! Congratulations and God’s blessings on your life with Marnell!!

  23. Katrina, that is so interesting because as I was reading I was thinking, “he should propose to her there, how perfect would that be!” And wouldn’t you know, it did end perfectly!! Congratulations and God’s blessings on your life with Marnell!!

  24. I told my hubby that Marnell must be a wise, thoughtful and romantic guy to ask you at the lakeshore that holds so much meaning and so many memories for you. Heartiest of congratulations to you two!

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