Merced, California, 7:25 AM
Two people have written me asking where we are at the moment. One friend said, "All I know at this point is that you are somewhere in the United States." That's very true. Yesterday morning I woke up at Cloudland Canyon State Park in north Georgia, near the Tennessee state line. This morning we're at a motel in Merced, California, south of Modesto, north of Fresno, in the San Joaquin Valley, in central California, east and across the hills from San Francisco Bay. How we got here is quite a story.
A few weeks ago Mark proposed to Vanessa on the Great Wall of China. At that point they planned to get married in the summer of 2008. That was fine because it meant they would both come home from China in June, get jobs, save some money, and get married a year later. A few days later Mark and I were IMing when he said they were thinking about getting married in January 2008. That was fine also for the same reasons. Two days later we got an email saying, "We've been praying about it and think we ought to get married this summer."
At first they suggested that both sets of parents fly to China in May, which didn't seem very practical. At the time Mark and Vanessa were in Thailand for several weeks of mid-winter conference. Because they had a few weeks before their classes in China began again, they decided to fly from Thailand to California to plan their wedding in late July. They've been here for a week and a half and will be flying back to China this Sunday. We're here to meet Vanessa and her parents and to make some wedding plans. To make things clear, three weeks ago Mark and Vanessa didn't know they were flying to the US, which is why we shoehorned this trip into our schedule at the last second.
We met Vanessa last night at the San Jose airport. She is beautiful, intelligent, demonstrative, friendly and full of life. She and Mark look so happy together, and we were very happy to see them. This morning we're meeting them for breakfast and then we'll meet her family later today.
This is the third part of our long journey. We'll be here until Sunday when Marlene heads back to Tupelo and I fly on to New York.
PS By the way, 33 years ago Marlene and I got engaged in April 1974. I proposed at Orchard Knob, a Civil War site in Chattanooga (I saw it in the distance when we visited Point Park on Lookout Mountain two days ago). We graduated from college in May of that year, I started Dallas Seminary in August, and we planned to get married a year later. After talking about it we thought, "Let's get married in December." In June we visited with Jim Bain who was then a pastor in Oxford, Mississippi. When we told him our plans, he said, "Why wait? Go ahead and get married this summer." I can still remember how we started laughing on our way from Oxford back to my home in Russellville, Alabama. Why not get married that summer? This was in late June. We woke my parents up, sat on their king-size bed, and said, "We want to get married this summer." They grinned, looked at each other, and said, "We wondered why you were waiting." So they rallied (especially my mom) and put together a beautiful wedding in Mesa, Arizona on August 22, about seven weeks later. My family (and Ricky Suddith and Uncle Russ and Aunt Ruby) trekked to Arizona for the wedding at Desert Wells Baptist Church in Mesa. We got married on a Thursday night and honeymooned on our way to Dallas where I started Dallas Seminary the following Tuesday.
Given what we put our parents through, I can hardly complain about Mark and Vanessa moving the schedule up and making sudden trips from Thailand to California to China.