I was driving down East River Road on the way to the University when I got the message. And I started crying. All the oxygen went out of my lungs, my eyes filled with tears, and I had to pull my car over. I am not sure completely how to describe such a moment, or locate myself in that emotional, mental, spiritual space, but I think it goes something like this:
I am in love. Wildly in love.
Someone adores me.
A gentleman bread baker and pastry chef named Francois from Burkina Faso wants to commit his life to me and be my husband.
There's a ring that has three generations of diamonds in it in the mail, representing men and women from my mom's family. It's a ring from my ancestors that I will wear someday.
It's like a century of love and faith and commitment and hard work and battles and joy and tears and terror and the unknown have been packaged up in a box and put on a train/ plane/ truck to this guy who loves me. And all that love/ faith/ commitment/ hard work/ battle/ joy/ tears/ terror/ unknown energy will be opened and at some unknown date in the future, be placed on my finger, with a promise to engage and immerse ourselves completely in the journey represented by that ring. Francois and I will get married. And I'm ecstatic.
I text messaged my mom back from the side of the road, trying to convey my gratitude to her, my awe for this moment, my love for this man. But how does someone do this in a text message? Shoot! How does anyone relay any kind of thoughtful reflection about their heart and mind and spirit to anyone? Is it possible? God knows I try, but goodness, do words ever convey what we feel and live and breath as a kind of truth in our limbs and bodies and lungs?
I think this is when I began trying to mentally draft a contemplative blog about the day, and this experience, and what it has meant falling in love with Francois.
Who is Francois Kiemde?
Why do I love him?
How do I know I want to get my grandmother's ring from him? (What preceded my mom putting this heirloom/relic in a box and mailing it to him?)
How does he know he wants to marry me? (How does anyone know they want to take this next step?)
How did mom's parents know they loved each other? How did Bette and Francis Liewer know? (Or my dad's mom and dad: John and Julia Adeline?) Or my great- grandparents-- whose diamonds are set in this ring: Matthew and Clara? Or Edna Bell and Matthias?
Whew. I could get dizzy thinking about it all. But it's not that hard.
Mr. Kiemde rocks. He rocks my soul, my heart, my world. Trying to write about this to my friend Nomi, I found myself drawing on her language: He's a man. The kind of man that presents himself to a woman, and makes her feel strong and beautiful and simultaneously, okay to be gentle and open; vulnerable, but courageous. With him, I feel like there's no challenge or obstacle we cannot handle, or any dream and goal we cannot realize: together.
I wrote of meeting Francois a few months ago, after he'd asked me formally to be his girlfriend. Since then, this fellow has continued to court me in the most honorable, intentional fashion that both inspires reflection on old-fashioned notions of "wooing"-- to prayerful contemplations on transformative models of marriage discernment.
Francois Xavier Kiemde is all man drawing forth and uplifting all facets of who I am as a woman.He is a gentleman presenting himself as husband, as father, as lover, as provider, as nurturer, as supporter, as faithful and faith-filled fellow who desires me as a partner for all our days to come.
Here are some "Kiemde-isms" that underscore this journey for me in love:
Tell me about your last love. Would you be willing to go to counseling with me, so that we could create a solid way of communicating and caring for our relationship and sustaining a commitment?
I see us living here and in Africa.
Please, have your friends and family pray for us.
Can you find this scripture for me: "Trust the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding"? I think it's Proverbs.
Unless a husband is present for his wife emotionally, and really listening to her, you can kiss the marriage goodbye.
My prayer is for you to follow your dreams: doing what you feel God calling you to do. Social justice, writing, creating, teaching, no matter what, I want you to be happy and stay true to yourself.
I see us working together, doing community service....(pause) and it's not court -ordered!
I may not be the Obama you are looking for, but I could definitely be like Desmond Tutu!
Honey, it's garage sale season. Can we stop and check one out?
Funny. Joyous. Serious. Intentional. Smart. Prayerful. Political. Quiet. Attentive.
I love him.