What Could Have Been

Today is the day Peter and I got engaged two years ago. Normally, we don’t celebrate this day, let alone remember with ease the actual date we got engaged. Peter and I both have never been very good at remembering dates like that or trivial dating anniversaries, probably because our brains are more wired to remember experiences rather than numbers and facts. Thank goodness we have a dear friend who reminds me of how long we have been married on the 11th of each month, so I can pretend like I am keeping track and save face in my relationship.


I was recently scrolling through the photos on my computer to recall the actual date and stumbled upon the photo of the Christmas tree at the end of the dock that was taken the day we were engaged. I love this photo not only because of its obvious beauty and connection  to Christmas, but more so because of the significance behind it. This one photo, taken on an iPhone by Peter, holds more meaning to me than every picture captured in our short but complete relationship. In order to understand the importance of this photo, you need to know how Peter asked me to be his bride. So, I will tell the short version, the one I mastered two years ago when every friend and family member was eager to hear this very tale:

Peter and I were driving up to see his brother in Rochester, NY right before Christmas to visit and see some Christmas lights displayed in downtown Rochester. Why we were visiting his brother when he was coming home for Christmas in a couple days? I don’t know. Were there actual lights displayed downtown? According to the Internet, yes but I would never see them. Didn’t you notice during the drive when you passed the Rochester exit and were heading to a different town called Skaneateles? A big, fat no.

When we arrived in Skaneateles, we pulled up to the little, historic town nestled alongside one of the Finger Lakes and got out to see the Charles Dickens’ Christmas decorations that they display every year. I wasn’t in the best spirits and almost told Peter that we should just get back on the road to Rochester because I didn’t want to see the Christmas town. It was pouring down rain, very cold, and I was the worst kind of HANGRY (angry + hungry). He promised we could eat lunch and I agreed to continue wading through the puddles in hopes of food.

After we had lunch (turkey dinner, if you care) in the loveliest historic inn, my blood sugar and I were restored to our normal selves and we pranced down the street to see the Christmas town. First, Peter said he wanted to go look at the Christmas tree on the dock that was lit up before we headed down the street to the tiny shops. I agreed, but when we got to the lake the dock was closed off due to the rain. I am sure in Peter’s mind, this was a moment of pure panic. He had searched the Internet for the perfect spot to get down on one knee in this quiet little town, and now, it was closed off because the dock was too slippery. Really?!

We walked down the path to the edge of the lake and he asked me to hold the umbrella. I didn’t care at this point because I was too interested in looking at the huge ice chunks floating in the lake reminiscent of the arctic to notice why he was acting so weird. This is when he began his little speech, bent down on one soaking knee, and asked if I would be his wife as the rain rolled off his nose. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was just as it should have been.

Why is the picture of the tree on the dock my favorite photo? The photo reminds me of a lesson I need to be mindful of every single day. That lesson is the notion that we can plan or dream of the way we want our lives, our time, or our energy to be spent, but in reality sometimes, our ideas will never come to fruition despite our efforts. If you asked me five years ago what I would be doing in December 2015, my answer would have been incredibly different than my reality today. I thought I would be working a full time job, finishing my masters, having children, adopting more cats (Please, Peter?), buying a house, and being a much healthier version of myself. I thought I would be living a life exceptionally different than the one I live today.


The photo of the tree at the end of the dock, the one meant to be the backdrop of that special moment, shows me that even at the very start of our union, the Lord was preparing Peter and I for a journey as a married couple that would not reflect our plan. The details that we once dreamed for the future wouldn’t match the experiences and the timing of today. Obviously, we didn’t know this at that time, but we would grow to be ok with it. The uncertainty, dashed dreams, and vacant plans initiated by malady would be replaced with dissimilar ticks in time just as joyous and enjoyable.

We have been immensely taken care of since that proposal and each smile, celebration, trial, and tear has been just as scenic as the image we had for our lives on December 21, 2013. Do I still want the house, the garden, and the chubby babies that once filled my dreams? Of course, I do- deeply, in fact. However, I know these desires may come in a timetable that is not of my own, but of some grander and greater timekeeper. I have found a sense of cosmic peace in that.

The tree on the dock that was meant to be the scene of our proposal is now a just a fond memory of what could have been. Yet, I am so very pleased it is our what-could-have-been.


Congratulations to my cousin Heidi and her fiancé, Doug, who did get engaged this weekend! We love you two!

4 thoughts on “What Could Have Been

  1. Heidi says:

    Awe! I’m getting misty eyes over here sitting on my grandparents couch…. lol Janeil I’m so blessed to know you and have you in my life. Your joyful spirit and kindness is a great example to me! I’m excited for you and Peter to give Doug and I marriage advice and help me figure out how to plan a wedding along side our cousin-bestie group! I love you and Peter! And for reminding me Gods plan is so much bigger than our own.


  2. Cheri Boliantz says:

    Dear Janeil I love your writing on expectations of our timeline. You make words come together like peanut butter and honey, it satisfies, is sweet, and makes me want more!!! I would agree that trusting God with the timeline is very hard at times. I learned that through a few trials,one was being barren for 8 years. He blessed my tears that built trust and later I gave birth to 3 miraculous,wonderful daughters. Had I had them on my dreamy timeline they would not have been born in the stair-step pattern of our 12 cousin brood and raised with you. I wouldn’t have had the privilege of watching you in my home with my girls. It is my joy and delight to share our timeline together with the Lord as our time keeper and planner!


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