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Advanced warning system

By Annie Waddoups

When I look back at pivotal events in my life, I am often retrospectively aware of the blessings of advanced warning, little nudges from a loving God who knows I do not handle surprise well. This happened recently when my husband and I both had promptings in advance of his eventual call as bishop. I guess I function better once the shock has mellowed, when I can respond graciously rather than from a place of fight-or-flight.  This was never more true than the time I proposed marriage to myself, giving new meaning to if you are prepared ye shall not fear. True story:

. . .

I had been dating G for fifteen months and, at the time, we lived two hours apart while attending different universities. We joked about our feast-or-famine dating. No big deal. But the cold aching gnaw below my heart was telling me differently: I felt increasingly bereft at every departure and that wasn’t good for my plans.  Not good at all.

Love…marriage…all of this was scheduled much later in my life plan, certainly after college graduation. We had talked about how we would wait for any serious plans, despite the increasing undercurrent of certainty about the fact that we would share a future, eventually. Some day. When we were older and had more of our career paths set. When the grad school we both planned was finished.  That was beginning to feel really very distant, the feasts too infrequent, the famines too…famine-y.

When G arrived the next Saturday night for our weekly visit we booked a table to eat at our favorite spot.  But this night the feasting failed.  Halfway through dinner, G seemed distracted, blankly nodding with a glazed look.  Finally he admitted to feeling a little sick. “Maybe the flu,” he said, so I took him back to my apartment for a place to recover.  An hour later he was still ill so I ran out for some medicine.  The night crawled on until I convinced him off of the sick-couch and took him home to his friend’s apartment where he was crashing for the night.

I dropped him off and as he left the car he promised to see me tomorrow. “Don’t forget to lock the car, okay?”  These words rang in my ears as I drove back to my place.  Don’t forget to lock the avocado green 1971 Toyota Corolla station wagon? Does it even lock? I had never seen him lock it before.

Once back in my parking lot, one glance in the back seat told me that G had forgotten his duffel bag. Poor guy, first he gets the stomach flu and now he doesn’t even have his things for the night. I grabbed the bag and hefted it up to my lap. The contents clinked unexpectedly and I worried I had broken something.  Expecting to find a razor or a towel or books or clothes, I unzipped the turquoise duffel bag and flailed my hand through the dark opening.

My hand brushed goblet-shaped glass and the velvet covering of a small box.  Curious, I clutched the box and brought it out into the field of the lone streetlight.  In my hand was a light blue jewelry box, much like one…an…engagement…  My mind choked on the thought.

Should I open it? [pause]  Yes.

Slowly I creaked open the box to reveal two gold rings nestled in the furrow, one bearing a diamond.  Frantically, my heart started beating faster and my mind protested: I thought we had already decided to wait…oh no…I can’t believe this…how can I turn him down gently…or do I want to…does the ring even fit?

Should I try it on? [pause] Um, yeah.

I tugged the ring from the anchor and slipped it over the knuckles of my left ring finger.  A little snug but it fits.  I’ll get used to it.

I spent the whole night wrapping my mind around this turn of events.  With dawn came first the knowledge that I would say yes and, close behind, the thought: I’ll bet I’m the first one in history to propose to herself.

Later, I said yes in person but this gift of advanced warning contained my true moment of consent. The ability to catch up with the moment was more essential to our successful union than any kneeling proposal or golden ring.

. . .

Thanks for indulging my storytelling. Now it’s your turn. How do you feel about surprises? Looking back, can you see times when you were prepared for coming changes?  Do share.

About Annie Waddoups


20 thoughts on “Advanced warning system”

  1. Annie! Lovely story, so well-written.

    I tend to think I'm fine with change, but when it comes down to huge changes like moving I have been resistant. My husband wants to move back to Utah after 11 years in NY and I begged for at least another year (we had just finished remodeling our house). That was about three years ago. We are still in NY. Maybe next year in Utah!

  2. I guess I answered more about change than surprises.

    I don't think I have been surprised much.

    I hope one day to have a surprise birthday party. But unless my daughter throws it, it's not likely to happen.

  3. I am so so so grateful for the Spirit that sometimes gives me a heads up that something is coming. I think the Lord knows I'm not a surprise girl. I can't even watch suspenseful movies if I don't know how they end! Without that occasional warning from the Spirit, I'd probably have died of a heart attack long ago!

  4. I'm no good at surprises either (even good ones!). I wonder if it comes from being an oldest child? Birth-order theory suggests that they're more resistant to change.

    Anyway, the biggest instance of feeling "prepared" in my life came when I was preparing for graduate school. I knew that the current Relief Society president in the small singles branch I was moving to was getting married–and I spent all summer worrying about getting called to fill her position. My mom thought I was crazy (why would they call someone who didn't know anyone in the area?), but sure enough, less than two weeks after arriving, guess what my new calling was? It was much easier to accept having mentally dealt with the possibility that it could happen.

  5. The trick for me is getting a spiritual nudge for something that isn't going to happen for a loooong time. There is such a thing as being too prepared, or being prepared for too long.

  6. During my 2nd pregnancy, I kept having the feeling that something was wrong with the baby. I was thinking relatively minor–but life-changing–things like blindness or something. At 12 weeks I miscarried. I was extremely grateful to a loving Father who helped prepare me in a small but significant way for this hugely devastating loss.

    But the smaller stuff like a new calling is coming? I get nothin'. He must know my limits as well as knowing that I need to learn to walk by faith. (Why is that so hard when we know what we know?)

    Your writing is lovely. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Yes….I have definitely been given some "head's up" moments from the spirit in my life that I've been very, very grateful for. One of the bigger ones was when my husband was applying for his pediatric dental residency. You don't get a choice, but you rank your list from 1st choice on down. Then one day you get a magic email telling you where you're going to live the next 2-4 years. The only place I did not want to go was Cincinnati. But it was ranked 3rd on our list. About 2 days before the fateful email I had a serious spiritual nudge that it was going to be Cincinnati. It was. And we're here and quite happy. It has turned out to be a huge blessing for our family to be here, but I was still very grateful for the heads up.

  8. I'm sometimes surprised, but I quickly see the preparation the Lord has already worked in my life to handle the surprise, so it ends up not being so surprising after all. That's how every surprise I sat here mentally recounting has gone in our lives… jobs, callings, moves, kids, trials, scares… Man, I love the Holy Ghost and a loving Heavenly Father.

  9. When packing for our last move, I took down my son's Cub Scout Promise poster from his ceiling (he liked to look at it while going to sleep). I was very stressed about the move and was in a "chuck it out" mode. I thought for a moment that I should keep the poster just in case my next calling was in Cub Scouts. I shook the idea out of my head and chucked the poster. Three months after the move I was called to be a Den Leader and I've been kicking myself since then because that poster would have been really useful now.

  10. Annie, you are a good storyteller.

    My most recent major advance notice experience:

    We'd been living in the same home raising our children in a place both my husband and I loved and where my husband enjoyed his work for 15 years when I received the spiritual heads up that I needed to prepare to move.

    "Okay", I thought, "the last child is finishing high school. Perhaps I am being told to prepare to downsize so we can use our income in more helpful ways than in keeping up this big, old house." I began to clean out closets and started the daunting task of painting and repairing our well-lived-in house so it would be marketable. And I began to envision life in a smaller home in the area.

    Within a year, to his dismay, my husband's job's moral climate took a tailspin he fought and finally couldn't stomach and he gave notice. After months of part-time work, and as the housing market began to collapse, he found a new job nearly 2000 miles away and we moved, or rather, he moved (on crutches, following surgery to repair an unexpected injury) while I stayed to finish the home repairs I'd started when the prompting had first come before I drove out to join him.

    I was extremely grateful for the advance notice. It wasn't pointing to exactly what I thought it would, but it gave me the time needed to get my house in order (literally), a reminder to fully enjoy where I was, and peace of mind when we were facing the move on the heels of my husband's injury, the vicissitudes of trying to sell a house in an uncertain housing market, and our time apart.

    And, in addition, needing help with the home repairs put me in exactly the right position at the right time to employ, over that time span, three different young people in our branch or town who were trying to put together funds for school. Without that prompting, I would not have thought to do that.

    I appreciated the heads up.

  11. I wonder if G didn't feel well that night because he was going to propose to you?

    I also like advance warning on the big things. Smaller things, I'm fine with a surprise. But that may certainly change in the future.

  12. Stephanie2, that's my tendency, too! I second guess my warnings, which I suppose is why it's really in retrospect that I can see them for what they really were.

    Tara, very observant! I think it was a combination of proposal nerves and a bit of a bug.

    Hearing all of these "heads up" promptings is lovely. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Annie, I wish this had happened to me. I didn't see the proposal coming, and when he asked, I said I needed to think about it. TEN LONG DAYS later I said YES. Poor guy, it would have been so much easier had I known…because I just don't make decisions on the spot ~ even big ones like this.

  14. Oh, Grandma Honey, you didn't! Ten days?!?

    Great post. Callings, yes. Much of the time I get some kind of feeling or thought about big ones. But I was completely caught off-guard with the RS president calling. We'd been in the new ward less than 6 months. I was in shock sitting in the bishop's office.

  15. Sometimes I've had advance warning, sometimes none.

    Most recently, as in the past several months, I've been given notice that I'll marry again. I think that's the Lord's way of giving me time to wrap my head around a very scary, significant idea so I don't get caught unawares and freak out. It's also huge, significant proof that He knows me, my foibles and ways of coping and loves me enough to let me go through my own processes in my own time.. and be in keeping with His ideas.

    Though I LOATHE most surprises. Presents I don't mind so much, or surprises on a one-to-one basis are lovely, but public surprises with people around are awful.

    That is a great engagement story! Wait – pre-engagement story? It's fantastic, regardless.


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