TGIF: My (Not-So) Grand Diabetes-Inducing Saccharine Romantic Engagement Story


On the gospel of Anne Lamott, belting Carrie Underwood and getting engaged to a man-boy.

On bended-knee, in an unnamed park, his camel brown eyes looked deep into mine and he said, “Tina Elizabeth Anthony Francis … will you marry me?”

And I yelped like a puppy whose tail had been annihilated by a pair of stilettos. At a decibel audible only to dolphins and fruit flies, I whimpered my response, “Of course, I will.”

I marveled at the stark contrast of the gleaming ring against my ashy un-moisturized hand. I cupped his face and kissed him softly. A harried mother of three boys yelled playground etiquette in the background, as we hugged in silence, totally blissed-out and misty-eyed.

“I’m gonna cherish you,” he said interrupting my euphoric state.

My smile faded and I looked up at him pensively.

“I’m gonna cherish you,” he repeated, this time slower, more emphatically, probably sensing that I needed to hear it again.

He said cherish?

The dictionary says to cherish someone is:

– To hold dear and love tenderly.
– To treasure, nurture, appreciate, relish and take pleasure in.
– To promote, increase, strengthen, esteem and revere.

What a bomb of a word.

My head was reeling. I was suddenly reliving a flashback from a wedding I attended six years ago. The groom said, “I,__, take thee,__, to be my lawful wedded wife … in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

I remembered how my face pinched with pain the moment I heard the word cherish. I had to cover my mouth with both my hands, before a hybrid cry-sob-lament escaped my lips.

I was right in the thick of a breakup at the time. A toxic relationship that was doomed from the get-go. Like an addict who’d been stripped of her poison of choice, I was writhing in pain. What’s the opposite of the word “cherish,” I wondered. What’s the word for: to deplete, diminish, dishonour, betray and abandon? That’s how I’d describe my rotting relationship.

Standing in the church pews, I looked up at the stained glass windows and sent a frantic prayer telegram to God:





My frantic prayer telegram worked! Well, sort of.

To clarify, a male in his mid-twenties holding a poster that said “ME-CHERISH-U-LONG-TIME” did not descend Mission Impossible style from the ceiling of the church.

But God did answer my deep belly question.

Who am I? Send help!

Healing from heartbreak is like living near an airport. At first, the ear-splitting thunderous noise is blaring at full volume. You have a raging migraine and you can’t sleep. Slowly but surely, you get stronger and turn the volume down on your wretchedness, sorrow, not-enoughness and self-hate. Gradually, the noise isn’t all consuming anymore. After months of semi-hibernation, you suddenly realize you don’t hear the loud engines of the planes anymore!

Then one unassuming, chilly, spring morning, you wake up craving an Egg McMuffin.

So, you release a hippo-esque yawn, indulge in one delicious cat-like stretch and finally get out of bed.

Voila! Cherubs, saints and prophets en masse, break out the cotton candy, light incense sticks and throw a parade to celebrate this seemingly small but significant step towards recovery.

Here’s what recovery looked like for me: I got out of bed. Went on long scenic drives “to pray” (a.k.a. beg-cuss-reason with God). Sang Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” ad nauseam. Put on my bra (well, most days). Cried on my girlfriend’s driveways, couches and shoulders. Lay comatose on the couch memorizing 10 seasons of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Ate my body weight in Raisin Bran. Gained 15 lbs. Sent frantic prayer telegrams. Taught myself how to use an SLR camera and started a small photography business. Volunteered at church, babysat and helped friends move. Cried in the shower, the skytrain and bathroom stalls. Devoured books, podcasts and blogs. Wrote angry journal entries. Read Psalms. Cried in empty stairwells and busy escalators. Lost 10 lbs. Rocked myself in a fetal position on the carpet (I wish I was exaggerating). Got hugged senseless by girlfriends (and a few concerned strangers). And, clung hard to Winston Churchill’s quote, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

For the last two weeks, throngs of well-meaning friends have sent emails and left voicemails wanting to set up Skype/coffee/dinner dates to hear all the romantic details of the BIG proposal.

The truth?

I’ve been struggling to find the words to tell a grand diabetes-inducing saccharine laced romantic proposal story.

On one hand, I’m so excited about being engaged: I want to run down the street like the guy in the Viagra commercial, high-fiving everybody, jumping off park benches and prancing through fields of daisies.

But on the other hand, I want to tell everyone that the BIGGER news is that I found myself. I finally hacked my way through the jungle of confusion, insecurity and fear and emerged from my funky wilderness-hibernation season. I’ve finally embraced my wonderfully screwed-up, ridiculous, (sometimes) intelligent, sweet self.

Sure, finding love is romantic. But I’m the dead daughter of Jairus who came to back to life. (Luke 8:41, 42, 49-55)

That’s the stuff of fireworks, strawberry daiquiris and cartwheels.

In fact, that’s the grand diabetes-inducing saccharine laced romantic proposal story!

It’s in that place of enoughness, purpose and clear identity that I found my love.

When the fog lifts, perhaps I’ll write the love story of how a road trip to Portland resulted in meeting a disarmingly authentic, ridiculously kind, jaw-droppingly hilarious man-boy.

He owns cutlery organizers and cuts little bunches of grapes to go with sandwiches. He reads literature, writes algorithms and dabbles in poetry. He cares about nailing the perfect consistency for cheesecake and the mundane details of my life. He’s hella smart, humble and plays the piano. He sees people. He sees me! He has kind eyes and adorable curly eyelashes. He cooks, is transparent to a fault and doesn’t play mind games. He is flexible, yet decisive. Gentle, yet strong. And he loves apple pie, his Mama and Jesus. <- [Quick! Someone call Carrie Underwood. #ijustwroteacountrysong]

With him I can be vulnerable and strong; honest and mysterious; goofy and feminine. I feel safe, understood, necessary, beautiful, heard, loved … heck, even cherished.

We can talk about the difficult, vague, infuriating, confusing, beautiful, heart-wrenching, hilarious, boring and awe-inspiring things of life.


But dear one, perhaps today you’re in the same place I was in six years ago. Face pinched in pain, hands covering mouth, primal cry-sob-lament threatening to escape your lips. For you, I hope a solid morsel out of the gospel of Anne Lamott helps:

“It is going to be unbelievably hard some days—like the rawness of birth, all that blood and those fluids and shouting horrible terrible things—but then there will be that wonderful child right in the middle. And that wonderful child is you, with your exact mind and butt and thighs and goofy greatness.”

(How To Find Out Who You Really Are, O magazine)

My biggest desire is for you to find yourself. Cherish the wonderful child in you! And yes, “with your exact mind and butt and thighs and goofy greatness.”

Amen, Anne!


So, dear ones, which category do you fall in today?

Are you going through:

  1. Grief – Going on long drives to “pray” and sing Carrie Underwood?
  2. Breakthrough – Should I break out the cotton candy, light the incense sticks and throw a parade?
  3. Supporting or celebrating a close friend who is dealing with grief or finally making a breakthrough?

I’d love to hear prayer, funny anecdotes, wisdom or heart cries you’d like to share about your journey.

Love you more than Roasted Strawberry Goat Cheese Squares,

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.