To find out more about the “Story of Chris & Cheryl,” pick up a copy of Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting. The book was predominantly written by Cheryl while she was still single and waiting. But once her “Finally” stepped into view, the book shares their extraordinary love story. Chris got to pen the final chapter. Pick up an ebook or a paperback copy from Amazon.com.
(Photo by Lisa Crates of Lisa Crates Photography)
To share a bit of our story, I will repost 2 of my Facebook stories, The Proposal and The Wedding. The book, Finally the Bride, shares a lot more about the journey to find each other, what we both went through before that happened (and during) and how God spoke to us about how we were going to be together.
THE PROPOSAL (posted Feb 20, 2011)
This has definitely been one of the best weeks of my life. Sharing Los Angeles with my now fiancé Chris and introducing him to many of my friends was truly special (as he is relocating here after we get married.)
Chris had never been to California before, so I enjoyed showing him how beautiful our state is. I’m grateful to every friend who reached out to him and made him feel welcome, to my Premise prayer group who prayed over and blessed us, and to all who had us over for dinner / prayer times so he will feel like he already has some good friends upon arrival outside of me, his “best friend”. I look forward to him meeting the rest of my friends here too.
Eventually we will be sharing our story about how God brought us together since meeting in 1996 in our Charlotte, NC church singles class, yet not starting to date until 2010. God has proven to be quite a love story writer, beyond what I could have ever penned. And I anxiously await the day I can share that story.
But this post is just about the proposal:
While I knew this was coming because we’d already started talking about wedding plans, I wasn’t quite sure what Chris was up to. He planned it for Friday, February 18, our anniversary, and asked if he could plan the day for himself for our anniversary without me knowing how we’d be celebrate.
As we left my apartment, he plugged an address into my GPS first (which is purple, by the way). He knew upon arrival I’d be like, “What on earth are we doing here?” We pull into a neighborhood and park and walk up to an apartment door where he calls for someone. I’m thinking, “Who on earth does he know in LA and what are we doing here?” A lady comes up all excited to see us and sees the confused look on my face. I have no idea who she is or why we’re coming to see her for our anniversary. Turns out, this is his photographer friend, Lisa, from Charlotte who he second shoots weddings with. She just so happened to be coming to LA this week to visit her daughter. And apparently we’re picking her up to take her with us somewhere to do “couple’s photos” (aka engagement & “capture the proposal” photos, though I don’t know this yet.)
He then guides me to take all of us to the Santa Monica pier, which for eleven years now has been my favorite place in LA. (I have spent many-a-days praying for my “future husband,” not knowing who he’d be at this beach.)
We had a blast for a couple of hours being silly, romantic and everything in between posing for photos.
Eventually we landed at the end of the pier that overlooks the Pacific, Catalina Island, Malibu, mountains. He gets down on one knee, pulls out a ring box, opens it, and it holds a beautiful wedding band that so perfectly matches my grandmother’s precious engagement ring that he knew I wanted to use for our engagement.
I inherited this ring when my grandmother died in Jan. 2010, a ring I was mesmerized by for the three hours I held her hand in mine, the last day of her life. I wanted her to be a part of my special day and some in the family had already had in mind to pass this ring along to me. In my last conversation with her, she told me she’d always been praying for me to find a wonderful husband. And that she strongly felt that God had a reason for making me wait so long, that once this person came into my life, I would know he was worth the wait. I’m sad she won’t be there in person to share my wedding day, but I praise God for this special way for her to participate.
Chris did a great job finding a beautiful compliment to her ring. Inside the ring box held several personalized M&Ms with the request, “Will you Marry me?” And also “I want you!!!” and “I choose you!!!” Chris is well aware of my journey of almost 40 yrs feeling unchosen and unwanted. And he wanted to make sure I know that I am the only choice for him. In fact, the inspiration for my script / novel “Never the Bride” started off by my complaint that I feel like I have never been anybody’s choice. (Yes, one of those embarrassing, “self-pity” moments that made me laugh at myself and ask God, “This is going in a script, isn’t it?” And of course, the story was born out of that moment.)
The man who proposes to “my” character Jessie in “Never the Bride” uses personalized M&Ms to propose. It was so fun to be living out my “fictional” dream yet it was real and true and the man behind the question truly loves me, wants me and chooses me.
Our awesome photographer, Lisa, was on hand to capture this amazing moment on this beautiful pier as I cried receiving this ring and naturally I said yes about 90 times. 🙂
I loved hearing how he plotted with my sister, my parents, and one of my best friends Susan, as he was putting this all together. And it was amazing to have this take place at not only my favorite place in LA, but a place I’d been so many times, not having any idea that one day I’d be proposed to at this very location.
We are working on setting a date, with an eye toward mid-to-late May. It will be in Charlotte, NC, as both of our families live there.
There were many times in my journey I’d struggled to keep hope alive that I would ever find anyone to love and cherish for the rest of my life. And no doubt I had to wait a long time for this arrival. But I can honestly say, Chris was well worth the wait.
Thank you, to you, Chris, the love of my life, for making that day so memorable. I can’t wait to marry you!!!
We are both so grateful to God for the way He wrote our story.
Thanks for sharing in our journey by reading our proposal story. The journey of faith continues…
THE WEDDING – A LOVE STORY
God is a great author of romances; I am not.
Well, not in my real life, that is. Maybe when “fictionalizing” on paper I can write up a good romance. But in the thirty (cough-cough) something years of my life, never would I have written a romance as wonderful as the one God gave me.
I can’t tell you how many times I wished, hoped, and prayed for the wrong situations to come to pass. But as I recently said in my article for In Touch Magazine, written while I was still single and waiting, the Father really does know best.
Looking back, I’m grateful that God “overrode” my desires time and again. Not that He overcame my freewill. I told him I only wanted what He wanted for me, even if that meant along the way I didn’t get what I asked for. (Or what I thought I wanted.) I surrendered that purple pen of my love life to Him, even though He frustrated me over and over again by not going along with my personal desires. (And definitely not in the timeline I would have asked for.)
Apparently I have pretty bad judgment sometimes. Because at first, I didn’t want to be with Chris. (I know… crazy! What was I thinking??) It took awhile for Chris to convince me to give him a chance. I reveal that to say sometimes, those of us waiting don’t give a chance to those we perhaps should. Not in every case, no doubt. But seriously! It took six months of deep conversations for Chris to convince me to go out on that first date.
Knowing what I know now, I could have missed out on the most amazing love story God was working to write on my behalf. I could have continued to say no. And if I had, I would have definitely missed out on God’s best.
Feeding his woman cake.
You would think I would know this concept. I mean, really. I wrote “Never the Bride.” And for those of you who know the story, it’s about me and my silly love life, the mistakes, the “not the best” choices in desired mates, and trying to get God to cooperate with me (eh, hem, I mean my character.) But just as in that story, God doesn’t take suggestions or nominations. God had ideas of His own; His were far surpassing mine.
I just didn’t know it.
My screenplay (and novel story co-written with Rene Gutteridge) was remarkably prophetic. Writing about it first, you’d think I wouldn’t have made all the same mistakes as my character Jessie made. But I did. I didn’t learn from her in advance. Only after the fact did I see I walked right into my “fictional” life (where fiction became my reality) and got to see how God was doing the exact same work in me that He did in Jessie as a character in “Never the Bride”, a story He inspired me to start writing in late 2006. Yeah, that long ago. I wrote the first draft of the script in 2007 and then Rene and I set up the book deal in Feb. 2008.
As you know from the proposal, Chris used purple M&Ms to pop the question, Will You Marry Me? Just like in the book. But what he added of his own to those M&Ms were the phrases “I choose you!” and “I want you!” Quite honestly, I had never really felt chosen before; I had never felt wanted. And I definitely had never heard the words “I love you” from a man before. Not in all these years. But what a difference it was, to actually be pursued by someone who cared so much about me (rather than what always happened before for the past decade of me liking others who didn’t “see me that way.” I can’t tell you how many times Chris has expressed his gratefulness to God for “blinding” all the other guys to me so I could wait for him. We both felt like we constantly had some kind of “repellant” on us preventing anyone from seeing we were valuable lifelong mates. But now, we’re glad that happened and that we have found each other at the end of our wait.)
There is a lot more to our story and the journey that God had us both on to finally bring us together. We will be sharing our story in the non-fiction book, Finally the Bride, I’ve been writing since 2007, as a book to singles about not losing hope in the wait for love (where I talked about how God worked with me while waiting to not lose hope). I wrote most of it while I was single. All but the final two chapters. (I’m all about writing about my angst in the midst of the angst, not waiting til later.) It’s like a non-fiction companion book to Never the Bride.
As to the wedding itself:
My wedding day was perfect. Just like in the screenplay version of the story, Jessie gets married at her in-laws house. Who knew I’d be marrying someone whose family just so happens to have the picture perfect ranch home for a wedding? (Um, well, God knew, and that’s probably why I wrote it that way. I actually had changed that part of the story once I location scouted for the movie version and found a home I really wanted to shoot the wedding scene in. That’s why it’s not written that way in the novel since I made that change after the book was written. But little did I know, that one script change would become my reality.)
We did a lot of work to get the ranch ready for the wedding day. And if you’ve looked at the photos our amazing photographer and her team took (http://www.lisacrates.us/Weddings) you already know how beautiful it turned out! (Lisa Crates also did our engagement pictures in Los Angeles, so it was extra special to have her document our picture perfect day as well.)
The week before the wedding, when my nephews arrived, I was giving them a most enthusiastic Auntie greeting in the driveway when I fell off the uneven curb and snapped my whole foot sideways. (Yes, I even heard a snap.) Praise God I didn’t break it. (This was the OTHER foot I didn’t have surgery on.) I spent the whole week before the wedding walking on crutches or riding around in the wheelchair while some of the most amazing friends and family on the planet (in his family and mine) worked tirelessly to ready that home for our wedding while I had to just watch and supervise or do little tasks while remaining seated. (Yes, that drove me nuts!) The pain was awful and we knew I needed to save any walking ability for that walk down the aisle a week later. I was NOT ABOUT to go down in a wheelchair for “the walk” I’ve waited for my whole life!
I was not one of those girls who always dreamed about what my wedding day would be like. I truly only cared about being married, not the day itself. But we experienced the gift of a perfect day together, sharing our love and the ceremony with close friends and family.
I’ll admit: I can be an anxious person. And the morning of the wedding, I was jittery. But once I got to the wedding site, I calmed down and remained calm the whole day. Chris had me giggling so much during the ceremony, there was no room to get nervous! (I was surprised how comical our ceremony was, even though it was still touching and reverent.)
Dad walks his girl down the aisle.
The first time I wasn’t in pain walking with one foot in front of the other was that walk down that aisle. God gave me a special grace for sure. And I was able to stand through the service. It was sore walking around at the reception, but I still managed to lightly dance with both my new husband and my father (for the father-daughter dance to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella.”) That was the only time the whole day I lost it. But ya know what was so sweet about that moment to me? In Sept. 2004 when my dad needed to have open-heart surgery, I posted a list of goals and dreams on his bedpost at the hospital. And #1 on that list was “walk Cheryl down the aisle”. I wanted to give him many reasons to stick around and survive the surgery. A nurse back then asked me, “So, when are you getting married?” I said, “I have no idea. But he better be here for it!” So dancing with my dad at my wedding was a beautiful dream come true for me. (And I expect him to stick around for many other milestones!!)
My new Mother-in-Law, Nancy
This wedding was so long awaited for both Chris and me. And we could feel the power of the answered prayers all day. Many who joined us that day had been our prayer warriors before we knew what God was up to with us. (Before we’d reconnected on facebook after years of losing touch.)
What also made the day so special was the arrival of all my mom’s siblings. It meant the world to me that they came. We spent time together in Jan. 2010 when my grandmother was dying and then passed away. That’s when it was established that I would inherit her engagement ring to use one day when I’d get married. My sister Heather declared she hoped the next time we’d all get together would be my wedding, even though I wasn’t dating anyone. I’m happy that my sister was right, as it was such a victorious and celebratory occasion and awesome to have Jackie, John, Patty, Jim, Deborah, and Bill with me!
Lana, Olivia, Jessica, Cheryl, Heather, Lisa, Susan (missing Chris’ sister Julie… she was outside working on the flowers)
It also meant the world to me who I had there to stand up with me. (I highly recommend my unorthodox method of just picking a color scheme and telling the girls “find your own dress and shoes!” I always disliked the dyed to match shoes and matching dress idea and loved giving them freedom to bring their own tastes to the table. I just supplied them with eight purple color swatches to choose between.) And I think the results were beautiful and much more festive than all one look!)
Cheryl & Heather
My sister has been waiting forever to be my matron of honor, an honor I also held for her wedding. She was such a rock that whole wedding week and also flew up from FL for my shower!
I chose my bridal party carefully. I have a knowing that every person in my wedding will always be in my life. I won’t look at my wedding photos decades from now and go, “I wonder whatever happened to so and so…” I have this habit: when I find good friends, I don’t let them go. Ever. And it was an honor to have the Felten sisters, Lisa and Lana, in my wedding. I’ve known them both since I was 11 and their family is like my second family. And Susan, who’s been in my life since I was 15. And Julie, Chris’ sister and my new sister-in-law. (And she’s the one who so graciously said yes to my crazy request for use of her home for the wedding and reception.)
Olivia & Jessica
And then Jessica, who was my first friend ever. I’ve known her since I was 1 1/2, when my parents moved us across the street from her family when we lived in MA.
What a joy to have her up there with me and to have her beautiful daughter, Olivia, as our flower girl. And of course having my nephews Jake and Jesse play ring bearers was priceless (and they’re both arguing over who will marry Olivia).
I also had many other long time friends come in from all over, like Caroline from Canada (who edited our love story into a video we shot earlier in the week and played at the reception. She also MC’d the reception). I’ve known her since we attended Regent University in 1994.
And JoAnna, from LA, who sang a beautiful song “He’s Always Been Faithful”. She helped decorate and run the rehearsal. We’ve been very close since 2007 and shared a lot about this journey of waiting to find true love.
And my Uncle Bill, a professional opera singer from San Fran sang out “The Call”, and others who traveled from outside the area like, Fred and Rita from MA, Robbie from FL, Kendal from GA, Sharon from Wilmington, the Welts, and others. It was an honor to have my two video camera ops (Sheila & Laura) as two people I’ve known since the mid-90s. And to have a producer from the 700 Club, Cheryl Wilcox, who met me after reading Never the Bride and doing an interview with me for the book release, take care of all of our flowers for us. She felt like God told her to do that back in June 2009 whenever I finally got married. She did a fabulous job! My sister’s sister-in-law, Cherrie, opened her home to a few of my travelers, which was abundantly helpful! And it was great that my brother-in-law, Chris, got to be a groomsman. That meant the entire Gebbia family was in the wedding party. We had so much help and love surrounding us to pull this off!
We were married by my parents’ pastor, Jerry Poplin, who’s been involved in my “wait in faith for a husband” for a long time, as he’s had me talk to his congregation throughout time about my films and Never the Bride and trusting God during the wait when there’s no end in sight. His wife Karen helped us plan the ceremony. And Chris’ friend, Pastor Thom, did an amazing reading and prayer over us and our future ministry to others. So heartfelt and encouraging.
Singing to his girl
And now a few words about my husband: He surprised me by writing me a song. “I Love My Baby”. And its world premiere was at our wedding reception with his live band, to sing it to me in front of everyone. (And you know he’s sung it to me at least 5x since then.) He is the most loving, supportive, protective, romantic, thoughtful, patient, sensitive man I’ve ever known with a beautiful heart, and I am truly blessed to be his wife. He is so much more than I ever could have asked or imagined that I’d receive. Or even knew to ask for. He shows me why God knows best. And I can’t thank God enough for what he’s done for the two of us in bringing us together. He is my gift from God in so many ways. And I adore this new family I’ve married into. They have the best and biggest hearts, so helpful, so generous, and they really love and support us. I have two new nieces and a nephew. (Elizabeth, Rebecca, and Jordan). They are so delightful and sweet. And there’s Eric & Julie, Ben & Sarah (they get married in Oct.), and his parents Doug & Nancy. How much they all love and support us and rallied around us to pull this day off.
The Brooks and Prices
Ben & Sarah
My parents also worked tirelessly helping plan the wedding reception. Since I was in California the first two of the three months of planning, they did a lot of legwork for me. They found the cake maker, the caterer, a lot of décor, etc. My mom made my veil. She also threw me a lovely bridal shower. The whole month was so special to spend together. I wore my sister’s wedding dress from her wedding in 2000. It’s amazing given how different we are in height that her dress fit me perfectly without any alterations needed. It was a special thing to share with her. (And she did the most amazing toast speech at the reception to honor me. Chris’ father, Doug, also did a wonderfully heart-felt speech.)
Chris & his Dad
This whole season of time has reminded me how truly blessed I am to have such a great family and to marry into another great family.
Thanks for taking the time to read a slice of our story. There will be more to come in book form as we share all that God did in the years leading up to what He was divinely setting up. I pray you are encouraged as you read this to know God indeed delivers on His promises, no matter how long it takes for Him to do so. Both Chris and I over the years knew God had promised us marriage in the future. It was hard to believe sometimes that He’d come through, especially the longer the wait took. But God did indeed save His best for both of us. Chris shows me every day how much he loves me in so many different ways. I pray we never forget to be thankful for each other.
Thanks for sharing our journey with us!
We’re outta here!
To purchase Finally the Bride on Amazon, click the Paperback or Kindle link below:
Now available as a two book set:
The fictional version, Never the Bride, is available in paperback, ebook, and audio book at various book retailers: