How we met: Jackson & I met at a tiny Christian high school in the town we grew up in and currently live in! We had always know each other but hadn’t ever hung out. When I was a sophomore he would text me quite often, but I was interested in someone else (silly me!) My mom always tried to steer me in his direction and suggest I “check him out” but I was all, “nooo.. he’s weird!”
Fast forward to the summer before our junior and senior years. I had just broken up with a guy, but Jackson apparently didn’t realize this and just a few days after the breakup, wrote on my Facebook wall something about my ex-boyfriend. I don’t exactly remember what he wrote, but he still claims that he didn’t know we had broken up, and I’m still confused as to why he wrote on my wall asking a questions about another guy! Haha. Anyway…. Upon seeing the post I immediately sent Jackson a text asking him to take it down, because we broke up and I was afraid it would make the other guy sad. This prompts Jackson to ask questions, give me sympathy, be there for me, give advice, all that good stuff- which turned into a blossoming friendship! We got to know each other pretty well that summer via texting, especially while he was in vacation in Homer, Alaska with his family (they all joke now that I was along on that trip!)
During the next 6 or so months we talked non-stop and I told Jackson that I was not interested in dating anyone until I graduated high school. I knew deep down I REALLY liked him. But I didn’t wanna mess with the stupid high school dating game. Well, he made up his mind that he was going to change my mind… and that he did!
Jackson went to visit my dad at work to ask for permission to date me, and my dad of course said yes! The next day Jackson and I went to the movies with my sister and her friend (the movie was horrible, but sitting next to Jackson and holding his hand was not!) After the movie we walked to Starbucks, and it was pouring rain… typical Florida! As we were walking under a covered area, Jackson gently pushed me out into the rain. I came back, shoved him and said, “You’re so cold hearted!!!” Without missing a beat, he asked, “Would I be cold hearted if I asked you to be my girlfriend?” YES! And December 4th, 2009 is when our dating journey began!
It’s been an amazing journey, with both good times and bad. Over the last 4.5 years we have survived high school, college, long distance, dating overseas, miscommunications, trips and travels, and so much more. So many changes that we have gone through together brought us together, pulled us apart, tested our relationship, showed us more about each other, deepened our walks with Christ, and got us excited for our future! I can’t believe that we are on the other side now of the dating relationship and can say, “we made it!” Jackson is the man I have hoped and prayed for all of my life, and I am so stoked that I get to spend the rest of my days with my best friend by my side!
how they asked: Jackson’s family had been planning a vacation to Alaska in August 2014 for almost a year! I was beyond excited and talked about the trip to Jackson non-stop…! As I mentioned earlier, Jackson had been in Alaska 5 summers ago with his family, and this is when our relationship really blossomed via texting. I couldn’t help but think that a proposal in Alaska would be the perfect time and place! However, Jackson came up with a few tiny white lies whenever I hinted at a proposal, and he threw me off pretty well. However, after a series of events and the gut feeling I had, I thought it would be coming on the trip, but had no idea exactly when!
Two days after we had gotten to Alaska, we spent the day on a fishing boat with his family, catching heaps of delicious salmon and halibut. Later that evening Jackson’s aunt, who lives in Alaska, had planned a big family chicken BBQ for everyone at her cottage across the harbor. Somehow that morning Jackson had convinced me to take along clothes to change into after fishing so I wouldn’t be so smelly at the BBQ (I never think of things like that!) After fishing we went right to the cabin, where we changed clothes and hung out with family. At one point before dinner, Jackson asked me to follow him outside to the fire with his nephew, which I thought nothing of. Meanwhile, his mom was inside transferring the ring and a book he had made for me from her backpack to his.
While we were outside by the fire, I noticed Jackson’s cousin, her husband, Jackson’s sister, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law sneaking off onto a little boat and riding away to a small island off the harbor. I said to Jackson, “why weren’t we invited?! I wanted to hike the island too!” And he told me not to worry, we could hike it together after dinner! We went inside and a few minutes later, his cousin who had driven away on the boat was back and asked Jackson, his brother, and I if we wanted to go across as well. We happily obliged, and I didn’t even notice Jackson had his backpack along!
We docked the boat and headed to the trail. I suggested we head up to the cemetery that a sign was pointed to, and we got there only to find that everyone else who had been brought earlier was there! As we approached them, everyone went off to the side into a bush, and Jackson grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “lets go to the gazebo!”
“Why……?” I asked, as I immediately started crying as I instantly knew what was about to happen! My heart was bounding and my eyes felt like a never ending flood! When I say cried a lot, I’m afraid you don’t quite understand. I was full-out bawling, rubbing my eyes, trying to catch a breath, etc. This was hands-down the best moment of my life.
Jackson walked me over to the gazebo, which had two beautiful wildflower bouquets (picked by his brother-in-law and sister-in-law) and a shutterfly book sitting there.
He put his arm around me and opened the book to attempt to read to me. I kept saying, Jackson.. what are you doing?! You said you weren’t going to propose in Alaska!” I was so shocked. The book had tons of photos from all different stages of our relationship, and each page said “Happiness is….” and then things like “celebrating each others victories” “loving our families” “loving our friends” “serving together” “fighting for what we believe in” and other amazing things like that, with pictures that went along with it. The last page then said, “But LOVE is……” followed by, “Getting to love and serve you for the rest of my life. Vanessa, will you marry me?”
As he finished the book he of course got down on one knee and asked that beautiful question, and I didn’t have to think twice! I said YES! I hugged him and held him and cried until he finally said, “don’t you want the ring?!” Well of course :) It is the most beautiful ring I have ever seen, and it is exactly what I wanted! He did so good! I kept staring at it and asking, “THIS IS MINE?! This is really mine?!?!” Jackson had his cousins husband, who is a photographer, take some sneaky photos which I am SO grateful for. I can’t look at this photo without getting all teared up.
We walked back down to the boat and piled in to drive back to the cottage to celebrate with the family, and on the way I called my family! They were so excited, and of course, knew it was coming, as Jackson had previously asked for my Dad’s permission to marry me.
We got back to the cottage to heaps of hugs and congratulations, and a delicious BBQ dinner. We immediately started dreaming of our big day and life together, which will be happening soon!
The last week and a half of our time in Alaska was magical… I’m so glad he proposed in the beginning so that we could enjoy that precious time together just relaxing! We haven’t stopped grinning since that day and I don’t think we’re going to stop any time soon :)
Photography by R.Switzer Photography