How We Met
Our story is the definition of a foreign whirlwind romance. Renan and I met in Paris in June 2015. Renan, who is French-Brazilian, had recently moved from Brazil to France for work, while I, the American, was in Paris to solo travel for a week before going on to an internship in Douala, Cameroon. The day after I arrived, I attended a church service at Hillsong-Paris, hoping to meet some people who could possibly show me the city. At the very beginning of the service, the pastor told us to look to our right and left and introduce ourselves to someone we didn’t know. Renan was in the row in front of me, and we started chatting after I introduced myself. After the service, he invited me to go to lunch with him and some friends, which I happily agreed to. From the very beginning, our chemistry was undeniable. Even people at lunch with us that day asked us if we knew each other already, since we seemed like best friends! We spent that whole first day together and ended it by talking for hours in the Luxembourg Gardens and taking a long, romantic walk on the Seine at night.
After he returned me safely to my hostel, I immediately sent messages to all of my closest friends to tell them that I had just met the most incredible guy in Paris, and though we were only friends, I was so excited that I had met someone so amazing. Being realistic, of course, I was positive that nothing would work out between the two of us, but I was thankful for the opportunity to have a friend showing me around the city for a week. The following day, we went to the Louvre and spent six hours there together, at which point we both agreed that we had undeniable chemistry and really liked one another. We both felt as though we had known each other for ages, but I explained to him that I was concerned that we were just being swept up in the romance of Paris, and that our connection wasn’t real. What’s more is that I would leave in 4 days to go to Cameroon, where I would do an internship before flying back to the University of Virginia to finish my degree. However, Renan was persistent and insisted that he felt like God had meant for us to meet, so we agreed to pray over it.
The next afternoon, we went on a picnic by the Eiffel Tower, where we had a really intense conversation about what we wanted out of life and what we felt was most important to us. It was then that I realized we had a connection that was more than just chemistry, that we could have a real future together, and that God would bless it all. We agreed to date and then shared our first kiss by the Eiffel Tower – the most romantic first kiss I will ever have! The rest is history, and I attribute undeniably our relationship to God. Though we didn’t know it at the time, we would both experience an extremely difficult year, as he adjusted to living and working in a new country and I lost my father very suddenly at the beginning of 2016. Both of us were able to be there for one another – Renan even took a week off of his brand new job to fly out to be with my family and me when my dad passed away. At the beginning of last September, I moved to Paris to be with him, and the long-distance finally ended with both of us living in the city of our dreams.
how they asked
Renan had told me that we were going for a weekend away to celebrate my birthday, which had happened about a month before. The entire week, I was preparing for this trip by cleaning, organizing, and packing – Renan even sent me a packing list that asked for a summery dress (to be worn the first day), hiking clothes, and an additional outfit for Sunday. Since we don’t have a car, Renan said that we would rent one from a woman who lived in his neighborhood, and that we would meet her at a panoramic view about 5 minutes from his apartment. He also told me that we would leave at 9 AM and drive straight to a Michelin Star restaurant, so I needed to have my hair, makeup, and clothes ready to go by the time we went to meet her. The morning of, I woke up bright and early to get ready to go on our trip, which Renan had told me would be “the best trip of our lives.” While I got ready, Renan packed his bag for the trip really quickly and then hurried us out the door.
When we got up to the panoramic view, he checked his phone and told me that the girl we were meeting was running late, so we put down our stuff on a bench and wandered over to admire the view. It was the most perfect morning – clear, warm, with a blue sky overlooking Paris. We were the only ones in the park, except for a couple people exercising. Renan and I hugged and looked at the view, and then he started to encourage me and tell me how much I meant to him, which was super sweet and romantic. After a few minutes, Renan turned to me and said, “Naomi, I lied to you.” Surprised, I responded, “What?” Again, he repeated, “I lied to you… We aren’t going on the trip you think we are.” To which I again responded, “…what?” He then smiled at me, took both of my hands, and said, “We’re going on the trip OF OUR LIVES together forever… It’s going to be the best trip ever, both of us going through life together. So, will you say yes to being my life partner on this voyage of our lives together?” He started getting down on one knee, and I was so surprised and overwhelmed by it all that I shouted, “WHAT?! NOW?!” as he knelled down.
Then he asked the fateful question, “Will you marry me?” I started saying yes over and over again and then kneeled down to kiss him and hug him, totally overwhelmed by the moment. Renan then had me stand up, put the ring on my finger!, and had me turn around, where a few of my closest friends in Paris were taking pictures and video of us. I started crying into Renan’s jacket before going over to hug them.
The rest of the day was perfect for us – we had brunch with our closest friends in Paris, called our parents and our friends who live in different countries, and then watched the videos Renan had gathered from at least 40 of our friends, congratulating us on our engagement. We finished our evening by ordering sushi (what we ate on my last night in Paris more than two years ago!) and snuggling while we watched a film.
It was the perfect day. I now wake up every morning with the incredible assurance that I’m spending my life with my partner and best friend, who not only loves me well but teaches me so much about the One who loves us unconditionally. I am so blessed to have him in my life!