Friday, December 01, 2006


According to the newspaper, a large alligator "got" a man yesterday in a lake in Lakeland, Florida. Thankfully, he survived.

When I read about it, I thought, Wonder which lake? We lived in Lakeland twice, during our college days and in the 1990s. I loved that town. Still do.

Lakeland is full of lakes--that's why it's named Lakeland. There are Lake Morton and Lake Mirror, pie-round lakes in the middle of downtown and so picturesque, you're certain they came off of a postcard. Tall, antique-style lampposts surround them, and it's a pleasure to take an evening stroll around either one.

Then there's Lake Hollingsworth, with a sidewalk around it that's three miles long, just perfect for a nice walking workout or a bike ride. You occasionally see your friends on your walk--it sometimes turns into a social occasion; there's always a crowd. The houses that line the lake are nice with a capital N. I remember when one was listed for $1 million, the first house in Lakeland to reach that mark.

Today, I read another article about the alligator-eating-the-man incident, and it happened in Lake Parker!

Lake Parker?

That's where Milton proposed to me--a long time ago.

Memories kicked in for me.

I'll never forget that night...

We were attending college in Lakeland--Southeastern University--the Mediterranean-styled college smack dab between Lake Bonny and Lake Holloway, which is smack dab between Tampa and Orlando. Click here to see pictures of the campus and glorious Florida.

It was May.

Milton was about to graduate.

I was a sophomore, only 19.

We were in love, achingly in love...

We'd been to church (we did that a lot during our dating) and were now sitting in his car, a pleasant evening breeze wafting through the rolled-down windows. We were parked at Sertoma Park, named for "Service To Mankind," Ser To Ma. When he cut off the motor, the headlights shone over the glassy black waters of Lake Parker with their reed-like plants dotting the shore here and there.

I couldn't tell you if there was a moon or not. :) I only remember it being very romantic.

He pulled me close and kissed me.

I returned his kiss with ardor.

"Will you marry me this summer?" he whispered.

I was thrilled but surprised. The couples in our crowd dated, went steady, got engaged, and married--in that order. He'd skipped the steady stage! And now, here he was, asking me to marry him and marry him this summer--and I hadn't even finished college yet.

"I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you."

"I love you, too."My heart was about to beat out of my chest.

"I feel you're the one for me, that God sent you to me."

I'd been praying a long time for God to send the right man into my life. I'd memorized Ruth Bell (Mrs. Billy) Graham's prayer poem, "Let Him Be Like Thee," and often prayed those moving, tender words. I knew in my heart Milton was the one for me. But this was so...sudden.

"You know I'm called to the ministry," he reminded me, his voice soft."The Lord might call us to Africa or some other foreign country, or to places all over the United States. Are you willing to go with me wherever the Lord sends us? You'd never get to live in the same town as your family. The life of a minister isn't the easiest, you know..."

I proverbially shook in my boots. I loved my family--my mother and father and Aunt Tine and Nana and Papa and all of them. I didn't want to leave them. And I knew he was right about the ministry. I'd seen via the pastors at my church and other pastors that it was often a nomadic life. And not easy, as he was saying. But I also had a bedrock confidence in God. And the Lord had called me to the ministry, too, in a unique way. I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to the Lord's service, had wanted to do this, had felt this desire since I was a young teenager working in various ministries of the church.

"I love you." He pecked my lips.

"I love you too." Doodads crawled up my spine. We'd kissed very little. Our college at that time had an NBC policy on campus. No Bodily Contact. But that wasn't why we were chaste. We wanted to be chaste. And being chaste made the culmination that much better, we later found out--on our honeymoon!

"I respect you."

I respected him too. He was a leader on campus. People looked up to him.

"I love your family," he said.

He'd met them all, was good friends with my brother Terry who was also a student at Southeastern. And I loved Milton's family too. His parents were in the ministry, and he had lots of relatives who were ministers. Like Milton, they, too, were looked up to, respected.

"Terry's the nicest guy and so dedicated to the Lord," he said. "It'd be an honor to be his brother-in-law and to be a member of your family."

I nodded, woozy from love.

"Will you? Will you marry me?"

I wiped my moist eyes--joy moisture--as he kissed me yet again. "Yes," I said between kisses.


How did I get from gators to proposals?

Oh, yes. Lake Parker.


At 7:55 PM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

Maybe one day I'll tell my story. My dh of 36 years (the 27th of this month) and I met on a blind date. And my date was the other guy! ;o)

Loved this, Kristy!

At 8:10 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

You wound up with your friend's date? Wonderful story! Love it. Yes, you'll have to tell your story someday on my blog. Maybe I need to feature a How We Met and Fell In Love interview from time to time. Great idea...


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