Updated: Jan 22
As my birthday approaches (it's tomorrow!), I look back on my momentous birthday two years ago and the deep love and commitment shown on my birthday last year, with our engagement.
This post starts gorgeous but gets gritty, so buckle up.
This photo was taken on Aug. 11, 2019 — my 30th birthday — one of the most beautiful, romantic days of my entire life.
When I walked toward him on the sand in the golden hour, feeling like a queen in the flowing dress I’d just received from a girl I’d recently met, everything felt like it was moving in slow motion.
Embracing him next to the ocean, every moment felt so perfect that I wanted to be so careful, like I was holding a fragile crystal gift.
How did his shirt perfectly match the dress I had been gifted just an hour before? How was the golden sky and white tide so unusually gorgeous? How come he looked so extra-handsome? How did everyone who came seem so peaceful and full of joy? How could he look at me like I was his greatest gift, when I felt like he was the greatest present I had ever received!?
We met on his birthday and got engaged on mine*, so we are presents to one another.
To have my parents there all the way from Kansas was so special, and to have so many friends there to celebrate was such a sweet surprise.
When he knelt down and asked me to be his, I felt humble, grateful, undeserving.
Worshipping Jesus around the bonfire with family and friends was holy and joyous. (And how he snagged that bonfire spot is a story all its own!)
I will always remember Josie and Taljon’s prayer over us and our relationship that night on the beach, as Anthony and I knelt together and received the Father’s blessing.
Thank you to all who made this day unforgettably glorious.
I love this man. (We had the ring Photoshopped onto this 2019 pic for our 2020 engagement announcement.)
*Our actual engagement was my following birthday, Aug. 11, 2020.
In February or March 2019, Anthony told me that he wanted to marry me (wow!) and, with just the two of us in my Hollywood apartment, he sang me an original song he wrote on guitar in which he told me he wanted to make me his wife. (I absolutely love that song; maybe we'll record it sometime!) I accepted it as a declaration of intent but not as a proposal, because, to me, a proposal includes kneeling down with a ring, a photographer, a beautiful location, and my family and friends present to celebrate.
He continued to pursue me, which was peppered with some powerful moments from God, as you can read about in my previous post, April 7 Anniversary.
In June 30, 2019, God told me when I woke up, “You need to become Anthony’s girlfriend today.” I questioned if I heard Him correctly, so I sat with my Bible and asked God, “What do you want me to tell Anthony?” I opened to the verse, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16). While I don’t advocate usually studying the Bible by opening it randomly and claiming whatever verse you first see as your life direction, I have found it can be helpful for confirmation in certain situations.
I considered obeying (which should never be “considered,” just done), but then I worried. I took dating and the role of "girlfriend" very seriously. What if I didn’t want to marry him? What would the breakup be like? Or, thinking, if I did marry him, I visualized myself as a miserable, overworked housewife who was forced to cook for potlucks, had no voice and had lost all her dreams in life. I wrongfully told God that I wanted to serve Him in all other parts of my life, but my marriage was the one part in which I wanted to choose my own way and make my own happiness. Now that was stinkin’ thinkin’.
That day on FaceTime, he looked so handsome and spoke so sweetly to me as he talked again about knowing I was his future wife and the pain of having to wait for me to come around. There was a war within myself as I partly wanted to speak up and share what God told me that morning, but my fear, doubt selfishness held me back.
Fast forward to late July or early August 2019, two or three weeks before my birthday. As we walked together up to his parents' house, with his arm around me, not talking at all about engagement,
Anthony and I both got jolted with simultaneous visions of him proposing.
Mine was specifically of him proposing to me at the beach on my birthday. Soon after, Christi Given called me and told me she’d received the same vision. She offered to coordinate with Anthony to help make it beautiful and perfect, but I rejected the offer because wasn’t sure I wanted to marry him.
But my fear, doubt and indecision were NOT his fault; it was all me.
Anthony is amazing. He’s such a handsome, Godly, smart, talented, creative and caring catch. But I was in a wrongful mindset, being critical toward him and negative about marriage in general.
Simply put, I was a mess.
I wouldn’t have been so critical toward him if I hadn’t considered marrying him, but it’s like when you visit a house — if it’s someone else’s house, you just think it’s nice, but if you’re considering buying it, you want to inspect every detail before putting down an offer.
Around that time, I repeatedly asked God to tell me what would be best for my future. When I asked “What if I don’t marry Anthony?”, I opened the Bible to a heading that said, “Some reject the light.” I also asked, “What if I do marry Anthony?” and each time, He showed me verses about blessing and specifically about marriage. When I asked again, just to test out my options, “What if I don’t marry Anthony?” I opened to verses about curses, poverty and desolation.
One moment after this kind of prayer and Bible-reading session, I surrendered to marrying Anthony. Immediately, my soul flooded with peace and joy, and I couldn’t wait to call him.
It was nighttime, and he was driving or riding back from Northern California. I told him I had exciting news but would wait to tell him in person. He told me he that I sounded the most joyful, peaceful and clear-minded he’d ever heard. He also he told me he’d just had a vision, right before I called. He saw my spirit being, which he said was so beautiful, standing in a doorway flooded with light. He said my spirit being was inviting me to step into it and become one with it.
I was in awe.
Four hours later though, when I nearly drove to his house to welcome him home and share the news, I once again was hit with negative thoughts, like, I’m not going out of my way to chase him down in the middle of the night. I don’t want to and I don’t have to! The next morning, I questioned my Bible-based decision and dismissed his Spirit-led vision. I chose to not speak of it, and we went back to square one.
After all that, how the Father must have grieved! I'm so so sorry!
On my August 2019 birthday, everything I wanted for a proposal was present — my parents, my friends, and a beautiful location. Leading up to it, a photographer even offered to shoot it for free! Plus, I always wanted to not get married until age 30 and that day was the big 3-0.
Still, even though Anthony hinted about going for it, I got cold feet leading up to the day and warned him and begged him to not propose.
Foolish, I know.
I was afraid I’d change my mind and take off the ring. Since I had wavered about him so many times before, I feared I’d fail in my follow-through. Thus, I thought a proposal would be futile and ultimately embarrassing.
But God says to not lean on our own thinking but rather trust Him and follow His leading (Proverbs 3:5-6).
In early August 2019, someone called me asking for Anthony (she had written down my number as his number), and she was bewildered to get me on the phone instead of him. She tried to look up her info on him, came across his Gmail picture and started exclaiming over and over, “He looks like Jesus!”
Also in that time frame, Christi saw a guy from the back who looked exactly like Anthony, took a photo of him and texted it to me. Shortly afterward, she saw a Range Rover with a license plate that said TIFFSRIDE, of which she also texted me a photo. Speaking of Anthony, she said, “I feel like God is saying, ‘Tiffany, your ride is here!’”
Anthony chilling and letting me take his picture before or after giving me a ride in 2020.
On the morning of my 2019 birthday, I realized that was true. I changed my mind and wanted Anthony to propose after all. However, I feared telling him would stress him, since he was already doing so much to make my beach bonfire birthday bash super special, and I didn’t know if he could get a ring on a Sunday. (It turns out, he said later that he would have loved to propose and could have easily gotten the ring.) But at my party that night, without either of us discussing it, he knelt down with a special necklace and asked me to be his girlfriend (which I had previously said I was unwilling to do unless I became certaint about marriage.
I said yes, so we started planning our wedding the next day.
Anthony and I are characteristically cuddly in this photo with my parents outside Angel City, a ministry cafe in Bellflower, California, where we led worship at an August 2019 show while my parents were still in town from Kansas for my birthday.
I wavered again though and we broke up a month later, then reunited a month after that and finally got engaged with the RING my following birthday, August 11, 2020, which was deeply meaningful in his own way. Anthony surprised me during the Discipleship Now livestream (which my parents were watching from Kansas), while we were hosting at The Cause. He briefly exited and returned with a cheesecake topped with candles, leading everyone in singing “Happy Birthday.” When he brought the cake to me, I saw the icing said, “Will you marry me?” It feels so deep as I remember Anthony kneeling down holding the rings, with tears in his eyes, telling me that he loves me and only me and wants me to be his wife forever.
God is so, so faithful!
The moral of the story, the way I see it now, is this: Don’t ever disobey God; it’s really dumb. It doesn’t work out to think you can go your own way in just one area of your life and still serve Him and do ministry in the rest of your life, and everything will be fine, because sin ends up spilling over onto everything.
Thankfully, Jesus forgives, cleanses and restores us, and He sets things back in order.
To anyone who feels God is telling them to make a lifelong or longterm commitment they’re scared to make, and they’re worried about their own happiness and the outcome of their decision, I would say — quit worrying about yourself and let God take care of you.
And the main way you receive His care is by obeying Him — plain and simple.
Believe God. Jeremiah 29:11 says He has plans to prosper you and not to harm you, so that means every command He gives you is going to prosper you, not harm you. This isn’t the prosperity gospel; it’s the Kingdom — love, joy, peace and righteousness (Romans 14:17).
Also, every obedience to God leads us into more of Him. Oneness with Jesus is our destiny. Christ in us — our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). This destiny and hope can be fulfilled one step at a time, if we humbly listen and faithfully obey. Jesus is so kind and caring, and He is so wise and all-knowing. He is the very essence of love, in ever-living form. He is our prize and treasure, and He is worthy of our obedience, no matter we perceive to be the cost.
I understand that now and seek to live it every day.
And if you’ve messed up like I did, know there is still hope. Give it all to God; He has the power to restore. The following year, we got engaged on my birthday (like I wanted), Christi offered once again to help make it lovely ( I said yes this time), and once again, I wore a special new dress gifted to me from a queen (a literal queen — a Miss Africa America)!
Christi and I right after my Aug. 11, 2020, birthday engagement, with a girl who we led in recommitting her life to Christ!
Our conversation started in the bathroom when the girl complimented my dress
and commented I was glowing.
I told her it was for two reasons — 1) It was my birthday, and 2) I'd just gotten engaged. Plus, a few days later, he asked me to take off my ring on the way to my birthday party so he could propose to me in front of more of my friends, which was so special and thoughtful of him. I said yes and got to experience yet another kneeling proposal from Anthony Salerno.
Photo taken at my party at the home of Abinante Family, shortly after I said "yes."
(He also proposed to me yet again shortly afterward in a commercial, but I'll save that story for another post!)
Now, I am so grateful to be married to Anthony David Salerno. God’s promises to me about the joy, peace, provision and wonders I would experience in marriage to Anthony are fulfilled daily.
Anthony and I on our tandem bicycle, about to deliver another shipment of our children's worship CDs to the post office.
Like a little boy at Mount Baldy VBS said last week, “God is light and love, and He always keeps His promises.” Anthony is my dream come true, my prophecy fulfilled, the love of my life, my faithful prince, my king on this earth, my gift from God.
And my very best birthday present ever.
PS: As I write this post, maybe it’s because we’re about to go see the meteor shower tomorrow for my birthday, August 11, 2021 ...
... but the song, “I See the Light” from Tangled is playing in my head. When Rapunzel and her future husband go see the stars for her birthday, she sings:
“And at last I see the light
And it's like the fog has lifted
And at last I see the light
And it's like the sky is new
And it's warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted
All at once everything looks different
Now that I see you.”
Photo by Mercy Hasselblad from our wedding in December in Mount Baldy, California.