9 years later... He's still the one.
9 years ago I was dressed like a princess. Well, I felt like one anyway with my long sheer Celtic sleeves and pearl roped empire waist gown. My hair crowned with a thick braid covered by a lovely veil. It was the day I married my best friend, Mike Napier.
I remember the excitement and anticipation of that day. Early in the morning, we sat across from each other in a booth and had pancakes at IHOP- pumpkin pancakes. Pretty special. I know some people say it's "bad luck" for the groom to see the bride but I just had to see him before we got married.
September 6, 2003 was a magical day. We were surrounded by people we loved, beautiful music and charming atmosphere. And God's presence permeated the whole thing. Our surroundings felt fairy-tale-esque. Trees strung with lights. Soft glowing candlelight. An enchanted forest. Golden yellow tulle. Ivy and white roses. Flower girls throwing pennies instead of petals. (Pennies had a special significance to me. They represented God's faithfulness and a reminder of His love for me.)
And even though I had just seen Mike that morning, I felt nervous. I was a little scared. I gripped my Dad's hand tight and told him to talk to me and distract me from the butterflies in my stomach. I remember gliding down the aisle on the arm of my father to the spell-bounding sound of my sister's ethereal voice. But it wasn't until I saw his face that I knew all would be well. I felt at peace. And more than just calm. I felt excited. I wanted to sprint down the aisle when I looked into his eyes. And I wanted to wipe the tears that spilled down his cheeks.
Our wedding was possible because of the help of so many friends and family.*
And as special as our wedding was I was thankful that it meant more than just one special day... it was a ceremony that celebrated a life-time commitment to each other. It was the first day of all the rest of the days that were to come.
We never knew all the things that would so quickly follow our wedding. The loss of close family members. Having many children in rapid succession. Serious and life-threatening hospitalizations and health issues. A bachelor's degree to be followed by a Master's degree. Many different jobs. Many different vehicles. Many different moves. And oh, about a hundred + days of hospitalizations.
But even knowing now all that was to follow I would still say I do. I wouldn't want it to be any other way if it meant it wasn't with Mike. He is an amazing part of my life. My blessing from God. Mike has helped me weather so many storms and has remained faithful, kind, loving, patient, gentle and full of trust in our ever faithful God.
Mike isn't perfect. He's human. Sometimes he's too dang smart for his own good. Sometimes he doesn't change the empty toilet paper roll. Sometimes he's selfish, proud, or rude. Yet, I'm 10 times worse and he somehow manages to forgive my selfishness, pride, rudeness, my attitudes and hormones. He is my love. And my bestest friend. He puts up with me... and that's saying something. Mike tells me I'm beautiful even with all the changes my body has experienced. He sees the stretch marks as "battle scars" that I've had from bearing our 5 beautiful babies. Mike makes me feel feminine even when I feel like a frumpy dumpy Mom. He has walked with me through grief, pain, trials and heartache. He's been with me through morning sickness, through emergency surgeries, through his ER visit on Christmas day to ICU stays with Samuel on Christmas Eve. He was with me while in labor, in pre-term labor, and also driving like a mad-man to get to me from PA to VA to be with me when I delivered the twins... and I called him every 15 minutes to see if he was getting closer :)
He doesn't let me wing it alone: he helps pack our kids lunches, does laundry, dishes and changes diapers. He gives medicine and breathing treatments... and took Samuel to almost every single radiation appointment. He spent countless nights with our son in the hospital as I was on bed-rest with Peter and later when I was contending with a nursing infant. Mike has been sleep-deprived, meal-deprived, and career-deprived because he has been willing to love and care for his family more than himself.
Babe, I wouldn't want to walk these paths with anybody else. You have my heart. I love you more than ever. Thanks for loving me and our fantastic five. Thanks for making me laugh even as I cry. Thanks for caring about me. For your thoughtfulness... for your desire to make me smile. For not letting me implode with self-pity and despair... for being sunshine in the midst of some really dark days.
I know I'm not the same woman who walked down that aisle. That woman was a lot more attractive (no baby weight). That woman was mostly blissfully ignorant of pain and hardship. That woman was pretty spoiled.
But this woman loves you more. This woman knows God more fully. Has seen His faithful provision to us time and again. And this woman would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with you anytime.
I love you. I'm proud of you. I respect you. And did I mention... I'm more in love with you than ever???
*Michelle, planning the wedding with me. Weekly planning meetings at Barnes & Noble and Starbucks. Lisa, our fabulous mistress of ceremonies. 8 bridesmaids, 8 groomsmen, not to mention my beautiful junior bridesmaid and my flower girls, (Thank you Anne, Cathy, Michelle, Kelsey, Joyce, Sara, Laura, Emily, Sharon, Alexis, Courtney & my dear sister Libby!) the ushers, gift attendant and book attendant, Joy & Jessica. Abi transformed our church into an enchanted Celtic forest.... the most beautiful and magical wedding I've ever been to! My uncle Craig did our photography- thank you! And the support and love of so many precious grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins and friends.
Highlights include: Having a gathering of 450+ guests to witness and cheer us on at our wedding ceremony. They had to get more chairs because there were so many! My wedding cake(s) provided by Annie! Best cake ever!!!! Bridal party dinner at Olive Garden... where I couldn't eat my favorite dinner of fettuccine alfredo because I was too excited! Thank you Aunt JoAnne & Uncle Kelley. My Dad building a deck on the back of the house... for a small, intimate wedding reception. Miss Barb doing fabulous desserts... still need the recipe for those Texas Bulls-eyes (is that what they're called?)
Flowers were beautifully arranged by Miss Kay. Fantastic Hair did my hair and a lot of the bridesmaids. Incredible musicians- thank you Josh, Kate, and John. Oh and the amazing Hunt Family Fiddlers... Yeah, we were spoiled.