Seventeen years ago today, I was getting ready. Getting ready for one of the happiest days of my life. The day I would marry Mark, and become his. And my 8 month old baby daughter would have the Daddy she deserved.
Mark proposed to me on St. Valentines Day. But I knew this day was coming long before he got on one knee and asked me to be his wife. And also long before he first asked my parents permission. I knew it since our first date. I knew it, because I could see it in his face.
Only 6 months after we started dating.. and I had dresses bought for myself and my baby, we had the church booked, flowers ordered, invitations sent. I was so nervous.. but excited. Mark wanted to lasso the moon for us.... to tie it up in a big bow, and give it to me. My baby was his baby. He planned to legally adopt her. Mark loved us both. And I knew he did. Not because he 'told' us, but I could see it in his face. In his actions. And every day I knew in my heart it was true.
Our wedding wasn't a huge affair. Small. Intimate. No bridesmaids. No limo. No caterer. No band. But it was ours.. and our family and friends all came, and that meant the world to us. I had a pink lacey dress from Sears, and baby's breath flowers in my hair. Mark bought himself a new shirt, shoes, and tie. :)
We married in my family's baptist church. Where my sister and cousins had married. Where my grandpop taught Sunday school and was a deacon. So, on April 30, 1994, we vowed to love each other for all of eternity in front of God, our family, and friends. Our wedding bands simple ones, but engraved with our initials and wedding date.
We didn't have money for a fancy honeymoon. But Mark put roses on my pillow, and we were together. And finally we were a little family.. with a little girl... with her daddy already wrapped around her tiny finger.
Looking back over the seventeen years we've been married... Mark adopted my baby legally when she was two years old. We had another baby five years later in 2000, and then, renewed our vows in the Catholic Church in 2002. Mark said he loved me so much, that he'd "even marry me twice". :)
Mark and I are older now. Not exactly "spring chickens" anymore. Our girls are big.. one is nearly grown. I look back over the past 17 years of marriage, to a man who loved me through everything. When I was healthy, when I was sick, even when I was being a total %&#@ to live with. ;) We've had children we've loved and raised together. We bought a house, lost family and friends close to us whom we loved. We've grieved, and we've celebrated. We've had a child with "issues" and spent a few years doing nothing but going to doctor appointment and therapy. Heck, we even went through getting termites at Christmas time, and an over two month lay-off.
There have been times when we cried. Many times we've worried. But I look back at all the times we celebrated. The times we just laughed until tears poured. The times that we watched the rain together. The moment the judge declared that my baby was now legally Mark's baby too. And no one could ever take her away from him. :) I think of Mark holding my hands as I gave birth. Of us dancing together at his sisters wedding. Of Mark holding our daughter in his arms the first time a boy broke her heart, and all she wanted was her Daddy. Of the time he had to replace the window I cracked by tapping it with my wedding ring. Of every time he sat up half the night to fix a broken toy for one of the girls. I think about every time that Mark put me and our girls first before himself. And the times that I felt so fat, so ugly, and so sad, and Mark would smile at me, and tell me that I am beautiful.
I remember when I was little, I only wanted to be a princess, and grow up and marry a prince and live in a castle. I think a lot of little girls want that. At least they used to. :) I saw Prince Charles and Lady Diana get married. I watched Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson marry. The whole world watched. And I watched it all on tv with my mom.
We're not rich, famous, or royalty. But I think we have something that even "the royals" don't have. On April 30, Mark and I will be grilling a steak to celebrate our 17 years of marriage... full of life, love, loyalty, and laughter. Some things you just can't put a price tag on. And somethings are worth more than all the riches in the world.
I have been blessed. Blessed with a happy marriage. Blessed with a husband and daughters that I would absolutely die for. The "worst" day of our 17 year marriage I wouldn't trade for anything. I am exactly where God put me. Where He wants me. Where He put me. This is my vocation. For better. For worse. In sickness, and in health. Til death do we part.