The Divine orchestrated a magnificent day before our very eyes on August 6, 2016 at our Covenant Celebration at Lapham Peak State Park. Though we will never know all the implications of that day, we do not dare keep His work a secret. This is the first in a series of reflections, memoirs, and proclamations from this day.
These musings may not be ordered as you would usually expect from me. I will not start at the beginning. I will not describe the setting in detail. I will not list the chronological events of the day. I will share my heart as I feel led. My husband will weave in his unique perspective as well.
The only logical place to start is with the most crucial, enduring part of the day for me: my vows to my husband, the promises I will keep forever.
All images are captured by my talented friend Gretchen at Faith Photography.
I put my arm through my father’s and he reminds me to breathe. I suck in the forest air and let it out slowly, face basking in the sun and soul basking in the Spirit.
This is it. The highest peak of a hundred mountaintops, only slightly more elevated than each ordinary moment of the past 11 months but somehow understood to be sacred.
“I have never been more proud of you,” he says to me earnestly. I beam, filled with radiant joy that is only a product of a father’s love and approval. This is in our DNA. The reason for our adherence to this sacred tradition, which had seemed so extraneous just weeks before, becomes clear.
As we begin our approach to the wedding arch, arm in arm, he reminds me to stand up straight, walk slow, and smile big. Unremittingly pragmatic and consistently correct, that is my dad.
One would have to be dead or sleeping to deny the presence of the Divine in our midst. As our pastor begins to speak, his words travel deeper than my ear canals, as if floating into my soul on an unseen courier. His charges match perfectly with the vows I am holding in my hand and it sends chills up my spine. All eyes fix on Jimmy as he begins to read his vows. My eyes well up with tears and my heart races with each word.
“You are my favorite,” he says, and I lose my breath as I run my fingers over the card in my hands with those exact words etched in ink. Each statement he makes is the impossibly accurate counterpart to mine, invisible thread weaving between our words.
“You are my favorite.”
I then speak my words. Through this all, I am fully focused on the two other members of my braid, namely Jimmy and Jesus. However, later conversations with our guests revealed the Divine Orchestration in this moment:
They spoke of unexpected gusts of wind dislodging green leaves months prematurely, floating down daintily as if riding the rhythm of our words.
And of sunshine defying physics to shine through opaque matter, manifesting God’s smile on this new covenant.
And of butterflies dancing, cheering us on with each clap of their wings, mysteriously unfazed by the multitude of people.
I love you, James Ryan. You are my favorite. I narrowed the expanse of feelings I have for you into 7 simple statements, a drop in the ocean of love we share.
You love Jesus and me fiercely.
You completely accept me for exactly who I am.
You encourage me to be the best version of me.
You sweep me up into your adventures.
You live out your faith and are willing to fight for what you believe in.
You are always on my side.
You are on the inside exactly who is seen on the outside.
For all of these reasons and the Divine purpose that transcends words, time, and space, I wish to make 7 vows to you today.
I vow to put nothing in this world before you. Jesus is the Lord of my life and yours and I promise to always put our walk with Him first. I vow to never put the needs of myself, our children, families, friends, or pets before yours.
I vow to serve you and submit to you. To let you lead me and gladly follow even when I disagree. To stand before you, behind you, and beside you on every leg of this journey. To be your co-sojourner in this temporary place.
I vow to encourage you to accomplish your dreams and to become the man God created you to be. I promise to embrace your journey and never despise it. To trust you even when I can’t understand.
I vow to never keep a record of your wrongs, and choose to not remember your offenses, as Christ has done for me. I promise to never keep score. I promise to always see the good in you and assume the best in every situation. I promise to always be on your side.
I vow to love who you are today, not who I expect you to become or who I remember you once were. I promise to choose you every day.
I vow to pursue the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. I promise to adorn myself inwardly more than outwardly. I vow to pray for you and for our marriage regularly.
I vow to make the gospel the mission of our marriage. I promise to chase Jesus with you and let our love continually point to Him, until He returns or calls us home.