Wedding day speech to our daughter, Aniyah…
I know you have heard me share the story many times. I thought I knew what I wanted. I thought that I had the good plans laid out for my future, our future, when we first got married. But, plans are a funny thing that oftentimes, are redirected into a better and more divine plan that begins to unfold.
Oh, you have heard me tell it, and I will tell it yet again because your father and I hadn’t realized that the plans that unfolded, were the plans that ultimately saved us both, and our little family. It all began with you, the heart of a little girl who clung to the hope for a better future for us all.
Flashback to a time when the reality of you came on scene, but you weren’t supposed to be a realized truth until much later…
I stood there in disbelief. My young husband, your father, stood before me perplexed for he thought this news would bring me joy as it did him. But, inside I ached with fear because I knew this news not only meant that I was pregnant, but that I was pregnant with a baby girl. Being pregnant, to me, meant that she too might have to learn to be a survivor much too young. It meant that she would not have an older brother protecting her from the bad things that could happen to her. That was my thought process back then. I was 19 and we had just married the year before. THIS wasn’t part of the plan. I KNEW the plan for I had mapped it out for the first 10 years of our lives together and kept it all in a binder. According to my calculations, having our first child came 7 years after marriage, not one year. I was 20 when I first became a mother, and little did I know that this plan, was what God would use to ground me and reveal His pure and unadulterated love.
I wish I could say I fully embraced this plan at the time. As I have shared before, your father and I went astray and sought our own way, our own plans, and you were caught in the middle of our mess. As you know, God wasn’t a realized truth for us until much later though as I look back now, I see He was there all along – even when I was a little girl going through my trials and making messes. He was faithful and made your father’s and I’s mess into a message. He answered the prayers and needs of our little girl which; ultimately, became ours.
We never planned for all the things that happened in our lives, but as we look back, we have found that they led us both to the best plan.
I can vividly remember the day in which Joel contacted me to meet with us. I was standing in our bedroom looking at out our back window. It hit me. Time. It passes so fast. I knew why he wanted to meet and that this time would come, but I wasn’t ready to let go just yet. I had an underlying fear that would be revealed and dealt with soon.
Plans and our true needs, they are what God knows most about for each of us. I did not know when I was pregnant with you how much I needed you in my life. I didn’t know that you were the best plan for me. But, I do remember when I realized that truth…
My head and chest were thrust off the cold metal table as I gasped for air. I awoke to find my shirt had been filleted open and a defribillator was affixed to my bare chest. My worst fear had been confirmed. I died. After a 3 month wreckless stint of drugs and alcohol, I lie there, my body unaffixed to the table as if to tell me, “It’s not yet time.” I turn my head to the right to find you, my daughter, 4 years old at the time, with tears slowly trickling down, staring back at me.
It wasn’t a nightmare. It was real life. Your father and I had already been separated and divorced at the time. Selfishly and wrecklessly we both went on with our own lives, our own weak plans. It was a dark time in my life, but in that moment, when our eyes met, Light was present and compelling me to come to. This precious child had seen us both in many shades of gray to jet black; yet, she believed by faith in the hope of a better future for us all. God used a child to love us unconditionally and to teach us what that meant. By God’s amazing grace and mercy, I walked away with yet another chance at life, having shed the empty armor of the person I had become and I was finally ready to embrace His plan, the plan He equipped me for, being the young mother and, once again, wife to your father soon afterwards.
That day marked much more than the equipping of this call on my life, it was when I began to heal from a troubled past. You were the first to teach me to see others not with a clenched fist when hurt would come, but with an open heart. Your two front teeth had been kicked in by a mean and troubled little girl and I wanted her to feel the hurt as you did, while you wanted to forgive and continue to love on her. This further opened up my ability to forgive others who had mistreated me and your father and I were reconciled back to God, to each other, and to our little family. Your prayers had been answered. I have never looked back and second guessed my decision to become a stay-at-home mother and wife. There wasn’t a price tag you could put on the wisdom, healing, and love that came through this call on our lives.
Through you God taught us how to become better parents. Through you He changed the way we decided to communicate with our children and to not fear being raw and messy because through you, He loved and accepted us in the messiest of states. That day, when you were eleven years old, marked the true gift of parenthood to me. It opened the door to the healing of our past and began what would soon follow the tradition of our mother daughter times away. You saw me as your best friend and oftentimes just longed to spend quality time, a love language we both share in common. I have treasured each of those memories: our love of nature, hikes, camping together, movies with ice cream when we need a good laugh, cry, or when all men just needed to die! We had many “shoes for Tal” moments, our coffee breaks and adventures on the whim, our countless bible studies, the lessons and victories we all shared and prayed with each other as we walked through the many trials that were not part of “our plan.” We learned that family is stronger together as one unit, like God has planned all along. But, that lesson began a long time ago in the heart of a little girl, and was realized countless times since then.
Your accident was not part of the plan, but I knew it would open up a much bigger plan for you. God was not through with you yet, and for good reason, you have much to teach and offer the world wherever you go. We know and stand on this promise for each of you.
I asked you a question, that day we first drove together to find your wedding dress. I asked you, “Do you remember the prayer that I have always prayed for you all, my children?” Your reply was correct. You said, “Yes, that we would all know God and maintain a strong relationship in Him.” That day was confirmation that God had answered my prayer. My underlying fear had been erased. I knew that once you grabbed hold of that truth, God could and would get you through anything and everything in life like He did for us. That’s when God had given me peace to finally let you go. We may not have gotten it right all the time. It may have been messy, raw, and challenging at times, but God took it all; the good and the bad, and worked it all out for our good (Romans 8:28).
Your father and I realize now that the best plan has truly unfolded for each of us in staying married and being parents to all of you. He has faithfully answered our prayers in providing a man that would further take you closer to the heart of God. We give you both our blessing on this new, exciting, and blessed adventure of yours. Our lives were forever changed when God hand-picked us to be joined as husband and wife. More importantly, our lives were forever changed because God was a part of it. We have survived countless trials, some too challenging to comprehend. But, like the lesson of life I have always shared with our family, “If God brings you to it, He will be faithful to bring you through it.” We continue to stand strong and praise Him as He has taught us through this calling the true meaning of a future and hope in Him. Without Him, none of this, none of you and your siblings, could have happened. Meet each day with hope, you taught us that through your prayers for our family and I adopted it as my life verse that has been the backbone of our family countless times:
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ says Yahweh, ‘plans for peace and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.”
Stand on the promise of the calling that He has equipped and chosen you for on this day as husband and wife. This is the peace that we pray becomes the heart and core of His best plan for you as it has been for us.
We embrace you, Joel, and welcome you into our family. It has been an exciting and challenging ride at times, but we are confident that you will only serve to be an added blessing and strength to our family, and more importantly, to our daughter, Aniyah (“AJ”).
All our love,
Mom and Dad