Fourteen years ago, I was just starting to plan our wedding. We've laughed often about what we would have done differently if we were planning a wedding with what we know today. For one, I would not have stuck so stubbornly to 'tradition' and 'supposed to dos'. Maybe there would have been a little more of our personality and a little less insistence on formality, particularly with the reception. (I mean, really, we don't dance.) We would have spent less money and not allowed ourselves to get so stressed. After all, it didn't take long to realize the wedding day is so minor compared with the rest of the marriage. We also would have gone somewhere else for our honeymoon....but that's a whole different story.
One thing I did relatively early on in the planning process was to write a note to my then 3 year old cousin, Emily, asking her to be our flower girl. Somewhere in a box upstairs, on an old cassette tape, is a recording of the message she left me on my dorm room voice mail saying, "Julie, I'll do it." Some questioned whether she was too young, but I had every confidence in her and she was fabulous.
In fact, when she got tired of standing, she simply sat down on the steps to the stage, arranged her dress, and turned to watch. I heard it over and over just how precious she was that day.
I determined not long after that to stay present in her life. Not an easy thing to do since we live 420 miles apart. It seemed to me that a bride has a unique opportunity to 'befriend' and/or 'mentor' the young girl who serves as the flower girl in her wedding. There's a connection that can be fostered and encouraged, being beneficial to both. It can be special like none other, and for us it has been just that.
Over the last thirteen years, I've enjoyed watching her grow up. We always visit her family when we're in Ohio. Sometimes she and I get some time to talk and sometimes we don't. We've gotten to go on vacation together and we've made as many memories as we could from so far away.
|Tennessee around 2008|
When she was finally old enough for facebook our connection became easier to keep up. For each of the four birthdays she's celebrated during high school, I've sent her a gift. Nothing big, just something with a little meaning. Notecards to encourage her friends, a book to help back up her faith, a cross necklace for the big 16, and an amazon gift card to spend anyway she wanted. We tease and encourage each other. She's someone my kids look up to and I'm very happy about that.
|Emily and Brenna - 2010?|
|Brenna, Carrie, and Emmy - 2011?|
I've cheered her on from afar as she played softball and volleyball. I know some stretches of high school have been harder than others. I prayed and prayed as she and her family struggled through her dad's need for a kidney transplant and then overflowed with joy as God blessed them through so many unexpected people and events.
She's winding down her high school career now. I am disappointed only in that I never got to see her play softball in person. The season just doesn't line up with our ability to travel. Along with the end of high school for a girl like Emmy - one who leads her class as a valedictorian, leads her youth group and travels to far away places on missions, wins awards as a softball pitcher, organizes fundraising events for victims of the sex trade, talks her friends into donating their gently used clothes and shoes to a girl on her bus who doesn't have as much ... comes the daunting task of preparing to go to college.
Rumor has it that the little flower girl has been accepted to just about every school she applied. In her mind though, only one school mattered. Located in downtown Chicago, and offering free tuition, Moody Bible Institute has had her full attention for some time now. A few weeks ago she called to tell me that she'd been accepted - early decision! Could a cousin be more proud? Michael came home from school the next day to find me pouring over the For Parents page on the MBI website. Moody doesn't just pull from the Chicago area, or the mid-west, or even the United States. Moody attracts students world-wide. World-wide! And Emmy, she didn't just impress the admissions board for an acceptance letter. She impressed them ahead of time so that they offered her a slot before even looking at all the other applications sent in for regular admission.
|Visiting Moody - Randy, Emily, Ashley, Sarah, and Tina|
I am one proud cousin. This year as Michael and I celebrate our thirteen years of marriage, it just seems appropriate to also raise a glass to a girl who will always be very special to me. One who spent the last thirteen years growing and maturing into an amazing young lady. She has an exciting few years ahead of her and we are looking forward to watching it all unfold, bit by bit!
And to think at our wedding she was merely four years old.....myyyy, how the time does fly....