On July 27, 1994, Paul and I entered into a covenant with each other and the LORD in a little roadside chapel, the Chapel of the Holy Dove, between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. We pledged to “love, for better or for worse” and we vowed that “where you go, I go.” We were twenty-four and twenty-five. Young. Naive. Excited.
Oh, and one of us had long hair and the other didn’t.
We found this sweet, public chapel on our way to The Canyon twenty-one years ago, celebrating my graduation. The chapel was so charming. It was built by a man who wanted a place for travelers to be able to stop, pray, sit, and soak in God’s creation.
When Paul proposed, I knew right where I wanted us to get married.
Fifteen months ago, I told Paul what I wanted for our 20th anniversary. I wanted a professional family photo in front of the chapel where we got married, all of us dressed up and me in my wedding dress. Then I wanted to take the kids to the Grand Canyon. We could camp the entire time, except for one night.
Yes, I was pretty much that specific.
I gave him fifteen months notice because… well… Paul needs notice about big deals. And this was a big deal to me. I wanted the photo on the day. Not a month later, “when it’s cooler”. Nope.
July 27, 2014: a photo of us in front of the chapel as family. My dream.
I booked a photographer two months out. Tried on the dress one month out. But then… camp and craziness took over my life. Planning for this dream had to take a back seat to other events. I prayed and left it all in the LORD’s hands.
Finally, I bought the kids’ clothes two days out. Got the ties about twelve hours out. Ahem.
Two days before we left, our amazing photographer, Annelise Jensen, contacted me because the “forecast was for thunderstorms all weekend” and wanted to know my Plan B. My heart dropped into my shoes. And I started crying.
It had never crossed my mind to plan around the weather. I had no Plan B.
The inside of the chapel was nothing lovely and I knew it wouldn’t be a good shot. It’s tiny (seriously, we had ten people at our wedding and it was a bit cramped) and not photogenic. Granted all but the rock walls of the chapel burned down a few years ago and a young man gained permission and funding to rebuild it, so it wouldn’t look exactly the same. Still…I knew it was still small.
She and I chatted back and forth on Facebook. She was encouraging and flexible. She said we could reschedule for any day and do whatever I wanted.
I wanted it to not rain.
Paul calmed me down and suggested that we move the shoot to Saturday and have Sunday as our fall back, in case it rained. Annalise said she could do that. Everyone was calm. Except me.
I clearly had not left my dream in the LORD”s hands. So, I took a deep breath and prayed. I listened to My Love and moved the photo shoot to Saturday.
I know, this doesn’t sound like a big deal to y’all. BUT… well… I really wanted the photos on the exact date. That was part of the dream.
But I wanted the big dream more than I wanted that detail of the dream.
I finished packing for the shoot as well as for three days of camping at the Grand Canyon and I prayed. I asked others to pray. I asked the LORD to please give me two hours of clear skies for the photos.
To give me my dream.
And He did.
Oh, and one of us had long hair and one of us didn’t.
Getting dressed last Saturday afternoon in the hotel with my family, well…. I can’t describe the feeling. I was transported in time to the morning of July 27, 1994. Putting on my dress with Mom, my sister, and my dear friend, Jennifer. I felt just as excited last Saturday, but I felt… I felt so much more. I felt gratitude. And joy. And knowing.
Entering a covenant is beautiful and holy.
Honoring one and keeping it for twenty years, well, that’s an entirely different kind of beautiful and holy.
Celebrating that with my husband and my children by taking photos in the same exact spot, well…. it was a dream come true.
Not as big of a dream come true as my marriage is, though.
God did answer my prayers and kept the rain away until we were driving off after the photos. It poured rain in Flagstaff all night. And all the next.
But for an entire afternoon, the LORD gave me the dream of wearing the dress that I wore when I placed my hands in Paul’s and recited my vows, holding a bouquet of roses in shades of pink that day, but twenty years later, surrounded by our beautiful bouquet of children, in shades of pink.
To then take them to one of the seven wonders of the world, walking its rim and soaking in its beauty. To camp out, hike, and just be together at one of the most spectacular places on the Earth, was fabulous. To celebrate this together, as a family.
To show them the town and cabin where we honeymoooned. To walk through the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, where their parents traipsed as young twenty-somethings. All of it was a bit surreal to me.
Our actual anniversary night we had to eat in the tent, sitting on the ground, while it dripped into the tent. It was not only memorable, but a bit wonderful.
As I looked around that night at the faces God had put in my life, I was humbled and grateful. Not many women could claim an anniversary dinner at the Grand Canyon, in a drippy tent, in dim flashlight, eating seven layer dip and tortilla chips, with the love of her life of 20 years and six amazing children of her own.
Nope, not many. Maybe, just maybe, I am the only one who has had that moment.
And, believe it or not, it was a dream. A dream come true.
Ok, ok, I will also admit that I would not have felt nearly as great if the photo shoot had been rained out. I will humbly admit that. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a bit anxious that there won’t be a photo of the eight of us all together in front of the chapel that I like. Yes, I”m that ridiculous.
So, I’m working again to lay this all in the LORD’s hands and to focus on the experience. Because the experience was seriously dreamy.
What a beautiful, beautiful dream I enjoyed for a seriously special afternoon and for four days after that.
And and one that I am getting to live daily.
20 years, I’m grateful.