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Twenty years ago, my dad walked me through a field on a misty Fall day, to meet the man I had already committed my life to.  With a twinkle in his eye, and a smile on his lips, he asked, “Last chance.  You wanna turn back?”  “No way, Daddy,” I retorted and we walked on giggling.

We reached the grove of trees, past the swarm of people, where my dad placed my hand into the hands of my beloved, and offered his precious daughter in marriage.  I have never looked back.  Nor has that beautiful man with the sparkling blue eyes, waiting for me under the Redwoods.

It has been twenty years of walking side-by-side, through hills and valleys.  Through the savory and the less-than.  Through trial and triumph.  Twenty years of being serenaded to sleep through the rise and fall of one another’s breath.  Twenty years of fighting battles with our backs pressed against the other, and hugging one another when the battle subsided.  Twenty years of turning our hearts, minds and souls towards the other.  And of picking one another up, when one has fallen.

If there is one thing I am most grateful for, in this whole, wide, broken world, it’s Jesus.  Second to him, it’s Smiles.  Never have I known a man to love and cherish a woman like he has loved and cherished me.  And never have I met another who feels so much like my own soul in different skin.

When we were traveling the country, with barely two pieces of copper to rub together, we often reminded each other, “We are the most blessed people in the universe.”  And I say it again, with even more confidence than we said it then.  I hope you disagree with me, and think yourself to be the most blessed.  But I would smirk, and know in my heart that I am surely the most fortunate, because you, my friend, aren’t married to Smiles Welch.

Today I told stories to a friend of our early years of traveling the country.  Of God’s supernatural provision for us, and of the way He knit our souls into one.  And today, my heart is full.  Because even if I were left a widow today, few are ever loved like I have been loved, and I have seen the face of God in a man who I have the privilege of sharing a ring, a last name, and an anniversary with.

Smiles, I love you with all my heart!  Thank you for all your years of walking through life beside me, and for choosing me to be your lifelong best friend!  Thank you for being faithful to those vows you sang twenty years ago.  And thank you for singing them!


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