I gave birth to a tiny baby girl. Hannah Elizabeth. My first. She was wide-eyed as she came into the world. She looked up into my eyes and held my gaze. No crying. Just a stare that felt as if she’d known me my whole life. She looked into me and I into her. We knew each other without a word. This instant connection was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
Hannah was the first of my babies who I held in my arms. She was the first one on whom I tried out my mothering skills. The first one where my prayers became real. I had prayed for other people before, but nothing puts you on your knees like a baby with whom you are connected. In that moment, you know that the bigness of the world could swallow this little one up with no regard. In one bite.
Intercession takes on new meaning. An urgency. A longing. A depth of love deeper than words. You want the best for this wee one, and you beg God to give you the ability to raise her within his grace. The prayers began very specifically, for good sleep, for wailing to stop; then moved to sweet friendships, for a husband, for a purposeful job. However, over time those prayers enlarge to encompass more, a life of joy, an open and caring heart, a peaceful spirit, a faith that’s real.
Along the way, I tried to let go of expectations and my own plans for my daughter. I opened my hands to let her find her own way. Traveling around the world. Grad school across the country. Walking her own path, not mine. This included her own timing in finding the husband I had prayed for since the beginning. Let me tell you, for a woman who can sit through a hallmark marathon without blinking an eye, it was difficult for me not to ask questions about her love interests, and I didn’t always succeed. However, it was clear it was not a topic for discussion, so I remained silent…as best as I could. Not that I thought she had to have a man to be complete, but I wanted her to have a companion. Someone to do life with. Someone to be by her side and treasure her.
This week she married that man, in a ceremony that was her in every way. They became one…in the forest among the trees in the shadow of a mountain. The week leading up to the wedding the weather was beautiful. Yet, as the weekend neared the predictions of rain went from 40% to 60% to 92%. And as the chances for rain went up, the predictions for temperature went down. Mid-week, we ordered clear and white umbrellas for the guests. We gathered our layers and hoped for a weather miracle. And do you know what? Even those prayers for weather were answered, just not in the way I had hoped. Again, I opened my hand and let go of expectations. It rained. It was cold. And it was PERFECT in every way.
The drizzle started as a mist. A cool morning, with on and off droplets that were so small they looked like fog rising from the forest floor. Not quite hard enough for a raincoat, but just enough to make the surrounding forest glow with spring-rain green.
Early in the day we knew everything we had planned would have to be rearranged to fit underneath the tents we had rented. An army of family made it happen. They strung lights, multiple times to get it just right. They arranged and rearranged tables to fit them all under the canvas tents and near the heaters. The memory table was moved to the garden. The dessert table was moved to the gazebo with the fire pit. The dance floor lights were hung in hopes that by the time the dances occurred the uncovered space would be dry and available.
The elaborate remaking of the plan came together. The white tablecloths were laid. The champagne table runners were unrolled and greenery was carefully placed. Candles were spaced throughout and the vintage colored glasses we had gathered and shipped from all over, were unwrapped and set at every place. Bamboo plates and utensils were distributed. Side tables were decorated with elegant signs, greenery, and candles. It was beautiful even though it wasn’t the original layout.
When the time came for the pictures, the sun peeked through the moody sky. Not brilliant, but still looking to see how things were going. Even with the small bit of light, the rain was sprinkling down. In our best clothes, with raincoats and umbrellas over us, we got into formation in the woods. On three, we tossed the coats and umbrellas down and smiled for the pictures. Afterwards, we picked our raingear back up and continued to the ceremony space by way of a trail dripping with green happiness.
The rain let up slightly as the time neared. So much so, the wedding party opted to go without umbrellas. The guests were seated and the music began. The groomsmen, dressed in medium gray suits with ties that matched the bridesmaids’ dresses, stood at the top of stone stairs. Each one held out his hand, in turn, as his bridesmaid emerged from the forest. The first woman wore a shimmering burnt orange dress. The long and flowing skirt was the color of sunset. The next bridesmaid wore a deep burgundy the color of not-quite-ripe plums and it flowed around her as she carefully took each stair. The third bridesmaid wore a lavender dress with full length sleeves, and a beautiful long skirt. She smiled like sunshine. The men were careful to make sure no one slipped on the stones as they descended the stairs and then escorted the women to their spots up front. The groom, in a charcoal gray suit, watched from the alter and was congratulated as each man passed him to take their spot. Standing side by side, spread out across the front, the party had the desired effect of all the shades of a sunset in the woods. The flowers tied all the colors together in stunning bouquets.
The rain continued to mist making everything look fresh as the entire audience turned to watch Bill hold out his hand for Hannah. He was in a gray suit with a subtle blue plaid and a floral tie. As he reached for her, she emerged from the forest to the top of the stairs, glowing with happiness and a smile. She was every bit the bride of the woods, with flowers in her long flowing hair. A fairy princess. She almost seemed to be floating towards Jimmy who was overwhelmed to see her coming his way. Her gown was white lace of vines and leaves over a blush lace under-layer. The sparkle in her eyes matched the sparkles on her dress. The sleeveless gown bodice was fitted and flowed into a beautiful skirt with a train that stretched out behind her. Bill took her arm and escorted her down the stairs and the aisle to her waiting groom. The father released her then and united her with her groom before he took his seat next to me.
The ceremony was beautiful in every way. There were moments where laughter rained down like the drops falling all around us. There were moments of tears where the rain disguised the trails on our faces. The vows were beautiful and heartfelt. There was a tenderness that could be felt by every person in attendance. The gazes into each other’s faces were warm and deep. All in all, the rain was a companion on this special day. The drops increased as the ceremony went on, and guests pulled on raincoats and opened umbrellas. However, this did not dampen the day, it only seemed the forest was whispering, mummering, and singing its own praise of the union. When the time of kissing the bride arrived all heaven and nature rejoiced. Cheers broke out and the guests and trees were bonded in their celebration.
The rain ebbed and flowed as the reception began. Those who could, changed or added clothing. I layered under my gauzy spring dress with cuddle duds, socks, and over with a lime green raincoat. Hannah had a friend who had knitted her an elegant sweater wrap that was an exact match of her dress. Those who live in the Pacific Northwest know how to prepare for rain. They came with rain-boots and gear. The rain didn’t dampen their desire to celebrate the couple. It was as if it was a regular evening; the rain came and went throughout the night. There was tasty Cajun food for dinner, wonderful company, and lots and lots of laughter. There was so much joy it warmed those basking in it, from within.
When the time for first dances came, it was raining but that was not an issue in the least. Everyone went to the dance floor with umbrellas in hand to watch and then joined in when it was time. We all literally danced in the rain and it seemed entirely perfect. The saying, ‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain’ came to mind. It was so very appropriate, however I changed it a bit. I think it’s about learning to dance with the rain.
Being a lover of rain, I have noticed that rain is always dancing. It bounces in puddles. It slides down leaves. It splatters on everything it touches. It calls kids to play in it. If we think back far enough, I bet we all remember jumping in puddles and standing, heads thrown back, mouths opened to the sky, to drink it all in. We can join in the celebration or sit miserably on the side. A metaphor for life, to dance when life doesn’t go as planned. And what a great thing to experience on your wedding day! Maybe that is why they say rain on your wedding day brings luck.
Hannah and Jimmy cut the pies. Everyone cheered. The celebration continued into the night. It was magical. Truly, even though many things didn’t go as planned, it was the sweetest, most tender wedding I have been to. We all would’ve liked warmer temps and less rain, but in hindsight I wouldn’t change it for the world. The forest joined the celebration. Who could ask for anything more?