Sixteen. Our grandparents were right. It flies by. They said you’d blink and it’s another year over. Another year lived. Another year you loved. ♥ And we did! It always blows my mind seeing all the thousands and thousands of old photos of us and what we’ve done, where we’ve been, and what we’ve survived. Truly, it’s miraculous. And in some sense, it doesn’t actually feel all that long. But in photos, it kind of feels like a lifetime already.

When I see those tiny, young faces, in the photos of us when we were such babes all those years ago, I think of all the things I wish I could tell us. Or perhaps, I think, I wonder how life would have been different had we known what lay ahead of us? Sometimes, I think it would have been profoundly easier to have known what was coming. And yet, other days, I find great pride in looking back at our sweet faces–seeing such hope inside our eyes–and knowing NOW that we made it. Through it all and without warming. We survived, we conquered, we thrived. Depending on the situation, we did it. And we’re still here. We’re still here!!

Sixteen years ago today, I put on my white dress. I peeked outside at our ceremony site as people poured in: All our family and friends…and boy did we have a lot of them! You slipped a note through the door of that room that said “I love you!” and moments later I could see you, standing outside, at the head of the aisle, waiting for me. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered so hard, I remember thinking I could fly right then. I feel that still sometimes just when I see you, or when you do the unexpected. In my heart I knew I’d feel this way all my life for you, but seeing it play out has been nothing short of exhilarating!

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Our road together has been a beautiful one, but it hasn’t been without some pretty big hills to climb. And some deep holes we have to dig ourselves out of—some have been so deep, I swear we couldn’t see any light from down there. But, looking back, I think we’ve felt the most joy during those times too, mixed in with our sorrow or pain. Because the feeling of overcoming something, or making it through something together, is immensely satisfying. And truth be told: you’re the best digger + climber I’d ever want on my team.

If I could talk to 19 year old Shanny and 20 year old J, I’d tell them to try not to worry. That it will seem like an impossibility sometimes not to worry, and that yes, sometime life will seem like it’s ending. But it won’t. I would tell them that worrying might feel like the right thing to do, but that in time, and by God’s amazing grace, the two of them will be okay. Frets or not. That while their livelihood will be swept away with the water over night, it’s not the end. Not even close. That while they’ll have to face a scary cancer diagnosis, it’s not the end. Not yet. Not even close. And that while they’ll have years and years, and years worth of yearning, trying, and spending all their time, prayers, and money on trying to grow their family, they’ll have to bury more babies than they’ll ever get to hold. But it’s not the end. Not even close. I’d tell them that even when they were hurt by those they love the most, cheated on and dismissed by those closest to them, they’d still be okay. That they’d be better for having lived through it and that it wouldn’t, ultimately, be the end at all. Not even close.

But then I’d hug them both and say that even though that all seems scary, there will be so many belly laughs each day, yes each day, and that the next day will rise with the brightest of sunshine. That they’ll find some of the greatest friends the world has, and family members who love and uphold them. And that they’ll still stay up late into the wee hours of the night talking, uninterrupted, like as if they were on their first date…sixteen years later. That they would raise the most amazing, amazing little boy who will shape their lives forever and make them happier than they ever thought possible. I’d tell them that they would be awesome parents, and even better business partners. And that they, WE, would be happy. And still madly in love.

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In sixteen years, I doubt anyone could have prepared me for the life we’ve had together, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Not the “scaries,” the losses, or the days when we were brought to our knees. Because we’re so much stronger for it. So much wiser. So much better. And so much happier. I can’t explain it, but I can feel it. I’m so ready for another sixteen years with you, Babe. Buckle up, love. The ride is crazy bumpy sometimes, but oh so crazy, crazy fun! ♥

J Frames in Fatherhood

If there was anything I could say about you, on this day, Father’s Day…it’s that you are our steady. After seven years of being a Daddy, your consistency is the most grounding and solid piece of our tiny family. The hardest things I can imagine, have been experienced and felt by you. By us three. And yet, your hands don’t waiver. Your feet stay planted. Your mind stays sharp. Your heart beats true. And you faith only gets stronger. I have loved loving you. I have loved seeing you grow and mature as a Father–taking on the role like it was made for you. You aren’t just a Dad. You are a partner. A “goes first” kind of guy. A true leader. And yet, you back me up. You hear me out and compromise when it’s necessary. So many times we’ve met in the middle over the years.

And though you and I had BIG plans for a family, and have dreamed and dreamed for years about our future…the picture we’ve painted in our minds hasn’t quite been the picture I’ve been able to paint in photos. But still, I see solid, consistent smiles. Because that’s what I’ve found in you. You are the only person I want when I’m happy. When I’m sad, or when I’m scared. Eli would second that. And you are the only person I want to come home to. The only person who’s my safe place. The only person I want in my trenches. And in my corner. Eli’s too.

You are the world’s greatest airplane-flyer. The greatest dipper. The best side-kick to your mini-me, and the coolest teacher. You are the funniest book reader, the strongest Daddy, and the most tolerant, bearded “pose again by those flowers” guy. You are the fastest hiker, the snugyliest pillow, and the most solid shoulder ride. You’re a plumber, a computer tech, an irrigation specialist, an athlete, a multi-business runner, and a pancake-making master! You are our comfort; and the wisest and wittiest human we’re just lucky as ever to love. Jason Von Eschen, I’m so glad that no matter what, we’ve lived the fullest, richest, happiest life I could have ever dreamed of having. Because of you. And I’m so proud of who you are on the inside, how beautiful you are on the outside!, and how wonderfully amazing you are as a whole.

Happiest Father’s Day, J. From me and all the babes. (Fur-babies included.) ♥

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