My step daughter, Ella, is getting married in 2 weeks. This is my last out of our 4 children to get married. It is hard to believe all of our “chickies” have fully flown out of their nest. Although this is the way God intended, it is still hard everytime. Out of my human selfishness, I’ve tried to clip their wings a few times but thankfully God knows best and had better plans for them.

Remember when our children were little and we couldn’t wait for them to grow up and be more independent? Our family and friends would always tell us to treasure every moment because time passes by so quickly. You can hear it a thousand times but it never truly rings true until it happens to you.

As I prepare to send my last child into true adulthood I am left with a few thoughts.

Where did all the time go? As I was going through family pictures last week for a slide show for the wedding I found myself drifting back in time. I went back to a time when the house was filled with so much activity, so many smiles and so much laughter. I felt so blessed to have been given the opportunity to be this beautiful girls “bonus mom” for so many years. Seeing pictures of her as a baby reminded me of her spunk, her independence, her complete resolute to challenge everything we ever said or done but the pure joy she would bring into every day life.

Then she entered the elementary years. She was always our social butterfly. Always the fun of the party. She never missed a beat. She was never a stranger to anyone and would make a friend everywhere she went, even if they didn’t want to be her friend.  Her friendly, almost demanding, insistence to make a friend wherever we went always kept her dad and me laughing.

Middle school years came next. These were the most difficult years for each one of our kids. These years were full of struggles, as they would try to find their way in the midst of change and chaos. Life was sure busy as we traveled everywhere trying to chase her down to keep up with her activities.  She loved staying busy, a path she has continued to follow to this day. Never a dull moment for this girl.

With the teenage years came more and more independence. As she gained independence in her social life this is also when her spiritual life took on real meaning and she dove into solidifying her faith and developing her own walk and spiritual habits. Something her dad and I were always very proud of.

Making decisions was always a challenge for Ella. I remember as she was entering her senior year she could not decide on where she wanted to invest the next 4 years of life training. We traveled to Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, and Iowa. None of the options seemed to be exactly what she was looking for. Then on a cold day in April I remember her coming in and saying she found a college in Pennsylvania that she wanted to check out. With time running out, her and I booked a quick flight to go check it out. I will never forget arriving at Grove City College Pennsylvania and within the first 15 minutes I knew this would be the place to spread her wings. She loved it and soon we were planning for our first child to start her life away from Minnesota. I remember clearly her dad tearing up as he was processing what this new move was going to mean. We knew moving out of state would be the best thing for her personally, but it also left open the possibility that she would fall  in love and never call Minnesota home again. Fast forward 8 years and his fear has come true as we are now planning a wedding in Pennsylvania, her new home away from home.

A lot has happened over the years. A lot of change, a lot of struggle, a lot of pain and yes, a lot of laughter too.  She is always the one who we can count on to keep us laughing. Her sense of humor along with her laid-back personality is always a joy to be around. We all miss her greatly at family get togethers and celebrations. We all would agree, we still don’t feel like a complete family without her here with us.

Now with her starting this new chapter of her life we celebrate the addition of a wonderful man, Brian. Through the years as her dad and I began to accept that she would not be coming back to Minnesota his biggest concern was that she would be well taken care of. I am very blessed to know that Brian will be taking very good care of our little girl. They will be starting a very exciting life in Pittsburgh with Ella attending University of Pittsburgh to get her Doctorate of Physical Therapist and Brian working hard starting his own business, RE Holdings.  They are very well established, have great friends and we are very proud of her as she starts a life of her own, far away from her “heart home”.

Brian, take care of our little girl. Continue to love her and care for her as you have already proven. Thank you for loving her and sharing your life with her. We welcome you into our family and promise to never stop trying to convince you to move to Minnesota.

Ella, spread those wings and fly high baby girl. Dad has a much better view of you now and I know he is watching over you every day with a smile a mile wide. We are so proud of the woman you have become and even though your hundreds of miles away, you will always be right at home, where you belong, in my heart.

Love you Sunshine Girl….