The Birthday Girl

Tonight I’m able to acknowledge how incredibly blessed I am. A little more than 16 years ago, a girl came into my life at just the right time. I didn’t know it then, but my life began to change the day I met Sunny Anne Shates.

Actually, I don’t remember meeting Sunny for the first time. We went to a small Christian school where everybody pretty much knew everybody else. Sunny and I both started attending Friendship Christian School in junior high, so we’d known each other for years. In our early high school days, Sunny actually dated a couple of friends of mine. Nothing too serious, but I remember one friend of mine asking my opinion of Sunny. I remember telling him, “You’ll like her. She’s different than most girls. She’s a really good girl.” I think even then, I was a little jealous that my friend was going to be spending time with such a great girl and I wasn’t.

That relationship ended after a few dates, but my impression of Sunny’s character remained intact. My senior year, I signed up for chorus as my elective arts course. Sunny, a four-year chorale all-star, happened to be in the same class. While my singing may have been sub-par, my flirting skills were top flight and I found myself spending more and more time talking with Sunny. She worked as a library aide during 8th period, the last academic period of the day. She should’ve known how interested I was the day I skipped baseball practice to spend 8th period talking with her in the library. When my coach found out, I was benched for the next game and forced to run laps…a small price to pay for a few stolen moments with Sunny.

As the years rolled by, I never stopped wanting her right by my side. To this day, there’s nobody I’d rather watch a ball game with, hang out with, play Scrabble with, fix dinner with, talk with…I could go on and on. To try and quantify the ways Sunny has changed my life for the better is an impossible task. God sent her into my life in a time when grief was consuming me. Sunny helped me laugh again, helped me believe again. I know myself well enough to know that without her constant love, I would’ve lost faith — in God, in myself, in everything. We all need people to believe in us; it’s intrinsic to being human. But Sunny has never stopped believing in me — even though she’s seen me at my best and she’s seen me at my worst. Through it all, I know that her love is hesed — faithful, patient, and true.

The Bybee family, circa May 2011

16 years in, I can say what a blessing it is to call this woman my wife. Sunny, you share yourself so generously with your friends and family, and we’re all better people because of your life. I’m just thankful that you chose to share your life with me. I hope this is only the beginning. Baby, you’re the greatest!

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