Family, Suffering, Worth

Why I’m Glad I Didn’t Wait Until I Was Prettier to Walk Down the Aisle

I’m way hotter today than I was on the day I got married. Recently the Facebook decade Timehop filled our feeds with pictures from 2009.

“Can’t believe it’s been ten years!”
“We were babies back then!”
“The difference a decade can make…”

My husband played along and shared a picture of our wedding day in December 2009 and it honestly made me wince. He looked absolutely INCREDIBLE, don’t get me wrong, but myself? With my bobbed haircut and crooked smile emphasizing the scars we had recently walked through? 

Ashley Stevens of Mountains Unmoved on wedding day December 12th

It made me a bit self-conscious to look at. I hadn’t yet learned how to smile in a way that minimized my facial paralysis. Despite all the prenatal vitamins in the world, one year is apparently not enough time to grow back a shaved head. It made me wish I had waited until my new look was closer to what it is now that I’ve had eleven years to recover.

You see, three weeks after getting engaged, I was T-boned by a Mac truck. My fiancé received a call from a mutual friend telling him, ‘Get to the hospital as fast as you can and have someone else drive you. Your wife was in an accident.’ On the drive, he sifted through the uncertainty of what he would be walking into. Maybe my face was scarred or I could be paralyzed. He did NOT prepare himself to be told, ‘She may not make it.’

A nurse pulled him aside before she let him into my emergency surgery room and told him, ‘Ashley had a serious head trauma. Her brain pressure is spiking dangerously high and if it crosses a certain point, she’ll be brain-dead. She is fighting a fever and multiple infections and if this continues, we’ll lose her.’ He lost it. Losing the woman he loved, the woman he had asked to marry him just three weeks before, wasn’t even on his radar.

As he entered the room, he noticed my engagement ring had been removed. I was covered with tubes, monitors, and a neck brace. My head was shaved and my face was partially paralyzed and covered in bruises. He had expected to recognize me. He didn’t

We were supposed to go to Florida to watch our alma mater, Nebraska, play my brother’s, Clemson, in the Gator Bowl. Instead they watched from my hospital room amidst the smell of sterilization and my beeping heart monitor.

Ashley Stevens of Mountains Unmoved watching Gator Bowl 2009 from hospital room with fiancé in corncob hat

Thanks be to God, I made it through that first month. But not without some life-altering scars along the way – an impaired dominant hand and deafness, to name a few. For the next five months, I fought to regain my independence and feel more of myself. Still, there was so much uncertainty. Would I be approved to go back to work, to drive, to get married? 

As I continued therapy down South, my fiancé flew down every weekend to see me. He worked Monday through Thursday and spent the weekend helping me remember what I was fighting to get back to.

After a week of doing mind-numbing brain teasers, he took me to a movie.

When I was told, “You’re still not ready to run,” after a month of walking on a treadmill at a frustrating snail’s pace, he took me for a walk at the prettiest marina in town.

When my mornings involved a nerve stimulator sending jolts of electricity into my partially paralyzed face, he held my hand and told me I was beautiful.

On day we had scheduled to get married in May, I balled that we still had yet to reschedule our wedding. He spoke to my insecurities that I didn’t look like the girl he had asked to marry him, that I wasn’t that girl, and told me, “I want to marry you today more than I did the day I proposed. I love you more.”

Ashley Stevens of Mountains Unmoved with fiancé amidst recovery

As soon as I was approved to come back to work, I wanted to put a new wedding date on the calendar to marry the man who had chosen faithfulness before we said, “I Do,” as soon as possible.

We went with the one-year-anniversary of the accident so we could look back every December 12th and remember the happiest day in our lives, rather than the day we almost lost everything. We wanted to redeem the day and celebrate all the God had done for us over the past year.

On that day, when I looked at this amazing man who had reminded me of my worth when I needed it most, I didn’t give a lick that my face was tilted.

On that day, I giggled with friends as we got ready, grinned from ear-to-ear as I walked down the aisle with my dad, and didn’t get off our reception dance floor the entire night as I rocked out to Spice Girls, “Wannabe” and all my favorite early 2000s jams.

Ashley Stevens of Mountains Unmoved dancing with husband at wedding on December 12

When I look at our Timehop in that light, I’m proud I didn’t wait until my hair was longer or facial nerves more recovered. I’m proud because when I show our girls pictures from our wedding day, I remind them that you don’t have to wait until you’re perfect to show up.

You don’t have to wait until your picture is perfectly filtered to post.
You don’t have wait until you’re amazing at basketball to try out.
You don’t have wait until your friendship is completely back to normal to say, “I’m sorry.”

So often we let perfect be the enemy of good. We let the fear of not having, or looking like we have, it all together keep us from saying hello. From showing up. From trying.

On our wedding day, I didn’t let my fear of imperfection stop me from walking down the aisle to the man I love. When I look at our 2009 photo in that light, I see joy and I’m proud of the woman before me – of the couple we are – both then and now.

I’m way hotter today than I was on the day I got married.

But I’m so thankful I didn’t sacrifice the happiest day of my life for the sake of perfection.

Ashley Stevens of Mountains Unmoved with her husband and three girls

My words first appeared on Love What Matters. What keeps you from showing up or trying when you feel you don’t have it all together? Would love to hear from you!