The summer of 2016 is now in the Carroll family record book:
3 wedding showers,
1 girl’s month long journey to Bolivia,
3 girls packed and moved to 3 different places
and the grand finale: my son’s baptism!
All of this was just within our little family of five (now six with my new son-in-law!)
Our parents 50th wedding anniversaries were bookends to this amazing collection: one in April, one this past weekend.
So if you’ve been wondering where I have been, now you know. I have been living faster than I could write.
It was stunning to have so many of life’s poignant moments condensed into such a short time. It was also challenging to have one event after another where John’s absence was so conspicuous. Missing him became a familiar, frequent emotion again.
The moment with the greatest heart tug was obvious: at my oldest daughter’s wedding. Not having him here to walk our daughter down the aisle was a hard reality to accept. Like most families, John and our girls had talked about that moment since the girls were little. He took his future responsibility seriously, and the girls knew they’d have his strong arm to lean on in the midst of their joyful days.
We all knew there was no way around it. That moment in the ceremony would be teary. Full of if-onlys. We hoped that we’d get all of our tears out at the dress rehearsal.
But, we underestimated God’s ability to bring grace even to the hardest places. Those hopeless places we think are impossible for Him to touch with wonder and surprise and grace.
Shortly after being engaged, our daughter asked her almost 15 year old brother to take his dad’s place. He agreed, even though it was a little intimidating to be in the spotlight. Walking a gorgeous young woman in a beautiful, white gown with 250 people watching you is a big job, even if she is your sister.
Finally, the day arrived for the wedding, which was held in the garden of an historic home. The moment had come for them to walk down the aisle. The two of them paused at the back of the garden, to allow the music to begin and the guests to stand.
At that moment an unexpected mishap occurred! The haircomb holding her veil slipped out, and her veil became unattached! As she walked forward, it floated to the ground!
Just a second before all of the guests turned to look in her direction, I turned first and saw the wedding coordinator roll up the veil and quickly hold his hands behind his back- a very professional, smooth move!
Stunned, I looked at my daughter; she was keeping her composure. “Oh well,” I thought,”there is nothing I can do about it now. We’ll just put it back on for the photos.”
As my daughter gracefully walked by my aisle, she gave me an ever so slight shake of her head. The expression in her eyes told me,”Don’t worry about it.”
She and her brother reached the front of the ceremony site and stood side by side as our pastor welcomed everyone and prayed. Then, it was my turn to come forward and stand beside her so that I could answer the question: “Who gives this woman away?”
As I walked up beside her, she turned to me and quietly asked,”Mom, will you please put on my veil?”
All at once, I knew we were in the midst of a holy moment. More precious than I had ever expected to have in this moment, on this day. Peace and confidence settled over me. I knew I was being given a gift.
Calmly, purposefully, I turned and walked down the aisle to retrieve the veil from the wedding coordinator, who still stood at the back of the garden with it behind his back. With it gently in hand, I walked back and tucked the veil’s comb into the back of her hair. Then, I took my time getting the veil arranged over her gown, alongside her face and each of her shoulders. I savored the moments.
I knew those were my last official moments as her momma. And they were beautiful.
For twenty two years John and I had loved and raised and prepared her for life. Now she was ready. I truly felt like I was putting the finishing touches on those twenty two years as I arranged her veil…presenting her to her new husband and to the Lord.
And, then I stood by her side. Her radiant smile of thanks was her confident goodbye to me.
“Who gives this woman to be married?” I heard our pastor ask.
“I do, and her father, John, would be delighted.” I said loud enough for all to hear.
And, then a kiss on the cheek and twenty-two years of being her momma were over. My job was done.
I sat down. Amazed. Stunned. What had just happened? The moment I had dreaded most, we had dreaded most, didn’t happen. The veil distracted us all and instead, I had been given one of the most precious, meaningful moments of my life. Truly, I will treasure it forever.
Grace. Unanticipated, glorious, abundant grace. The Lord surprised us beyond anything we could have imagined!
I keep on learning this lesson in this unexpected journey. His grace will meet me and will meet you every. single. time. Don’t fret. Just trust that those things in the future you dread, those moments you aren’t sure you will be able to get through, know that you can trust Him to meet you there.
The past four and a half years have been full of moments I wasn’t sure I could do alone. This summer they came in droves. And, every time, He surprised me with strength I didn’t know I could have; joy that I didn’t know would find me; peace that was bigger than my problem.
“I will turn their mourning into joy; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” Jeremiah 31:13
As we planned my daughter’s wedding, my hope was that joy would take the day. It did. That evening, my heart was too full of joy for tears to surface. Instead, we danced the night away under a summer sky.
With God all things are possible, even joy.