You Don’t Have To Fake It

Earlier this week, big problems and small annoyances were mounting up and irritating me, but the bigger issue was deeper. Underlying my frustration was the reality of being a widow.

You see, the hardship of this journey is still the same as it was five years ago when it was fresh.  Yes, I am more acclimated to life without John, but it doesn’t change the fact that I carry life alone. The Lord encourages me daily, but the relentless, everyday pressure, work, and loneliness of doing life without him is hard. And it isn’t going away.

Stuff breaks, and it isn’t my skill set to fix it.

Decisions have to be made, and, though I have friends and family who listen and give insights, they aren’t really “in it” with me. Their lives aren’t actually impacted by the decisions. My trouble isn’t theirs to carry.

Our kids have tough times, and I don’t necessarily know how to navigate it with them. As they get older, the issues are getting more complex and far-reaching. It is a heavy responsibility to be the only parental voice in their lives, especially when I know John’s wisdom and perspective would be incredibly insightful. Some days I get angry, frustrated and despairing that he isn’t here and they only have me. I know I am not enough.

And, I simply miss the daily encouragement of having John in my life. It is an aspect of marriage I didn’t even appreciate or comprehend until it was gone. In a good marriage, it is energizing to know you have someone doing life with you. It is a huge motivator that helps you push through tough stuff knowing their love and presence will be the highlight at the end of any long day.

Some days, being a widow just. gets. tiring. (I bet you get tired of your pain too.)

This week began with one of those really hard days. In fact, I started to spiral downward in a self-pity free fall. As I walked across a parking lot hiding tears behind my sunglasses, a stranger’s genuine smile appeared out of nowhere. Eye to eye.

The smile arrested me. I got into my car shaking my head, “Lord, I am falling apart today. Help me. I am losing my perspective, my hope.”

And, He did. The last few hours of the day were filled with His goodness. Encouraging things happened. My spirit rose. My son noticed my heavy heart and loved me with a tender hug and extra help around the house. A difficult situation with my daughter resolved well, better than either of us could have imagined.

As I got into bed that night, I was talking to the Lord about it all. It had been an emotional roller coaster kind of day. I sensed Him quieting my heart with truth.

Nothing is ever going to change the fact that being a widow is a tough, hard, sad reality. It means death has robbed life. God hates widowhood. He hates that my kids don’t have their dad.  He isn’t going to spin being a widow into a blessing. When I say I hate it. It is ok. He hates it too. There are things about it that are uniquely, permanently painful.

Somehow, in those moments I felt validated in my frustration with life as a widow. I am not supposed to like this reality. I am not supposed to be working really hard to make a bad thing into a good thing.  That can never happen because something that is intrinsically bad can’t be redefined as good.

Many of you have things in your life that are sad. That are hard. Brokenness abounds in this life: Sickness. Injustice. Poverty. Abuse. Betrayal. Pain. Abandonment.

God agrees with you that the wrongs in your life are wrong. Period.

Read that again. God agrees with you that hard things are really, truly hard and heartbreaking.

And, He did something about it. He was moved to action.

He moved heaven to conquer hell. He sent His own Son to face the sin and sorrow of our lives. Jesus surrendered his life so we could have peace with God and hope for our lives, no matter what sufferings we have to bear.

God doesn’t turn away or keep His distance. Instead, He draws near us with promises to be our comfort, strength, and defender. He will stand with us against all these things, and He can bring beauty and peace and hope despite the brokenness. And, ultimately, He will make all things right.

So, you and I can rest. We don’t have to keep fighting to make bad things somehow good. We don’t have to fake it to make it. We don’t have to do more yoga or go on more vacations. Or try to power through with positive thinking. Or sleep more. Or entertain and distract ourselves from sun-up to sundown. Ever moving faster to block out pain.

Instead, we can trust Him to come alongside us; agree with us that sin and sorrow in this life are terrible realities; and bring us to the deep peace of understanding all that Jesus Christ has done for us. Jesus gives us the healing and hope we need most.

I love how Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Notice that He doesn’t say that the cause of our mourning is good, but that we will find a special solace in being comforted by God.

I have known this comfort in the past five years, and it is the best kind of comfort- genuine, quiet, steady, joyful, gentle, truthful, never forced. No one and nothing can surpass His ability to comfort our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. He lets me be real in my mourning whenever it hits. And He loves me there.

So, my prayer and hope for you is that you don’t run away from the hard in your life but that you bring it to the One who will patiently, lovingly, powerfully meet you where you are and give you strength and hope to trust Him as you keep. moving. forward.

Trusting one day at a time,
Maria

 

 

 

He Loves Us Back to Life

Last month, March 8 came around again and marked five years since John went to heaven. Five years is a long time to miss someone you love.

Years ago, in our early days of dating and marriage, I feared losing John. I couldn’t imagine life without him. The thought of experiencing a loss that great would paralyze me. I couldn’t imagine surviving much less ever thriving again. I believed that if he died, my life would be permanently broken.

And, then after twenty two years together, what I feared actually happened. One early spring day, he was gone without a goodbye. For months, the days were gray and the future dim, but as the years have gone by, something miraculous has been happening: God’s tender, consistent love has wooed me out from under grief’s shadow.

His love just keeps showing up. He keeps on delighting my heart with moments I love. He surprises me with blessings that I couldn’t have imagined and joy I couldn’t see five years ago. Full, real, deep, fresh joy.

And, yes, I sometimes daydream about John walking through the door and how wonderful it would be for all of us. I will always want him back.

But, God is filling my life with real joy and real laughter and real peace. And, that, surprises me. I never thought it would be possible to feel like I love my life again.

I underestimated my Heavenly Father. 

I underestimated the powerful gift He gave us in Jesus Christ.

Because, what I realize now is that
Jesus Christ is a Savior, not only for the dead, but also for the living.

On March 8, John needed a Savior, and God met John’s deepest need for rescue from death. As a little boy, John had simply believed Jesus Christ’s promise. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” At 44 as he collapsed on a jogging trail, John’s belief transformed into present reality as God brought him home to heaven.

But, all of us- John’s family and friends- needed a Savior that day too. God’s consoling love came to our rescue. He fulfilled the promises He has made to love us well when grief hits hard. His love has never stopped, whether it was through His Spirit’s reassurance in the middle of the night or as He prompted someone to help, pray, or simply give a hug.

On March 8, God’s love was set in motion in a new way in our family, and it continues to heal and restore us. Years ago when I feared tragedy, I simply didn’t account for the fact that God’s sustaining grace and goodness and love could outsize grief.

Five years out, I can truly say He is doing just that: His love is bringing joy and gladness into my life and deep into my soul. My life is becoming a different kind of wonderful as He patiently loves and steadies me. I am learning that nothing is too big for Him to overshadow with His peace and truth and presence and eternal perspective.

No matter what any of us have faced in the past or what we may face in the future, His love can bring true healing and bright hope and deep joy and settled peace. You don’t need to be afraid of what may be ahead. He will be your anchor for any and every storm.

There will be days when it feels like we’ve lost our bearing. But, it’s okay. He will be there to help our faith get back up again. It takes time to learn to trust and listen to His love instead of our emotions and fears.

But He is patient and steadily encourages us as we learn to live in today with Him. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that we are blessed to be comforted by God. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The treasure and wonder of the past five years has been experiencing God’s love and sustaining strength and peace. Jesus is right. It is a blessing to personally experience the tender comfort of God.

May you know with greater confidence that God will give us everything we need for this life’s journey- yesterday, today and tomorrow. You don’t have to go there alone.

with His love that brings us back to life,
maria

Daring to Dream Again

Well, we are at the end of the first month of this new year and resolutions aren’t quite as shiny. I don’t typically make many new year resolutions. Since John died, my resolutions have been simple: “I am resolved, with God’s sustaining grace, to keep putting one foot in front of the other for 365 days.”

Repeat for five  years.

But this year, something unexpected happened. One snowy Saturday morning when the year was just a few days old, the Lord began to gently challenge me. My friend, Nicole Unice had a new blog that caught my eye, “Why I Believe in Life Goals (and How You Can Set Them for Yourself).”

As I read, the tears began to fill my eyes as I faced the fact that I don’t have any dreams for my life anymore. Not like I used to. There is no life bucket list.

It evaporated when John died. The bucket still sits empty, not a drop in it.

John was part of every dream I had. There were things we wanted to do, places we wanted to go, people we wanted to help. We wanted to encourage our children and love our grandchildren. We imagined God would give us new horizons as our children left home, and we learned to serve Him in a new season.

The operative words of “we” and “together” are now obsolete. Nothing on our list will be experienced together. Instead, all of it is forever left undone.

It is depressing and scary and disorienting. For five years, the future, which used to beckon with joy, has just been a gray haze. When I try to project to the years beyond raising our children, I haven’t been able to see anything but mist.

Since John died, I have repeated this sentence hundreds of times, “I just want to finish well what we started together: raising our kids and helping them launch into adulthood.” Everyone who knows me well has it memorized.

And, I have been fully committed to it. But, I am working my way out of a job. One bird is off and has flown halfway across the country. The other two are perching on the edge of the nest. Only one remains in the nest, and he is flapping his wings with strength and confidence.

I need some plans and dreams. The future is approaching my doorstep.

You just can’t skip over this part of grieving the loss of your spouse (or other hard realities in life that cause you to start over). It is real, and it has to be fully acknowledged. It is important to make peace with what was and what you hoped would be, and then tenderly kiss your old bucket list goodbye.

Only then can you face a new future- standing in a new place, hoping to find hope.

As I sat there that snowy day and read Nicole’s blog, I felt the Lord reassuring me that I can be brave. He is with me. I can trust Him to move into an unknown future with me. 

I felt tentative. Honestly, I have never dreamed about my life all by myself. Just me. It feels strange and unfamiliar. How do I do this? Since I was 15, John has been part of every dream.

A blank sheet of paper stared at me. Daring me to write down even one dream beyond launching my children into adulthood.

It takes faith and hope in God to believe you can have a future after devastating loss.
It takes faith and hope to trust that God has work for you to do.
It takes faith and hope to believe that God desires for you to live and love and give.
It takes faith to believe God can fill your life with wonder and joy again.

You need God’s help to let go of one bucket list (like the tattered and torn one I’ve been hanging onto) so you can look at a clean, blank sheet and begin again.

I am pioneering my own life for the first time, and it isn’t by choice. As hard as it is to say, it is by God’s unique design. With His permission. With His knowledge. In His plan for my story.

He knew I would be a widow at 43. I may still be surprised, but He isn’t. And He has something in mind for my life.

It is a holy work…summoning up the desire and courage and will and hope to dream, not just survive. It takes faith in God to believe your life is meant to be fully lived right now and into each tomorrow He gives.

I am not there yet, but I am on the way.

And, I am going to share my journey with you because I know I am not the only one who is drawing a blank when it comes to dreaming again. Life has more than one way to turn your bucket list of hopes and  dreams upside down.

You will hear more about this part of my unexpected journey because it is where I am right now.

But, I leave you with this truth: You are loved by God and He desires to fill your bucket with more than a wish list. He desires to fill it to the brim with His love so that you can overflow into other peoples’ lives and love them where they are, just as they are, and on His behalf. His plans for us are fueled by love, to fuel us for love.

Rest assured. Though your future may look very different than you had hoped or dreamed, He has new plans to unfold. And they are good.

May He begin to rekindle hope in your heart today
& may He whisper God-Sized dreams into your soul,
maria

 

 

 

Presence is the Best Present

No one prepared me for the anticipation of my adult children coming home. Giddy is the best word to describe how I felt during December.

Giddy that my oldest, newlywed daughter and her husband were headed our way for six whole days! Cell phones and facetime are wonderful, but they can’t compare to real live hugs and laughter.

Giddy that our other two girls would be on break from college. All four of our children nestled under our home’s roof.

Everyone home for Christmas.

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All month, I could have jumped up and down like a four year old. I refrained, but I was jumping up and down with giddy delight on the inside.

Christmas has never been so anticipated.

Presence is all I wanted for Christmas. Simply the joy of their presence.  My son and I have adjusted to being the only two at home, but life is better with all of us together.

There is more fun, more life, more joy, more love, more laughter when this house is full.

Full house=full heart.
(well, sometimes…)

Actually, there is a little hitch with presence. For it to be truly wonderful, presence needs to be accompanied by peace.

Because the truth is that sometimes presence is less than wonderful if it brings with it tension or angst or misunderstanding or other confusing emotions.

When that happens, presence isn’t easy or enjoyable. I have had Christmases when presence wasn’t a present. Instead, I felt torn between wanting to be together, even though we felt disconnected, and wanting it to all be over and done with.

But this year, all signs pointed to a forecast of peace in our midst- peace in our relationships together, deeper peace with our story as survivors of great grief.

Peace settled over us, and it was truly wonderful and treasured. I didn’t take it for granted.

Peace and presence are what Christmas is all about: rejoicing in the peace we can have with God because of the presence of Jesus Christ.

Recently, our pastor reminded us that Jesus isn’t just the hero who came to save us from certain doom. The kind we see in movies who swoops in at the last minute to rescue, and then zooms off to his next mission- leaving us alone to pick up the pieces and patch up life.

No, Jesus is the Hero who fully loves us by saving and staying. He saves us from the hopelessness of sin and death, then stays in relationship with us forever. That is why He gave us the Holy Spirit, so He could be with you and with me and with all of those who trust and believe in Him around this world.

He is with us: comforting and counseling and guiding and reminding us of how to live our new identities as children of God. He is with us through His Spirit, even though we can’t see Him.

And He will never, ever leave.
He does messy, even when it happens at holidays.
He does tears and failure and fears.
He lavishes grace when this broken world breaks us too.
He stays through the thick and the thin and the loneliness.
He leads when you don’t know what to do next.
He keeps you going when your strength ebbs.
He isn’t deterred by our lack of peace or patience or obedience.
He keeps mercy and grace and love flowing through our lives.
His peace takes root and starts to grow and overflow.
All the while, He is cultivating beauty that makes it obvious that
He is steadily at work in our heart, mind, and soul.

We aren’t leaving Him behind in a manger as we go into the new year. He goes with you into all the joys, challenges, sorrows, temptations, and successes the new year will hold.

My children will return to the places they now call their own homes- a house in the midwest, a dorm on a campus, an apartment in a city. And my son and I will stay here. But Jesus is with my family in all our places and with you in yours.

The beauty is that He goes AND He stays. He goes with them. He stays with me.

His presence is the best present. Forever and ever. Peace and presence are here to stay.

Happy 2017 my reading friends…
Maria

PS more words are coming your way in this new year! : )

Strength One Step At A Time

In March 0f 2012, my life as a widow was just beginning. With four children to continue raising, I was stunned with the realities of parenting alone, keeping a household running, making business decisions, and comforting our children in their loss.

Life needed more from me than I had to give. Everywhere I looked there were issues to resolve, questions to answer, love to give, and areas that needed my leadership. And, I wasn’t in a place of personal strength. I was weak, wounded, shocked. 

One morning, two weeks into my unexpected (& unwanted) new life,  I received a text from my husband’s sister just when I needed it most:

Love you and praying for continued strength.
‘Go in the strength you have been given.’

What strength? I didn’t feel like I had any. How could I possibly have an endless stream of strength for the days and years ahead? Not me, especially the brokenhearted me. The mountains ahead of me looked impassable and impossible.

Yet, hope whispered to me from the verse she had quoted from the book of Judges. I opened my Bible to read more. I was surprised to find a man I could identify with.

In Judges 6, Gideon is a desperate and devastated man. So is his country. Israel has been defeated. No food. No housing. Utter disruption and ruin surround them, and they cry out to God for help. God responds by sending an angel with a rescue plan to Gideon.

“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior,” the Angel boldly announces to Gideon, who isn’t looking very heroic at the moment. Not at all mighty. Not like a warrior. He is furtively trying to thresh wheat in a wine press out of sight of their enemies. 

Gideon replies, “But sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”

My head nodded. I immediately identified with Gideon. Someone in the Bible was asking a question I was asking about my own life: “Look at these ruins around me! Why, Lord? Why?”

The angel’s response felt familiar. He doesn’t give Gideon an answer. He simply responds with a command: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Why is a question we ask when we are looking backward.  Instead, the Angel’s response focuses Gideon on the future. He gave him a call to move forward, regardless of the ruins surrounding him. A call to action:  “Go in the strength you have.”

Gideon isn’t convinced. He knows he isn’t the man for this huge job. He responds with another objection: “But, Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.”

The Angel encourages him:“I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

The source of Gideon’s strength is revealed: he would have strength that God would supply.

As the chapter unfolds, Gideon tests and questions God repeatedly. Patiently, God proves to Gideon over and over again that there is no mistake. He is called to this new role and God will equip him for it.

I was stunned to find that I identified with a man from thousands of years ago. His questions resonated deeply within my own heart: “If God is with us, why has all this happened? How can I do this hard assignment you are calling me to?”

Even in the initial weeks as a new widow, there was no doubt about my assignment and calling: take care of our family. The harder part has been figuring out how to do that without getting completely, utterly overwhelmed.

Like Gideon, I am all too aware of my weaknesses and lack of ability for many parts of this job, but they aren’t obstacles to God.

Gideon was given the same fuel that I am promised:  God is with us. It isn’t about the strength we have, it is about the strength He will give. 

My weakness did not fill me with hope for our future. In fact, at that point in our journey, if I thought about all the work set before me in the years ahead, I was simply stunned and overwhelmed. But reading this passage gave me confidence that God would supply me with strength for what He had given me to do. It was a game changer.

God helped me realize I couldn’t measure my ability to do this job by how I felt. My feelings were emotional responses but not indicators of ability. Feeling weak and overwhelmed didn’t mean I wouldn’t have strength as I needed it.  I just needed to trust that He wasn’t surprised I was a widow. He knew I had four children to love and raise, and He would strengthen me for what each day would bring.

Since then, the key has been to stay in the day, not looking ahead to tomorrow’s mountains yet to climb.  I keep waking up each day and doing what comes next in the strength God supplies. For each moment. Each breath.

Some of you may also face challenges today, with more on the horizon. Don’t measure your challenges by your strength, but by God’s strengthening. He is all-in with you and will lead you forward from “strength to strength.”

In Gideon’s story, I found hope for my unfolding story. When the challenges of life loom large, “go in the strength you have been given” continues to whisper courage and truth into my heart. Frequently, it helps me put one foot in front of the other.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you…they go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:7

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13
You can too. He’s got us.
~Maria
PS Thanks for the text, Stephanie.

 

 

 

Brokenness Doesn’t Define You

I wake up every day surrounded by broken pieces of a life I used to know. It isn’t a novelty. After four years, I am familiar with this unexpected life that greets me each day.

I am not alone. If you’re an adult, you know brokenness- maybe in yourself or in someone you love. I hope it isn’t the first thing you are aware of each day.

But it might be.

The reality is that childhood’s broken toys give way to an adult life where the stakes are higher. Broken things are the least of our worries. Instead, we encounter a world full of broken dreams, hearts, bodies, and relationships.

As I have recently wrestled with my own brokenness, the Lord showed me something beautiful and hopeful and transforming: my brokenness does not define me. 

I will say it again, just for you: your brokenness does not define you. 

Our brokenness can only have as much power over us as we give it.

It is a demanding tyrant. We can feel hopeless and helpless as we survey the pieces. There is no way back to the life we had before. It all seems impossible, or at least impossibly complicated. Depression, anxiety, anger, shame, self-absorption all clamor to flood in.

Sadly, our brokenness can often distance us from the One who can help us. The One who loves us in the midst of our broken, ruined lives. The One whose body was broken so we could be made whole.

Nothing is beyond His ability to heal, restore, or transform. We see God’s love for us poignantly at work through Jesus’s life of ministry to broken people. Never did Jesus say someone’s brokenness exceeded His ability to help and heal. There were no lost causes.

God is bigger than whatever is broken in your life. When Jesus gave His life for ours, He covered all the brokenness this world could ever generate.

When He enters our lives, He trades us: beauty for the ashes, joy for the sorrow, praise for the despair. He tells us that He alone defines us. Our identity is as His deeply loved child.

Several years ago, shortly after John had died, my children went to a camp for kids who had lost a close family member. Many of the activities were designed to work them through different aspects of grief. One day they were each given a terra cotta pot and told to go outside and hurl it onto the pavement.

Shattered shards of pottery surrounded them. I watched them from a distance. It is how our lives felt: whole one minute, shattered the next.

They were given bags to carefully gather the pieces. Then, they were told to write on each piece something they loved about the person they had lost. Next, it was time to try to glue the pots back together. It was painstaking. Nothing fit right.

But, hours later they were done. The haphazard shapes didn’t resemble the previous pots. Yet, each pot was transformed when the lights were out because candles had been nestled within them.

In fact, they were beautiful. They shimmered forth more light than ever before because the cracks, the broken places, were the very spots where the light could shine.

It was a holy moment when the room was filled with their glow. Brokenness transformed.

As a widow, I can feel like I will always be broken and diminished by my loss. It is tempting to believe my life will always have less joy, less fullness, less purpose, less meaning, less peace. I can feel resigned to a second-rate, broken life and future.

But, it isn’t true, and I am beginning to deeply believe it. His grace and abundance is big enough for even this. For even you and your story.  Our circumstances don’t exempt His promises.

They don’t get to have that much power.

Jesus Christ promises us true fullness of life. His love for us brings peace and hope and purpose and joy. He fills us with love to share and kindnesses to give and praises to proclaim and people to bless with the overflowing love He has given us.

Brokenness is not the end, nor the final word. Instead, in the gentle hands of God’s redemptive love, it can be the beginning of a new kind of beautiful.

believing more beauty & joy are yet to come,
because His love wins,
Mariaimg_0242

 

When Joy Seems Impossible: A Wedding Surprise

The summer of 2016 is now in the Carroll family record book:
2 graduations,
1 wedding,
3 wedding showers,
1 girl’s month long journey to Bolivia,
4 birthdays,
2 vacations,
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.
Maria

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