When I don’t get to stop and write to you, I miss it and you so much! This time of year is amazingly wonderful but it can, all at the same time, be amazingly difficult. So, I want to share a non-holiday story with you in this holiday season. It’s a touch of our wedding story to help us focus on the only One who can lift our spirits in such a spirited time of year. The following is a true story that wasn’t amusing over 20 years ago, but now, I am willing to talk about it in certain settings! :)
I had just turned 23, and I was preparing for the most important evening of my life thus far - our wedding. Doug and I were to be married at 6pm in a gorgeous banquet room on our university campus. It was all lit up with numerous chandeliers, and colonial windows surrounded the room, so the room reflected the bright lights and illuminated their brilliance. A quaint balcony was just large enough to hold a bell choir that was to serenade my dad and me as we walked in to the Bridal March. The only thing to make the room more beautiful would be the calla lily flowers and berries that I had chosen to be draped all over the room and the same choice of flowers would decorate our wedding attire just enough. I couldn’t wait to see it all when I walked down the aisle shortly. Flowers are my favorite. They represent life to me, and although I had seen our seven layer cake, the flowers were going to be the highlight.
Up a flight of stairs from the banquet room was the bridal suite holding the giggles and smells of hairspray and perfume of my closest friends and female family members. Little flower girls and miniature brides with simply smaller versions of my cathedral length wedding gown ran around and played as they were ready to show off their darling curls and dresses. My dress, which once hung on a satin hanger, was now hanging on me as I was zipped into the layers of satin and my veil was fastened to my red curls. I was marrying the sweetest man I’ve ever known that night, and I couldn’t remember being more at peace and full of excitement. Excitement about the present and about our future. My beautiful bridesmaids and I reminisced as we got ready and told hilarious stories of things we’d gone through as roommates and suitemates, and now, as sisters.
An important fact I should insert here is that two nights before this evening, Doug and our groomsmen were playing a few harmless games of basketball to blow off some stress from their “wedding preparation” (ha!). Somehow, in the mix of their game, Doug went up for a rebound and on his way down, his nose met one of the guy’s shoulders and broke Doug’s nose horribly. So this injury was my only concern as time was getting very near for me to walk down the aisle to see how he was, as I had barely seen him since the accident.
As the final touches were being added to my dress, I received a note from him telling me how he could kiss me to keep his nose from aching worse than it already was, and I suddenly became super nervous. After reading the note, I looked around only to realize that my bridesmaids were no longer around me and that, actually, no one was close by. Then, I noticed my father standing by the stairs. He motioned for me to come to him and nervously I quickly approached him in my puffy gown. He took my hands and looked at me and said, “honey…I think we should talk about what we DO have.” I said to him, “ummm …what do you mean, Dad? What do we NOT have? Dad, do I still have a groom?!” He put one finger almost to my pearl lipstick and said, “yes…Doug is so ready, but your flowers and bouquets, including the unity candle, are not going to make it for your ceremony and a friend of yours is almost back here with a bouquet of plastic flowers that you will just have to use. The important things are here, and I know flowers are your favorite, but there are over 400 people waiting down these stairs and, most important, so is Doug.” Realizing that people forgive not having flowers at a wedding, but not having cake and punch would be completely unacceptable, I faced the fact with much relief that we wouldn’t have an angry mob awaiting us after our ceremony. So, I wiped my tear and got ready to meet my handsome groom.
So much planning and preparation and dreaming can go into special occasions in this life and still tough things can happen. Of course now I can see, in the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t too horrible, but at the time it felt so much worse until things were put into perspective. Why do I share this story with you? Because God has really been talking with me about stopping and taking absolute notice of “what I DO have,” and what we can all have. I have so, so much, and I am definitely not an ungrateful person, but I have treated my body pretty bad for so long. So, He challenges me to go deeper still. Our lives are full of peaks and valleys, and He has been calling to me to stop and let Him take the guilt and worry and regret which I carry around with me as if I must to prove how truly sorry I am for all my mistakes. It so weighs me down and hurts me and punishes me. You see…I have been sick for most of our marriage and while we have amazing memories as a couple and family, these memories, if I’m not careful when looking at pictures or listening to stories from the distant and not so distant past, are laced with anorexia and deep depression. The enemy wants me to live in the lie that because this is true, this is who I am or will ever be - an anorexic and depressed mom, wife, sister, or friend.
He taunts me with things that are true about my life, but God…God sees me totally different. He sees progress in my small steps. Again, God sees different, and I really have to spend a great deal of energy and focus on what God says, but even more so during the holiday season it seems. More memories come to mind, more realizations are marked mentally with celebrations, more pictures are taken to mark the memories. So… I must be on guard to not sink, and so must you. Please stop for a moment with me and think about what lies the enemy is hammering you with today. Now, instead of agreeing with the enemy about who we are, let’s thank God for where we are right now, because it’s the place He is going to rescue us from if we let Him, and we never ever have to come back to this point again. Psalm 103.5 talks about how Jesus “satisfies our desires with good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” I have lost much time, but He is my restorer. Then, in Jeremiah 32.17-19, we see that the enemy isn’t our boss. ”O sovereign Lord! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power. Nothing is too hard for You! You are loving and kind to thousands though children suffer for their parents sins. You are the great and powerful God, the Lord Almighty. You have all wisdom and do great and mighty miracles.”
Jesus is the Truth who kills the lies. The enemy can’t have us when we belong to God, so let’s fight the enemy when he invades our thoughts. Tell him to go, “in Jesus Name!” It’s easier to agree with what he says, as I have mentioned before, but don’t you get tired of what he says to you? It’s a brutal way to live…I know. God our Father does not condemn us for the wrongs we have committed. He says for us to take His load and He will take ours. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11.28-30). Only He can console, truly console, our hearts and minds and change us. “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent…” (Psalm 30: 11-12). Jesus sees us in a way that we just cannot imagine.
So, how did our wedding ceremony turn out? Beautiful. No flowers miraculously appeared, but it was still such an amazing, God-focused evening. We realized it was just as it was supposed to be. I know that a “flowerless” wedding doesn’t hold a light to the struggle we go through in fighting to get well. But God, even then, was preparing Doug and me to focus on what we do have in Him. It’s hard to do…. it’s so hard. I will share more in the days to come of how, at every stage of my relationship with God, I have needed to be drawn to Him and refocused and especially because of loss soon after our wedding.
This ceremony called life is humbling and challenging and worth going through with Him, my friends, because you see, with Him, you and I have everything, including flowers. God wants so desperately to be our focus because it’s then we realize that we can, through Him, wipe the tears away, no matter the situation or addiction, and focus on Jesus. What Do we have with Jesus? An eternity with Him. Without Him, the best laid plans aren’t ever enough.
Jesus, thank you for loving us. Sometimes You have to stop us in our tracks and pull us aside to help us focus on what we Do have. You are more than enough, and You are the only One who can make things be just as they should be in our lives. Thank You that we do not have to listen to and agree with the lies the enemy haunts us with. He is not in charge, and we praise You that You are. We celebrate You and Your birth especially in the days to come. We honor You by thanking You for how You have carried us to this day for a reason. We confess our utmost need for You and the joy of You, Lord, is our strength. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.