The Groom

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I have one more wedding thought to ponder before closing the book on this sweet chapter. It was something Kyle said during his reception blessing. He was talking about the groom.

He’s said it before, at other weddings. How he loves to watch the face of the groom. When the bride makes her entrance and everyone stands, facing the back as she proceeds down the aisle. And it’s not her face Kyle watches, but his.

It strikes me now, how he must be remembering. Twenty-five years ago, the two of us. His heart beating and smile beaming. I remember him saying how his face hurt from so much smiling. And there I was in all those ruffles and puffs. Everything back then was more, not less. Hair big, train long, sleeves fluffed. Like a princess.

And I was. His princess, and oh how he loved, and loves still. And so now he watches the face of the groom. Remembering and feeling it again. All that passion and longing and wild delight.

And this time it was our son, the groom. Beaming. Heart beating wild. His bride breathtaking in simple elegance.

Kyle said it that night, and it’s come up again, in a sermon, and a book I’ve been reading. This comment about the groom.

That’s Him, you know. The Groom. It’s Jesus. The one waiting and longing and loving his bride.

David Crowder sings it in a song. Oh, how he loves. Jealous. For me.  

And it’s not at all what you’d expect, is it? That He’d be the one waiting and aching with longing. Jesus. For us.

Of course the bride longs, too, but not the same. Ask any who will give you an honest answer – and I should probably ask my new daughter to confirm. But I think in my heart it’s true. That the bride is distracted, somewhat. Thinking about her groom, yes, but also just a bit divided. With thoughts of her big day. With thoughts of her own beauty.

But not the groom. He’s there for one thing, and one thing only. His bride.

When you think about Jesus, what comes to mind? Do you think of a groom longing? For you?

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32) 

A mystery. Profound.

And oh, how He loves us so.

Home

Apartment

Every week seems like another big change and this one is no exception. We moved our firstborn and his new bride out of state and into their first apartment. Four hours away, so not the end of the earth. But far enough. Far enough when you consider two weeks ago we were separated by a flight of stairs from Grant and a pleasant walk from Kiana’s. And we liked it that way.

It’s one thing when your young adults are chomping at the bit and kicking against the goads and you wouldn’t say it out loud but it’s just plain time for moving on. But that wasn’t it. For any of us. These two kids were pure delight to have around and we would have kept them.

And yet. I said it more than once. I’m glad you’re leaving. Surprised to hear myself saying such words, contrary to everything I felt. And yet I meant it. This is good. It was good for us, twenty-five years ago, and it will be good for you, too. Really it will.

Those first seven years Kyle and I spent in Illinois, a Chicago suburb, but barely. The northeast corner, just blocks from Lake Michigan in our first ever fairytale house. And everything smacks of fairy dust when you’re young and just starting out.

They’re in Des Moines. In an aging apartment. A wallet filled with Target gift cards and not much else. Him a church plant pastor, and her still finishing school. And all their dreams are coming true.

For two days we emptied boxes. Oohed and aahed again over a shiny new toaster, and sparkling flatware, and bright yellow pillows set against the new gray Ikea couch. I love it here. The delight of a bride making her nest and everything is perfect. And it was. The generosity of friends filled their place – and filled their wallet, too, when we returned several sets of duplicate towels and came out with enough credit to buy the rest of those good dishes, with no regret. And you only get to that once.

And I’ll say it again. I’m glad you’re leaving. Even though I ached yesterday every single time you crossed my mind. Tears welling up when I found that white American Eagle t-shirt of Grant’s mixed up with the rest of our laundry. And I found an excuse to stop by the Ruf house with that load of navy blue tablecloths. Just to feel your nearness. But I’m glad you’re leaving.

You’ll understand. If not now, soon enough. This is a good way to start. Just the two of you, being a family. Like the first family. Just two. Being yourselves and making your choices. Unhindered.

So I give you permission to be. Without us. I give you permission to ignore the voices lingering inside your head. Mom voices mostly, and all of us have them. Don’t listen. Really.

And don’t let him do it, either. A husband bringing Mom to dinner. Don’t. Kyle still remembers. My frustration, when one too many times he compared my way to hers, like he missed her. And your mom doesn’t live here. For good reason.

That being said. I’m glad you’re leaving, but I can’t wait to see you. I’m counting the days. Counting the days till the next four-hour drive through nothing but cornfields to sleep on twin beds in your apartment. The cutest twin beds ever, and they were comfortable, too. I can’t wait to see where you hung all those pictures. Can’t wait to see how you organized those spaces. Can’t wait to see you again in your home.

One more thing. It’s something a friend said a while back, and I’ve been wanting to say it to you. It’s this. You’re free with me. Free. Both of you. Really. You’re free. Free to be you, no strings attached. Free to ignore my suggestions. Free to dispel my voices. But free in another way, too.

You’re free to call. Free to ask. Free to need me if something comes up.

Either way. I love you both.

Brother

shelter

The day Grant and Kiana left for their honeymoon, Nils was busy painting. I didn’t know what he was working on until later. Later when he brought the canvas upstairs to show me and said, “This is for Grant.” It was a guitar. He wanted to include some text, and asked me if I had any ideas about what he ought to say. I told him, “I know what you need to say. I think you do, too.” It’s all he needed.

A while later he reappeared, artwork finished. And it was perfect. BROTHER LET ME BE YOUR SHELTER. The thing he’d been wanting to say all along.

It was the song three brothers sang at the wedding, playing three guitars. They’d been practicing here at home all week and making me cry. Which was fortunate. The crying ahead of time, that is. Otherwise I’d have never made it, listening to them sing it there at the wedding, under the tent with all those guests, and all that emotion.

There was a brother theme running through this wedding, to be sure. The groom’s side, all brothers to varying degrees. Blood, adopted, joined, and honorary. The wedding program listed names, but no relationship. No – Luke Anderson, brother of the groom. We wondered what the bride’s guests might have thought. What stories they might have assumed, seeing our assortment of young men.

The night before, at the rehearsal dinner, introductions had been made. Grant and Kiana together, introducing all their special people, honoring each one. Kiana was a fountain of tears from the first, but Grant was upbeat. All smiles. He introduced Luke and Nils and a couple of buddies. Moved around the patio to grandparents and cousins. His parents. And then. A surprise.

There, sitting apart at the edge of the action were Felipe and Jimmy. Grant took one look at these two brothers, and he lost it. Overwhelmed by emotion, and he couldn’t speak. And you know how tears are contagious. Jimmy, and most of the rest of us, too. And not one of us saw that coming, especially not Grant.

Later he asked, “What did I actually say? Was it alright?” And I assured him, whatever you said, it was perfect.

He wrote them letters, too. I’m not sure if they’ve read them. Yet. Someday, hopefully. But for now, those tears probably said enough. You have a big brother who loves you. Deeply. He wants you to be okay.

And that’s what he told me later. Grant. This boy whose heart is so tender, and only one thing really matters. He just cares so much about their souls. He wants them to know Jesus. He’d like to be there to see it happen. To see them soften, and fall in love. Like he did. It’s what he wrote in the letters.

Luke gave a toast at the wedding, his best-man speech. And he’s a communication major, so of course he had three points. Three memories and three applications. It was awesome. But one story stood out most, at least for me. It’s a story I don’t remember, but Luke does, and he’s told it before. It’s one of his earliest memories. He was three, sitting at the kitchen table with his big brother Grant, who couldn’t have been more than five. There were coloring books and crayons, and while they scribbled, Grant was talking. About Jesus. Telling Luke all about him. About how he died and how he loved. And Luke remembers. It was the first time he said yes to Jesus.

All these years later, here’s Grant, still doing it. Still leading brothers to Jesus. Still caring about their souls.

Brother. You’ve been a shelter. And then some.

Don’t stop.

Wedding

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Several people asked, the day of the wedding – how are you feeling? It was a question I asked, too. How am I feeling? What is this feeling? But I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Until the morning after. Sunday morning as I sat on my porch, a little hung over from the joy of it all, remembering and thinking. Savoring. And suddenly I knew. The answer.

I felt overwhelmed. By blessing.

So much good. So much beauty. So much love. So much God. Too much to process. And all day long it felt surreal, like a dream. Beyond comprehension. And I was lost in it.

These last two days I’ve been writing it down. Trying to remember and capture the details. A sentence here and a memory there. Not wanting to forget.

The bride, my new daughter. Stunning. Beyond words. And we weren’t supposed to, but we couldn’t help it; we saw from a distance Grant’s first look. His squeal of delight. Genuine joy on the face of the groom. My son.

The weather was perfect, and this was a miracle. Truly. A miracle. All day long we watched the forecast, hour by hour. 65 percent chance of rain at five. 90 percent chance at four. What should we do? Of course, we had a backup plan, but it wouldn’t be the same. Not with the exquisite view of fields and pond, arbor draped in eucalyptus and hydrangea. Everything perfect right where it was. And then at 3pm we looked again at the radar. And I’m telling you, only God could do this. No rain to be seen. Gone. And I was skeptical, praying for weather. But all evening guest after guest said the same. We prayed for no rain, and God answered.

They wrote us letters. Grant and Kiana, notes to their parents. They read them out loud to start the service, and of course they made us all cry. So much honor, so much blessing. No wonder I felt overwhelmed.

Luke cried most. Standing there as best man next to his brother, and later he apologized. Oh, Luke, if only you knew. Those tears speak volumes and they add to the story this day is meant to tell.

Every detail perfect. Almost. The music and message, communion and vows. Just one little glitch mid-service. A brother fainting, and dad catching, and we realize too late those rehearsal instructions about drinking water and not locking knees might not have made sense to Jimmy. Oops. But the boy’s resilient. A glass of water and a cool wet rag, and before we know it, there he is back up with the others to finish the service, like nothing happened. And a story to tell.

The bride and groom sang together, a favorite song of worship, and this might have been my favorite part. The Creed. A song declaring all they believe, and it’s not just words for this couple. It’s who they are.

I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one… 

And all day long, every detail, tells this story more than any other. This young couple, now husband and wife, bringing glory to God, cherishing Jesus. Declaring their faith.

The reception was splendid, a tribute to the bride’s mom, whose gift for planning is beyond brilliant. Every detail, perfection. Shabby chic at its finest, burlap and blossom, woodsy and sparkling. Chandeliers hanging high from tent poles, twinkling lights everywhere, and it’s perfect. Perfect. Well done, Sherri. Well done.

The tent was bursting with friends and family, too many to greet in one night. And this is my one disappointment. My own fault, really. My first wedding, and it didn’t occur until later how little time there’d be to see each one and thank them. So thank you. For being there, and for loving us, and loving them. We couldn’t be more grateful.

There were bottles of IZZE to save for a toast and my sweet little niece kept asking – when are they bringing the bread? Her mom didn’t get it, but I did. She’s eager to drink that pink sparkling beverage, but she’s patiently waiting for toast.

And then. Brother Let Me be Your Shelter. Luke’s best man speech, and three brothers with guitars singing together. And once again, I’m overwhelmed by it all. All this blessing.

Later we danced. Mother and son, to a shared favorite song. David Crowder. And the words of this song say it all.

Oh, the glory of it all
Is He came here
For the rescue of us all
That we may live
For the glory of it all
Oh, the glory of it all

And so we danced and we celebrated, sweaty with joy. Friends and family, brothers and cousins. Blessing upon blessing. And the next morning I write it, here in my journal. I am blessed, blessed, blessed. All day long people asked me how it felt and I couldn’t describe it, but this is it. BLESSED. Beyond words. How do you process so much blessing? I’ve been overwhelmed by many things in life, but this experience of being overwhelmed by blessing leaves me speechless.