It is Wedding week!
It is Easter. ( And it would have been your dad’s 90th birthday!). It is funny that this most important holiday is a bit overshadowed by Emily’s wedding, which is only a week away! The walk to the cross felt like a brief intermission to the “big event” of Emily and Connor’s Wedding. I know God has told you that your sweet daughter is in love and getting married to Connor Osborn. I have come to believe that just because you are in heaven does not mean you cease praying or rejoicing. In fact I think you all know what is going on down here and that thought sustains me …
As I reflect on what I think you would say, floods of memories of you come racing from the hidden places and scrapbooks of my memory to take center stage again, even if only for a brief time. The memories themselves are not painful, but happy, and yet the reality that you are gone from earth still hurts. I think about how you celebrated the life of our miracle girl all through the pregnancy by showing off how big she had grown from a peanut to a beanie baby to a kewpie doll and talked about life of the unborn with the students in Scottsdale. Everything was a teachable moment with you. I remember how you danced around the room with her when she was born, told her she couldn’t date until she was 30 and tried on different names until one fit her. The memory of you and Emily walking through the Phoenix Zoo and talking to the animals and all the daddy daughter dates you two shared still make me feel warm inside. Thank you for being such a good dad. Emily is so much like you. She has such a tender heart for spiritual things. I am so grateful that one of the lessons both our kids seem to really grasp is that following Jesus is a daily decision and they both continue to lean into his grace and mercy. I am humbled and grateful.
I wonder how this wedding would be different if you were here. We are working to make it the best day ever and yet it is so hard without you. It is a good that we can do hard things! I can imagine what you would be thinking and saying during the whole engagement. (I miss your calming steadiness). I am at the place where I feel like all the advice we could give and all the influence we have carried is over – and rightly so. You will always be the first man Emily ever loved and she will always be your little girl; but, our daughter has given her heart to Connor and they are on the brink of a lifetime as a new family. While I know that the season of raising our children is short in the grand scheme of this life, it is so important for the rest of their lives. It is hard to let go and transition to a new role, but I know God is in control of their journey and they will figure it by trial and error. I wonder if my parents felt this way too! And now the truth that you shared with so many parents that the primary goal was to put ourselves out of a job, to “de-parent”, is my harsh reality. In the blink of an eye. Just. Like. That. This week, I will transition from nurturer to cheerleader and friend.
You will be happy to know that Emily’s friendships are still strong with her cousins. Vanessa and Sarah are her maids of honor. Abi Reed, Marisa Lopez, Abby Bradbury, Alex Tuten are her lifelong friends and are among those in the wedding party. Clayton is too. Kimberly is her pastry chef and Katherine is reading scripture. No one was good enough to take your place so she is walking herself down the aisle. She is wearing her Barbados bracelet from your mom and the one you got someone to bring back some years ago. I found it in your drawer and gave it to her as a gift from you. I hope you and your parents and Aunt Janie and others will watch together from heaven’s bleachers! You would be so proud of her.
I consider all the things you have shared with all the other “kids” we loved and shepherded and your character lived out in our own marriage. Some of the things I guess you might have said over the last months to Emily include:
• Marriage isn’t about the wedding day. It’s about a lifetime of “I do’s” every day for the rest of your life. It is the conscious choice to put anothers’ needs before your own.
• Marriage isn’t about finding the right person, but it is the daily choice to be the right person and to affirm the rightness of your partner every day. Always laugh with each other, always kiss goodnight and goodbye, always pray together daily, keep being kind to one another (don’t save your worst behavior for the ones you love most) and be the first to say I am sorry. (Don’t go to bed angry – ever).
• Marriage is difficult, but it is worth it. It is like a microcosm of life. The heartaches will make the good times sweeter. The rough times will teach you about yourself and make you stronger only because you are leaning into the goodness of God.
• Every marriage is meant to be a reflection of the community of the Trinity. Marriage is best, not when you are focused on each other, but together you are focused on a long obedience in the same direction – looking heavenward.
• Your spouse is your best friend but not your only friend. He or she cannot and should not meet all of your needs for relationship. A happy marriage is built on trust and a balance of dependence on each other and on the extended friendships and family that you cultivate.
• Marriage is for keeps, so promise to love each other more than your children! Kids are an expression of your love for each other but must never put a wedge between you.
• Your vows are not empty words. They are action points for every day. When you get married you are promising to look for the best in each other every day.
• A healthy marriage is a willingness to live with the things you cannot change. Focus on what is strong, not on what is wrong. Honor your similarities and your differences. You learned to like Mexican food and I learned that camping could be an occasionally acceptable form of vacation!
• A wedding is not just about the joining together of two very individual people. It is the beginning of a family unit. Even though you are individuals your covenant makes a couple more important than your individuality. At the same time there is a delicate balance as you continue to care for your own soul. Don’t lose yourself.
• Married life is an adventure. Ours definitely was!