And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9 NKJV
Last month we held a wedding in our backyard. My “cousin” said “I Do” to her high school sweet heart. My husband was privileged to officiate their ceremony. My mom was honored to walk her down the aisle, and her sister and I were grateful to be responsible for the décor. They had plans for an outdoor wedding on a much larger scale, but after my “cousin’s” fiancé became ill, wedding plans were cancelled. They were going to head to the courthouse when my wonderful mother said – “No, we will have your wedding.” This meant a month to put together a wedding! Of course, my family was up for the challenge! We are known for taking on more than we should, which can be a good thing, but sometimes we must slow down. This is one of those things we all knew we needed to do!
Like any good story, there is a back story…
My “cousin” is not related by blood at all. She is much more, she is family by choice. Our hippie dads left Illinois and headed to Florida in the 1970’s. They both eventually got married and settled in South Florida. Unless one of us was traveling to Illinois to visit family, we celebrated every holiday together, and spent most weekends together. Our moms became best friends and were as different as night and day. They learned from each other and leaned on each other. Neither of our moms had any family close by. My cousin’s older sister and I grew up inseparable and are still best of friends today. Her sister and I each have 2 boys who are very close in age. They are cousins, best buds, and partners in crime. We were delighted to see them participate in the wedding, along with my sweet girl. They had a blast and thought they were very important, which they totally were!! My cousin and my younger brother also grew up inseparable. As a matter of fact, my brother introduced my cousin to her husband back in high school.
Basically we became family! There for each other in the good times and bad. We laughed together, cried together, enjoyed many celebrations, and most of my child hood memories involve all or part of the 8 of us. Fast forward to the wedding planning; our “family” has been through some deep loss and pain. This time was bitter sweet for all of us, filled with laughter and tears.
In 2002, my cousin’s mom lost her battle with cancer, only a few months after being diagnosed. This left a husband without his wife; two girls, one in college and one in high school at the time, with-out a mom. My mom lost her best friend and me and my brother lost our aunt. Our family unit was shaken, to say the least. Their dad struggled each day living without the love of his life. He became ill and moved back to Illinois to live with his brother and passed away in 2008. Thankfully, he accepted Jesus in a hospital bed and said the prayer with his oldest daughter. My parents took on a new role in these girls’ lives and embraced them even more like their own. They were Grammy and Grandpa from day one to my cousin’s older sister’s (my other cousin) sweet boys. I shared previously about the loss of my brother who was killed in 2010 by a drunk driver. Our family again experiencing shock and awe loss, banded together and walked on through overwhelming grief. My dad was also battling cancer during this time, which he fought for over 5 years. My dad went home to be with the Lord in 2013 and my cousins were there with all of our “family.” Very few were actually blood related, but all family nonetheless! As you can see our family unit has been cut in half. There are 4 of us women left to carry on traditions, share stories of growing up, and do life together.
One can definitely see why wedding planning was filled with lots of tears; we missed some very important people. We shared many moments that were beautiful, special, and just plain sad. We could have allowed the deep scars of grief to keep us from enjoying that beautiful day, but we didn’t. I am extremely thankful that we 4 ladies have each other. But I’m also thankful that we have lots of other “family” around us too. There were not only 4 of us there that day. There was a group of family and friends- that are more like family, present to celebrate this special day. We had to choose how we could view this day, and as much as there were tears, there was also laughter. There were many people who pitched in to pull off this wedding and give my cousin exactly what she wanted for her special day.
You see, we had a choice, and so do you in whatever you are facing even with the scars you are living with. It’s about perspective-
1 : a way of thinking about and understanding something (such as a particular issue or life in general)
This definition was taken from the Learner’s Dictionary; http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/perspective
I love this definition. We can choose what we’ll focus on in a particular trial, and in life in general. This is liberating! And God’s word gives us scripture that is even more freeing.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 NIV
One of the best ways to change your perspective is to be thankful. We were so thankful for all the help we received giving the bride the wedding of her dreams. We are also a lot more thankful for the people in our lives these days. We share the realization that life is short, and we are not promised tomorrow. We try to live in the moment and be grateful. I am most thankful for Jesus in my life and the grace I receive. No matter how hard I try I still fail and am unworthy of His mercy and grace. I hope you take the time to list what you have to be thankful for this year. Maybe your trials are many and Jesus is all you have, but His love, acceptance, grace and mercy are all you need.…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Through all of these years of loss and pain, we’ve become stronger and closer as a family. We’ve also become a much bigger family unit. My cousin’s older sister has been married 11 years and her mother-in-law attended the wedding. Her extended family welcomed her and made her a part of their family from the beginning of their relationship. My husband’s parents attended the wedding and his aunt and uncle catered the wedding. Both of my cousins worked for my husband’s family business and they have watched them grow up and walked with us through all of our losses. My husband’s parents became best friends with my parents through the years. My cousin’s in-laws received her from day one and she has always fit perfectly into her extended family. To say we are one big happy family would be an understatement. We do not agree on everything and being a part of a family takes work, but we love each other and are there for each other! Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13
I don’t know who’ll be missing from your Thanksgiving table this year – whether they are no longer here on earth, the relationship is estranged, or you simply can’t be together because of distance. God knows. He has a plan for you this year in this moment and every holiday you are blessed to be a part of. Maybe you are lonely and there isn’t any family to spend the holidays with. I pray you seek the Lord and allow yourself to be open to who He has for you to spend the holidays with. It might seem scary and take you out of your comfort zone, but He will be with you every step of the way. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. Psalm 68:6
Maybe this year you will be with a house full of people and still feel completely alone. I pray you see others as God sees them and embrace the opportunity to be the light of Jesus at your Thanksgiving table. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10