I’ve just returned from Arizona. I went to surprise my niece for her Bridal Shower Reception. I love surprises. (I kind of gave it away though by posting a picture of me at the airport.)
I’m home now, (in bed, actually, I caught a bug. But!) I have had time to reflect and write these words down for my niece…
Sometimes, well, at the moment, I close my eyes and imagine I’m sitting on Gma’s porch at the Cabin. She’s sitting across from me, we have our Bibles in our laps but we’re talking, and drinking coffee from pottery mugs.
There are four towheads playing volleyball in the yard in front of us, three boys are at the shoreline launching a canoe. There’s no need to mention how the water sparkles, or how the delicate birch leaves reflecting the brilliance of the sunlight whisper secrets in the wind, or how the laughter and voices fill the air, because it’s all there when I merely mention “the Cabin.”
It all comes back.
Sometimes, well at the moment, I get nervous about having told you, ‘Yes.’ Why did you ask me? And why didn’t I ask you why you asked me when you asked me? But why did you ask me to marry you? That question keeps coming back to me.
So, I close my eyes and imagine I’m sitting across from Gma on her porch at the Cabin and ask her what she thinks. What would she say?
Gma was an ordained pastor, she counseled and married people through her work at church. Gpa performed the ceremony for your cousin. He wasn’t ordained, but our Pastor Marc said, “Why, he had been a pastor to all.” Maybe marrying you would be honoring Gma and Gpa and sort of like continuing a call—from generation to generation.
On the morning of Gma’s last birthday at the Island, her 81st, I’d underlined these words as we sat on the porch: the heaven’s declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. That’s Psalm 19:1. We were still then, each reading and listening and hearing.
When we wonder what our mother’s might say, or what God might have to say, the answer is always closer than we think. Our hearts are conjoined, one to the other to the other. And when we ask, we receive.
Do you remember the film You’ve Got Mail?, how the Tom Hanks character would tell the Meg Ryan character when she had a question to, ‘take it to the mattress’? ‘It’s from The Godfather,’ he said. I still don’t know what that means, but when I have a question, I’ve learned to take it to God the Father.
For a while now, I’ve been in the habit of underlining ”all” whenever I come across it in Scripture. Here’s a good example: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (From 2 Corinthians 9:8, every is just underlined for emphasis.) That’s some kind of crazy grace, don’t you think?
And if God’s grace is sufficient, won’t it be sufficient when I officiate? When you wrote to tell me that you kept gravitating to me to marry you, I had to stop. I had already been asked twice and declined twice. “I’m not an ordained pastor,” I had said.
But there’s something about being asked a third time. Uncle Todd calls me a street pastor. Does that count?
So today, in front of witnesses, knowing you will be reading this, I ask, “What do you think, God?”
I close my eyes again and can see the Wild Geese, ribbons flowing across the sky above Lake Michigan. You can’t not notice (intentional double negative) that there is always a leader and always followers. Do you ever wonder how they agree on that? I do, so I looked it up. According to birdwatchingpro.com I learned a few things…
It has nothing to do with hierarchy or any outstanding attribute. (Ha! That’s comforting.)
The passage of the lead bird provides an aerodynamic lift to the birds following. This creates an echelon—an ideal location above, behind, and on either side of the lead bird making the V across the sky. (Do you see the picture of what God does in and through us?)
They can hold their positions in wind gusts, as if they can visualize the movement of the air. (Like sensing God is near when everything is saying otherwise.)
Did you know that if one of the geese is unable to keep up with the flock, two other geese will break formation and stick with the slowpoke, down to the ground if they have to. They stay, giving their protection and support until the straggler is well enough to take flight and rejoin the flock. (I can only think of my family and friends who have stuck with me when I’ve dive bombed.)
Just leave it to me to compare getting married to geese.
Geese parents share the work of building the nest and raising their young. Together they lead the goslings from nest to water. (May your children be blessed liked the goslings!)
They are emotional birds, wearing their hearts on their wings. They are gentle, showing their love to each other, to their young ones, to the flock, to people, and to other species. If they are under attack they honk and hiss a warning before attacking. (Take note.)
Did you know Geese are loyal? Once mated, they remain paired for life. They stay affectionate, ever extending their necks toward the other, rolling their heads and greeting each other with great honking! (I dare you.)
Wild Geese show us wild grace. They are powerful and intelligent. When the wolf comes, it has an angry flock to deal with, not just a solitary soloist. (May you always have a faithful flock around you and know the Power and Intelligence within you.)
The biggest threat to them is man. So fly high, kids. May you both fly like Geese.
I close my eyes once more and wait to hear the sound of the wind. But I can only hear the vacuum cleaner. Uncle Todd stayed home today to make sure I was still breathing. Uncle Todd is like the geese. I think I’ll start calling him my Big Goose. Ha!
Even with the roar of the machine, I wait to hear Gma’s voice wash over me with the words, “You’re going to do just fine, Deb’s,” and now feel a calm assurance.
So, my dear one—the first born of my precious nieces, the oldest sister of four—you are the little girl with the pretty blonde curls you loved to twirl in your fingers. You are the baby I held and took naps with as a toddler, rode bikes with and hiked with and shopped with more times than I can count. I’ve watched you grow into a kind, eloquent, sharp paralegal who packs a suitcase just like me—heavy.
And lastly, in honor of your Pastor Pat, as you go forward, don’t forget his message from Sunday, “Look up, not just at yourself…fly through trials, directly into the storm, refusing to run away from a challenge. Bear down. See it through. Running the race that’s marked out for you. Always presevere.
“When all the wheels fall off,” he said, “that’s where the testimonies are. It’s all about God’s grace to meet the need.
“Dokimos,” he said then. “That’s Greek for approved unto God after the test is through.” Spoiler alert: the tests last all of life. But he said to welcome them as friends. Don’t look at the trial, look up! In His time, God will make it a blessing.”
Gma would say to learn to be thankful in all situations. That was the ‘test’ she presented to me over twenty years ago, so now I’m passing it on to you.
P.S. I’m still working on that. Maybe we can pass together!
But it’s all about God’s grace. “No eye has seen…” It has been sufficient till now, and always will be.
I’m ready. (I passed the first three officiating tests. One more to go and I’ll be an official officiater.) God is so amazing.
It will be an honor to marry you,