Monday, December 13, 2010

With This Ring...

The evening service at our church was packed, there was standing room only, which is often the case, but last night for me--I couldn't sit in a seat and be still. I couldn't stand in the back and wait, either. I was out on the patio--pacing, my heart pounding with anticipation. My daughter's boyfriend had emailed, text messaged and called family and friends to let us know that after the church service, in front of the sparkling Christmas tree he intended to propose marriage to her.
I have known for over 2 months that this was coming. He met with my husband in October and asked for her hand in marriage. For the last 10 weeks we have kept our excitement for what was coming a secret from our daughter--dodging questions, feigning disinterest in bridal gowns, and changing the subject to discussions of "Harry Potter".
Finally, I was going to be able to now talk freely with my daughter, the only daughter that I will ever get to plan a wedding for. Finally some of the stress that she has been feeling will be lifted, as she moves more freely in the direction that her heart is pulling her. Finally, she will have a ring to go with the promises that this young man has made to her.
The moment was spectacular; as if in a movie, the tall dark handsome prince came through and fulfilled her desire for a romantic proposal. Thanks to Facebook, the world we now live in, every event is a photo opportunity. (I've even considered asking the Costco greeter to take my picture on the way in the enormous warehouse--to mark the moment for future status updates). So, it wasn't considered odd at all that my daughter's friends would insist they stop to pose in front of the Christmas tree to take a photo before "heading into Hollywood for Sushi". (A lie to my daughter, to inspired her to be primped to a higher degree than usual for church).
We, the family and friends who knew what was coming, tried to mull about the tree and appear disinterested in their silly college girl antics. Then, at the prompting of the college girls, Josh stepped forward to take a photo with Emily before "she disappeared into the evening with her girlfriends". Just before posing for the photo, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a box. Then he dropped to one knee.
The future bridesmaids, on key, let out a scream that would rival the teens on Ed Sullivan the night we "met the Beatles". Cameras were pulled out, and there was suddenly an abundance of flashes like lightening against the dark sky. We were the paparazzi of the moment, capturing the public proclamation of this young man's intentions. She eagerly gave him what he wanted with her tearful, "Yes!" and the crowd cheered! The sparkling tree stood behind them, providing a new memory to celebrate each year on the 12th Day of Christmas when my daughter's true love gave to her--a ring.
We moved the "party" to our home, for appetizers, cheesecake and the stories of close calls when the secret was almost spilled. Then, we gathered around the young couple and prayed for their future. The soon-to-be Groom's Father prayed for them to be steadfast in their faith and to continue down that path that they had been raised. The Father-of-the-Bride continued the prayer in the same vein and called on us, their friends and family, to encourage them as the times get difficult.
Then, in a spontaneous decision, we had a "Love Feast" for the couple.
A "Love Feast" is a beautiful way to celebrate someone publicly. First, we had Emily sit on a stool with her back to her friends, and another stool placed behind her. Then we took turns to sit on the stool and tell her what she means to us. After several people had used their words to build her up, we let Josh finish and then we put him in the Love Seat so that he could be encouraged.
The night was filled with tears of joy and excitement--the friends declaring how grateful they were for the friendships, parents looking for words to fill the lifetime of memories invading their hearts, the siblings each taking a turn to begin to petition for future nieces and nephews.
I didn't think that such an evening, so special could exist without conflict and pain of any sort. When I finally found myself in bed, I drifted to sleep with images dancing in my head. Christmas had come.
When I woke this morning, much later than usual, I thought of the beautiful night. I thought of the couple. I thought of the ring.
It is a precious ring, and I don't mean that in a nod to Gollum. It is precious--feminine and dainty. It has a beautiful oval center stone and smaller stones that cascade down the band. It shines with the hope of the future and the hard work of the young man who planned and saved to present it to his love. And, suddenly, I was overwhelmed with a fear that she could lose it. I was nervous for her to wear it to school. I wanted to send her a text message telling her to put a piece of duct tape on the inside of her hand so that she wouldn't lose this new treasure. I felt the anxiety begin to twist in my stomach.
I closed my eyes..."For this reason, I kneel before the Father..." I began my prayer and I poured out my fear to the Lord.
A few minutes later, my daughter sent me a text message to listen to a song by Carrie Underwood, "Mama's Song". I clicked onto You Tube and listened to the sweet song. With tears rolling down my face I listened to the sweet blonde singer, remembering the days when my daughter felt she had "discovered" the singer on American Idol. And then I began remembering the moments that my daughter has experienced great pain and disappointment requiring her to cling to her Savior to get through the night.
I remembered, with every beautiful gift that we receive we live in the place where it can be lost. This is just the beginning of having to watch this couple live in this dangerous world. I will see them receive and I will see them go through loss. There is no way around that. My own parents have had to watch as we, the young couple that they celebrated 2 decades ago, have lost homes, jobs, and even a child. There is no amount of duct tape available to hold onto to the things that God will pull away to draw us near to Him.
We were so blessed last night and I will treasure the memory. God was honored in the midst of the celebration. Families began the process of uniting the two people. And even if the ring is ever lost, what that young man gave to my daughter, will continue to be present. Because, on the 12th Day of Christmas, my daughter's true love didn't merely give her a ring, he gave her his heart. Christmas has come, indeed.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Heavenly Christmas

During my quiet time with the Lord this morning I was overcome with thoughts of what Christmas is like for the souls who are celebrating the season in the presence of the Lord. Now, I know that Heaven is not linear in time and one of the grand mistakes made by man is to humanize God and to try to envision His Kingdom through eyes that haven't even seen all the wonders this of this tiny planet. But, being an imaginative child trapped in the body of a middle aged woman, indulge me this fantasy.
As hauntingly beautiful as Karen Carpenter sounds on my CD player, what must she sound like with a choir of Angels? Her voice while she was on earth was smooth and full, like melted brown sugar. Warm and rich. What becomes of a voice like that when it is finally complete? The songs of the season sung by those who are free from any doubt, from any pride, and from any pain.
The pleasures of Christmas that are enjoyed at each celebration on earth are measured, mixed, baked and sprinkled with sugar--how are the confections prepared in Heaven? I picture my sweet Mother-In-Law, whose battle with Dementia took her from us much too soon mentally and then eventually physically as well. She was a wonderful hostess who loved to open her home and to fill it with people and food. Heaven for her must allow her the opportunity to host a gathering. In her earthly shell she gathered her children and her grandchildren into her arms and smothered them with affection. What is her touch like in Heaven?
And the children of Heaven, what is their Christmas like? My daughter is one of them, with her golden blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes--she eyed Santa warily and declared, "Ho, ho, ho". She held tightly to her Daddy and had no interest in sitting near the jolly old man--let alone on his lap! Now, in Heaven with no distractions of good old St. Nick, what is my eternal toddler's experience on Christmas morn? Does she see us, her family, in our humble little home delighting in the things of this world as we tear into our preciously wrapped treasures? Does she see the stocking hung at the mantle that bears her name? Through her eyes, that know more than I, does she see that her stocking is now the fullest while it is empty?
I miss her every day. I wonder about her life that was never part of God's plan. In my humanness, I wonder what her life would have looked like--would she like to read as much as her brother? Would she like Taylor Swift, like every other 17 year-old girl? Would she sit with her sister and look at Wedding websites and delight in what God is unfolding?
But, before I get too overwhelmed with the "what ifs" and the "if onlys", I remember that God is on his throne and I remember that it was He who decided that Molly belonged in Heaven. So, a Heavenly Christmas is what she has and the events that I think she is missing--she was never supposed to attend.
There are so many souls, loved and longed for who are celebrating Christmas so far away--yet, so near. It's hard not to wonder what they wonder when they watch us. That's all.