This is my most recent feature article at Catapult magazine: http://www.catapultmagazine.com/going-to-the-chapel-again
Beyond the “Smile!” lies so much that the wedding photos don’t show; things we wouldn’t want them to, things we would want them to because they are testaments to God’s ruthless insistence on our healing and transformation.
Scrolling through the photos of my second wedding in 2008, others would see happy faces; and they are happy, but (from left to right) also stand the betrayed, the humbled, the forgiven. I cannot look at any of these pictures without recalling the times that have been lived before each singular moment. Each captured for the family album, each bidding me to remember…but also encouraging me with the same hope that brought us all through to that place…
3445 I watch a scene unfold out of frame.
Except for my immediate family, the wedding is the first time any of my extended family and friends are meeting my soon-to-be husband. I am purely happy at this moment—as well as before and beyond it—as I watch him gladly embrace strangers who he already loves because they are part of who I am.
3469 My son escorts his younger sisters down the “aisle” of our backyard wedding. The girls are grinning, happy and embarrassed; my son looks down at the grass as he walks.
Only one month prior, he was not going to be at the wedding. He had been living with his dad in the few years since the divorce, and his heart seemed to have turned away from me. But our relationship was now healing and becoming more like it was when he was little and we wore superhero capes to the grocery store. More than anything to me, his presence testifies to his submission to God who would continue to mold his heart.
3477 Dan and I stand before my pastor, holding hands. The pastor doesn’t know how important it is that he is there.
I began to take the girls to Reunion church about a year after the divorce. Being there changed me and my daughters. The church provided neutral territory on which to heal and to sit close to each other and be silent without anger and to have the near magic words of Jesus fill the spaces between our chairs and our brokenness.
3496 All the wedding guests gather around us with their heads bowed.
We asked the pastor to invite those who would like to stand beside us during the final prayer. I don’t remember the words, I just remember turning and seeing everyone standing behind us, joining their thoughts and prayers together: everyone, including my Jewish friend who puts up a Christmas tree each year, my self-proclaimed pagan sister-out-law, the fundamentalist Baptists who will leave before we start dancing in the yard, my Christian parents laying hands on us.
3500 Following the “you may now kiss the bride,” my husband smiles as I jump into the air and yell “woo hoo!”
For both Dan and I, there are years of moments that contrast starkly to this blur of joy but others that showcase the artistic composition of God. Ninety-two combined years of snapshots. Some we arranged, while others made us subjects of theirs. These pictures included our previous spouses, our children, our families, and friends. In some we looked happy within the Kodak border while beyond it lay nothing suitable for framing. And in some, we were truly happy but hoping desperately that the colors would not fade.
3552 With their arms around me and each other stand my nephew, my stepson, and my son.
My nephew and son were born a day apart. The divorce forced them a world apart. They had been like brothers, and I tried in some small way to mother my nephew when his own left the family. The divorce seemed to have severed the brotherhood of these two boys, then in their teens. But here they are now with my stepson—new friends, long lost cousins, brothers by marriage and by choice, young men who have decided on a more noble direction than pain and anger tried to dictate.
3521 The “blended” family portrait. My new husband and 6 of our 8 children stand in front of the brick wall of my parents’ home.
Nothing deemed as “broken” can really ever become “blended.” Blended brings to mind an expensive coffee drink. We are more like a mosaic of fine china and Mexican tiles and semi-precious jewels from the craft store, placed lovingly haphazardly into the cement of the stepping stone along our new path.
(Present but not pictured) God in all.