Bouquet or Not

Daddy walked around the rented, vintage car and opened the door. As he helped me out, I wrapped my arm around his and we turned to face the parted sea of people. As we began to walk, I saw our wedding planner walk up to my side, “you forgot your bouquet,” she whispered. This normally regrettable fact didn’t cause me to miss a step. My mind and heart were focused squarely ahead of me. There was nothing worth stopping for, no worry worth dwelling on. As much as I dislike being in front of people, my steps were sure, steady, and maybe even hurried, as I walked to the front of the close to four hundred people in attendance. My usual inevitable shakiness was not present in my hands as I reached the front and he took them in his own. After eight years, we were finally standing in front of the preacher.

Reece and Bond, have you come..

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Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?

That question seemed more like routine than reality at that moment. Of course we were. Almost three years later, we see that every day we answer this question again in our actions. It is routine and reality now as I chose to stay freely and without reservation, because he does, too.

Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?

We thought this was the easy part. Always was part of our relationship from the beginning. But times, places, and people changed. We changed, too. We forgot about always and focused on our own wants and needs, until we realized again that always isn’t possible apart, only together.

Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of and his Church?

He hesitantly said “yes” to the entirety of that question. Trusting God, loving me, naively believing we would certainly be rocking a baby to sleep roughly nine months from the moment that question was posed. But biology interfered with our certainty when we received devastating news a year later. Biology didn’t have the last say, however. And despite the doctor’s opinion, one of those tests ended up being positive.

The beautiful picture of my forgotten bouquet was taken by Rachel Wells Photography.

No Doors

As I sat in the back row in the church listening to stories about my dear friend, the word “hospitality” kept coming to my mind. Hospitality used to invoke images of a plate of freshly baked cookies, an immaculately organized home, and a hostess wearing an apron and always smiling in welcome. True hospitality, though, can’t be measured in terms of cleanliness, quantity or quality of food, or who can smile the longest without their face hurting. My friend exuded hospitality. And it was expressed in the dried tears on her shirt of people who struggled with addiction, serving meals to the homeless, and letting dirty, less than groomed people enter into what potentially could have been a neat and tidy life.

Hospitality is always having room in my life for the next person God sends my way, regardless of whether he or she can offer me something in return, or whether they hate me or love me. Being truly hospitable means my heart is a revolving door, and everyone gets in. Because if anybody is welcome in, surely God will enter in, too.

“I really only love God as much as the person I love the least.”

Dorothy Day

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She entered through the gate and was momentarily blinded by the brilliance of the road before her. So, it really is paved with gold, she thought. She slowly put one foot in front of the other as her eyes adjusted. When she could see clearly, she saw lush gardens around her and a row of houses made of marble-like stones and rich woods. Something besides the material of these houses was different  than those on earth. These houses, she was startled to realize, had no doors. She could see straight into the heart of every home to the people inside. She could see people dancing in the house to her left, and sharing a meal in the house to her right. As she passed by each house she heard laughing, singing, and lively conversation. And as she passed each house, all the inhabitants would shout through the opening, “Come join us, and welcome to heaven, sister!”

I don’t believe there will be doors there. What will there be to keep out? Love, joy, and peace will flow from the King’s throne down every street, circulating through every building, and live in the hearts of all inhabitants. People will come and go from place to place without calling first, without knocking, without warning, because no one feels shame or has anything to hide. There will be no evil to seek shelter from or lock out.

There, God’s hospitality will reign.

When Christmas Eve is Anything But a Silent Night

As I gazed at the lit snowflakes hanging in my window, I thought about how I’ve never understood people complaining about the holiday season being stressful. Like those snowflakes reflecting light and warmth, Christmas has so easily always accomplished the same in my heart year after year.

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But as I realized this year, Christmas has basically always gone the way I wanted it and how I planned it. Time with family, Christmas Eve service, Christmas Day breakfast, etc. This year, we added not only a ten month old baby to our plans, but a sick one. I had grand plans of traditions we would get to experience with him, but few went as planned. On Christmas Eve the baby wasn’t able to attend our family gathering, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t at church on Christmas Eve. My husband and I had an argument, and our Silent Night was anything but silent or peaceful.

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For days I felt such a sense of loss, knowing I would never get our baby’s first Christmas back, and a time meant for spiritual reflection and renewal was wasted. But, that’s not true, is it? As children of light we find purpose in imperfection, times of suffering, and seemingly insignificant moments. The babe, the Prince of Peace, was still in the manger, whether I was singing my heart out at midnight mass, or rocking a sick baby and arguing with my spouse. In fact, that’s why the baby is there, swaddled and snug at Mary’ breast, destined to save me and to save you. Still showing us how futile our stubborn plans are, still reconciling spouses, still healing sick children.

I didn’t miss my opportunity, and neither did you.

O Come Let Us Adore Him