Once upon a time.… well… that is how all stories with happy endings start, right?
A very shy 17 year old, sat on her bed, it had only been 18 months since her dad was tragically killed in an accident. One of her favorite things to do was pull out those fairytale books and read them from cover to cover, hoping by some miracle, her life would be transformed, like the fairy godmother did for Cinderella. She wondered when it would be her turn to have a happily ever after. This Father’s day had left her fatherless feeling empty, lonely and broken. This time, the fairytale book didn’t help any. Perhaps she was just too old for them.
On her nightstand she caught a glimpse of another book. It had been awhile since she picked it up. As she ran her fingers over the leather cover, she remembered reading about another Father. And her loneliness drove her to open the book and find Him again.
At the beginning, she read eagerly, as if she’d been starved, her desire to fill her heart was insatiable. It had been empty for so long. This Father’s love was amazing and captivated her heart. Enraptured she realized how precious she was to Him, this story was not a fancy fairytale, it was truth and light and hope. This Father… was her Father. And He promised to be Father to the fatherless. He was revealing, the story He’d written long ago, was for her benefit. She, finally, began to understand that He was writing her story even still. He invited her to lay her loneliness in His hands and speak her heart to Him. And so the deeper conversations started. Soon she felt great peace and was ready to begin the journey that would, eventually, lead her to a soul mate. Many conversations with her dear, Abba Father, and the seeking of wisdom and patience. He promised she’d know, this soul mate and kindred heart, when she met him. Two years of placing her lonely heart in His capable hands, time after time, and the painful battles became less and the emptiness, filled with hope.
During this time, a man was struggling to find himself, just as she was. He tried many things to fill his own void, with no avail. And it all came to a head one day. The day he turned around and looked his Father in the face and poured out his heart. Fear and weariness of the empty running drove him to surrendered it all to God, and he found a loving Father ready to embrace a prodigal son. Days of paying the price for running away, led to days of learning to walk the holy path. It was both painful and beautiful. The Father’s plan became more and more beautiful and amazing, as the story unfolded.
Well, as the Father would have it, this man met that girl, at the perfect time in the perfect place in their lives. He’d woven two lives togther, even before they knew each other. She knew from day one he was the one her Father had hand picked for her. In time, the man saw it too. And Abba Daddy, well, He sat back and repeated the ancient words from the beginning of time, “It is good,” He contiued to watch over them. In time the two became one, in holy vows and promises to stand beside each other, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and health, until death parted them temporarily. Those vows, though taken and made seriously, were not in the forefront of those first few years. Yes, it was happily ever after those first few months. Reality, set in and brought them to their knees crying out to their Father for wisdom in various other early married needs. Their family was blessed and love added four little ones. There was joy and happiness, but in reality, the days were hard, and there was much running to their Father. Pleading for wisdom in being father and mother, wisdom to parent through challenges. Wisdom to love each other as husband and wife before their children. And reminders to press into their Father first above it all and…. He was always there. A wise and loving Father, answering their heart cries. Sending loved ones here on earth, to be His voice and heart, as needed.
That shy girl, well… she never grew out of that… she just found ways to lean on her soul mate and Father in the places she lacked. That bold, confident boy, was still all that, but he’d found the humility his Father was pouring out into him. Years went by, ups and downs, each one a bright lesson molding them into who they needed to be. He was strengthening them for battles and victories and everything in between. Soon their babies became young women. And the challenges changes, fruits of years of agony and labor peeked out from those four “little women,” as their dad called them, when he was feeling extra sentimental.
All those ups and downs, lessons in patience and strength, and weary days on their knees…. were preparing them… to have the very “words” of their vows… challenged. “In sickness and in health,” this was first blow to strike them. In January of 2014, this wife and mother, she had a heart to heart with her Father. Her beloved was not acting like himself. Feeling helpless drove her to plead with the Father she’d come to depend on, asking for answers and an ability to help somehow. He gently began to break the news to her. He prompted her heart that her beloved was sick. Well… she was a bit of a fighter and the “stubborn as they come” side of shy… it rebelled against the whispers of truth. When it comes to news of this nature, there is a helplessness that developes. Memories of being a young girl without a father flashed across her mind and heart, rendering her paralized for a time. And so, in her stubborn fear she outright asked her Father to… prove it. He was gentle and kind, quietly, slowly and carefully building her strength to carry a yet unknown weight. He surrounded her with support, she didn’t even know was there. He hand picked doctors and nurses and surgeons, friends, sisters and family… before they were needed. And as she took a step He made sure she was supported. She quietly sequestered herself away, holding her breath, waiting to be proven wrong and praying it was just a bad dream she’d wake up from soon. In May, the day approached to reveal what the Father had been preparing them both for. Sickness… to be specific… cancer stage 3. That chapter exists on past and future pages for another time and place.
Once upon a time…. in sickness and in health. There is a devotion that grows in the very soul… as it screams silently… that wedding vow promise over and over again. Not one day were those words forgotten. No time was wasted. Oh… but the rest of the promise, “until death parts us”…. that was a chapter in this story, that is most difficult to read. As man and woman, they walked each step. Boldly, sometimes, but mostly in weakness. Tears, anger and frustration were regular visitors at this point in the battle. But they were always surrounded by support, prayers and love. (Each of you reading this post, that could be you.) Soon sickness turned to the threat of death. Oh, the ache that pressed in. But that boy, was a man now, he fought hard, first gainst his Father, angry and sad. Then with determination to do whatever it took, to be His son. Finally he fought in complete surrender to his Father’s promise to never leave him or forsake him. His confidence spread to his girl. Many days of silent conversations between them, sitting holding hands and leaning on each other. Soon it was time for him to go. Heaven was calling him sweetly. His body was done, he needed his Fathers arms now. His girl’s arms were not strong enough to make it all better or carry his burdens. He never said “good bye,” only “I love you and Jesus loves you.” He stood one last time… they held each other and danced one last dance, he with one foot in heaven and she only wishing it would last forever. His girl got to hold his hand to eternity’s gates. And she said, “until we meet again” because she knew she would… someday.
This is not the happily ever after she’d dreamed of, but her Father reminded her it was a joyous ever after. Joy, can be had in pain, happiness cannot. Beloved ones held her with Jesus’ arms, they fed her children, painted her house (with physical paint and with loving kindness), and they became messengers of God’s grace and reminders of His goodness through it all. And… she knew joy.
Anticipating each day with mixed feelings and deep emotion. Praying for peace in the wake of this ensuing downpour of tear’s storms. Memories stand like sentinels, around my heart. Blessed and aching, thankful and missing my beloved one and the other half of my heart, hopeful and weary, and emptied out awaiting His grace to fill it all. Perhaps not a happy day, but it will be a joyous one. Thank you for walking this journey with me. We will live happily ever after, within the gates of heaven’s glory. Heaven becomes sweeter each day.
To be continued……