Last week my sister in law Shelley got married and I was asked to give a toast. My eyes immediately filled with tears and I said to my husband, “I don’t think I can.” He was surprised; “You are usually the rock of the family. You can do this!”
He spoke truth! I typically am the one who holds it together. There have been countless moments; both difficult and precious where I ended up being asked (it’s never really a question) to speak up or do something unexpected in our family. Pastors have put me on the spot, old bosses, and of course my husband has passed the mike to me on many occasions! None of which I knew were coming, but I was always able to get through them, trusting the Holy Spirit to provide the words!
As I reflected on just how much emotion has been present lately I realized how absolutely in love with God I am. He has been so tangibly present over the last year I just cannot contain my joy! It’s not because this has been an easy year for us; in fact it’s been full of loss, grief, fear, and longing. We’ve been through death, grief, brain surgery, break ups, ER visits, bullying, and the world’s gnashing and yipping at the heals of those we love! Yet I hear a resounding, “The seatbelt sign has been turned off and the captain says you are now free to move about the cabin!” For now, we are out of turbulence and enjoying the view - and I am full of awe.
Shelley called a family meeting a week before one of our family members was to go into brain surgery, with some “news” for all of us. To say it was unlike her to do this would be a massive understatement. We all wondered what she needed to say! As we sat around the kitchen table listening to her tell her story not one of us was without tears! It was in this moment when my husband (struggling to force the words out) professed how for months he had been praying for his sister. Even typing the words I find myself incapable of stopping the production of tears of joy and awe!
Twenty-five years ago Shelley and David called off their wedding very close to the date at hand. Although deeply in love, they agreed they were not ready to marry one another. And that was the end, so it seemed.
God suspended time that day as Shelley recounted over the afternoon the many beautiful details of God weaving her life and David’s through various growing pains and precious moments before bringing them together again – it’s a story that could feed thousands and fill hearts with a hope unending, because it’s God’s story!
You see, I believe God has written a magnificent love story for each of his children! I do not know where you are in yours. Whether you’re in the midst of reconnection, regret, reconciliation, remorse, … or just refreshment – I assure you YOU ARE LOVED by a perfect creator, who sent His Perfect lamb, Christ, and your story begins, is full of, and ends in love!
Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”
The reason for my emotion isn’t complicated, but it is immense! For it has everything to do with how God writes love stories, like the one He wrote for Shelley and David; and the specific answer to prayer that He gave my husband. God wasn’t just redeeming Shelley and David, bringing them back to Him, through this love story only He could write – He was revealing Himself to us all, restoring hope in a weary season of life and longing for our family. He wasn’t just receiving the prayers of my husband and myself for Shelley who we love fiercely, He was answering them completely! He was preparing our hearts for the rest of the year, by reminding us that He hears and answers! He prepares and equips! He takes away and He gives!
So when Chad asked me to toast them, I caught my breath, held back the tears and recited a message I had sent them just days before. Here it is: Chad in his prayers for Shelley over several months continually asked, “Lord, Lord what will it take for my sister to open her heart to someone to love her as You do? Lord, You will have to sweep her off her feet! Sweep her off her feet Lord!” To you I say, I am certain that God has ordained your lives to be caught up in His plan now! Never forget that your love for one another is an answer to the prayers of those who love you, and who deeply love your children. Never forget that God saw fit to reach down and intervene drawing you back to one another and to Him. Glorify Him with your love all of your remaining days!
Friends, God formed each of us with a plan. When we think the writing is ours, we may punctuate with periods where he intended a colon or a comma! When we write in extra scenes He allows it for a time, but always has His way in the end through Love. God’s way for us is unending Love. Sometimes your life will be hard, or scary, or painful, but in Jeremiah He reminds, “For I know the plans I have for you… plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, AND I WILL HEAR YOU.”(29:11-12)
Shannon is married to Chad Strader and they have 3 children. She is also an LPC and owner of Strader Christian Counseling in Magnolia TX.