This last weekend was no small gift.
It was a large gift, a gigantic gift, the kind of gift that takes some serious creativity and most of a roll of wrapping paper to cover.
It was “wedding weekend” – the weekend where people from all over traveled to Portland, Oregon to celebrate the marriage of Lauryn and Kyle.
Lauryn was an intern at the Annex when I first got to know Jesus.
She was the one who took me out to lunch once a week and heard all of the weird and screwed up details of my life at the time. She was also the one who sat down with me at a bakery on Pearl Street as I got to tell her, my eyes shining, that I was in love with Jesus.
It had happened, things had changed, and she was there from the beginning, walking with me, holding my hand and never giving up.
Lauryn is the kind of woman I’ve always wanted to be. She’s stunningly beautiful and incredibly wise. She’s funny and quirky and absolutely the most lovable person you’ve ever met. She’s elegant and graceful while also transparent and raw – allowing everyone in her presence to relax and take their coat off – fully able to be themselves.
Kyle is my best friend Kelsey’s older brother. I had heard tons and tons of stories about him before I finally met him. There were stories of Kelsey and Kyle growing up together- almost identical- with Kyle being the totally rebellious and troublemaking life of the party, while also an incredibly protective and loving big brother.
We were all at Kelsey’s graduation party, snuggled around a fire when the two of them met. Kyle from Portland, Lauryn from Colorado – unlikely and inconvenient and made for each other.
We all watched and laughed as they danced and sang and giggled and played. Lauryn was radiant, looking lighter and freer than I’d ever seen her, her eyes sparkling.
Kyle looked different too. There was a determination about him, he stood up straighter, stronger, understanding the caliber of woman that was dancing with him. Kyle was literally never the same.
The troublemaker in Kyle began to fade away quickly, leaving in its place a leader, a lover, a fighter, a pursuer, a man who is noble, honest, pure and after God’s own heart.
So when it finally came time for them to get married, and Lauryn asked me to be one of her bridesmaids, I cried. I couldn’t help it. I was so honored to stand next to her on the most important day of her life (so far.)
But … as I boarded the plane to Portland, my heart just couldn’t muster up the energy for a celebration.
The last few weeks had left me emotionally drained and feeling tiny and fragile.
I felt rejected and hurt and like I could be knocked over with the breeze coming from the airplane vents. My chest physically hurt and I spent the entire plane ride praying intensely … “Jesus, please take care of my heart.”
I was too tired to celebrate. I just wanted to curl up in my bed, hiding until things changed.
But the joy waiting for me in Portland was too overwhelming for my sad heart to resist, and before I knew it, I was on stage at a Karaoke bar, screaming Celine Dion lyrics at the top of my lungs in between my two best friends.
It was a weekend for the senses. Delicious coffee warming the air, gorgeous views of Hood River that were almost impossible to peel your eyes from, fluffy robes and sparkling mimosas and laughing until our stomachs ached.
It was a weekend surrounded by some of the best friends I’ve ever known. It was a magical combination of praying with each other intently over things big and small, and dancing with each other like fools, celebrating with every fist pump and wobble we had in us.
This weekend was one for the record books – the greatest gift that I hadn’t even thought to ask for.
But even though the weekend in its intricate details and in its entirety were ridiculous, huge, over-the-top gifts … the best gift of all was Lauryn and Kyle.
Lauryn and Kyle have been through the ringer, as individuals and as a couple.
They both have colorful pasts and there were times in each of their lives when I’m sure they cried out to God, begging him to take the hurt away and begging him for a different ending to their story.
They’ve fought distance and time and career changes and gigantic life questions. They’ve fought each other and made each other better and have been through so much – but by the grace of God, made it to the very end of that aisle.
Lauryn and Kyle are meant for each other. There is no doubt about it. They’re stubborn and they’re unique and they’re quirky and they’re funny but mostly they’re just so imperfectly perfect for one another.
When Lauryn began to walk down the aisle, Kyle immediately doubled over, tears springing to his eyes- stunned by the beauty and grace of his bride.
They stood together and through happy tears, made promises to each other – knowing that they were never going to do it perfectly, but that they were going to wake up every single day and try.
Watching Lauryn and Kyle get married this weekend was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and to everyone watching, it was a gift.
It was like a bubbly gulp of hope to my heart that had been hurting so much.
There is something wired deeply inside of each of us that desires true and real and intimate relationship. There is something in us that wants that with one other person – desires to know someone fully and to be known in return. And sometimes I really wish that desire would just go away.
That longing yanks us back and forth – in and out of relationships – leaving us dizzy and disoriented and often really hurt.
For most of us – we will be in more than one relationship in our lives, but best case scenario, only one of those relationships will actually last – a really disheartening batting average.
There are relationships that you never should have been in, relationships that you wish had never ended and relationships that leave more questions than answers.
There are questions about “why” and “how” and “what if?”
As the “almosts” and “it would have worked out but’s …” start to stack up, the longing gets worse and turns into a dull ache, accompanied by a sharp doubt that you’ll just never get it right.
There is a temptation to settle for the next person that comes along, figuring that “good enough” is good enough.
There’s a temptation to sprint into marriage because it seems like everyone else is, and because you don’t want to be left behind.
And then there’s the fear that it’ll never happen – that that’s just never going to be your story.
And all of that hurts – deeply.
There have been a great many heartaches in my 24 years of life … sometimes leaving me wishing that my heart would just stop loving completely.
There have been a great many “almosts” in the past several years – wonderful men in their own ways, but none of them fitting quite right.
God has said “no” to men that I would have been more than happy to end up with – only realizing later that He saw something that I didn’t.
And especially in those initial, painful moments of “no,” it’s just really hard to trust Him.
But here’s the gift that He handed me on that beautiful Saturday, the sun warming my face, watching my two dear friends at the end of the aisle.
He reminded me that He’s good.
God reminded me that He invented marriage. It was His idea for a man and a woman to come together as partners and best friends. It was His idea for two people to join their lives in the deepest intimacy we’ll ever know on this earth. It was His idea to create a relationship that would reflect the love He has for us.
This all was His idea. God loves marriage.
He also reminded me that He’s wiser than me, sees things that I don’t and that His timing is perfect.
He reminded me of every time that He’s given me a gift and of every time that I’ve exclaimed, “This is literally better than anything I could have ever dreamed of.”
He reminded me that He’s a God of the details and that He’s bigger than timing, careers and geographical locations.
And best of all, He reminded me that He knows me.
God knows me better than I know myself and He loves me in a way that I’ll never even be able to love me.
And He loves whoever my husband will be.
My husband is His son. He knows him better than he knows himself, He loves him perfectly and relentlessly and He is fighting for his good constantly.
He’s a good dad and He loves us both (whoever this other “he” is.)
And as I watched Kyle scoop Lauryn into his arms and almost skip with her back down the aisle, God reminded me that it was His pen that wrote their story.
And that He’s busy working on a story for me too.
I don’t have to control or coordinate or cry – all I have to do is live, and say thank you, knowing that He’s got every detail under control.
God is so faithful. He’s the best dad in the world and loves His kids so much that He allowed Jesus, His Son to die on a cross for us.
Why would we think for even a second that He doesn’t have this covered?
So in the spirit of celebration, let’s make a toast.
Cheers to Lauryn and Kyle and a beautiful and blessed life together.
And cheers to the God that knows us better than we know ourselves, has perfect timing and is the giver of the best gifts.