Smiling Lessons by Virginia Hughes

With infant’s tiny hands gripping tightly from the beginning of life, sharing starts early for all of us--grappling over toys, snacks, space, time and attention. Repeatedly these “please share” lessons come into our lives and we learn and hopefully teach them to our own children. Let go of things and embrace Christ and people. We learn what is truly important.

Raising children is a series of steps in letting go. Just as the baby is born, medical hands reach, clean, check, measure, weigh and wrap the precious bundle. We wince as our baby’s blood is drawn, are you really going to poke that needle into her ittybitty foot? There is no sparing of skin with the blessing of thorough medical care. There is constant poking, prodding, injections, tears and a schedule of well checks.

The world is at your door reaching for your infant and in time you release her to God, relatives, church care, care givers, teachers, coaches, camp counselors, friendships, higher learning, employers and young adult life, life, life!  Dating turns to courting and here is the chosen person and mate for your child you trusted God to find. My daughter is in love with a stranger and the double bonus is that the stranger loves her. Great gulps of graciousness, let’s set the date and celebrate this marriage we prayed for from her earliest days!

Everything that prepares did not prepare me for letting go in that singular way. The young couple hopes for blessing, while I pray they love God first over all, choose him in their hearts most of all. Make him the center of their lives and future. Even if the fiancé is a prince of a fellow, my prayers pace over their souls. Be sure, be very sure. Daughters, hold out for the best one in this short life that becomes very long if spent in misdirection, regret and lousy company.

As I scrutinize, the Lord reminds me to hold everything with an open hand, fingers flat, not curled so tightly, grasping my loved ones to myself. I question if this is the right one for her is he, is he, is he?

I hear the still small voice, “Stop with the stranglehold on your child.” We have this ongoing conversation my Heavenly Father and I: How can I keep her safe if I hold her in an open hand?

Trust me and know you are both in my hands.

Dear Lord, pardon me, but I do not always trust you with my children who you created, who are yours; who you gave to me. I know from experience things don’t always go well or turn out nicely. You give, and you take away. This world is a grabby, sinfully wild place.

Yes, but you are in my hands. You, your daughter and the young man.

I know. However, I also know you don’t play by the rules I made up to help myself feel safer in your hands.

Even so, open your heart; open your hand.

If my hand is open, anything may be taken from it.

Yes, yes but you must trust me.

Let us imagine I let go. I still watch as a hovering drone, hands on the track to detect trains going off the rails, ears oscillating at the slightest sound as a deer panting for water. I don’t want to watch my child struggling with improv when I can write a far better life’s play with a few twists, a slight edge, a little rain, but well-honed, trusted characters and a happily ever after. Would it be so bad, the older, wiser me at the helm pulling the strings and writing the lines? I imagine the Lord may say, “I’m the Lord of all things, and I don’t wear out, but you in your mothering role, you are wearing me out.” It’s exhausting and time to let go.

Then the surprises start flowing in as wedding plans commence. The soon to be in-laws are loving and friendly and we immediately like each other. They have their own struggles to learn English well enough to pass citizenship tests. When they pass, I smile.

It is time to plan a long distance wedding. My daughter phones and we frequently discuss plans for hours. I doubt we talked this much when she lived at home and this brings many smiles. Extra visits up to Ann Arbor have us spending more time with her fiancé. He is no longer a stranger. Sincerity shines and I see he really loves my daughter. I smile.

I need be required to take covenantal parental vows and tack them to the mirror reminding myself of my acquired different role. Trust the Lord. Always pray. Be encouraging. Be available. Don’t manipulate and control circumstances pretending it’s about your deep care for her. Be generous in every way and smile.

The day before the wedding, surrounded by buckets of water, roses, chrysanthemums, seeded eucalyptus and high hopes, my three daughters and I are arranging wedding flowers for hours and hours. We work our way through centerpieces, chair decorations, bouquets and boutonnières. The flowers in my hands and conversation with my daughters are a gift rounded by giggles and laughs all day until we finally go to bed around midnight with all the flowers tucked in and ready.

The wedding day is here and standing in the procession, right before we walk down the aisle, the groom appears with the vintage ring pillow crocheted with love by my sister who went to heaven four years ago. He hands it to my 90 year old mother standing in front of me and asks Mom to pray before the ceremony begins. My mother prays for God to be Lord of their lives and center of their lives together, may they grow in grace under his loving watch. May our great and most loving Heavenly Father smile upon them and bless them as only he is able. Amen.

What a sweetness that my sister whom we miss

made that little pillow and feels present here today. What a wonder that my mother at 90 is able to clearly pray and walk with ease as part of this wedding procession. How beautiful my daughter and husband are as they walk together. What love is being expressed by this couple as they make vows to love each other. The string ensemble plays “Be Thou My Vision,” while the Lord of our hearts fills us with his love and graces us with smiles.