Cords of Three Strands and Fortunate People

“Two are better than one.”

The woman reading scripture reads the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes with a clear voice.

“If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”

Hundreds of ceremonies through the years have used this same passage – but every time it is unique to the couple who stands before God and others, solemnly beginning a brave journey.

It is my husband’s niece, Jamie, who is getting married. Jamie who we have watched grow from tiny person to grown woman, a leader wherever she goes. In recent years our times with this side of the family have become more fun, more frequent, and more precious. When we found out Jamie was getting married we were determined to come and to urge as many of our children as possible to come. The last time we were all together like this was at my son Micah’s wedding in Chicago.

I look around and cousins are everywhere. The first meeting happens in the parking lot where we arrive at the same time as some of the cousins. The screams and hugs begin. Cousins…so much you don’t know about your cousins, yet you know you belong together.

We’re gathered together at a beautiful plantation built in the 1900s and the day is clear, beautiful blue sky overhead and colors that make a photographer’s work easy.

Like pieces of a puzzle, we’re here and in some strange way that only a master Jigsaw puzzle maker could create, we fit. Only a couple missing pieces – an amazing feat for a family this size. Grandma and Grandpa with their well-earned wrinkles mingle with the young and beautiful who boast tight skin and muscles. Those of us middle to later-aged women are still able to hide many wrinkles with good make up and happy smiles, knowing our time is coming when the wrinkles cannot hide. Yet here we are unafraid, because it all fits in this circle of life.

The hugging continues in the foyer of the building and conversations come fast and easy. People are introduced to significant others and the catching up with our lives begins. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Calvin and Susan, come to greet all of us, amazingly calm and beautiful.

Slowly we make our way to the lawn that slopes down to a small lake. A massive tree sets the stage for the bride and groom, God’s landscape.

And then we wait.

Jamie is beautiful and composed through a few tears as she walks down the pathway to Justin. They are young and lovely and full of hope, and it makes all of us full of hope as well.

In this imperfect family today feels perfect. 

Make no mistake, some of these relationships have been forged with blood, tears, and repentance. Others have come easier and more naturally. But that’s family and life is too short to not cherish each other. Through it all we are too fortunate.

The verses from Ecclesiastes seem not only for the couple, but for the extended family. You can’t do this thing called marriage very well without family. Somehow the times when you’re ready to give it all up, you realize that it’s too important, too sacred, there is too much to lose. And then life gets better and, like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, you are so glad you continued to brave the journey.

The bride and groom begin their life together with communion – bread & wine, the body and blood of Christ, a reminder of what their union will represent.

And then the solemn is over and the party begins. It is as joyous and loud as the ceremony was beautiful and quiet. “You’re all dancing fools!” says my mother-in-law, but she’s right in there with us.

We live in an age where relationships end like they are candy, gone when the sweet is over. Gathered together we rejoice in the hope this couple symbolizes, we are grateful for the longevity of the marriages of so many in the crowd. We realize that we are indeed, too fortunate.

Legs aching and hearts full, the party ends. There will still be celebrations in the next couple days, times to get together before heading out to all parts of the country, but for now we blow bubbles into the air. Clear and perfect they go up, up, up until finally they disappear in the blue sky.

As we drive away, the last words of the passage in Ecclesiastes goes through my head: “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

Congratulations Jamie and Justin – you remind us that we are too fortunate and give us hope to continue the brave journey.








Always Another Season

“I imagine folks in your part of the world are sad about the loss last night. My favorite part of sports, though, is that there is always another season to look forward to (the mantra that allowed me to grow up as a red sox fan without slumping into depression every October…)!”

 My nephew left this comment the other day on my post “Sports and the Narrative of Life”.  What deep wisdom he voiced in the phrase “Always another season…”All week I have thought about this phrase – There is always another season of sports. There is always another season of fashion. There is always another season for the ballet, for theatre, for Pottery Barn’s decor.

King Solomon, renowned throughout the ancient world for his wisdom, speaks to this in Ecclesiastes in the Bible. The old but well-known words “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted, A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh….” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4) never fail to make me pause. Whenever I read them I feel a hope spring up – looking to a new season keeps hope alive. Even as the cold and grey of winter is heavy in February there is hope, always hope, in the spring that will follow.

I have no idea what season you are in. It could be a season of learning to love and looking forward to sharing a lifetime with someone. It could be a season of chaos with kids going 10 different directions and an inability to connect with your spouse, feeling like all the chaos has wreaked havoc on your relationship. It could be a season of grief where you are leaving a place you love, or grieving the life of someone you lost. It could be a season of healing, running from an addiction that in the past has claimed your life. Perhaps a season of longing – longing to get pregnant, longing to be healed, longing for someone to share your life with. It could be a season of anger and frustration; peace and security; aging or sickness. Whatever the season, recognizing that there is always another season symbolizes  hope.

One thing we know about hope – it is not a sickly sweet sentiment, but rather a hard-nosed determination. Václav Havel, a Czech writer says this: “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

So in the season you find yourself in may you have hope and the conviction that all will make sense.