He walked across the grass with his daughters on either arm. They hugged and looked back as the bride’s grandchildren, two boys, and four girls, processed too. The little girls sprinkled rose petals on the grass before them. The little girls were followed by the bride’s three grown daughters and their groomsmen. Then as the recorded music played a little louder, the bride and her father turned a corner by the farmhouse and walked to meet the rest.

The ceremony was sweet as they all stood under a fruit-filled apple tree. I remembered words his father and I had said to one another so many years ago and realized once again what a miracle the marriage bond could be. Ours was not a “happily ever after” journey. We had serious reasons to walk away from one another more than once. I realized once again how God could take something that had been so badly broken, and put all the pieces together. In fact, we both believe it mended our marriage in a way that has made it so much better. We never wanted our children to experience the same pain that we had, and yet God doesn’t always answer our prayers for our children the way that we want. His vision is bigger than ours.

Six years earlier our son had not guarded his heart. He had broken his vows and walked away from the daughter-in-law who had been like a daughter to us. We mourned for the lost relationship, and the lives of our granddaughter’s forever marked by this time in their young lives. One day I remember so clearly God asking me if I could open my heart for another one to come into our family. “No, God, don’t ask me to do that,” I cried. “I could never do that.” It would be a betrayal. We became estranged from our son.

One night I armed myself with Bible verses on three by five cards that I was sure would help our son see his sin for what it was. Proof that he had made such a terrible mistake. I parked and walked through the rain-soaked grass to the stairs of his new apartment. I talked. He was sullen. I took the role of the Holy Spirit doing everything I could to convict him. I so wanted him to make things right in his life. When he said, “I’m sorry, Mom.” I returned his words with, “Not as sorry as I am!” Then I stood to go and realized for the first time that my shoes had tracked a muddy path from his door to where I sat. Angry as I was at him, I was even angrier with myself. How like me to muddy everything up with my good intentions.

Things weren’t good for a very long time. I viewed the woman in the photograph as a villain in this drama. I couldn’t think of her ever being a part of our family. “No, Lord, don’t ask me to do that.” I allowed these circumstances to bring me down. My grief was palpable. I could touch it, feel it, and let my heart wallow in its blackness. Time and time again, our son would tell us that the woman in the photograph was “a very nice person.” I couldn’t hear him. I wouldn’t hear him.

I struggled until I had reached my end, and could manage no longer. I had listened to a woman at a conference I attended and made arrangements to meet with her soon after. She let me go on and on. I poured out the pent up anger and grief until I felt I could say no more. Week by week, we met and prayed and I began to see my own sin. I had failed to trust that the God who loved me would hold my pieces together. He was doing work not only in my heart but also in my daughter-in-law’s heart. She had dreams that had never been realized. Perhaps now they would be.

My counselor showed me that I had choices in this situation. Not the choices I wanted, but the ones I needed. She painted a word picture for me that has been framed in my mind forever. She said that I could see my relationship to God as a mighty river. I could fight the current and try to swim against it, or I could choose to let go and let the river carry me along.

One of my deepest disappointments had actually been what she called “the death of a dream.” Our fiftieth anniversary would be in a little over a year and I had so hoped to have a beautiful photo taken of our whole family together. After several months of working through my lost expectations, I did something tangible to declare my budding faith. I bought a very large frame, much like the one I would have used to frame our family photo. Inside the frame, I placed these words, “Trusting Jesus.” I mounted it on our dining room wall. Our anniversary came and went, and it wasn’t the end of the world. We took a family photo, but our son and daughter-in-law did not stand together. The important thing for me was realizing that I could really trust Jesus! I had been so afraid of losing that special relationship with my daughter-in-law, that I didn’t realize that it didn’t have to be lost. We are still very close.

Eventually, the woman in the photo and my son parted ways. He made a six-month commitment to work on just being alone with God. Last summer when he was leading a Bible study in his singles group a new woman came to his group. She was different than any of the other persons he had known. She was spiritually mature and content to be her own person in Christ. The Lord led them together and it was a good thing. They were engaged in February, and a date was set for June. Their large wedding plans were changed several times with Covid-19 restrictions. But after the last postponement, they decided on the spur of the moment to have a small family wedding on her daughter’s farm.

So there we were under the apple tree seeing what a good thing this would be. Not just for the bride and our son. Our daughter-in-love has graciously welcomed this new person into our family. God is blessing her with a new career ministering to those going through painful divorces. Another amazing part of God’s plan. Finally, I can say, “Yes,” to God. My heart has been opened to love another daughter.