Family gatherings around life events are often joyous, emotional occasions. Wedding preparations take the cake when it comes to lots of Big Feelings. Mix the mother of the groom, the father of the bride, siblings, relatives—shirt-tail or otherwise—and there is sure to be no shortage of rough edges on the Big Day. Everyone involved has an investment in the couples’ happiness. Or at least an opinion,(“They paid HOW much for the honeymoon?!)

Pressure for the event to be Pinterest ®perfect is not helped by the fact that those who are invited into the picture are often strangers. The bride and groom know and love each of their friends, but rarely do all the friends and relatives know or necessarily love each other. Even when they’re in the same family.

My nephew was married two summers ago. To celebrate the occasion of her only child, my sister invited my other siblings (there are 5 of us altogether) and respective spouses to stay with her during Wedding Week. She has a large home in Southern California and we had all visited one time or another. However, there would be at least 8 of us coming and going; this would be one great sleep over.

Mornings and evenings were chillaxing times over meals, telling the same old jokes, teasing each other the way only family can do. There was an ease about the early morning coffee quiet and comfortable dinner table conversations. We enjoyed late nights on the patio listening to a backdrop of crickets or inside listening to the electronic ‘plink’ of Words with Friends (on our separate devices while sitting in the same room. Of course.)

My sister informed us she’d planned a luncheon the day before W’s wedding, sort of an ice-breaker/get-to-know-each-other time with the groom, his Best Man from college in Texas, and…her ex-husband. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed the stucco walls inhaled a bit as if holding their breath. This could a very tricky situation.

My sister’s husband had left her for another woman when my nephew was very young, over 20 years ago. My angry feelings towards him all these years later had dissipated, but I also still remembered how he hurt her. The deep pain was ‘beyond explanation’ as Linda described it; reconnecting with him after what he’d done could be fraught with disaster and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it.

But he IS the father of the groom. And he was paying for the wedding.

Although he had remarried, he and my sister had long ago reconciled differences for their son’s sake. However, none of us had been in any family settings with him for almost 25 years. I recalled more than one occasion when my brothers had stood in as strong, supportive males when my sister needed them. I sensed their own unspoken misgivings about our former brother-in-law’s presence but we were all there to support her that week especially, so we kept our thoughts to ourselves.

Tacos

Lunch was to be a decidedly unfancy meal, take-out from the local Mexican kitchen. With all the activity going on that week, plus the size of the group expected, there was no time to think about preparing food. Linda placed an order for all the rice, beans, tacos and enchiladas we could eat, salsa, chips and extra guacamole on the side.

Friday came and my brothers picked up and delivered the abundance of food nestled in overflowing aluminum pans. We dumped chips into bowls, grabbing pitchers of water and iced tea, nervous energy permeating the room.

My nephew and his best man were the first to arrive. Chatting among ourselves, I wondered what the reception would be like when B knocked on the door. Would there be a rush or a hesitance? A cold-ish welcome or…? I prayed for a peaceful re-entry into our family, pondering just what forgiveness would like in these circumstances.

I knew in my head that grace and kindness would be the only response, but walking it out in my flesh was another thing. While I stewed in my unresolved negativity, my brothers made nervous jokes with my nephew and his college buddy. Thank God for college buddies. Thank God for jokes.

Then the knock on the door.

To this day, I don’t remember who answered it. Probably my sister. My nephew quickly embraced his Dad and my former brother in law gave my sister a quick kiss on the cheek. He slowly glanced at our small group, perhaps registering uncertainty. From the edge of the living room, near the open sliding door, I watched as if in a trance. I was unsure that what I saw was actually happening.

The next many minutes are still a blur of movement in my memory—a rush to shake hands and give a hug—everyone was hugging, it seemed. I came in close to add my own warm hello. Zero angst attached to my hug, anger gone, bitterness erased. Only love and happy tears, my heart pouring out through my eyes.

Sisters, sisters-in-law, my brothers, the best man, and my nephew—all crying. Tears of release and redemption, acceptance and grace. Tears because words couldn’t express such great relief, overwhelming joy, the grand peace that filled the room.

After the tears we headed to the table. My brothers were now joking with B, just like old times. I marveled at the miracle of forgiveness and reconciliation, this simple but astounding gift around a common, ordinary meal.

The food was cold-ish, but no one seemed to mind. This pre-wedding, post-healing, old-family luncheon was greater than any elaborate banquet. We dug in, sticky cheese stringing from our forks, salsa dropping on the tablecloth. Chatter filled the room as folks found accommodating knees or accessible table space to eat. This is what reconciliation sounds like, I thought. That, and the clink of an iced tea glass full of cool, refreshing water.

There was no dessert served that day. Tomorrow would be another dream, with its own delicacies—cake! But no one needed any other sweetness–we had all we could ever hope for and more. Grace and forgiveness have a taste…it might be close to tacos with extra guacamole.

 

hospitality

Jody Collins
Jody Collins / Posts / Blog
Jody has known Jesus since she was 19 and got dragged to Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, back in the 70’s during the Jesus Movement. She and her husband have been married over 40 years and currently live near Seattle, their home for over 20 years. (They miss California only a little; they miss Yosemite a LOT.) Jody and her husband worship at this Foursquare Church, where she serves in Women’s Ministry and on the Worship Team. As often as possible, she hops on the freeway to visit her two married children and 5 grandkids, who thankfully each live no more than 3 hours away.
  • Michele Morin
    http://michelemorin.wordpress.com

    I’m savoring the beauty of grace and forgiveness that your words have carried into my day. So lovely when God saves the day and people act in more wisdom than they know they have.

    October 3rd, 2016 9:57
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    • Jody Collins
      Jody Collins
      http://jodyleecollins.com/

      Michele, I liked your line about people acting with ‘more wisdom than they know they have.’ Funny how God’s grace can bubble up like that. Thank you for your kind words.

      October 3rd, 2016 12:56
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  • Janice C. Johnson
    http://janicejohnson.wordpress.com/

    Lovely. Absolutely lovely. Thank you for allowing us a peek at your family’s miracle of grace.

    October 3rd, 2016 17:28
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    • Jody Collins
      Jody Collins
      http://jodyleecollins.com/

      God is one miracle-worker, isn’t He? Thanks my friend for your kind words 🙂

      October 3rd, 2016 19:50
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  • Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org

    So beautiful! Sometimes forgiveness is the most difficult, yet the most necessary hospitality.

    October 3rd, 2016 19:41
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    • Jody Collins
      Jody Collins
      http://jodyleecollins.com/

      Until I wrote this piece, Leah, I’d never thought of forgiveness as a way to extend hospitality, but indeed it is!

      October 3rd, 2016 19:51
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  • Leah Abraham

    Ahh, how beautiful! Jody, this is wonderful.

    October 3rd, 2016 20:19
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    • Jody Collins
      Jody Collins
      http://jodyleecollins.com/

      thank you Leah for your kind encouragement 🙂

      October 4th, 2016 11:27
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  • Theresa
    http://www.theresaboedeker.com/

    Lovely. Imagine if all families welcomed the lost sheep in like yours did. More families would be healed.

    October 3rd, 2016 23:14
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    • Jody Collins
      Jody Collins
      http://jodyleecollins.com/

      Theresa, you’re right… Our flesh wants to hold on to grudges but our Father extends grace. Every time. Thank you for reading along.

      October 4th, 2016 11:28
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  • Susan
    http://www.susanmulder.wordpress.com

    My son was married this last weekend and I am fresh off the emo train and this brought the tears. There were the awkward ‘ex’ moments and a lot of unfamiliar faces but what you said is so true-grace and forgiveness have a taste (love, love, love this) and though ours had more of a donut flavored taste it lingers just the same. God is so incredibly good. Thanks for such a great post!

    October 4th, 2016 11:02
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    • Jody Collins
      Jody Collins
      http://jodyleecollins.com/

      Oh Sue, congratulations! Wedding weekends are a trainful of emotions, that’s for sure. (I remember my son’s wedding–it was an out-of-body experience.) Whether it’s tacos or donuts, may God’s ‘food’ always taste like grace and forgiveness. I appreciate your kind words.

      October 4th, 2016 11:30
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  • Nancy Ruegg
    http://nancyaruegg.com

    I agree with Janice, above: that moment when the tension-dam broke and the tears flowed was truly a miracle.. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story of redemption, Jody. Tacos and guacamole will never taste the same! Their flavor will now be enhanced by love, forgiveness, and grace.

    October 7th, 2016 18:34
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  • Jennifer Wagner
    http://www.poetlaundry.com

    God is so good! Thanks for sharing this and reminding us, Jody!

    October 9th, 2016 20:17
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    • Jody Collins
      Jody Collins
      https://jodyleecollins.com/

      Oh, yes He is….I’ve waited a long time to tell this story. thanks for reading, Jen.

      October 9th, 2016 21:10
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      15
  • Laurie Klein
    http://lauriekleinscribe.com

    What a moment, what a feast, what a beginning! Thanks for sharing this story with us, Jody. I never pictured forgiveness and guacamole in the same sentence; now I will—cool and opaque and soothing to the tongue (which has packed heat, too many times), full of the savor of reconciliation.

    October 10th, 2016 16:51
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    • Jody Collins
      Jody Collins
      http://jodyleecollins.com/

      Oh, Laurie, I like the tie in with the guacamole….you find the best connections! Thanks for reading, friend.

      October 17th, 2016 13:08
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  • SimplyDarlene
    SimplyDarlene
    http://www.simplydarlene.com

    Oh, what a God-grande story — and, told with such attention to detail and writerly skill.

    I’m so glad to read your piece here, miss Jody.

    Blessings.

    October 11th, 2016 10:46
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    • Jody Collins
      Jody Collins
      http://jodyleecollins.com/

      Darlene, your words are high praise….thank you!

      October 17th, 2016 13:09
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