She ordered everyone out of the room.
Besides the fact that the room was way too crowded with too many women busy with last minute primping, Joy needed a moment to herself to think.
In less than one hour, she’d be walking down the aisle, saying “I do” to the love of her life.
He was a good man. No. He was a great man.
She knew this beyond a shadow of a doubt.
They were just a few short months into their relationship when her father suddenly passed away.
Derek didn’t run during her darkest hour. He was there for her every night she needed him and every morning when she didn’t want to get out of bed. He listened to her as she reminisced about her father and held her hands down by her sides until she stopped raging and finally collapsed in grief.
Derek was the man she thought she’d never meet but somehow, she did.
And now, with less than an hour to go before their vows, Joy was nervous.
“How do I know for sure our love will last?” she thought as she stared at her luscious curls flowing from her tiara and veil. “I didn’t get to ask daddy what he thought of Derek. Derek was never able to get daddy’s blessing. How can I know for sure I’m doing the right thing?”
Joy’s mother had been strangely silent throughout her courtship and engagement to Derek. Whenever Joy called her to vent about what she thought Derek wasn’t doing right, her mother quickly found something else to talk about or simply said, “Baby, just pray about it. God will show you the way”.
The truth was that Joy had been praying. She prayed before she met Derek. She prayed after she met him. She prayed on their first date, asking God for a sign. She’d been waiting for a sign that said “HE’S THE ONE” for two years.
But that neon sign never came.
All she knew was that Derek seemed too good to be true and she was afraid that this step to become his wife may not be the right step.
There was no one to ask.
Her father was gone.
Her mother was silent.
Was God even listening?
Just then, there was a slight knock at the door. It probably would have gone unnoticed to anyone else, but Joy knew that knock anywhere. “May I come in?” Mrs. Reeves said as she cracked the door ever so slightly. “Please come in mama”, Joy said as she hurried to her feet to greet her at the door.
A slight woman with flowing silver hair walked into the room, face deeply set with winkles but with eyes as warm and clear as Joy’s. At seventy years old, she was still amazingly beautiful, but the years were evident in her slower, stiffened steps. “Joy, are you alright?” Mrs. Reeves asked as she slowly made her way into the room. “Mama, I’m fine. I just needed time to think”. Joy did her best to put on a brave face but her mother could see through her best efforts. “Joy Ann…”, her mother said lovingly, yet with firmness. “Mama, how can I know that I’m making the right decision?!” Joy exclaimed, unable to conceal her frustration any longer. “Derek is a wonderful man. I love him with all my heart and soul. But love isn’t enough sometimes. I wish daddy was here so that I could ask him what he thought. He would always give me such good advice mama, you know that. I just wish there was a way to look into the future and see how this all turns out before it happens!” Joy said, with half a laugh, but completely serious. “I’m scared mama”.
Mrs. Reeves made her way to a chaise to take a seat. Joy followed closely behind her mother, knowing she was about to talk with her. As the sun poured over her silver locks, Mrs Reeves reached carefully into her purse and pulled out a faded piece of paper that was a pale shade of blue.
“Joy, there’s something I never told you”, Mrs. Reeves said as she stared at the blue note in her hands. “I was married once before your father”. Joy was speechless. “MAMA!” Joy exclaimed, half shocked and a little disappointed in her mother for waiting until her wedding day to reveal such a secret. Mrs. Reeves raised her hand and stared deeply into Joy’s eyes, telling her without words to allow her to finish speaking. “When I was in graduate school, I met a young man with whom I fell deeply in love. He was everything I thought I wanted in a man at the time and all of our friends and family thought we were perfect for each other. It wasn’t long before he popped the question and I accepted his proposal. Deep down inside, I knew that although he was a good man, he wasn’t the right man for me. But I married him anyway, thinking that our love would conquer it all and that somehow, it would all iron itself out. Your grandmother even told me it was just wedding day jitters. But I knew standing there in that dressing room all alone that he wasn’t the one for me. I knew it”, she said, almost in a whisper. “About two years into our marriage, things began to take a serious turn for the worse. By year three, we were sleeping in separate rooms, By year four, he left me. Year five, he filed for divorce. I was alone. I was broke and I was back home, living with your grandparents. I was broken and I was hurting but deep down, I was angry at myself for not listening to what I knew deep within was right. I spent many years as a single, what you young people would call now an “independent” woman. I became a teacher. I bought a house. It’s a miracle in itself that I met your father!” Both Joy and Mrs. Reeves shared a chuckle. “Your father was determined to make me his wife. I didn’t make things easy for him, but he hung in there and just wouldn’t let me go. It took him years to win my heart. I was no young bride. I got married at 23 the first time around. But the second time, I was 38. Somehow he knew that underneath my sharp tongue was a scared woman who just didn’t want to get hurt again. He loved me through my pain. On the day of our wedding, I sat in a room by myself, much like you are today, with memories of my first marriage rushing through my mind. I was scared too! What if I was making the same mistake twice? Your father was NOTHING like my first husband but I’d already been wrong once. How could I be sure I wasn’t wrong again about your father?” Joy looked at her mother, as she sat on the chaise next to her. She’d always known that her parents were older than most of her friends but she never knew why. The first marriage explained everything. She was the product of her mother’s second life.
“Mama, you used to always give me advice and tell me if this guy or that guy was right or wrong for me but now, you don’t do that anymore. Whenever I tried to ask you about Derek, you changed the subject. Now that I’m here on my wedding day and after hearing your story, you have to understand what I’m feeling”.
“I do understand how you’re feeling Joy”, Mrs Reeves said. “That’s why I came in. Sweetheart, I didn’t become silent to hurt you or even to frustrate you. When you needed guidance in your twenties, I was there. But I’ve watched you grow over the years from your good and bad choices and become a very strong and powerful woman of God. I trust the God in you. I know that He can speak to you just like He’s spoken to me all these years. And He will tell you what to do. I know He will”.
Reaching for her purse, Mrs. Reeves said, “I wanted to give you something. But before I do, I want to explain to you what it means”. She took the pale blue note and began to unfold it carefully. The day of our wedding, I was sitting in my dressing room praying and asking God for a sign, any sign to let me know that I wasn’t making another mistake but that I heard Him clearly when I decided to marry your father. I sat in that dressing room for what felt like hours but it was probably only thirty minutes. There was a knock at the door and before I could get to the door to open it, a little note came sliding through the bottom of the door: this note right here. Your daddy loved to write me love letters so I wasn’t surprised by this note but what he wrote inside was my sign. The note said, “Helen, you are my answered prayer. Love, Thomas”.
“You see Joy, when a man can say that about you, then you know he’s the one. Look deep in your heart. Maybe Derek didn’t say those exact words like your father. But has he spent each day that he’s had with you making you feel like you were the answer to his prayer? Think about that baby and when you do, I know you’ll have your answer and you can stop being afraid of the future”.
Joy helped her mother up off the chaise. “Thank you so much for this letter mama. It really means a lot to me and I will treasure it always”, Joy said as she and her mother embraced.
“I love you Joy. And I know that you will make the right decision. And whatever decision you will ever make in this life, always remember to trust the God in you”.
Joy returned to her seat in front of the vanity and gave her makeup one last glance. She was all set. Her heart was full of questions about the marriage her parents enjoyed. She looked at her father’s words on the pale blue note and whispered to him, “Thank you for loving my mama like this”. As she pressed the note to her heart, she prayed one last prayer, “Father, I thank you for this moment in my life. Thank you for sending Derek into my life. And Lord whatever happens from this day forward, cause me to walk in faith, not fear, just like my mama did. In your Name I pray, Amen”.
No sooner than Joy said amen, her wedding coordinator walked into the dressing room. “We’re about to start lining up. Before we do, Derek asked me to show you your wedding band”. Joy took the box from the coordinator, expecting to see the band she picked out with Derek months before. Sure enough it was the same band. But as she looked closer, she noticed it was engraved on the inside. It read, “My Answered Prayer”. With tears in her eyes, she returned the band to its box, looked at her wedding coordinator and said, “I’m ready now. Let’s go!”
She ordered everyone out of the room.