An Unexpected Surprise

Celebration Joy is happening!

My sweet niece, Paige is getting married this month. I love her and cherish the relationship we have grown between us since the day my sister announced she was expecting 25 years ago. Her life has been a blessing, and she and our family enjoy many memories of much goodness, joy, and love. When she got engaged to a stellar guy, we were thrilled to anticipate the wedding. Now the time is near!


I have been finishing up the details on a gift I have been preparing for her and others in my family that I love. It is a homemade gift, full of stories and mementos to celebrate God’s faithfulness.

As I have sat and remembered precious memories and contemplated how best to capture and honor them, I chose to use pictures. I created, I wrote, I copied, and I pasted. Nearly done, I lacked one page, the importance of which was exposed by my procrastination. To complete it meant that I would need to sit and write about my mom, our children’s grandmother, and possibly feel yet again the absence of her presence in my life and theirs. I would also need to choose from the few old pictures I’ve used over and over again. So I did.

What I would give to have a fresh, new picture?

Though I have embraced the tenderness of my heart toward her absence for me and our family on many occasions, I have discovered a priceless truth. No matter the number of years that have passed between her death and now, the sting of loss and the grief of my longing for her presence, especially at family celebrations, is a direct reflection of the love possible between a mother and a daughter.

Even though I do not know if our relationship would have endured if she had lived, my longing for a mother’s presence certainly has.

“Can I come go through the cedar chest?”

My sister, not knowing my plan for my gift replied, “Sure. I’d love it if you come visit.”

I’ve been through that cedar chest many times before but was still hoping that maybe, just maybe there would be something new, something I had not seen before, something to use to complete my wedding gift.

I packed my car with an overnight bag and drove a few short hours to my sister’s home. Without hesitation, I walked in her backdoor where I was greeted with the familiar warm hug we have shared our entire lives. She extended her opened hand toward the kitchen counter and I smiled, eager to sample the variety of h’ordeuvres she lovingly prepares for every visitor who happens into her home. I took a cracker and piled on some Avacado Feta Salad.

What happened next was nothing short of an embrace from God.

My eyes caught sight of the most beautiful picture of my mother that I had ever seen.


And there, right next to it was a picture of her mother, my Grandmother Allie.


I was speechless. I wanted to scream but couldn’t – I had no words. In that moment I knew that though I had not prayed one word to ask for my heart’s desire, God knew my heart. My desire is not only about a gift, nor just the about new pictures, but rather more about sharing His faithfulness to the generations in my family.

I am still busy finishing up the gift I am preparing for those I love, and I have more pictures to add with a final story about God’s faithfulness.

It is an honor to declare it to the generations.

photo-4Ellen Oelsen lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband of 26 years. She is a mother of 4 children and loves their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Her hobbies include cooking, nature, reading, plays, and two stepping. She delights in offering hospitality of the heart and creating spaces of care, rest, play and reflection to inspire hope. She is beginning to expose the writer within her.