I grasped my husband’s hand as we got into the antique car that was waiting for us outside the church to take us to the reception. Grant closed the heavy door and leaned in to kiss me. I still couldn’t believe we were married.
I never imagined it would be him. I mean, I never knew that it was Grant that God had for me. If I had only known, it would have saved so much worry!
It was only two years before that I had spent the summer on a “Summer Project” with Cru in Santa Cruz, California.
One particular morning, I was walking along the breathtaking California coastline with my Bible study leader, Hannah.
As we walked and talked, our conversation turned toward Clemson. Hannah had attended Clemson too and she started asking me why I wasn’t dating anyone.
“What about so-and-so?” She asked. “Why don’t you date him? He’s an awesome guy.”
“I know,” I responded. “I don’t think he likes me though.”
“Okay, well what about so-and-so?” She continued as she named off another friend.
“I don’t know,” I went on. “It just doesn’t seem right.”
She continued on through a list of different godly guys that we both knew.
“I don’t know, Hannah. I just feel like God is saying no. I don’t know what He’s trying to tell me, but I just feel like He wants me to wait.”
I’ll never forget how Hannah responded. “Well, God must have someone great in mind for you, GraceAnna.”
I hope you’re right, I remember saying.
Grant put his arm around me in the backseat of the car. Now it was all a reality. God had been calling me to wait for His perfect timing. All along, He had Grant in mind for me.
And now I was Mrs. Castleberry. I remembered the first time I had said Grant’s last name aloud when I was vacationing with my family at Fripp Island. I had loved the way his name rolled off my tongue. It was different and it had a masculine and yet feminine sound to it. I liked it. Now it was my own.
As the old car pulled into Pinckney Retreat, I looked out the window. I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything looked.
Grant and I mingled with our guests under the canopy of live oak trees. We tried to talk to everyone. We felt so overwhelmed with gratitude to our friends and family who had come to celebrate with us.
Grant’s Grammie who was suffering from cancer had come all the way from Texas.
My entire Duke Bible study had driven down from North Carolina.
Grant’s friends, the Leonards, had driven up from Florida.
Some of my Clemson friends had made the drive down from the upstate.
A group of Grant’s Texas Aggie buddies had flown in for the weekend.
And then their were our Beaufort friends who were there but they were serving. They had spent days planning just so that we could enjoy this special time – friends like the Gays who headed up the Lowcountry food, and my friend Kelly who put together the flowers, and Casey who played Josh Turner, George Strait, and old hymns on his guitar during the reception.
Everything was just perfect, and then I felt the drops of rain.
I had prayed so hard for God to give us beautiful weather on our wedding day. After all, it’s what every bride wants.
When I first felt the raindrops, I was talking to someone. I tried to keep talking and ignore the wetness I was beginning to feel pattering on my arms. Perhaps if I ignored the raindrops then they wouldn’t really be real?
I watched out of the corner of my eye as guests began to gather underneath the giant live oak trees and the white tents.
Oh no! How is this happening? I thought frantically. Everything will be ruined!
Then I saw my brother, Grant, walk toward me. He was holding a giant umbrella. He came and stood next to me as if nothing odd was happening. He didn’t say a word.
As he stood next to me, I suddenly realized that everything was going to be okay.
I was married. The day had been wonderful and the rain couldn’t change that. There was nothing to worry about.
As the rain fell, it brought something unexpected. It brought a cooling breeze that drove away the August heat and made everything feel more pleasant.
And just as soon as the rain had arrived, it was gone.
My dad’s voice gathered everyone around the old porch of the Pinckney Retreat home. He thanked everyone for coming and then announced that there were some people who wanted to share a few words.
To my surprise, all four of my brothers gave speeches. They shared childhood stories of us growing up together. They made jokes about my new husband. They made me laugh hysterically and they made me cry. I felt like I was constantly switching between smiles and tears.
I was crying not just because it was so special that they were sharing, but also because I couldn’t believe I married a guy that was like them in so many ways.
When the speeches were over, Grant took my hand and led me to the dance floor for our first dance.
Tis’ So Sweet to Trust in Jesus began to play as Grant started dancing with me. He gently led me as we moved across the old cobblestone bricks.
I felt a little uncomfortable knowing that everyone was staring at us, but Grant didn’t seem to mind. He held me gently, yet firmly. “Just follow my lead,” he reminded me. Dancing came so naturally to him and soon I began to relax as I remembered to just follow him.
As we danced, I realized that this was the beginning of so many things. This day was not the “end” of me trusting the Lord. Grant was not my ultimate goal that I had spent my whole life waiting for or the one who I had placed my hope in.
Yes, God had been abundantly good in bringing Grant into my life. But this was just one of many lessons. Just as God had called me to trust Him in the area of a future husband, He would call me to trust Him every day for the rest of my life.
This day would be a day that I could look back on and remember God’s faithfulness. It would be a monument in my life that I could call to mind when I needed to remind myself that the God who I follow is a God who takes notice of everything. He is a God who cares. He is a God who is concerned about His glory.
This day was just one day in the story that God had been weaving all along. I would have never known so long ago when I had first seen Grant’s photograph in the radio station, that the little blonde headed boy in the picture would one day be my husband. I would have never known that I would marry a Texas Aggie and a Marine Officer. I would have never known that a plane crash that happened when I was just a year old would affect me so greatly and that it would be the factor that brought Grant to visit Beaufort when he was in high school.
I didn’t know the big picture. And while I was beginning to see things that I hadn’t seen before, this was only the start.
“GraceAnna, look!” My mom came up to me sometime after we had cut the cake.
I turned in the direction that she was pointing, and there, arching over the salt marsh, was a rainbow.
Grant came up behind me and grabbed my hand.
“Come on! Let’s go out on the dock.”
We headed toward the water’s edge where everyone was gathering to admire the giant bow in the sky.
I didn’t notice at first, but then I realized it was a double rainbow.
Grant, I can’t believe God gave us a rainbow! A double rainbow! My heart filled with joy.
I thought about the very first rainbow that we know of which is recorded in the book of Genesis. It appeared after God’s worldwide judgment of sin.
The earth must have felt so barren and so different after the flood. But as Noah and his family stepped off the ark, they were greeted with a bow of colors in the sky. God was revealing to Noah and his family something about who He was. He was showing them that even in the cloud, He is there. That though the rains may come as a result of our sinful and broken world, He promises grace to those who belong to Him.
I hadn’t wanted it to rain that day. But now I realized why God had brought the rain. He was demonstrating that the way He does things is often the opposite way that we think they should happen. That He so often allows the rain, so that He can show us His glory and His grace in a way that we would have never seen it before.
My eyes filled with tears. I felt like this rainbow was God’s special wedding gift to us.
I felt like God was teaching me a lesson about who He is and who He will always be.
As I gazed at the beautiful array of colors that arched as far as I could see, I felt like He was near. And I knew, that no matter what the future held for us, He promised His grace to bring us through.
“GraceAnna,” Grant said to me as we stood on the dock staring out at the rainbow, “Let’s always follow hard after the Lord all the days of our lives.”
I took Grant’s hand in mine. “Yes, let’s.”