Wedding Glory

The Grand Occasions of my life are never complete until I’ve written about them. Zack and Addie’s wedding was certainly a Grand Occasion.

Tuesday, June 26, 4:30 p.m.  Zack’s family (minus Zack and his best man, Rex) arrived at our home in Oregon. We talked and laughed around our table, the mood buoyant with anticipation. After dinner, we got busy. Di, mother of the groom, measured out bushels of flour for bread dough. John, father of the groom, got his guitar out to practice a song he had composed for the occasion. Reunited sisters and girlfriend set up their camp in a spare bedroom. Brennan, youngest brother, did what he was created to do: shoot hoops.

Wednesday, June 27, 7:10 a.m.  The family, coffeed and victualed, loaded into the van.  I love the next five words: Di stayed at my house. It was the day to cook, bake, combine, marinate. Her three-ringed binder had all the recipes. We zested lemons, chopped garlic, thickened berries, boiled pasta, cut basil, diced prosciutto, quartered artichokes, blended lime dressing. We did all the prep work that’s doable the day before a dinner for 55 people. And we talked, filling in the back stories of our lives. We sat down once for a think session. When the moon was suspended in the sky, we stopped.

Thursday, June 28, 6:30 a.m.  My husband Curt helped us fill every space in our coolers and cars the next morning. With walkie-talkies on the same channel, we embarked on the drive through bedazzling mountain passes. We stopped in Enterprise, Oregon, so Di could hold baby Solomon and to pick up Anna, for whom in twelve hours I would be thanking God about every minute.

Thursday, June 28, 6:15 p.m.  Rolls on the table, drinks in the dispensers, salads on the buffet, candles lit, places set: hurry up chicken and be done! Near disasters have been averted; several times Anna, the red-headed wonder, and I have locked eyes over the kitchen work space and said, “What are we going to do?” Addie and I share a hug, the first time we’ve met in person. The dinner looks, smells and tastes delicious. Murmuring voices, ice tinkling in glasses, forks clinking on plates, giggles forming a double helix in the air: these are the sounds of a gloriously good meal. Slideshow, skits, toasts, hugs, tears, smiles, songs. As parents, we labor for years to get to this moment of fruition.   

Friday, June 29, 6:30 p.m.  You could not pick a more picturesque setting for a wedding: rolling hills, slanting sun, peaceful air, exquisite music. As I am accompanied down the aisle, the usher says, “You need to sit in the family section.” I gulp, awed by the honor. Minutes before the ceremony begins, we are upgraded to the front row! Grateful for the opportunity to imprint the images for dear ones agonizing in their absence, I raise my camera. One by one the ten bridesmaids walk down the lawn in their cobalt blue heels, each one praying that she stays upright.

Friday, June 29, 7:05 p.m.  We stand. Wes walks his youngest daughter to her future. I take about 20 pictures of Zack, capturing the sunrise of his smile. This ceremony is invested with meaning, with solemn joy. Bridesmaids wipe their eyes. I’m needing air in my lungs. This is the moment that restricts my throat. The Daddy (as we who have read Mma Ramotswe books say) comes to that moment when all things change. He kisses his darling girl, he shakes the groom’s hand. And he steps back. Exhale. And then Addie’s fingers are linked in Zack’s. Her eyes only strayed from Zack when the pastor was talking directly to her. The homily was like the best-crafted novel. The tone was heavier than most wedding sermons, creating tension. This is all true, but why here? Why now? I wondered. And then Pastor Sumpter began resolving that tension, weaving truth into a magnificent strand, bringing it home with grace.

Friday, June 29, 7:35 p.m.  The kiss! Whoa. It began like most kisses begin, but then it changed. He dipped her, tango-style, and that man kissed his wife! Applause breaks forth. The bride and groom stand, facing the guests, irrepressible smiles. They are Married! The slightest pause, before the music begins, signalling a change in the mood. Party On!

Friday, June 29, 8:45 p.m.  Dad, dad, granddad, brother, brother, and cousin give toasts that also set this wedding apart from a typical wedding. A poem crafted for the occasion, wise words, funny comments, closing with a prayer from The Book of Common Prayer. Words that widen the moment, another dividend from the huge investment made by both families. After all the glasses have been lifted, we move to the lawn. Darkness has settled down into a comfortable sprawl. Tiki torches punctuate the fence, candles on tables keep winking. The dancing mimics the ceremony, a final reprise. The Daddy and Addie dance, smiling. Zack and Addie dance, singing to each other, encapsulated in their love. Guests join on the dance lawn. With each new song, the volume increases, the arms get higher. No DJ was needed to talk into mikes and direct traffic. At the appointed time, fireworks fill the sky. Zack and Addie run to their car under a canopy of sparklers held by the guests. Oh glorious day!

 

 

Photos are on Facebook. 

The wedding homily.

The rehearsal dinner recipes.

The Best Crescent Rolls

 

 

Decades ago my neighbor called me up.
“I have extra rolls, would you like them with your dinner?”
Yep. She’s some kind of wonderful.

They. were. stupendous.

I prayed that this wasn’t a secret family recipe.
I think she dictated directions over the phone.
As you can see, my recipe card has survived a Niagra of spills.

This is a vintage recipe.
Given before the days of KitchenAid mixers in every kitchen.
So half the time you use a hand-mixer,
then you shift to mixing by hand.

The good old days of mixing and kneading by hand.

Rhonda’s Rolls

1/2 cup canned milk
1 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 pkg yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 t salt
2 eggs
5 1/2 cups flour

In large mixing bowl add yeast to water.
Add canned milk, oil, sugar, salt and eggs.
Mix well.
Add half the flour; using mixer, mix well for 3 minutes.
Add the rest of the flour cup by cup,
mixing with wooden spoon.
Knead dough for 10 minutes.

Wash out bowl and coat bottom with oil.
Place dough in pan and rise until doubled.
Punch down and cut in half.
Roll dough into a circle shape.
Cut like a pizza.
Roll up and place on cookie sheet.
Let rise until double.
Bake 400° for 6-8 minutes.

 

 

Above: Baked in my nifty Demarle Flexipan.
Below: Baked on a pizza stone.

 

Notes:

I always double this recipe. The family demands it.
I use whole milk instead of canned.
I buy yeast in bulk. 1 package = 1 scant Tablespoon
I used to brush melted butter over the tops.
Now I spray olive oil cooking spray.

Oh yes. I make the entire recipe, kneading and all,
in a Kitchen Aid or Bosch mixer.

 

For All the (Online) Saints

 

Stephanie (middle) and I met in the comments sections of Donna’s (right) blog, Quiet Life. We had many “you, too?” moments when we discovered that we both loved music, particularly hymns, specifically Ralph Vaughan Williams, and what about this phrase in For All the Saints

Kindred was a word Steph and I kept using to describe our relationship. We both had moments, those capsules of time where everything outside the moment turns all fuzzy and bokeh, when the overwhelming beauty of words—usually expressed musically—envelops you. “Repeat” is a necessary function when we can’t get enough of a new song, even after twenty listens. We know what it is to play the piano (and organ, for Steph) through tears of sheer joy. One of Steph’s favorite lines is lost in wonder, love, and praise.

It’s inexplicable, isn’t it, how music extracts deep pockets of pain and sharp piercings of joy and distills them into beauty. How tendrils of music reach deep into the soul and loosen the packed-together clumps. How a tune can both move and paralyze you. How an unexpected chord progression makes all your muscles go slack in amazement. How sound waves can physically alter your body. (I speak here of goosebumps.)

So my sister Dorothy and I drove three hours through autumnal wonder to share three hours with Steph, Donna, and Donna’s daughter Katie. Lunch at the the local Mexican restaurant was a minuet of conversation, stories and laughter. It must’ve taken us a half hour to get to the point where we could look at menus and order. After lunch we went to Stephanie’s church, Trinity Episcopal, where a pipe digital organ was recently installed. I can say with conviction that I have never seen a more beautiful small church. It is, from this day, my picture of Lord’s Chapel when I read Jan Karon’s Mitford books.

 

   

The first long hug, the shared meal, the photos outside—all these were a delightful prelude. But when I heard my current favorite hymn, Only Begotten, on a pipe organ played by a friend who has music threaded throughout her DNA, I took deep drinks of truth, goodness, and beauty. Because it was not a formal concert, I could squeal when she moved from one key to another (modulation in musicspeak) with a gorgeous sequence of chords. Stop! How did you do that? And she translated.

My current definition of heaven is this: a gifted and beloved friend playing my requests on the pipe digital-but-sounds-like-pipe organ.

I cried…joyful tears.

I hurt…because beauty is sharp and shining.

I sang…because how could I keep from singing?

Steph moved to the keyboard and the magic continued. She weaves O, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus in a way that you hear the ocean currents. As we sang and listened there were undercurrents of understanding, unspoken connections. We sang Donna’s favorite, How Great Thou Art. Before we could quite catch a breath, our time was over, and I was wondering if it was a dream or for reals. 

Today, November 1st, Stephanie’s Christmas CD, Cradle & Cross, is released. You can sample and purchase it for download at Amazon or iTunes. Or you can order CD’s here.

Donna blogged about our meeting, with fabulous pictures, here.

 

::          ::          ::

 

 May I add a bit about Katie?
Inside my head, I call some people BIO-[insert name].
Katie is BIO-Katie.
Beautiful, inside and out.

She was gracious when I said, upon meeting her,
“I feel like I know you, Katie!”
All her mom’s fans say that.
Note to self: next time say something more original.

She was engaged, thoughtful, and articulate,
contributing to our conversations.

Clearly, she is cherished.
It shows.
Her presence added to an already special day.

It was great to meet you, Katie.

 

A Twice Blessed Dress

   
 

This is a blessing-saturated story.

It is a story of a search for the perfect dress, of joyous overlapping friendships, of mothers, daughters and sisters, of a dress twice blessed by a beautiful woman wearing it, of the smack down cancer got, and how Facebook facilitated the fine exchange.

The story begins one year ago when Katie became engaged. There are two major decisions after a ring finds its home on the bride-to-be’s finger: the date and the dress. Katie’s wedding required an abundance of dresses. Each one reveals a story: Katie’s splendid wedding dress that Jan, Katie’s mom, insisted on buying.  Jan’s elegant mother-of-the-bride dress that Katie and her sister Abbey spotted, loved and made Jan try on. My ruched bridesmatron’s dress that Abbey found.  The eight unique flower girl dresses that Abbey sewed. (See these wonderfully whimsical dresses at Katie and Jeff’s Wedding Journal).

In California another family was anticipating a wedding.  Two sisters, Jean and Joy, were searching for the perfect dress for Ernestene, their mom, to wear to Laura’s (Jean’s daughter) May wedding.  When Curt and I began our married life in 1978, Amos, Ernestene, Jean and Joy were family to us; their home was our home-away-from-home.  They fed us dinner at least once a week; we shared holidays; we were companions.  I can still hear the laughter that rebounded around their table.

Amos and Ernestene’s golden wedding anniversary in December was tarnished by a serious cancer diagnosis.  A lifetime of love, care, and compassion which Ernestene had cheerfully dispensed returned to her in effusive expressions of love and concern.  Chemotherapy, however, was nastifying Ernestene’s life, making the basics like eating and drinking a challenge. “We just give her a variety of things to dislike.” 

Chemotherapy kept Ernestene from shopping.  Finding a dress meant finding hope, hope that joy and beauty lurked beyond this dire moment. Even a woman like Ernestene, who has cheerfulness woven into her DNA, who as a sick patient concerns herself with how her nurses are doing, needs occasional infusions of good cheer. When Joy saw Katie’s wedding pictures on my Facebook page, she noticed Jan’s elegant dress.

And so began a fabulous correspondence through Facebook messages. 

I copy and pasted like crazy.  Joy asked the label of Jan’s suit; I sent it to Katie. Katie replied Jessica Howard including further details; I messaged Joy.  Joy: “Carol, I’ve looked and can’t find THAT dress… crazy idea, but potentially the best…would Katie’s mom tell us the size and be willing to sell or rent it to mom if it is a fit?”  Some of Joy’s messages were written from the hospital by Ernestene’s bed.

It was a fit!  Less than a month after first message, Ernestene had a dress hanging in her closet for her granddaughter’s wedding. Sweet relief! Jan had been wondering how long to keep a dress she didn’t expect to wear again and was glad to send it to Ernestene.      

When I saw the picture of Amos and Ernestene, two strong towers in our formative years, walking down the path to Laura’s wedding, I wept. 

Don’t both women–who look alike and whose hallmark is kindness–look radiant in that Jessica Howard suit? 

It’s true that Facebook devours time, immobilizes people, and can keep us from partaking of the succulent bits of life.  But in times of distress, Facebook can disseminate information to people everywhere.  It allows friends to share pictures of their kids and grandkids. And it can bring blessings in the form of a dress.

My search for a mother of the groom dress
The dress I wore
A dress I wore the day I got married

Because I love weddings:

All I ever wanted was a Cinderella dress and Gerbera daisies.

She wore cowboy boots under her grandma’s wedding dress
Flower girls flinging flowers
I particularly liked Queen Elizabeth’s canary suit for the royal wedding
The defining moment of Jon and Lindsey’s wedding
The most courageous wedding picture ever taken…before the ceremony
An extraordinary lover’s knot in a wedding
Jackie came down the aisle to Non Nobis

Reunited, Reconnected, Real


  
Nancy, Barbara, Audrey, Eileen, Carol, Ruth


We hadn’t all been together since 1971. And, honestly, back then we weren’t all that together. Our friendships as young teen-aged girls were fluid.  Some appeared to have evaporated.  But a residue of goodwill and lingering love remained strong after almost 40 years. 


  


We hold a joint tenancy in our childhood.  A childhood of bobby socks, black patent leather shoes, of fancy hats, pretty dresses and bubbling enthusiasm.





And we love the Lord Jesus Christ.

We were raised by (some of) the pillars of Lombard Gospel Chapel.  Our dads and moms were quality men and women who invested themselves in serving people.  In a sense they mortgaged themselves to the Lord. Look at the photos and you see ordinary people. But they were beyond extraordinary.  Brilliant, creative, hospitable, warm, beautiful, sacrificial, they left a swath behind them of people whose lives were touched hugged forever changed. However, they could also be cranky, remote, hurting, conflicted, angry.  We know.  We are their daughters. 


 


In July, in the space of 24 hours, we found each other.  Emails flew back and forth. It became imperative that we be together under one roof.  We were flung across the country; Audrey lived in England but was moving to Albania.  It probably won’t work out to get together, but let’s try.  Ruth organized details, we bought tickets, Eileen whipped up spreadsheets, Nancy learned to click Reply All (♥ you, Nancy!), and finally we were in the Atlanta airport Atrium adding a link with each arrival. One cabin, six friends, 66 hours.


 


Eileen’s husband transported us from the airport to their home.  Frank made a killer Italian meal (lasagna, chicken escalopes with Marsala, sausages, a Caprese salad, bread, olives and pickles) served on the Desert Rose china Eileen inherited from her mom.  A traditional Italian meal is never the food on the table, but the people around it. It was the perfect prelude to our cabin time.  We talked and laughed through the meal, mingling memories, laughter and great food. 





We had 66 hours. We wanted to structure our time wisely.  Enter focus time.  Each girlfriend told her story, taking as long as needed.  With background sounds of rain falling and birds cawing, one quiet voice was heard. We cried, we laughed, we listened, we took notes. We asked questions, spoke encouraging words. Then the five of us prayed: blessings, thanksgivings and intercessions.  We sang old songs in that tight a capella harmony we grew up with.  She showed us her pictures.  It took at least three hours per person





We arrived at the reunion ready to be real. Like an onion, we peeled through all the protective layers until the core was visible. One thread that weaved its way through our childhood stories was the importance of appearances. If there were problems in the home, we put on happy faces and pretended there weren’t. At the cabin, there was no pretense. At the end of our weekend we knew each other.  Isn’t that one of our deepest longings, to be fully known and completely loved?

 



After one friend finished her story, the heavy silence of grief blanketed us.  We discovered that normal for us included pain.  In every case.  Cheerful and thankful hearts we have, but hearts that are acquainted with sorrow.  We called our time friend therapy.





We ate incredible meals. Each member of the Sisterhood of “In Jesus’ Name Amen, Let’s Dance!” provided  a scrumptious meal. Frittata, Chai, Enchiladas, Baked Blueberry French Toast, Cashew Chicken, fantastic salad. We are, after all, our mothers’ daughters and our mothers produced a lifetime of amazing meals.
 



Here was a gathering of six strong women.  Six smart women.  Whatever mistakes our parents made, they did something right.  A whole lot of somethings right. 


 


It was one of the best weekends of my life.  Our expectations were high, but our experience soared.  We don’t know why we were given such a gift, such a mercy.  It was a catharsis, a cleansing, a completion.  It sounds weird for 53-year-old women to say, but as of this weekend our childhood is officially closed.  What doesn’t make sense doesn’t make a difference.  We are changed.  And we belong to each other. It was an epic weekend, a monumentally joyful time, a threshold to heaven.
 

Truly great friends are hard to find,

difficult to leave

and impossible to forget.


 

To Kenya

Do you like my new laptop tote? 
It’s kind of cute, eh?

It (and contents) is on its way to Kenya. 
My heart, a huge chunk of it, is on its way to Kenya. 

Katie, a family member by love instead of blood,
(meaning we’ve adopted each other as family)
is going to Kenya to work as support staff
at a Trauma Healing Conference.

Representatives from more than 15 African countries
will get training to help those who have been through
war, natural disasters and other traumas.

Katie spent her childhood in Zimbabwe.
She has been back to Africa multiple times.

Go well, my friend.

Lingering


Last night was like a perfectly
balanced algebra equation. 

We had eaten (a simple, scrumptious
meal of salad, bread and wine) and prayed (for Zimbabwe, for Family Camp this
weekend, for healing, for the neighborhood of the new church, for a struggling
single mom, giving thanks for new babies safely born)  and were sitting in the
solarium on the back of our friends’ house, relaxing, laughing, bantering,
reminiscing.  Jo was home from college, Tim just graduated from high school, the
good father had arrived home  after another day practicing medicine. 

We sat there
enjoying one another. 

Two hummingbirds frequented the feeder, flowers winked at
us, eyes sparkled and danced, and we devoured the visual feast before our eyes. 

Curt and I took turns murmuring our
need to go, but we made no move to leave.  We were settled and at peace. We
lingered, soaking in the goodness of a friendship that spanned many years.  It
was a moment full of grace, full of suspended beauty.  But the glorious melody
of the moment moved forward to the coda, a coda which would bring us to the end of the day. 
Reluctantly, we rose and took our leave.

Outside, daylight was hovering,
peeking over the mountain ridge.  We drove a hundred yards and watched a herd of
50-60 elk move through the tall grass.  They had been crossing the road, but ran
back when we pulled over to watch.  Have you ever seen elk run?
 Their elegance seems impossible with their bulk.  Mama elk
called to their calves; Collin and Curt imitated the calls, but no calves came
running toward us.  We gazed at the groups, multiple parabolas, merging,
dividing, curving, gathering. 

The sweet scent of freshly mown hay wafted from the
adjoining field.  A passing car occasionally interrupted the stillness.  Dusk
descended; distant lights twinkled.  Curt started the car, and we drove home in
companionable silence.  It had been a fine day. 

Maybe I am getting old, but I see
these moments as treasures to cherish. 

It was ordinary prayer group and yet it
was precious.  Our batteries were re-charging, preparing for energy required in
days to come.  We reconnected and agreed that it was very good.  I wanted to
write it down, to keep the memory from dissolving into the air.  I want to
remember this day and to give thanks for it.

He whose heart is
kind beyond all measure

Gives unto each day
what He deems best,

Lovingly its part of
pain and pleasure,

Mingling toil with
peace and rest.

 ~ Lina
Sandell


* photo from another evening of lingering in York, England