Song of Joy and Strength

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Creation begins with song. We know this because God asks Job where he was when God laid the foundations of the earth, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.

Singing and joy go together like champagne and bubbles: they are linked in God’s Word, in our response, and particularly in your life, Joy.

Marriage is a song.

Sometimes you will sing in unison, one voice high and one low. Other times you will sing in two-part harmony. The fugue employs different voices expressing the same theme in succession, weaving in and out, finally coming together at the end.

When quarrels come there will be discordant notes, squawks, squeaks and growls. As your arguments mature, they will sound less like a cat landing on a keyboard and more like two strong notes pushing together for resolution. A song without tension would be bland, and ultimately difficult to listen to. Some marriages avoid conflict, moving apart into parallel melodies that aren’t related. The tension of sustained chords comes when notes are close together.  Tension is not bad unless it is unresolved. Think of a four-part Amen, stopping on the AH–.

The time signature determines the rhythm. One of you can’t play a waltz (3/4 time) while the other is marching to the 4/4 beat.  Curt and I tried that this summer: it led to hiccups, glitches and confusion. Follow Stephen’s lead, secure in the knowledge that different seasons of life will bring new rhythms.

You are starting your life together in a major key. Your wedding will be a minuet: a bright and cheerful celebration. But, in your life, minor keys will come; grief is a part of all of our lives. Your song can reflect glory in both major and minor keys.  Accept the minor key seasons as a gift.

In one of Anthony Trollope’s books, a wife obeys every word her husband says with a treasonous attitude. He is a piece of work, but that’s not the point. She is icy, remote, but, in her mind correct and proper. This illustrates how vital our tone is. Timbre is the musical term for tone color. When Stephen tells you something, you respond “You did?” The tone of these words could communicate scorn, apathy, delight, or shock. May the tone of your marriage be as rich and warm as a cello or a saxophone.

Beautiful music requires practice, discipline and work. When you run across a glitch in a musical piece, you know that is where you need to slow down, understand the notes and repeat it again and again and again and again! There’s not much glamor in practice, but faithful diligence brings rewards.

Do you remember the flash mob videos in a shopping mall? It is always a delight to see a bystander perk up her ears, look around in wonderment and then settle in with a smile to see what happens. People stop talking, they stop walking, they stop shopping and they watch and listen. This is what your marriage will do when you are singing in tune, making a harmonious sound.  Your song will invite others to the Music.

I began with the pairing of singing and joy. Singing and strength is another common coupling. In some cultures, singing is a necessary component of work. Think the chain gangs in O, Brother Where Art Thou?, slave ships, cotton fields. Singing keeps you in sync, it helps you work harder than you thought possible. In Estonia the folk songs liberated the country from communism. Song brings the strength of unity.

Joy, everyone agrees that you are perfectly named. And, your new last name reflects joy and strength.

Song is powerful. It reaches into the nooks and crannies of our souls. It fortifies us; it loosens us up.  It bedazzles our senses; it thrills our spirit; it expresses our worship.
It changes us.

 ~ The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation. ~

Pachelbel’s Canon

 

[This post will alienate most of you, my dear readers. Be warned.]

Two weeks ago I played the piano for dear Anna’s wedding. Anna’s uncle and aunt, extraordinary musicians from Georgia, played violins. We had a sort of impromptu string trio. As we were reviewing music for the prelude, Uncle John, fiddling around, played the familiar phrase that begins Pachelbel’s Canon. I shuddered. Fixing a glare, pointing my index finger, I proclaimed “This will be a Pachelbel Free Wedding!!”

For a moment I rested my face in my hands.

“I’m sorry. It’s just so overdone…”  I barely knew these people and here I was issuing commands.

John grinned. “Why do you think we know it by heart?”

“So you don’t really want to play it?”

“No.” One syllable conveyed his meaning, make no mistake.

I exhaled and sighed at the same time.  “We are on the same side of the river?”

“Oh yes.”

 

Pachelbel’s Canon in D is the original three chord, twenty-two verse ditty. Exquisite the first seventy-three times you hear it. The seventy-fourth time, however, it loses its charm. Wedding musicians are bone weary of this piece. How many bridesmaids in the world have hesitation-stepped down an aisle to Canon in D? Somewhere beyond twenty-six million is my guess.

It’s time to stop the madness, people. If the bride or groom request Pachelbel, I will gladly (and sweetly!) play Pachelbel. But when I am asked to choose the music, it is good-bye dear Johann, I wish you well.

Back in the day, Paul Stookey’s Wedding Song was the rage. Practically a one note, one chord, monoculture of a song. Pick a note, a low note you like, and sing it three times to the words “There is love.” Then repeat the same note with “There is love.” Three same notes yet again to make sure the audience knows there is love. It finally fell out of favor. It has been a happy twenty-five years since I’ve heard that gem at a wedding.

It’s time to give Pachelbel’s Canon a well-deserved rest. Let our great-grandchildren rediscover it.

 

John, Rebecca and I played a postlude until the last row of guests were leaving their seats.

“It’s a wrap!” I gratefully smiled. It’s always a relief to not have muffed it up.

In muted tones, with a twinkle in his eye, John played the opening notes of Pachelbel’s Canon.

I just laughed.

Raise Your Joys and Triumphs High

 

So profound was Anna and Robert’s wedding that I can’t stop pondering its potent magic.

The families supporting and standing behind Robert and Anna are a fortress of fidelity. Three sets of grandparents sojourned to our beautiful Shire to witness the vows. I’m guessing around 150 years of marital faithfulness are represented in their marriages. Winsome, dignified, charming. These gentle folk are who I want to be when I grow up. Their flame is still burning, their love abides, they joyfully treasure each other in the sunset years. Clearly, their children and grandchildren adore them, rendering preference and respect. It was a comfort to move among these well-oiled relationships.

 

 

Also behind the bride and groom are delighted parents, grateful to be in this moment, so proud of their child and so pleased with his/her choice. Parents who have worked diligently to arrive at this junction, who rejoice to see maturity and beauty in their children.

Beside Robert and Anna are ten siblings (plus four added by marriage). Their devotion is palpable. Their toasts were deep with emotion involving some long, very throat-lumpish pauses. There’s a shadow of grief—the tiny sorrow of separation and change—the kind of shadow that with its shades highlights the bright joy. You see, these dear ones are cherished and respected. And yet, there was no sense of you-aren’t-good-enough-for-my-sister (daughter, brother, son). 

Robert and Anna are both glorious; a glory that comes from all directions: inward, upward, downward, outward.   

 

 

     Photo credit: Rebecca James

Each family’s culture was represented. Many of the Taylor clan wore salwar kurtas to the rehearsal to reflect their Indian heritage. The Hurley appreciation of excellent music was evident with Uncle John and Aunt Rebecca’s violin contributions to the music and in the congregational hymn We Are God’s People, the processional in other Hurley weddings. The Callihan rehearsal dinner had cowboy boots as centerpieces and barbed wire on the serving table. Callihans enjoy dramatic productions: the guys wrote and produced a skit for the evening’s entertainment.

 

 

 

 

It is deliciously simple and profoundly mysterious, this love between Robert and Anna. Grounded in faith, expressed in humility, bounded by restraint, Christ-centered, other-oriented, staggering in its beauty, strong as death. They are not perfect, but there is an excellence in their love that called for a robust celebration: navy dresses with daffodil yellow shoes, bold bright flowers, Anna’s entrance to For All the Saints, a homily focused on dancing together, a feast of home-made pies, a Father-Daughter led Grand March, Robert and Anna’s first dance to Eric Bibb’s Gratitude, and their departure as we sang the Lutkin Benediction. It was good. It was fitting. It was full of glory.

 

 

 

As Robert and Anna danced the next generation looked on, hopes and dreams germinating.

 

My account of Robert’s sister’s wedding

Robert’s dad, Wes Callihan, on this wedding

 

What Is Good?

 

My husband and I are separating today. I’m headed “up the branch” to celebrate dear Anna’s wedding to Robert. Curt leaves tomorrow for Washington to celebrate dear Lori’s wedding to Gunnar on the same day. These brides are treasures to us: radiant, glorious jewels. I love to witness a wedding with my hand firmly gripped by Curt’s, but I am up to the rim with joy that we can each take part in these concurrent weddings.

When I need only a few minutes of reading material, I often go to Alphabet Juice for a quick fix. On this double celebration week, I was astonished to discover what “good” means.

from root ghedhto unite, join, fit. Other derivatives: together, from the Old English togaedere, from the Germanic gaduri, in a body; gather, from the Old English gad(e)rian, from the Germanic gaduron, to come or bring together.

When we hear the words, “We are gathered here today to witness the joining of two lives,” it will all be good.

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.

I Do

I do.                        Two small words.    

Take.                      Four
Have.                    four-
Hold.                       letter
Love.                       words

Cherish.                 One of the longest word in the vows.

The words are simple.
Which is not the same as saying it is easy.
Sometimes it is remarkably rough.
After we’ve weathered difficult seasons we find ourselves still holding, loving, and cherishing.
 
Happy Anniversary, Curt! 33 Years! You make it easy.

::    ::     ::

We watched a Lark Rise to Candleford episode in which a father figure offers a poem to a nervous bride who fears her husband will stop loving her when he really knows her. Curt looks at me and asks, “Which poem, babe?”

As I thought, it was William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixéd mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
     If this be error, and upon me prov’d,
     I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

   

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