Category Archives: Marriage

‘Til Death Do Us Part

Last Sunday, our oldest daughter Rachel and her fiance Tim were married, in the sight of some 350 witnesses, and in the smiling presence of the Lord.

The beautiful couple!

The beautiful couple!

It was a beautiful, glorious and fun wedding, abounding in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Rachel and TJP (have to keep all the Tim’s straight) were gorgeous and handsome (you can figure out which was which) and their joy (and that of their friends and family) could be palpably felt throughout the ceremony and reception.

Typically, every wedding has at least some minor disaster, but if there were setbacks, they were easily conquered. The enjoyment of the guests was only rivaled by the smiles on the faces of the wedding party, as each vied with the other to be the most gracious. Our own Pastor Jim conducted the service, and Kelsie (Josh’s beloved wife), Ray (father of the groom), Lizzie and Tarah (sisters of the groom) all sang, with James (the son I never had, but always wanted) accompanying on the piano. Benaiah (sweetest grandson ever) was the ceremonial ring bearer, and Deborah and Anna (two of Tim’s cousins) stole the show as flower girls in their own miniature wedding gowns.

It is perhaps not surprising that Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding reception, and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is the name given for our eternal celebration, when we at last can live with God, enjoying His presence forever. If there is one thing that God approves, it is the permanent joining of a godly man and a godly woman in Holy Matrimony.

"I do!"

“I do!”

We had intended to have the wedding at our own church, but the renovation project of our sanctuary didn’t finish on time. So we cast about and found a nearby church that was willing to let us use their building. We sort of expected for them to be difficult to work with, since we weren’t members at their church, but instead they bent over backwards for us, helping us to coordinate the wedding, letting us have early access to the gym, and providing volunteer servers to help with our reception. Truly, it is good to be part of the family of God.

It is a difficult thing to give a daughter in marriage. Rachel is hardworking and frugal, so the expenses were less than I expected, and several relatives and friends helped considerably with the costs. No, the difficulty comes in handing over the care and protection of your little girl to another man. Even though I have known TJP for much of his childhood and young adulthood, there is still a terrifying moment when one stands on the precipice and looks over, wondering if this man (about to marry your daughter) will cherish her enough to make her happy.

And away they go.

And away they go.

At the end of the day, I had a few moments to reflect on the whirlwind sequence of events, and I remembered that the same God, who has walked Rachel down the aisle of her life, continues to walk with her as a grown woman and a wife. Although my stumbling role in her life has diminished considerably, God will continue to work in and through both Rachel and Tim, and will present them to Himself as radiant offerings of praise. I think I can live with that.

As a Papa, I do want to remark on a few things that made me very proud:

  • I was deeply impressed with Tim’s groomsmen. As the Japanese proverb says, “When the character of a man is not clear, look at his friends.” They were obviously solid, godly men, and they represented phases of his adult life beyond what I had observed. Knowing that Tim’s integrity and character were consistent over the past ten years really made me less worried about giving him my daughter’s hand.
  • I was so proud of how Rachel and Tim conducted themselves toward their guests. Some brides are so intent on being the focus of the event, that they treat their guests as second class citizens, but Rachel and Tim took every opportunity to give glory to God by making our friends and family the focus of their own efforts. They took nearly all their pictures in advance, so the guests didn’t have to wait before the reception. They released the ceremony attendees by rows (while sitting) so they didn’t have to stand in line to pay their respects. Even during the reception, Tim and Rachel played a fun shoe game that focused on the entertainment of the guests, rather than a self-serving activity.
  • If the shoe fits...

    If the shoe fits…

  • After the reception, Tim and Rachel snuck back to our house and spent a little more time with their groomsmen and bridesmaids, giving our family a final chance to say goodbye. It really helped me to have peace about them driving off into the sunset, as a married couple.
  • One of the best parts of the weekend (and indeed, two of the best days of my life) was listening to the toasts at the rehearsal luncheon. Several of my children spoke (along with most of the groomsmen and many of the bridesmaids) and each of them had memorable and profound things to say about how God has worked in Rachel and Tim’s lives. Then the next day, Joshua, Karis and Jenny each touched our hearts again with their speeches at the reception. As the Apostle John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

But how can we let our little girl go? How can my little Gingersnap be all grown-up, swooped thousands of miles away, starting her own life with TJP? Who will serve as our “riot leader”, watch Mega Mind with David, and giggle with Sarah late into the night? Who will talk fashion with Daniel and push him in making good choices, or provide Kathy with a shopping buddy and a steady supply of coffee beans? Rachel has often been the hub of activity and relationship in our home, and her bright love and ready laughter will be sorely missed.

My little girl...all grown up.

My little girl…all grown up.

Now they are in Florida, where TJP will soon graduate from his Air Force training; then on to Barksdale Air Force Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana. Having Rachel home for the summer was pure gold, but now we’ll have to scheme and plan for time with the newlyweds, as they establish their new identity as a family of their own.

A toast to the bride and groom!

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Wedding Feast Rehearsal

On Thursday I had the opportunity to attend the rehearsal dinner for my oldest son’s wedding. I was taken aback a little when most of the ladies were dressed in their First Communion Dresses. I supposed that was the format. Joshua and Kelsie were married on Friday evening, to the general delight and satisfaction of their assembled friends and family. We greatly enjoyed witnessing this momentous occasion as the newlyweds embark on the adventure of their marriage.

It was such fun to celebrate with Joshua and Kelsie.

It was such fun to celebrate with Joshua and Kelsie.

Being the father of the groom is a pretty good gig. Kelsie’s family took care of the reception and nearly all of the details of the wedding itself — all I had to do was show up, wear a suit, and pay for the rehearsal dinner. But I must admit, I had some misgivings a few weeks ago, when Kathy told me that I’d be providing a blessing at the end of the dinner.

Getting the room ready for the rehearsal dinner ...

Getting the room ready for the rehearsal dinner …

“A blessing?” I pictured some saint of old like Jacob or Isaac, blessing his sons on his deathbed. “I’m not sure I can pull off the whole patriarch thing,” I told Kathy (although I do have a beard). Later, on the phone, Joshua assured me that I was expected to make some final remarks at the Rehearsal Dinner. I decided I would put some thought into what I would say, rather than trusting entirely in my ability to extemporize. “You might want to make a few notes,” Kathy wisely counseled.

Little did I know that the testimonies and speeches during this event would be one of the highlights of my life.

It began with some of Kelsie’s family reflecting on her character and their relationship with her. Several had notes to which they frequently referred as they related various amusing anecdotes — I began to wish I had followed Kathy’s advice.

Michelle's idea to put up Christmas lights was excellent -- it really transformed the room.

Michelle’s idea to put up Christmas lights was excellent — it really transformed the room.

But then several of the groomsmen stood to speak about Joshua, and several of the bridesmaids spoke about Kelsie, and I began to realize that this was much more than a rehearsal dinner. This was a sacred celebration of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the students of Union University, and I was privileged with a front-row seat to the Christian community which had been built during the years that Joshua and Kelsie were in Tennessee.

We were blithe enough when we sent Joshua off to school at Union University. He had received a full tuition scholarship, and we really liked what we heard about the school from his cousin, Rebecca. Joshua’s faith in God was solid — we had little fear that he would fall away from the Lord as so many do, when they begin re-inventing themselves in college.

Rehearsal dinner preparation is always better with a coffee from Starbucks.

Rehearsal dinner preparation is always better with a coffee from Starbucks.

But I guess we didn’t really think through what would happen when Joshua got to school — how he would begin to intentionally surround himself with a cohort of other like-minded men of God, and what they would build through purposeful, obedient conviction, walking in faith together. As each of the young men and women stood and spoke about godliness, faithfulness and purity, I felt as though I was attending a rehearsal for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”

– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” — Revelation 19:6-9

We walked through the ceremony twice, and then settled into a back room of the church, crammed wall-to-wall with tables and chairs. With a wedding party of two-dozen, plus family members, we were a snug group of fifty or so.

I was worried about how tight the seating was, but it actually turned out very well -- it gave the meal a very intimate feel.

I was worried about how tight the seating was, but it actually turned out very well — it gave the meal a very intimate feel.

It was my role to conclude the time with my blessing — so as people were finishing the meal, I stood and warned the assembled wedding party and families that when I next stood up, their opportunity to speak would end. Then I sat back and enjoyed the show.

Two hours later, I leaned over to Kathy. “Should I put an end to this? Surely people have sat in these chairs long enough?”

It took some effort to fit the wedding party across the front of the church, but we eventually managed.

It took some effort to fit the wedding party across the front of the church, but we eventually managed.

Kathy encouraged me to sit tight, and I settled back into my chair as two or three more people stood to testify. Each story contributed to the central theme: that Christ is glorified in Joshua and Kelsie, but also among the other students of that college in a rare and deeply-satisfying way.

What a lovely group of bridesmaids!  Kelsie is very blessed to have so many dear sisters and friends.

What a lovely group of bridesmaids! Kelsie is very blessed to have so many dear sisters and friends.

I realized that I wanted my younger sons and the other young men present to hear these testimonies — to catch a vision for what God can do when a few young people stand together in obedience to His Word and the Holy Spirit. As I later commented in my blessing, we were witnessing the joining of three families — Joshua and Kelsie’s natural families, plus the family of faith that they had built at Union.

If ever a father could have his dearest wish, it was granted to me, as I sat in that back room of the church: heart full of joy, tears brimming in my eyes, listening to the closest friends and relatives of my son and soon-to-be daugther-in-law speak of the work of Jesus in their lives. Truly John wrote: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” — 3 John 1:4

Thank you, Joshua and Kelsie, and thank you to all of your friends and relatives for so many kind and Christ-honoring words. Thank you, Debbie Le, Michelle Kuhlmann and Beckie Madson for slaving behind the scenes to make the rehearsal dinner a success. And thank you, Lord Jesus, for granting us new life and joy and making all this possible!

Project 365, Day 351

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Double Date

I recently resumed the practice of reporting weekly on my goals.

This took quite a bit of gumption, since I’ve not been in the habit of reviewing my goals this year — and as Dee Duke says, a goal that is not reviewed is not much of a goal. There is a strange correlation between reviewing goals and actually pursuing them; you’d think by now I would have caught on to this.

Anyway, I started reporting on my goals, and the first week I earned a rather low (unweighted) score of 38%. This means that I managed to complete only slightly more than one third of the things that I had decided were important for me to do.

(Parenthetically, this is one of the most annoying things about goals. It would be one thing if goals were brutally imposed by oppressive, external forces; but when you set your own goals and still can’t achieve them, it is just sort of pathetic.)

So as soon as I sent the email reporting the abysmal 38% score, I determined to do better. Surely I could improve to at least 50%, I wondered?

One of my goals is to celebrate a date night with my Sweetie each week. It doesn’t seem like a very hard goal, but you would be surprised how quickly a week can go by without remembering to date your Sweetie. So this week I decided in advance that it would be Friday night. Kathy and I usually don’t have anything going on that night, and that would give me all week to plan.

It looked pretty, if I do say so myself.  OK, at least the girls were pretty.

It looked pretty, if I do say so myself. OK, at least the girls were pretty.

Except I forgot to plan. I’m not a big planner, in any case, and it was Friday morning before I knew it. Hurriedly, I rummaged around in my brain for a good idea, like the way you might rummage around in a spilled bag of candy, hoping for one that wasn’t noticed by those who came before you.

And then it hit me — why not a double date with some of our friends? Now that so many of our kids are grown and gone off to college, maybe Kathy and I could pretend to be grown up ourselves, and have a date with another married couple! Kathy has a lot of good girlfriends, and I really like a lot of their husbands, so it seemed like a good idea.

A couple of years ago, we got together with seven other couples and cooked a meal together, with the men divided into two teams and competing for the best entree with randomly assigned ingredients. It took hours for us to actually produce a meal, with some rather interesting results, but as a social event, it was a smashing success.

So I decided to trade on that achievement, and texted my friend Chris.

“How ’bout we double-date with our wives, tonight,” I offered. “We can whip up a meal for them, and then watch a movie or something. My house. Sound good?”

Chris quickly jumped on the band wagon. Did I mention he is an accomplished chef? So we cooked a delicious meal of grilled chicken and brown rice, with peppers and zucchini and onions and a few small tomatoes, all brushed with oil and sizzling on the grill. I set the table complete with tablecloth, cloth napkins, a candlestick, and crystal water goblets.

So delicious!

So delicious!

We sat and talked about our children (what else do old married people talk about?) and then watched a movie — it was a very pleasant evening! I think this whole date night thing might be worth continuing. Stay tuned for next week’s installment.

Project 365, Day 247

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An Engaging Couple

Some three years ago, my oldest son went off to college. It seemed harmless enough, at the time.

As these things sometimes transpire, he immediately noticed a certain red-headed girl on campus, and one thing led to another. Today, in a small gazebo on Tranquility Island (Kerrville, TX) in the middle of the Guadalupe river, Joshua proposed to Miss Kelsie Leaf, who graciously consented to become his wife.

We think this is the actual gazebo, courtesy of the interweb.

We think this is the actual gazebo, courtesy of the interweb.

Although they have not yet fixed a date, there is talk of a December wedding. We are so delighted to welcome Kelsie into our family (or invite ourselves into hers) and we hope and pray that God will bless them greatly as they take this monumental step.

The ring itself.

The ring itself.

It is strange to think of my son beginning to found his own household — it seems only just last year I was teaching him to crawl up and down the stairs in our Stamford, CT house. Admittedly, it was 1994, which is technically a little more than a year ago. (My grip on reality is sometimes a bit tenuous.) In any case, we are so excited to see the love that Joshua and Kelsie have for each other.

They do look ridiculously happy together, it is true.

They do look ridiculously happy together, it is true.

Joshua is not really into pictures, and so he neglected to have a professional wedding photographer present to record the entire story for the benefit of remote relatives who just might have an interest. For this reason, we are forced to use pictures from this Spring, of the two of them as a couple.

As the scripture says:

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD. (Proverbs 18:22)

Of course, with marriage between a man and a woman serving as a template for our relationship with God, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention God’s intention for engagement:

And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. (Hosea 2:19)

We will be praying that God will continue to bless Joshua and Kelsie with some of that steadfast love for each other.

"He always was a good-looking kid," I told his mother.

“He always was a good-looking kid,” I told his mother. Whatever you may think about that, Kelsie looks beautiful, nestled into his shoulder.

Congratulations on your engagement, Kelsie and Joshua! We are so happy for you both!

Project 365, Day 178

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Just Another Day in Paradise

It is hard to believe that it is already Saturday — and yet we have already enjoyed three-and-a-half full days of tropical sun, water and glorious beach. If today was our last day, we could easily come home fully satisfied with having experienced ‘A Caribbean Vacation’.

We haven't actually used it yet, but the tennis court is pristine, and (of course) has a view of the beach.

But it is not our last day. We aren’t leaving until Wednesday afternoon — four more incredible days await us. As Kathy and I sit with our laptops, side-by-side at the kitchen counter, looking out at the water, we continue to be amazed at God’s grace and goodness to us, that we can enjoy this. Just this morning, I was thinking about how incredible it is to have eyes that can see all the contrasts of colors and shades within colors — even though I have to squint sometimes, I almost want to drink in the scenery with my eyes.

The pool is as warm as bathwater, and useful for snorkeling practice, or just to rinse off the salt, sand and coral at the end of the day.

Yesterday we drove around the island and saw many of the poorer parts. For all its lush vegetation, the island is mostly coral and rock — we didn’t see a lot of arable farm or garden land. It seems evident that many homes have been abandoned or are unused, most of the time — sad to think of the lost opportunities bound up in those properties.

Kathy enjoyed a delicious Mexican salad at the Seaside Cafe, at Ocean Club West. I had a very tasty blackened-fish sandwich, with a mountain o' fries.

It is a little weird driving here — very strange when you come over a hill, around a corner and there is a car in the lane to your right, coming towards you. There’s a moment when you grip the wheel in panic, ready to swerve out of the way, before your brain kicks in: “It’s OK, you’re supposed to be on the left side, he isn’t going to hit you!” Sure enough, no one has hit us yet — the drivers here have actually been quite kind and courteous, with only an occasional luxury SUV careening at double the legal speed limit.

As we step out our door, these flowers greet us each morning.

We visited several of the other resorts, including the Ocean Club West, the Royal West Indies Resort, the Paradise Caribbean Inn, and the Seven Stars Resort. We decided to limit our stay here at the Aquamarine Beach Houses to a mere seven nights, and to spend our last night on the island at one of the other resorts. I must admit, I’m leaning toward the Seven Stars as the culmination of our visit — it was very swanky.

Breakfast on our own little beach side patio -- and of course, you can't go wrong with a good biscuit or two.

We’ve mostly been cooking our own food, partly for economy and partly because of the norovirus that struck some of the all-inclusive resorts just before we arrived. Still, dining at the beach, on food that someone else has prepared, has a definite charm.

There was this one lady in a pink hat that kept staring at me, all through lunch -- I suppose this is the sort of adventure you must expect, in the tropics. Maybe she is Mrs. Pollifax's beautiful niece?

One question we’ve been asking people who live on the island, is whether the beauty of the beaches has become routine or mundane to them. No one has yet admitted to this, but a few have seemed startled by the question — I can imagine that after a few years, you might become inured to the beauty, just as we have come to take our mountains and rivers for granted, where we live.

This morning, Kathy asked me, “What is one thing you would like to change, when you get back home?”

“I’d like to make better use of our mountains,” I told her. “There are people here on this island who will never see a mountain, all their lives, and we sit at home, not really exploring them or getting the most out of them.”

Maybe this year I’ll actually take the kids camping or something.


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