Warning: long blog ahead!
Whew.... I sit here typing and desperately needing a cup of coffee because I am still so tired. But I will try to gather my thoughts enough to somehow share my thoughts on "The Wedding". Okay, I convinced Hannah to make me a cup so I'm good... I have great kids.... sniff, sniff...
Weddings-some may ask... What's the big deal? Why spend so much time and money and ask for prayer for a ceremony that will last at the most, one hour? I suppose some are definitely overdone... but weddings ARE significant. The one I had the privilege of being heavily involved in this weekend was VERY significant. It is a milestone in the lives of the Johnson and Ortego families. Up there in importance with births and deaths. If you've ever studied covenant, you will see how alot of today's wedding traditions stem from the ancient covenant practices of the Bible. When someone "cut a covenant" with another, they became as one... I will protect you, you will protect me. They often exchanged a gift- a ring, a sword. They often took on each other's names. They became responsible for the other party. A drink from the same cup, a bite of the same food was shared... Covenant. It's what God cut with us beginning with Abraham and completed through the death of His Son on the cross. Except He alone can keep up His end of the bargain perfectly. His life for ours. And our lives belong to Him. He is responsible for us. He is faithful and trustworthy. And He has taught me this through this wedding process... Covenant has become real. Covenant is very significant, even today. And that is what I participated in this past weekend. The public celebration and authentification of a covenant made between a man and a woman- my precious daughter. Two lives becoming one, pledged to each other until death. I was so blessed to be intimately involved in every detail of this covenant celebration (although at times, I thought I might come out of this with a nervous tick as a souvenir...)
Anyway, until I became the "mother of the bride", I was fairly ignorant to the whole wedding process... Back last summer when they first got engaged, I was thinking, 'what's the big deal? We can pull this off without breaking a sweat'. Its amazing how easy things look in the dim future... As the future became the present, panic began to set in. So many details.... Details upon details. Details I never thought of before. Lists became my constant companion. I carried them everywhere. I say 'them', because I had many... Hannah's old math notebook contained most of them. Lists on receipts, Lists on lists.... Details woke me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.... "Oh what if I hadn't thought of that! What could have happened?" (As if my future grandchildren would be in jeopardy if we forgot serving spoons or ice!) This has been my life for the last several months, but in concentrated doses the last few weeks. We honestly could have never pulled this off without Beverly Ortego, Josh's mom. Poor thing. Usually the mother of the groom gets a bit of a break... Yes, there's the rehearsal dinner, but other than that, she could have technically, ethically, morally sat back and watched me chase my tail with a clear conscience... But no, she jumped in there with me and many times bailed me out. I owe her a lot... If you ever need a kidney or anything Bev, I'm your man! (although I'm a woman... but you catch my drift). With her experience in wedding planning, I was in good hands.
I made some discoveries through this wedding journey... I realized that I am extremely detail oriented. That may be obvious to those who know me, but I guess it wasn't to me. The details nearly were the death of me,. But the details got covered (although often occuring to me at 2 am), they got written down on one of my infernal lists and in the end, they got checked off! (Which is the most satisfying feeling for a OCD like myself).... I discovered that my daughter is very decisive and a confident leader. She knows what she wants and she has her Dad's (cough) stubbornness to not budge on her stand. It was exasperating at times, but in the end, she planned the most beautiful wedding any of us could have forseen. She never waffled on decisions but was confident and sure. I came to admire her strength and to not see her just as my little girl, but as a young woman who is a true leader... I discovered the generosity of the Body of Christ. I can not tell you how many people were involved helping with this wedding. People who didn't know us that well, but who said- I'll just take care of that, don't worry about it. People prepared food, served it, cleaned up. Wow... I discovered the type of friends we have. The Cutrones missed the wedding because they were seeing to it that the Coleman's had all of the help they needed for the reception. The Doucets and Will stayed after everyone had left to help with clean up and delivery back to the church. Stacey and Kirk drove all of the way from Kansas City to be there to help. My oldest friend Carole drove four hours by herself and her two girls to make sure she was there for me. Nicole Brown giving of her time to keep us organized. Scott and Russell straightening up the sanctuary the next morning. Margie getting me a pedicure the week before :^). As Proverbs says- "Many hands make light work". Too many servants to mention here, and I thank them all! I cannot tell you how much that meant to us. People prayed for us. They took this wedding on as their personal prayer project and prayed us through it. My sister and Mom certainly did that. I am in awe of God's grace and mercy and love delivered through human hands. I will be forever grateful..
Now all of these months of planning were leading up to this one moment. The week before I was nervous and busy. I knew that this was Haley's dream. To marry the man of her dreams in a meaningful, God-glorifying, beautiful ceremony with a fun reception. My mother's heart wanted it to be just like that for her. So I started my prayer list early on- My prayers went something like this: "Lord, let the ceremony be special, meaningful, may it be anointed. May You be glorified. May people be touched. Let Haley forever remember it. Let it be beautiful Lord and really represent them and who they are. Cushion mine and Keith's emotions Lord and help us to hold it together and somehow enjoy and cherish the ceremony. Lord, let Kent please wear a suit... (does Kent Henry, Mr. Aloha Shirt, even own one Lord?) Please let the ceremony flow with no problems. Let the reception be fun and let us have enough food! " I guess I made God a list too... He didn't seem to mind. Because He answered every single concern I had (even Kent-who married them- in a suit!). He answered well beyond our imaginations. Again- God teaching us about His covenant faithfulness to us and convicting us of our unbelief , all the while building faith in us...
After the craziness of the week before, we woke up Saturday to a tangible peace. We were being prayed for! Most of the bridesmaids and I got our hair fixed at the beauty shop that morning. We laughed and talked. It was a good way to kill time instead of nervously waiting... When we got to the church, the AC upstairs was not working well. I felt like my makeup was running down my face, but Haley was radiant. We had a small panic when Hannah's dress which had gotten wrinkled in the car would not iron out or steam out. Nothing worked. It just stubbornly resisted all of our attempts. I prayed and finally calmed down... the wrinkles never fell out while we were upstairs, but when she was standing there with the other bridesmaids at the altar, I noticed- no wrinkles. God is good! He really takes care of the details. Another lesson in not panicking but trusting!
I had been concerned because some people didn't get their invitations and others were on vacation... I thought- "poor Haley. Our church is pretty big and I was concerned that it would look empty since (I thought) not may people were going to be there. I didn't want Haley to be discouraged as she walked down the aisle. HA! I think every single person who was invited who lived in the Baton Rouge area (except for a few) were there (and many who weren't showed up!). I was shocked! The middle three rows of the church were completely filled. Another unfounded worry.... Another conviction of -"when will you trust? Haven't I proved faithful in every thing up till now?"
All too soon it was time to come downstairs to begin the ceremony. The time arrived when Josh, his best man Devon, and Kent to go to the front... But ... where was Kent? We looked and looked... Still don't know where he was, but finally, he just appeared. Thank God! Then the ceremony began...The grandparents went down first... I was so proud of our parents. They were all so so excited... they also were pretty good looking to be the grandparents of the bride and groom! I was thrilled for them to meet our friends and church family. They felt very much at home. Then it was my turn. Keith escorted me to the unity candle. And I couldn't work the lighter. Keith' was whispering- "Push that button there... No, push it the other way! NOW pull the trigger. Goood".
Right before Keith escorted me down, he said, "pray for me. I'm feeling very emotional". I said, "Lets try real hard to keep it together for her sake. She might get upset if we're crying". Somehow, we did.
First my Hannah and Joseph walked the aisle. They were precious. I was so proud of them. All grown up. Hannah with her hair fixed and Joseph in his tux. Then the rest of the wedding party... They all looked wonderful. Then it was time- I was to cue the congregation when to stand by standing first. They closed the doors after the last bridesmaid went down. I held my breath and waited a moment and then I stood... so did everyone else..........And there she was. My beautiful daughter. I wish I could have looked two places at once because I desperately wanted to see Josh's face when he first saw her... But I had to look at my baby girl. Her daddy was fighting to hold it together. She was magnificent. Poised, beautiful, full of joy! I finally looked at Josh. He was grinning from ear to ear!
Kent gave a prophetic word about the ministry they'd be going into. Mary and Max sang and the anointing was strong. The father's spoke a blessing over them. Josh sang a song he'd written for Haley... I don't think there was a dry eye in the place. They said their vows and Haley's little voice put a lump in our throats... but we maintained. They went to the Lord's table together and had communion, signifying in a tangible way, the covenant they were making. The part I was the most concerned about losing it was the video that I knew would be played, with pictures of them growing up, during which my son Max was to sing an anointed song about the love of God. I mean- how could we NOT lose it? But miraculously, we did not. I just sat there and thought- "God, look what You've done!" Precious memories of our little girl, now another man's wife, flooded our minds. But gratitude and pure joy filled our hearts... Look how God answered! She was in God's will- what we'd always desired for her. Then they walked down the opposite aisle as man and wife to the song "Canon Rock".. As they descended the stairs, violins and an orchestra played sedately, only to slowly build and merge into a rocking electric guitar solo. A perfect song reflecting Haley and Josh. Wish I would have thought of something like that for our wedding 25 years ago! People's expressions were priceless! lol
The reception was PACKED! My first thought was faith-filled (not!)- "oh my gosh how will we feed all of these people?" But again, the Lord reminded me of His faithfulness throughout. So I let it go. And I believe they were all fed. We did run out of punch, but I hadn't had that on my prayer list. One detail I missed I guess... But I believe it was the most fun reception I'd ever been too. I wasn't able to visit with everyone there much to my regret because of the massive number of people. But it was a blast. I even hit the dance floor... something I said I wouldn't do... Aretha just drew me there like a magnet. Just could NOT' sit still for "R-E-S-P-E-C-T".... Haley said to me, "Whats the world coming to. My mom's in a conga line!" haha. It was a blast... Then it was over. They ran to the car under a cloud of bubbles and were gone...
Now the house is quiet, the busyness has ground to a screeching halt and life goes on... On without Haley's voice heard every day in our house. On with her place empty at the table. Her brothers and sister just sat in her room the other day and tried to soak up her presence somehow. We all miss her. I may fall apart when she leaves for St. Louis in three weeks, but for now, God's grace sustains me. I am just grateful. When your children are in God's will, even if it takes them far away, you can't be completely miserable. And He has shown Himself so faithful and true. It may seem like a silly little thing to some, but He knew how important this wedding being beautiful was to me. Because it was important to my Haley. He truly does care for the details...As concerned as I was for Haley, He was for us as well. That parent love- we both understand.... My faith has grown... and so has my heart. Thank you all for praying. Now as Kent charged us, let's pray for the marriage. They have a good foundation and heritage. God's hand is on them. I am excited to see what He will do in and through them. Just wish I didn't have to watch it from a distance... sniff... but it's going to be okay... I cannot tell you how many people who attended this wedding said that it was the absolute most God-honoring, beautiful wedding they'd ever attended. God is just so good isn't He?!
I'm sure I'm not done with this subject... but this is long enough as it is... More to come... Stay tuned if I haven't detailed you to death.. :^)