Though the weather remains unpredictable, there's no denying that spring is in full swing, and I can feel the momentum building toward summer.
Two weekends ago I escaped to Saugatuck, Michigan with a group of 5 dear girlfriends with whom I was in a small group five years ago. This was our second weekend retreat--two years ago we rented a farmhouse in rural Wisconsin for the weekend, while this time around it was a log cabin on the west coast of Michigan. The best part of the weekend was simply spending time together and catching up on one another's lives, but we also managed to fill that together time with fun stuff...preparing and eating scrumptious brunches together, talking over coffee and wandering through boutiques, tiptoeing through the fields at a tulip farm, walking along the beach, roasting marshmallows in the fireplace, relaxing in the hot tub, playing games, and painting pottery at the Express Yourself Art Barn.
This past weekend was the first wedding (of several) on my docket this year. Friday evening I had the joy of seeing Jenn & Chris, friends from my current small group, pledge their love & commitment to one another in a beautiful ceremony at Harvest. The whole service was lovely, but I was particularly impressed with two things.
First, the bride and groom recited, from memory, the vows they had written to one another. I think this was the first wedding I've attended (or at least, the only one I can remember...I've attended a LOT of weddings) where that's been the case, and I was moved (to tears, in fact) by the way their unique personalities came through, and the intimacy and profundity of their expressions and promises to one another.
Secondly, the charge to the couple, given by Pastor Jeff, was the first and only "wedding sermon" I can remember during which I did not space out, even for a moment. While every wedding officiant means well, of course, and some are more riveting speakers than others, I confess that my attention often wanders (and sometimes leaves the chapel altogether) as they deliver their exhortation and words of advice to the couple. This time, though, I sat with rapt attention. I think part of what kept me interested was the realism in which Jeff's charge was grounded. There was no pretending, or failing to mention, that marriage will at times be tough. That the happy couple standing before him will have their fights, and disagreements, and hard times. But there was also the reminder, and the promise, that marriage is so much more than that. And that when those times come, it will be the vows they made to one another in that ceremony, and the commitment they made before and to God, that will get them through. Jeff also made the point that the couple will need the support and prayers of those in attendance and exhorted the audience to pray for Chris & Jenn, to be there as friends and family who will encourage them in their commitment to one another and point them to the Lord on the good days and the rough days. In our society, where half (or is it now even more than half?) of all marriages end in divorce, for those who still take marriage seriously, there seems to be a sober wisdom in acknowledging from the beginning that while there will be times of "wedded bliss" there will also be times when marriage is a battle ground, attacked both from within and from without.
And so, I am incredibly happy for these dear friends of mine--to have had the privilege of being part of their lives for the past few years and seeing the way the Lord has been at work in them, changing and growing them individually and together; to have had the joy of witnessing their vows to one another; of hearing the charge given them (and receiving a charge myself as their friend); and celebrating it all with a big party afterwards. Congrats to Chris & Jenn! You have my love and support and prayers as you begin your new life together as husband & wife.
And, while I'm talking weddings, I also want to give a congratulatory shout out to friends Bekah & Peter who got engaged last Thursday! Whoo hoo!