RENEWAL VOWS AND HONOR TO MY BELOVED HUSBAND By Lori A Alicea

On a beautiful crisp October afternoon and surrounded by our close friends and family, my husband David and I recently celebrated 25 years together in a Wedding Vow Renewal. While we could have taken a lavish vacation instead, or bought a diamond ring or anything else spent on just the two of us, we chose to celebrate our 25 years together honoring all that God has blessed us with.

In my wedding vows to David, I opened up our album of life together and played a montage of 25 years of love and happiness with him portrayed through my words. Words are containers for encouragement, inspiration, edification, and life.  For anyone who was listening, especially our children and grandchildren, it was a deep desire that my vows and words honor David, to also be a testament to God for the marriage he has so richly blessed us with, and also be a takeaway for anyone secretly needing a special word of encouragement for themselves.

RENEWAL VOWS AND HONOR TO MY BELOVED HUSBAND
(Complete version from the condensed version spoken at our
Wedding Vow Renewal)
By Lori A Alicea

Twenty five years ago, I married the man of my dreams. Little did I know how my dreams would unfold, spending every minute, hour, day and year of these twenty five years with you.
wedding married DAVID AND LORIIf I could say anything, at least for us, marriage is wrapped up in the little things. We aren’t rich, live in a fancy house or drive a fancy car.  In fact, the two biggest rust buckets are parked outside as we speak.

But our rust buckets, or Johnny Junks as our kids called them back in the day, embarrassed them when we picked them up for school, or loaded them full of bikes and camping equipment for vacation.

The reason our twenty five years together have been so magical, is because we have embraced and mined the love and gold in the little things. Here are just a few of the highlights.

When our girls were little, you’d blow dry their hair after baths on Saturday before church on Sunday. I can still see them in your long white tea shirts.  Written on the backs of both shirts with a marker was a big “A” standing for Audra, one with a “C” standing for Candace.  I guess the girls were worried we’d mix up their jammies.

Two months after marriage, you began bailing me out of my craft jams and learned to use a glue gun, sew, or help me engineer any craft problem I was having. You were even helping me fix these centerpieces just yesterday.

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You would secretly take the boys to the movies when you were supposed to be going to men’s class.

Fun could always be found in your back pocket.

You were never too tired to take the girls to the park when they were little.

Now we live at the park with the grandchildren.

Once, I turned my back only to find Audra and Candace in a water fountain splashing around. Hello people, do you want to get arrested?  I was always the Debbie downer.  But you kept the fun alive and hence, all our memories.

Though my kids have a dad and we will always honor that, you have been the best version of a dad that any mother could have ever wanted for her kids.

When I used to clean houses, you never batted an eye to go with me and help on your days off. All my lady clients wanted to hire you and fire me as you noticed and fixed all their broken “whatever’s”, though you were never asked.

When we first got married, you told the kids we would all eat whatever I served at the table, even if the rice in my earlier days looked like oatmeal.

Combining ethnic backgrounds, you learned to like biscuits and gravy. I learned to like rice that wasn’t Uncle Ben’s style.  You’d even eat bologna if I served it.

You learned to speak my love language of quality time by sitting for long periods of time over coffee.

You opened a small store at work when Jake was going to college so you could take your spare change and fill up his tank with gas and ashtray full of quarters before he left each time for school. Your spare change helped pay a small portion of his college.

You and Candace thought you were funny when you dropped me off for one of Jake’s track meets only to go to the movies instead. Not realizing the race would get over before your movie, leaving me stranded in the dead of winter in a corn field.  That was some ride home.

When the kids got older, you’d fix their cars, help paint their houses; whatever they needed. Only payment required was that they fed you lunch so you wouldn’t throw up as you have such a sensitive stomach.
nate and david fixing carYou have been the Best dad to your son. You call him every day while you both are driving among many other things.

You are a wonderful and loving dad to our “son ‘n love” Kyle and “daughters ‘n love” Kristy and Crystal.

Though we are a blended marriage, there have never been any “steps” in our family. The only “steps” in our house are those that lead to the heart.
wedding married DAVID AND LORI AND FAMILYIt was so hard when our kids began to grow up feeling the nest wrestle as they left one after the other, and it became just you and me. We drowned in the silence and loneliness as we missed them so much; funny though, in time we learned to love just being the two of us.

But then the grandkids started coming. And there we were again, going crazy over these babies that God entrusted us to love and tell them about him.

Now life started having real meaning.

Nothing was ever a “no” with you when it came to our children.

When the military moved Jake and his family to Washington State and he needed his car driven to him requiring a three day journey through the crazy mountains that freaked me out, you said, “Let’s go.”

When our broken hearted daughter Candace living in Georgia needed her father to scoop her and her baby in his arms and tuck her back into her childhood bed so that God could restore and heal her heart, you and your brother said, “Let’s go.”

candace ethan bigger

When the military moved Jake and the family again to Washington DC and many times over the next three years, when Crystal was beyond stressed with Jake working day and night at the hospital, with the grass out of control, when the boxes of Jake’s to-do-list aren’t getting checked off, and Crystal needs a break from the household chores, you always said, “Let’s go.”

When your lonely DC grandbabies say that the only thing they want for Christmas is their grandparents, and though we couldn’t make it for Christmas, you did say “Let’s go” for an early Thanksgiving.

In the eyes of our grandkids, you are famous – the grandkids favorite drink is named after you called Papa’s juice, also known as Crystal light. The Grandkid’s favorite store that you take them to is called Papa’s store, also known as Dollar General.

Years ago, we bought two bikes for ourselves, one with a car seat in the back. Our journey of a million miles with our grandkids began.  Living in the country, we rode our bikes everywhere.  We’d find bikes set out for trash and brought them home for each of them.  All the grandkids have a bike and pass them down to their cousins when they outgrow them.

We host Cousin Camp every Friday while our grown kids have an overnight date night without their children. I am in charge of cooking and taking care of the little ones.  You are in charge of the fun.  There is no minimum age requirement for Cousin Camp, usually getting them at six weeks.  The hardest part will be when these babies won’t want to come to cousin camp anymore, closing our infamous cousin camp doors for good.

During the midnight hour of Cousin Camp, I always find myself making rounds, counting the faces of our sleeping beauties, making sure they are safe in their dreams, only to silently laugh at what looks like the aftermath of a JR Frat party. Every now and then I find that the three little ones have raided the closet¸ nestled and swallowed up in their papa’s winter coats.  Maybe it’s the soothing, lingering smell of papa’s cologne on the collar.  Maybe it’s the comfort of sleeping in papa’s arms, even if it’s in the sleeves of your winter coat.
papas coatSaturday mornings, you could always hear the giggles and little feet of babies scurrying to get to papa’s side of the bed to wake you up. Sure made you sad when they stopped.  Now Ayva and Aubrey look for you under the covers.

Whenever we facetime the grandkids, they always want to talk to their papa. Hello, what about Gaga.  Where’s my papa?  Papa, Papa, Papa.

After twenty five years, now the grandchildren tell us, Papa and Gaga, “Your feet are old.” I guess I at least have earned that title after wearing flip flops year round.

It’s funny how we can sense the slight wrestling of the nest again. Grandkids are growing up.  Brooke is in high school.  Aubrey will be losing her “papal” (pacifier) soon and I don’t know when Kizzy will lose her thumb sucking.

Even though it is still a few years away, we sense the wrestling of the nest nevertheless.  Then it will be back to you and me again.  But God has great plans for the gray hairs of our world.  He never wants us to get comfortable, because he will be unfolding dreams for our lives to the very end.

You Love so well. You forgive so well.

You are the best son. Your mother taught her sons how to love their wives.  She taught her boys how to cook, clean and iron.  You five get A’s in all these areas.

You are a wonderful son to my mother. When mother lived a street over, you would stop by her house after work to raid her refrigerator and spend a few minutes with her.  You even learned to enjoy her game shows.
mom kitchenThe senior ladies at mom’s nursing home are crazy about you. They are always blowing you kisses.  This is after you have held their hand and told them how beautiful they look.

Every night you put toothpaste on my toothbrush and pull back my side of the covers before bed.

You are the best neighbor, especially when he is our landlord and brother n law. Always serving and doing though never asked, just mowing and plowing for him when he is working or especially this past year suffering with cancer.
IMG_3099You have loved me by loving our kids.
You have loved me by loving our parents.
You have loved me by being the hero of our grandchildren.
You have loved me by loving God.

And to think that 25 years ago I almost missed all of this when I had the arrogance and audacity to contemplating on saying no to God’s best in you, believing his best didn’t fit or conform to what I had envisioned for myself. Thankfully, our Pastor at the time, the man who had shepherded and fathered my heart for the last five years imparted wisdom in my confusion, “Just believe with your heart, and God will allow you to see with your eyes.”
Pastor preaching at weddingWhen you knocked on my door that very first time to pick me up for a Valentine’s Dance, still nervous about surrendering my will to God, how Pastor’s words still whispered to me, “Just believe and God will allow you to see.” When I opened the door, darkness became day and finally saw God’s best in you with my own eyes.  God just wanted first my surrendered heart, my trust, my yes.

I haven’t taken my eyes off of you ever since.
valentines dayI thank God every day that I headed Pastor’s counsel and said yes to God and said yes to you.

From the bedroom window, I always seem to wake up at two in the morning, when you are leaving the driveway for work. You faithfully get up every day and work 12-14 hours.  I always pray for you when you leave.  I thank God for you and ask him to bring you home safely as I can’t fathom life being me without you.

A man sets the temperature of the house. It is always toasty warm by the fire of our love.

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You hit a homerun every time you step up to the plate in our marriage and everyday life.
Baseball familyYou say you wish you could have given me the fancy house, the fancy car and diamond ring. I say it’s been like Christmas every day for the last 25 years.  You have given me gifts wrapped in glittered paper topped with sparkled bows.  You have given me gifts that money could never afford to buy.  Gifts that have made me feel loved from the moon and back, gifts that are wrapped in the little things.
xmas tree presentsI will love you forever.
wedding, video kissingI will dream with you forever.

I will be by your side forever.
wedding, david and loriThank you for the most amazing 25 years.

I can only imagine and can’t wait for the next 25.  I love you.
Your wife, Lori
wedding funny faces

SHE DANCED UNTIL MIDNIGHT By Lori A Alicea

She danced until midnight.

In the arms of her prince, she danced and she danced.

In the crowded ballroom, no one seemed to notice two young loves swaying in slow circles, as seen from the inside of a little girl’s music box.

When midnight came and interrupted though the story of this fairytale,
She still married her prince and
They lived happily ever after.

Once upon a time and twenty-five years ago, two lonely people found each other and fell in love.
gifts treeAfter eight short months of dating, and thanking God for remembering their empty arms after a five year wait for her and three year wait for him, they married and lived happily ever after
as a blended family of six.

Twenty-five years later and like written on the pages of a fairytale, this married couple decided to celebrate their milestone anniversary in grand fashion, surrounded by their closest friends and family in a 25th Wedding Anniversary Vow Renewal.

Dreaming began immediately.

Coming to life were their visions written on paper.

The humming of busy bees circled around the preparations.

Colors decided. Linens, silk wildflowers, lace and ribbon ordered.  Centerpieces designed.   Caterers and venue reserved.  Detailed lists of all kinds documented.

Save the Dates” are mailed six months in advance of this gala event, to give their special guests enough time to reserve this anniversary date on their calendar.

The music box has been wound and now opened.

Though many months stand between today and their anniversary celebration, in their hearts this sweet couple steps onto the dance floor and “cheek to cheek” they sway together in slow circles as the music box quietly plays.

They dance and they dance. Two people in love and overwhelmed in estatic anticipation for their anniversary dream to unfold.

The stroke of midnight is months and hours away.

Excitement is beyond euphoric.
The preparations continue.
The months quickly pass by.

The stroke of midnight is ever closer, yet still are many songs on this couple’s dance card to enjoy.

The calender reminds that six weeks remain before the church doors open for this Wedding Vow Renewal, a reminder for the beautiful invitations both color and theme coordinated with the save-the-dates are to be mailed.

This anxious couple will wait with bated breath for the return of the RSVP’s found in the invitation, confirming each guest who will be in attendance of their anniversary event.

Soon after the invitations were mailed, RSVP’s began secretly waiting in the mailbox for this couple’s discovery. Joy is filling the air as the unfolding of this Wedding Vow Renewal is finally a dream coming true.

Twenty-five years ago, this couples four young children walked down the wedding isle together with them, sharing this life-changing day as a family on stage.

Now their four young children are grown and three of them are married with children of their own.

Walking the Wedding Vow Renewal isle with this couple will now be their ten adorable grandchildren, though their four military youngin’s will walk the isle being carried as a picture by their cousin, as they recently moved to their next duty station located in Hawaii.
IMG_3115It is this couple’s prayer during this milestone anniversary event, that their love for each other, their pursuit to live and have a God centered marriage, be depositied in the hearts of their children and grandchildren as part of their inheritance.

That they will leave behind a legacy,
their breadcrumbs in the forest to follow
when seeking the way to go.

The prayer of this two is that their children and grandchildren always see the signs to follow Jesus,
as He is the only way,
He is the way.

This music box continues to play for this anniversary couple still deeply in love.  The ballroom floor remains open, though no one seems to notice these two still swaying to the songs playing from the inside of a little girl’s music box.

A wedding vow renewal picture is framed perfectly on every guest table, painted with its color choice linens, tableware, and wildflowers appearing freshly picked and arranged on lattice work and wisteria vines, mid-air atop two Eiffel tower vases. The isle lined on both sides with wildflowers winding up the height of the standing lattice work affixed on shepherd hooks, completing the portrait of stepping into a secret garden.

Canvasing the details of her vision displayed throughout the room, this bride making a renewal walk down the isle with her groom of 25 years is pleased to the moon and back.
rehearsal lori overlooking roomAll that waits in this ceremony and dinner reception room are its guests and wedding couple.

This music box still plays ever so faintly in the background.

In each other’s arms these young loves continue to dance while the music plays in their joyous hearts.

While this glowing woman is having her flowing red hair curled and arranged to cascade to one side of her neck.

Patiently waiting to complete the look of this bride is an exquisite dress to match her handsome groom she is so in love with. Sparkled jewelry and heels with its glittered rhinestone strap, with a bunch of wildflowers appearing recently picked to hold await also.

Unseen is a fountain overflowing from a heart spilling and splashing her happiness, this bride is marrying her man all over again in a Wedding Vow Renewal twenty-five years from their original wedding day.

It’s a windy fall day in October at noon, and the church doors have finally opened to receive the guests of two people about to say “I Do” again.
churchThe ceremony sanctuary doubling as a reception hall, a remodeled version of the same reception hall that held their wedding reception twenty-fives years ago, is bustling with conversation between arriving guests greeting those they haven’t seen for awhile. Guests are finding their tables and seats specifically assigned and chosen with those sitting next to them in mind.

Secluded in another room, the bride and groom and bridal party of grandchildren with their parents present for the family portraits are photographed for their wedding album to come, a lovely gift given by the generosity of their children.

Taking mental pictures of her own, this bride is soaking in the moments that are passing by so quickly. Her groom.  Her children.  Her grandchildren.  All dressed to match the secret garden theme of the reception hall.  All beautiful and taking the breath of a woman so thankful to God, her husband, her children and others for giving her this spectacular day.

Thirty minutes away and while the pre-arranged music plays for the guests leading up to the ceremony and is in earshot of this bride a room away, this bride is whisked to Hawaii in a sentimental text message from her daughter ‘n love who recently moved there with our son and grandchildren.

Happy 25th Anniversary.

Today is the big day.

Everyone is gathering together to celebrate the love of two amazing people.

 You both have accomplished in 25 years of marriage what most hope to accomplish in a lifetime – raised 4 amazing children, always put those around you first, serve others with unconditional love and are creating a lifetime of memories for your grandchildren.

Because of you both, everyone around you knows true love and happiness does exist. You have set high standards for how a marriage should be and held yourselves accountable.

I love that you both are still so in love with each other after 25 years. We appreciate you and everything you have done for our family.  We know no matter what is going on, we could call on you both day or night and you would drop anything to help us – having that security is one of the most amazing things.

 We are so thankful for God’s perfect planning and timing in bringing you two together. When you look around today take a moment to soak it in and enjoy the fact that everyone is there because two people fell in love 25 years ago.

 Happy Anniversary.

Wish we could be there to celebrate with you and honor your marriage.

All my love, Crystal.

Like a kiss from God in heaven, Crystal’s words played a mother / daughter song quietly for the two of them, stirring a few tears and emotions of a mother’s heart.  Crystal’s thoughtful timing was perfect and overwhelming, all because a daughter chose to hug and share a moment with her mother, even though the ocean and its million miles stood in the way between them.

The music box still plays ever so quietly.
The clock will still strike at the midnight hour.

Until then, a princess and her prince will soak every memory on their dance floor ‘till the very end.

The clock though signals the start of the three o’clock ceremony.

An instrumental rendition of Endless Love plays in the background, and a wedding album is opened from twenty-five years ago in a video montage displayed on a full screen in front of the room, for guests to enjoy a glimpse of when the love of two people began.

Click on the arrow button
to revisit when two people fell in love, when two people said “I Do” for the first time on their wedding day twenty-five years ago.

 Walking once again to the version of Endless Love featuring Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross, who serenaded a bride and groom twenty-five years ago, ten grandchildren catching the smiles of so many guests in their cuteness, walk the wedding isle and take their place on the church pew, with four from Hawaii who walked the isle carried in a picture by their cousin, is placed on an easel so others can see them on stage.

Guests stand to their feet in their cheers for the bride and groom making their second walk down the isle in great celebration of this 25th wedding anniversary milestone, a moment unexpected and taking a bride and groom emotionally off guard.

Side by side again at the altar, holding hands as they’ve done all these years.
Love so evident in their smiles could write a romance novel with many sequels.
david and lori at altarGiving God first the praise that is due Him, this couple and guests are led in worship with the song, “The Goodness of God”. A song that tells the true story of why and how two people have stay married for twenty-five years, through the good and the not-so-good, all because of the faithfulness and goodness of God.
worship-song.jpgNext, their oldest granddaughter Brooke reads from 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter. The Love Chapter scriptures depict the theme of all marriages, the theme of this wedding day, depicting the character of God in love as He is all love.
IMG_3104 The Love Chapter

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, 13.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails…..

13 And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.

 But the greatest of these is love.

Interestingly, the “man of God” officiating the ceremony, is their brother, an elder of their church, the one who introduced this man and woman twenty-five years ago. He knew their story and revisited in great and hilarious detail the journey of how their love came to be.

Twenty-five years ago these two were married by their beloved Pastor, who had shephered them and their church flock those five years prior to that day, and leading up to one year ago when God called him to his Heavenly home.

Missing their Pastor terribly and would have wanted him to officiate the renewing of their vows, was still present in the suit coat that our brother had worn standing on this wedding altar, a coat of many given to him when our Pastor continued his journey in heaven.
Pastor preaching at weddingGod cares so deeply about the details.

As a writer, the vows of this bride embodied great honor of the man who has shared life with her through the last quarter of a century. Before God and her guests, she wanted everyone to hear and visually see through her words, a true picture of what a husband, father, grandfather and man looks like in marriage.

HER VOWS

(An excerpt from the original five pages,
condensed to three,
when a bride spoke her Vows to her groom)

Twenty five years ago, I married the man of my dreams.

Little did I know how my dreams would unfold,
spending every minute,
every hour,
every day
and every year
of these twenty five years with you.

 If I could say anything, at least for us, marriage is wrapped up in the little things.

We aren’t rich, live in a fancy house or drive a fancy car.

 The reason our twenty five years together have been so magical, is because
we have embraced and mined
the love and gold
in the little things…
……….

 It’s been like Christmas every day for the last 25 years.

You have given me gifts wrapped in glittered paper topped with sparkled bows.
You have given me gifts that money could never afford to buy.
You have given me gifts that have made me feel loved from the moon and back.

 You have given me gifts that are
wrapped in the little things.

 I will love you forever.
I will dream with you forever.
I will be by your side forever.
Thank you for the most amazing 25 years.
I can only imagine and can’t wait for the next 25.

I love you.
lori reading vows
As the groom takes his turn to share his vows in word and in song, the crowd leans in to hear the greatly anticipated voice of an angel singing to his bride, “Truly” by Lionel Richie of Warner Chappel Music.

A few lyrics of the song “Truly”, echoing from a husband’s heart in love:

Girl, tell me only this,
That I’ll have your heart for always
And you want me by your side
Whispering the words, “I’ll always love you.”
……..

Because I’m truly,
Truly in love with you girl.
I’m truly, head over heels with your love,
I need you, and with your love I’m free,
And truly, you know you’re all right
With me.

Having a thankful heart for God giving us Jesus, they celebrated communion together.
communionLooking on, grandchildren blush in their innocent smiles and giggles,
as a man kisses his bride, for the second time in their Wedding Vow Renewal.
kiss the bride Mr. and Mrs. again, they take their remaining photographs as re-newly married husband and wife.

The details that were planned so many months ago, are now displayed in every corner of the reception hall.

So much to celebrate.
So much to give God honor and glory for.

A guest sign-in-book and memory picture of those who left this couple too soon. Pictures of those not forgotten, a reminder of those who sat and watched this day from their view in heaven.
memory sign in

A vintage legacy window displayed the story of two people who fell in love. Their wedding picture from twenty-five years ago, their grown children and their weddings and all of their ten adorable grandchildren wearing their wedding clothes for their Papa and Gaga.
legacy wall 1The guest table seating cards individually affixed a small book of poems written from the love of a bride she has known with her Lord, wanting to share them with those who decided to share this most magical day with her.
guest 1

(a small excerpt)

Love is…..

Dedicated and written
for the one…

Who knows us best…
Who sees the best in us…
Who believes the best in us..
Who wants the best for us…
Who gives His best to us…
To the one who loves us most..

To You Our God…

That we might know you more..

Your Devoted Daughter,
Lori A Alicea

Dear God,

Before the stars had filled the sky,
Before the land and sea.
Before the days were one of them,
Your thoughts, they knew of me.

A dream, a detailed plan my life,
Revealed, my heart would burst.
I long to give away this love,
Because you loved me first.

Your only son you gave to us,
Your sacrifice and his.
To trace your heart, I’d find my name,
Since you are love, Love is.

In knowing you,
Might we know true love…

 1 John 4:8 NIV …God is love.

 Psalm 139:16 NIV
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book before one of
them came to be.

 For the next eight pages, this bride inspired by God penned small poems depicting the love of God,

Written and based from the
Love Chapter
1 Corinthians 13

Since He is Love, Our Model for Love,
That we might know and give love.
Following His lead,

 Because,
He is patient, He is kind.
He does not envy, He does not boast.
He is not proud, He does not dishonor.
He is not self-seeking.
He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs.
He does not delight in evil, He rejoices in truth.
He protects, He trusts.
He hopes, He perseveres.
He never fails.

The reception room boasted a hidden secret garden, a place to retreat where God’s handiwork is on full display.
flowers centerpieceThe desert tables beckoned the attention and sweet tooth’s of their guests.

Off limits though was a specially made wedding cake top for the bride and groom to share on their getaway.
honeymoon cabinGod still showing off in the details, provided a heart cake topper when the bride was unable to find one. This gift came in the mail unexpectedly from two guests unable to attend, who had no idea of this bride’s desire, a gift significant of two hearts with God in the center of their lives.
cakeThe desert menu included professionally decorated filled cupcakes with wildflowers and butterflies, homemade heart-shaped sugar cookies, homemade chocolate chip cookies for the kids at heart, and homemade candy coated pretzels. All of this served with hot coffee and love from a bride thinking of her guests from the oven of her kitchen, assisted by her daughter who helped decorate these confections and all the other craft items needed by her mother.  Lasting memories created when a mother and daughter shared a few moments over sprinkles and glitter.

Though it was a brisk wedding fall day in October, a bride and groom were showered by the generosity of their guests represented in gifts and in cards.
card boxThough a bride and groom, yet still parents and grandparents, both had requested speeches from the hearts of their children and grandchildren, especially their Hawaiian family unable to attend.

Believing no videos were sent, a pre-dinner surprise of speeches from their grown children, including the Hawaiians desperately missed yet wanted to be included on this special anniversary day.

Here’s a small glimpse and view of those amazing guests who paused their day to celebrate the marriage twenty-five years in the making.

 The sacrifice of those family members who spent their money and miles on the road or in the air to share a few moments together with family.

All that delicious food, more than enough for seconds.

 The tables that gathered together as friends and family, over dinner and conversation. The best part of the day were those faces who know you by name, that are part of your story, those faces that have shared years of life with you.

The bride looks up at the clock and midnight is closer than it has ever been.

She wants to dance until midnight.

She wants to soak up the moments which will become memories after a few short hours that remain.

She wants to stay enveloped in the arms of her groom for as long as the night continues, and to live happily ever after with him again when the last song is played.
kids Cova 1This bride is so thankful for the DJ, her brother ‘n law, her next door neighbor and landlord, who gave so much of his time, gifting and patience, to sit with her over the hours putting the reception playlist and entertainment together; even managing to save their relationship in the process.
IMG_3099And then this happened.

A couple’s first dance as a re-married couple, dancing cheek-to-cheek to the song, “Look at Us” by Vince Gill, when a little girl named Ayva Presley, their sweet granddaughter innocently took hold of their hands and decided to join them. They both held back a few tears when a little angel wanted to share this moment with them.  This princess of ours followed us throughout the night.
dance David and Lori and AyvaSelecting a song with their Hawaiian son in mind who loves Vince Gill for their first dance, and wanted a piece of him to be in their service, they thought of him when the country music played in an excerpt of the lyrics:

Look at us,
After all these years together.
Look at us,
After all that we’ve been through.

Look at us,
Still leaning on each other.
If you want to see,
How true loved should be,

Then just look at us.

The children and grandchildren joined the bride and groom on the dance floor to dance as a family to the song, “Forever Mine”. Part of the legacy this couple wanted to leave for them is a promise that marriage can be forever, that the seeds of these words be planted in their lives as a reminder that marriage can be for a lifetime.
family dance A bit of fun for the children under fourteen, dancing to the song “Twist” while using their Skip-its, or Footsies, as they were called when this couple were their ages. Such a highlight.
kids skipitsEven had a gift card raffle for one child and one adult.
IMG_3102 Couples and line dances for those willing to take a step onto the dance floor.

Elvis even made an appearance to everyone’s delight and request. Moved with curosity, the kitchen help stopped what they were doing to enjoy a few songs from this icon before he left the building.

This long-distance guest made these most thoughtful woodworking gifts for the family. He will never know the impact of these treasures.
IMG_3103The clock is about to strike midnight.

A bride and groom’s day is about to become a memory.

The months of dreaming, planning and preparing have been fulfilled and it is time to close this chapter in their story.

She danced until midnight.

In the arms of her prince, she danced and she danced.

In the crowded ballroom, no one seemed to notice two young loves swaying in slow circles, as seen from the inside of a little girl’s music box.

When midnight came and interrupted though the story of this fairytale,
She still married her prince and
They lived happily ever after.
dance David and Lori
To Her Beloved Husband,
as spoken in her wedding renewal vows:

 I will love you forever.
I will dream with you forever.
I will be by your side forever.
Thank you for the most amazing 25 years.
I can only imagine and can’t wait for the next 25.

I love you.

13 And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13: 13        

SO WORTH THE WAIT By Lori A Alicea

True love waits.

True love “waits on God” for His perfect best, for however long it takes.

True love “trusts in God” the steps he’s planned for your journey, resisting the lead when guided thru the “wrong way appearances” of the back roads.

True love “believes in God” that He hasn’t forgotten you during the lonely hours spent by yourself.

True love “rests in God” no matter our tears as He notices and collects them all in a bottle where not one is lost, recording this in His book of remembrance. (Psalm 56:8 TPT)

True love waits.

Waiting though is easier said than done.

As a single mom of two I never imagined a five year wait for “God’s best in marriage.”

Twenty-eight years old and starting over again was never my plan, nor was it God’s plan.  Nevertheless, I am a “lady in waiting” for the second time.

I must confess the countless lies I believed regarding who would want me and my ready-made family.  God reminded me over and over though the double blessing His “hand-picked man” would receive bringing all three of us into his life.

For most of the time I didn’t sense the loneliness of my life surrounded by sisters, a great family, church, a few dear friends and all my time filled with the responsibilities of raising two small children.

During the summer months most days on my calendar were filled with Little League.  It helped having somewhere to go at night and on weekends, at least for the summer.

School and shift work kept me exhausted but I always saved a reserve of my time, energy and love for that little girl and boy who needed me to be present in their day.  We had to go on and God would want us to enjoy life and be thankful in all things.

Holidays were the hardest though, especially at Christmas.  I found joy in the decorated trees trimmed with bright lights and sparkle.  I loved the Christmas music played on every station.  I found warmth beside the fireplaces lit for the ambience of the season.   I too shopped and baked and hid those gifts under the tree.  But I wasn’t sending out Christmas cards from the “two of us”.  I didn’t share a kiss with anyone under the mistletoe.  When you’re not a couple at Christmas you feel like that burnt out strand of lights that went dim on the tree.  People aren’t watching, but in your loneliness you just imagine that they are.

Year after year when the New Year’s Eve clock counted down to midnight, I held on to the promises of God that this year might be different.

GOD’S WORD KEPT ME HOPEFUL AS HE IS FAITHFUL

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6        

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; Psalms 130:5

 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

 One day I decided to write God the “desires of my heart”.  These desires surely pale in comparison to His Best, but these words longed to give a voice to my heart.

GOD’S BEST ACCORDING TO ME
Written March 7, 1993, One year before God’s Big Reveal
By Lori A Alicea

As I sit and ponder,
And search to see.
What truly is God’s best,
According to me.

It all comes to mind,
In my quiet place.
I begin to know him,
And sense his face.

He’d have a beard,
Kept up each week.
To be ever soft,
Against my cheek.

He’d stand so straight,
But not too tall.
And have arms of strength,
To protect us all.

He’d enjoy the laughter,
And enjoy the peace.
And enjoy it with measure,
That never would cease.

He’d be so excited,
About the children I’ve known.
And would treasure their being,
And make them his own.

He’d be the likeness of Christ,
And bear his name.
And be the priest of our home,
Just the same.

He’d cover me with prayer,
At the start of each day.
And I’d feel his compassion,
By the words he’d say.

And more important than ever,
More important than me.
Would be his race towards Jesus,
And the heavenly.

And all this is beautiful,
What a dream he’d be.
But this is only God’s best,
According to me.

My thoughts are so limited,
And ideas so few.
And all this together,
Would not be dreams come true.

For just as the heavens,
Are higher than the earth.
So are His ways far greater,
In value and in worth.

For it is he that knows my desires,
For only he can see.
What truly is his best,
For me.

And even though on paper,
My special needs I state.
I must allow the matchmaker,
To select my mate.

God is a personal God.

He cares about our thoughts and desires.

One year later

SUDDENLY ….

In a
SUDDENLY MOMENT

When you least expect, God shows up on the scene of our life.

In our waiting, may we wait with EXPECTANCY.
Be ever confident that God hears and answers our prayers.

And SUDDENLY God shows Himself faithful
By SHOWING up with His Best for my life.

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IN A SUDDENLY MOMENT – LIFE HAS NEW MEANING

Song “Suddenly” by Billy Ocean
Video Courtesy of Brad Ebert

As wonderful as this “dream come true” appears, I’m mortified to say I almost MISSED and PASSED UP the best blessing of my life in David when I questioned God and his choice.  How dare me but I did.  Everyone in my life, especially my pastor, was aghast at my indecision.

God reveals His best after five years of waiting on Him yet I fought an inner battle waged on myself whether I could receive this amazing man into my life as well as my children’s.

Faith required me to believe what eyes couldn’t see.
My trust in God required blind eyes walking.

 Another song of my heart is written.

The War of My Own Will
By Lori A. Alicea

I toss and turn and try to sleep,
The night it seems so long.
I try and figure out myself,
To see what might be wrong.

But harder that I make it seem,
This mountain or this hill.
I know I’m fighting deep inside,
A war of my own will.

I see things as I know I should,
I hear His guiding voice.
But oh the path I’d rather take,
The trails of my own choice.

It all just seems so right to me,
The pieces I make fit.
But why can’t I rest peaceably,
And sleep a little bit.

The answers that He has for me,
No doubt will be all right.
But war of my own will goes on,
I can’t give up the fight.

My fight with Him will have to stop,
But who will have to die.
Though all along this fight is with,
One, Me, Myself and I.

He never makes me eat His will,
The restaurant is free.
This gentleman just holds the door,
And only waits for me.

I feel this way as others have,
I know I’m not alone.
For His own Son did feel the same,
His will He did make known.

For in Gethsemane He prayed,
In sorrow He did spake.
If it is possible for me,
This cup I plea you take.

The troubled Son was overwhelmed,
His face fell to the ground.
But in the midst of darkest times,
No chains would make Him bound.

For He did yield His life to Him,
To save the life of mine.
When with His lips He spoke these words,
“Yet not My will but Thine”.

To be like Him, the war would end,
The peace that would be still.
The only words my Father wants,
From me is, “Yes I will”.

After much prayer and repentance, I’m at peace to embrace a new chapter in our life.

David and kids little

Two months after our first date on Valentine’s Day, David and I became engaged and married eight months later on October 15, 1994.

David and Lori Married

Becoming a family of six, blending lives and hearts meant years of God touching and healing our brokenness in discovery of a new beginning for all of us.

Family at Wedding

God is so good and faithful.
You can trust Him.

During the lonely five years of my wait and wonder,

God was writing our love story.

I couldn’t see it.

I couldn’t imagine it.

But in the silence God was singing a song on our behalf.

He was preparing our new beginning.

We just had to wait for it with great expectancy.

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”[a]
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

David my love,

YOU WERE SO WORTH THE WAIT

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24 YEARS LATER

We are still
Living Happily Ever After
David and kids grown

Family Grown Up

SOME WEDDING FUN

Twenty-four years ago bride and grooms couldn’t afford the high cost of videoographers; our wedding included.  David and I just wanted to get married.  All the extras came as love gifts from the hearts of family and friends.

Our sweet nephew Adam, all of twelve at the time, blessed us greatly when on his own initiative visited guest after guest at the reception to record wedding wishes from them to us with a hand-held recording device called a Talkboy.

Listening to these well wishes the “old fashioned” way, I captured a few of them for our delight as parents cherish hearing their children’s voices from twenty-four years ago.  Included are a few family members as well.

Have grace for the misgivings of old technology.

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Our nephew Adam / Well Wishing Recorder

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Daughter Candace’s Well Wishes

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Son Jake’s Well Wishes

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Daughter Audra’s Well Wishes
(I guess I’m an aunt now…lol)

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Son Nathan (No Well Wish Recorded)

Nephew Adam / Well Wish Recorder

Nephew Adam / Recorder stopped any Well Wish that wasn’t PG rating with this:


Nephew Adam / Recorder even got comments from the little ones

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Brother Joe’s Well Wishes

WEDDING DREAMS DO COME TRUE, Though Not Always As You Dreamed By Lori A Alicea

Days ago the Royal Wedding was attended by the world.  I too got up early to witness a fairy tale come to life.  Every little girl dreams of her carriage ride to the church where her prince awaits her arrival.  Anticipation for the dress reveal kept millions of eyes watching in suspense, and as every bride is, simply breathtaking.

I have never met a single bride who didn’t have the same wish on her wedding day, for their special moment to be a Dream Come True.  Every bride does get her Dream Come True, though not always As They Dreamed.  Some weddings are perfect without a single mishap.  But most Cinderella stories depict real life, where the unexpected happens beyond your control.

Eight years ago my son and his new bride had the wedding of the year; their Wedding Dream Come True, Though Not As They Dreamed.  With June about to launch a season of summer betroths , I decided to dust off my children’s storybook wedding in hopes to encourage brides of past, present and future that though the movie of your day might not end as scripted, it’s a one of a kind, it’s your story, it’s your DREAM COME TRUE.

When the Lights Went Out in New Harmony
By Lori A. Alicea

Wedding gifts come in all sizes and shapes.  They arrive as handpicked cards with money inside its sealed envelope.  They are decorated packages selected from the leftover wedding shower gift registry.  Wedding gifts are even an offering of talent to sing, design the event invitations or create the reception centerpieces.  Sometimes wedding gifts remain at home as an offering of prayer by a guest who won’t be in attendance.  But whatever presents found their place at the England-Stock table one summer day August 28, 2010, not a single guest could have ever imagined that wedding gift waiting to be unwrapped when the lights went out in New Harmony.

crystal and jake shower
 This wedding celebration began days before its appointed time of 5:30 pm that Saturday evening in August, as guests made their personal journeys from all over the atlas to arrive in New Harmony, Indiana.

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From the windy city of Chicago to the ten thousand lakes of Minnesota they traveled.  From the bluegrass state of Kentucky to the honeymoon island of Hawaii they traveled also.  Adding the state of Michigan, Virginia, New Mexico and all four corners of Indiana, sacrifices of finances and vacations were made by generous friends and family to honor a beautiful bride and her groom.

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One by one the guests of the England-Stock wedding arrived to check into their charming rooms located at the Riverbend Inn.  Screams of joy and hugs of elation exchanged from those reuniting after the many years they saw each other last.  From excited “across the hall” conversations, impromptu gatherings were planned with invitations of “I’ll meet you in room so-and-so.”

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candy table

jake at buffet

That weekend a gracious bride and groom walked the streets of this wedding community to greet each traveler with deep appreciation for their sacrifices, while continuing to pour over the details of their storybook day.

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The amenities of this quaint town mirrored a reflection of that fictional place called Mayberry.

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The convenient streets all within walking distance of each other, though most found great enjoyment with the alternative rental of golf carts to mosey around.

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The antique shops, the mom and pop restaurants, the pool surrounded by greenhouse-like windows, and everything else conveniently located nearby, leaving the impression that New Harmony was your home away from home.

What a picturesque place New Harmony is to be married with its various ceremony locations catering to the desires of each wedding couple.  By the intimate lake with a romantic ambience at sunset,

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to the formal church with its stain glass windows and front porch steps,

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or at the outdoor Roofless Church with its royal aisle feel of Westminster Abbey in England.

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Wherever the bride and groom choose to exchange their marital vows, an album capturing their day would reflect nothing less than a “dream come true.”

wedding isle

As the afternoon sun began to fade into evening that 28th day in August, anticipation swirled the air as wedding guests in their seats and bridal court positioned, all fixed their eyes back to the Roofless Church entrance, anxiously waiting for the horse drawn carriage to deliver the bride.

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Upon first sighting of Cinderella arriving in her royal coach, gasps could be heard among the crowd as an unspoken agreement of this beautiful bride.

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Waiting a brief moment before stepping off her carriage, this bride paused to cast her eyes onward to her groom standing a distance away, a man who was visibly overcome by this woman’s loveliness.

jake at altar

With a father’s hand reaching for his daughter once last time as his own, these two took steps in unison down the long aisle kissed with rose petals, only to let her go at the altar and release her into the hands she had been betrothed to.

crystal walking down isle

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After a long engagement,

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the wedding finally begins with a man and woman who fell in love four years prior, standing side by side before God and family to seal their hearts in marriage.  Holding hands as a symbolic gesture to “never let go”, this bride and groom displayed the abundance of their hearts through the smiles on their faces.

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Trying hard to leave the eyes of the other, this couple did declare their love in holy matrimony during the service that was chronicled in the wedding program.  A service of prayer; a song to prepare;

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a scripture about love; a song of communion; an exchange of vows and exchange of rings; then a kiss to declare them husband and wife.

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Cheers echoed the crowd as they stood to honor the new Mr. and Mrs.,

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yet unbeknownst to a single soul at the wedding was that secret gift slowly being unwrapped, with its silver bow already untied.

As one final exchange in the wedding, guests lined up on both sides of the Roofless Church walkway to greet the bride and groom with kisses of bubbles, as these two made their way down their royal aisle one last time.

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Following, the bridal party would take their remaining wedding photographs

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while the guests began their short journey to the reception hall, a two story converted granary, until those seated at the head table arrived.

granary

The guests walking from the church to the reception was a picture of life for us all;

guest book

those steps we take

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from one street to the next in our day, never knowing what waits for us around the corner.

new harmony road

We live and breathe each moment with great expectation, and as we should, because life in itself is a gift.     But it’s those mini presents that accompany life that when revealed, we sometimes don’t see the gift; at least not at first glance.

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Arriving at the front door of the reception hall, guests would enter a place especially decorated for them.

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Candle lit tables set with great detail for loved ones sitting at every seat.

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With floral centerpieces accentuating the colors of the day,

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hand-crafted favors were part of each place setting for guests to take home as their personal gift from the bride and groom.

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A banquet meal was prepared from the selections of the wedding couple, and an evening celebration of dance and music still waited its turn.

dj at controls

The hour is now evening, the time approximately 7:30 pm.  As scripted per the wedding invitation, dinner is about to be served.

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Still awaiting the arrival of the newly married couple,

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the clock is ticking in seconds, as its hand will soon change the minute.

jakes watch

They always say “never close your eyes, because when you do, life can turn in an instant.”

crystal getting hair done

How wise was that person, because when each guest opened their eyes from the blink of the last, the lights went out in New Harmony.

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Initially in the darkness, most thought this was the signal for the bride and groom to make their grand entrance at the reception.

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Others believed this mishap was only momentary.  But soon enough, the delay caused an undue stir among the crowd.  Though panic didn’t set in, a question of “what do we do next?” was on everybody’s mind.

To continue with the reception yet without the traditional announcement of the bridal party, the wedding couple and their court did take their seats at the head table and dinner was soon served thereafter.

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Amid an evening without lights, the feeling of romance continued to permeate the darkness as votive candles still lit the place like small stars on a clear summer night.

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While looking at my son and his new wife though as they halfheartedly ate their first meal together, my heart sank for the special attention that wasn’t being paid to them due to the chaos.

jake and crystal at buffet

Young girls didn’t get to dream of their wedding while admiring the “Princess of the day” as the room was too dark.

kyle veil

crystal in window with flowers

Glasses weren’t being clanked to encourage the new couple to kiss.

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and those long awaited speeches from the best man and maid of honor were put on hold.

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girl toast

Celebrations, especially weddings, are meant to be savored detail by detail.  It is during those planned or unplanned times where the wedding memories are birthed.  But to consider the safety of everyone, dinner was rushed to its completion so that the party could be moved, literally to another venue; an old, dusty gymnasium a few streets over.

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In the hour that life is happening,

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whether the water is calm at your feet or hurling waves at your face, one usually doesn’t stop to take inventory of the little gifts that you have been given until the hour you just lived has passed.

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How much more of our existence would we enjoy and not take for granted if we would only learn to live in the appointed moment.

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As the mass exodus of this wedding party began its journey from a hall decorated with ambience to a gym where its grandest recorded dance was a 50’s Sock Hop, gifts had already begun to be passed out from the guests unknowingly as if Christmas had come early.

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While still in the hall, gifts of great concern was displayed for anyone trapped in the elevator when the power went out.  The room went silent to verify any guests unaccounted for.

Presents of makeshift lighting over the buffet table was created by the videographer’s camera light, as the cameraman stood there himself holding the light until every guest made their way thru the dinner line.

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Bridesmaids displayed their gifts of compassion as they joyfully carried the wedding cakes to the other hall, regardless that frosting decorated their party dresses while fumbling the streets at night.

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Cases of beverages and anything else party-worthy somehow found their way to hall number two,

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as guests,  though suffering from the intense heat of a gym void of air-conditioning, displayed vast gifts of love to a bride and groom to help salvage their wedding day.

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rob and shane dancing

From my point of view, the party finally got started when the tuxedo jackets came off and high heels were exchanged for bare feet.  Tradition went out the window with the transformer that night, and the checklist of wedding things to do was scrapped.

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The bridal party was finally introduced simultaneously as a guest dressed in a large canine costume high-fived and body slammed each member to the music, “Who let the dogs out?”

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jake in dog costume 2

Little boys went bare-chested though still sporting their ties,

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and that crazy guest whom we all love went solo on the dance floor, flopping around like a fish out of water as he rode the pretend waves.

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From the bride’s point of view though, I can only imagine her heartache that the wedding she had planned up until the last song the band would play, only happened on paper.

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Brides are still little girls with the dreams they have held onto their whole life.  That evening when the lights went out, I wondered if my new daughter was truly living her dream.

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As a mother watching her children struggle on their wedding day, I must say it was a proud moment for me and a gift I received from them when I didn’t see their anger or disappointment taken out on the hall coordinator or more importantly, each other.

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All I saw was two people greatly concerned for their guests and their enjoyment that night, spreading a heart full of patience, kindness and love.

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That night it wasn’t the handsome tailored tuxedo or vintage couture wedding dress that revealed the true beauty of a couple, but the unexpected turn of wedding events instead.

Jakes wedding

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As with every wedding, the night must come to an end and the chapter of a couple’s wedding day closes, only to turn to the pages of a new chapter where real beginnings take place.

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For this wedding though, one final visit to the granary was in order as the hall needed to be packed up from the power outage the night before.

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Upon my return, I was caught off guard by the visual of a wedding put in pause, as the tables still retained the remains of the centerpieces and favors that many guests had left behind.

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Brief waves of sadness took my breath as I gazed at the head table where the bridal court’s flowers continued to be displayed in their individual vases of water.

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I could still see the bride and groom seated in their special seats, wanting desperately to turn back the clock to an evening for them with electricity, where the events they planned really happened.

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I lamented when I turned to the dance floor where that mother-son dance never took place.

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I was grieved for the stolen moment I didn’t get to have with my new daughter, welcoming her into that reserved place of my heart I had been saving since my son was born.

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jake little boy

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But as I said before, gifts come in all sizes and shapes.  Those gifts I wanted the day of, actually came before the wedding, though I didn’t recognize them until after that evening in August.

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That weekend before New Harmony, my son came into town so I could make him breakfast one last time.  We shared a silly conversation over coffee and I am thankful that my son chose to steal an innocent moment with me, even if it was at the kitchen table and not dancing to “our special song”.

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As with my new daughter, how it would have been nice to have our first moment together on her wedding day.

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But I realized we had spent the last six months of stealing moments during the endless texts and conversations regarding the planning of this wedding; moments I had because she invited me into the planning of her special day.

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Leaving the hall for the last time, I noticed a lone votive candle left behind by some guest walking the streets among the other guests the night before, sitting by a tree facing the granary.

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A light that once illuminated the path of someone walking in darkness, it reminded me of a verse that brings light to a dark place we might all find ourselves in:

Ephesians 5: 20 …always give thanks to God the Father for everything.

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Give thanks to God for everything?  Yes everything.  Even the writer of that verse, Apostle Paul, was giving thanks as he was chained in jail, falsely accused.

While we may never know the reasons why hard things happen,  the fact remains that light always comes forth from a dark situation,

even at a wedding when the all the lights go out.

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