Eight Years Ago

Eight years ago, at about the same time of day as I am writing this, I was standing in the parking lot of Woodland Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, MS crying. My hair was as cute as could be and I was just hours away from marrying the the love of my life, but I had locked my keys, veil, makeup, phone and purse in the car and had NO MONEY. All the bridesmaids and family members were off getting ready and running around and I was all alone.

I went inside the fellowship hall and ran into Marian Griffith (who was doing our decorations). "My keys and everything are locked in my car!" I managed to say this between the sobs and hiccups and general emotion that was consuming me at the time. The LORD knew that Marian was just who I needed at the moment, because there was no hug or sympathy or consolation. She quickly said, "Paula, stop crying right now or you'll have red eyes in your wedding pictures. Do you want your wedding pictures to have red eyes?" No, I did not. Let's just say I pulled myself together and called a locksmith and Mrs. Leslie Fortier to borrow some money to pay the locksmith! Oh, the days before everyone had cellphones!

We were both just twenty two years old and crazy in love. Now we are thirty and still crazy in love. : ) Our wedding day was full of friends and family, our ceremony full of meaning and the reception so fun we stayed until folks made us leave. Really, they did. We really enjoyed our wedding day; in part, because we prioritized things. Some elements of the wedding were very important to us and worth the details and time and some weren't and we left them alone. I remember that I did not want a professional photographer bossing us around the whole time and making sure we got all the right photos at the reception. So, we enlisted a handful of family and friends to take our pictures for us and I still LOVE our photos. Do I have a cake-cutting photo? I have no idea and still don't care. But what I do have are tons of photos of the sweet family and friends who attended and made our day so special!

Here are eight memories of that wonderful day!

1. The decorations. Marian, Anna and I spent hours planning the reception decorations and decorating and she and her sister, Mildred did such a beautiful job finishing everything. It was stunning.

2. The cakes. I hired a girl I went to school with to make our cakes. She worked for well-regarded pastry shop. The armadillo groom's cake was well executed and something else, for sure! The actual wedding cake was a bit funny. I wanted a small, three tiered white cake with lovely berries and fruit garnishes. Southern Living had a great inspiration picture. The actual result was a three-tiered cake with kumquats and grapes (maybe there were some berries) and the weight of fruit sort of tilted the layers. It was very funny looking although no one said it to my face. Fortunately I had ordered a small cake so that we could have assorted layer cakes from Shady Acres to serve. The Italian creme cake (which we ate leftovers of for weeks) rocked our world. One of these anniversaries I need to get one for celebrating.

3. My back ached (probably from the decorating) and I wore those instant, disposable heating pads under my dress!

4. Isotoner ballet slippers instead of wedding shoes.

5. Walking down the aisle to see Tuan for the first time. The sanctuary was empty. Just us. Lovely.

6. The music! Our friend, Michael was a fabulous guitarist and pianist. He did a guitar/vocal solo of O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus before the processional. It was beyond amazing and beautiful. All of the wedding music was just lovely.

7. The Kiss! We saved our first kiss on the lips for our wedding day. For some reason, we did not "plan" it out. I remember when Clint said that Tuan could "kiss the bride" and our lips met for the first time, my over-active brain started panicking. "What if we kiss too long? What if Tuan decides to make our first kiss a French kiss and it is in front of all these people? I cannot handle that." I can get a lot of thinking done in a three second span. In the frenzy of panic, I pulled away, determined to save face before "God and all these witnesses". Tuan must have looked funny, because Clint said something like, "not done yet, Tuan?" He replied in the affirmative and pulled me back for a second, longer smooch in front of a laughing crowd. So much for saving face!

8. Eggrolls. Tuan's dad made over 1100 eggrolls for the wedding and our caterer fried them all afternoon. I think they were the second most important memory of Tuan's day and I would be remiss without mentioning them.

Happy Anniversary, Honey!


On Entertaining . . .

Since we bought a double bed for Miss A, I've felt much more able to invite folks to spend the night with us. Now, we had a fabulous couch, but only one person can sleep on a couch (usually) and it doesn't afford much privacy. I feel very blessed to have Miss A's room available at a moment's notice (sort of) for anyone in need of a place to sleep. It has also spurred some thoughts about hospitality and houseguests especially.

We've had the pleasure of staying with so many wonderful families and friends who have made us feel more than welcome and comfortable and I thought jotting down some things I've observed/am learning/need to do would help me and hopefully someone else. I am, however, slanted in the parental perspective with my kiddos being so young. Here goes!

1. Ample towels. Some people just need two bath towels. It is a nice gesture to provide the towels in cute little bundles or baskets, but do make sure that either you supply plenty per person or let your guests know where the towels are.

2. Soap in the bath as well as access to basic toiletries they may have forgotten, plus a place to stow personal toiletries in the bathroom (if there is room).

3. A lamp in the bedroom! Very, very important. I know some folks are all about harsh overhead lighting, but your guests may have an aversion to the light or be rooming with their children and need some sort of low light in the room if they go to bed after the kids. (No stumbling about in the dark while trying to get ready for bed). A night light is a good thing.

4. Some means of climate control. A fan, encouragement to open a window and access to extra blankets. I have this vague memory of blindly digging through someone's closet in the middle of the night desperate for a blanket to warm my freezing body.

5. A water glass or bottled water for the bedroom. No stumbling around in someone's strange kitchen in the middle of the night.

6. Ample pillows.

7. At the beginning of the visit, let folks know the general schedule of your household. "We usually get up around seven, but you are more than welcome to sleep later." Or, "we sleep in on Saturdays, but if you are up before us, here is the cereal, coffee, etc . . " Make sure your guests know that they are welcome to stay up later than you, etc . . .

8. Particularly with children who are not always adaptable to a new schedule and meal routine, do encourage your guests to help themselves to snacks and beverages. If there are certain things you are saving, say so, but make sure your guests are able to care for their children and selves. I remember staying with some folks who ate breakfast very late in the morning and our kiddos were hungry way before it was even begun. We huddled in our room feeding them peanut butter crackers so they could survive until breakfast.

9. House rules are helpful to know. "We don't eat on the couch" or "no shoes on the carpet" help considerate guests be considerate!

10. Depart when you say you are. (if you are a guest). There is nothing so awkward for a hostess who needs to feed children or put them down for naps and is still entertaining guests who were supposed to leave hours before.

11. Focus on the people. A friend shared this philosophy of entertaining: "I get the house cleaned and neat, enjoy the people while they are here and we can always clean up tomorrow." I like that. Naturally, things have to be done while guests are at your house (especially overnight guests), but the priority should be people.


Christmas Bonus!

We have a new expression around here, it's "CHRISTMAS BONUS!". This does not refer to cash bonuses, although those are certainly lovely when they come. Rather, "CHRISTMAS BONUS!" is one of those pleasant deviations, surprises, unexpected happenings that God sends our way. Here are three of them:

1. I was rushing to clean up the kitchen after supper so that we could do Advent. The sink was full of dishes and I was dreading unloading and then loading the dishwasher. I started to leave them in the sink until after, but decided to go ahead and get it out of the way. When I opened the dishwasher, I was astonished to find it had already been emptied. "CHRISTMAS BONUS!"

2. This morning, I woke up and the sun was shining brightly through our window. Our alarm clock (a.k.a. baby) had not gone off and I popped down stairs without waking anyone and got to have quiet time and coffee in solitude. Sleeping late and being up before everyone is definitely a "CHRISTMAS BONUS". (I did not yell it that time, though!)

3. Tonight, we were planning to do something and I had foolishly/distractedly gotten the dates wrong. Instead we piled into the car and drove an hour north to check out a city with a big courthouse light display. Approaching the Square, we noticed a lot of police cars and people--it was a parade! Although we had to rush, we caught most of it and the kids ate it up, especially the dancing/performing horses! It was a memorable "CHRISTMAS BONUS"!

God is infinite and yet personal. He knows us intimately and lavishes love and grace upon us in so many ways--big and small. What "CHRISTMAS BONUSES" have you experienced lately?