Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rejoicing in my daughter's wedding

Rachel reading her wedding vows
Last week my daughter Rachel got married in a beautiful ceremony in Chattanooga at Crabtree Farm. The setting was rustic, yet classy. Crabtree Farm is a non-profit farm and for three years Rachel and her fiancee Joshua were members, exchanging their labor for produce. The farm is a very special place for them.

Joshua Bennett is the son of Jeff and Jodie Bennett of Madison Mississippi. Joshua is a find young man and he and Rachel have dated for almost four years. Last fall, they had a three-month adventure touring and living in Peru. Joshua, like Rachel, has an adventurous spirit. They are madly in love and I could not be more pleased.

The late afternoon wedding was attended by about 140 people and took place outdoors in the shade of two large poplar trees. The farm was transformed for the wedding with stings of small white lights and candles creating a romantic glow. The potting shed became the bar serving signature drinks of bourbon highballs and raspberry lemonade and other choices.

The barn was the buffet line and after the meal, became the dance floor. A large white tent adjoining the barn was where we ate and celebrated after the wedding. The tables were decorated with linen table cloths, some of them antiques I am sure. Each table was decorated with a beautiful bouquet.  The wedding flowers were created by my sister, Rebecca Mandel, who is a talented florist. The flowers were beautiful.

The food was delicious with barbecue all the side dishes and several great salads. The barbecue was absolutely some of the best I ever ate. The wedding cake was a carrot cake and there was a table laden with desserts providing lots of desert choices. Everything was just wonderful!

The only think that could have been better is if it had been a little cooler.  It was a hot day, but that did not put a damper on the party. People ate, drank, socialized and danced until after midnight.
Dancing at my daughter's wedding

It was a pleasure to meet Joshua's family and so many of Rachel and Joshua's friends and to share this joyous occasion with my extended family. The day before the wedding we had the wedding rehearsal and helped decorate the farm and set up the chairs and in the evening we had the rehearsal dinner.  I rented a restored old Victorian house in Chattanooga which Louella and I shared with our friend Sue and my sister Rebecca and her husband Dale.  It was a wonderful weekend.

My sister Kathleen Williams conducted the ceremony. Below is the text of her homily.

"Rejoice ever more. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks."

Words from 1 Thessalonians 5:16. Words to live by.

Kathleen Williams-Mooradian and Joshua Bennett
If you both apply this to your life and to your marriage, you will be forever blessed. You will be happy and fulfilled.

Rejoice ever more. It’s not about a natural disposition – although it comes more naturally to some of us. But for most people it takes practice. So…practice rejoicing. Make it a habit. When you feel happy, say it.

Ask yourself every day. What am I happy about? What am I excited about? What am I enjoying? Don’t allow yourself to ask the opposite – don’t look for trouble. Troubles will find you. Look for joy. Share it with your husband or wife. Share it with your friends and family. Give joy away. Smile. Rejoicing is contagious. It makes it pleasurable to live with the other person – to wake up to them every day.

 And there is so much to rejoice about -- wonderful, wonderful, life. And what wonderful lives are being joined here today. Already rich with experiences to brighten a lifetime.

Purchasing passion fruit from a street-side stand in Kensington Market, Toronto. Tiny little crackles of sound as they opened the orange skin, and slurped the fruit down. Rachel says, "It was beautiful and sensual and in that moment they knew there was a whole world of treats to experience and that we wanted to know of them together."

Camping in the woods and fresh water swims in cold cricks. Hikes along the humid Tennessee forest floor. Heavenly.

Allie Stafford and Allen Hartley provided the music
Biking across a totally empty beach at Sapelo Island and stopping for a swim and then an impromptu picnic on found fresh grapefruits.

Or Cooking in Cusco, Peru. Winding through cobblestone streets to shop colorful Andean markets, marveling at all the fresh produce and then sharing scrumptious fare.

Hiking through the Andes, to white fields of drying salt, and most recently the triumph of touring with Joshua’s music across the eastern united states. These experiences are exotic and rare but Rachel and Joshua also know how to relish the simplest experiences …again to use Rachel’s beautiful words: they are blessed by the everyday … "a normal Saturday morning that holds wonder."

When you have been this blessed, it’s wrong to despair. So Rejoice.

Take time to Rejoice in the everyday life …This green meadow – these broad trees. These loved ones around you now and those far away and some now departed whose love we still feel. Oh wondrous life.

Oh wondrous love. Rejoice in it always and be glad. And your marriage will be blessed.

Pray without ceasing. I don’t understand it and I know that it doesn’t cure all the disease or suffering, or wars, or bad news that bombards us every day. But I know that there is a place you can go – call it the heart of God – the spirit of the Universe – call it Love. There all suffering ceases.

Toast of the bride and groom.
Seek comfort even if it just means being still. Quieting the mind. To find the heart. In Psalms 46:10 the verse says, “Be Still and know that I am God.”

Go to the woods where I know you two feel this most profoundly. Where Moses and Jesus and John the Baptist went too. Go to the river. Get washed in the waters. Go to the wilderness. It soothes. There you can always find a fresh start, cleansing, peace.

Poet and farmer Wendell Berry Says: “Come into the peace of wild things…into the presence of still waters…and rest in the grace of the world and be free.”

One of the greatest Americans - Conservationist John Muir felt all “hard money-gaining, material thoughts loosen and sink off and out of sight, and says: one is free from oneself and made captive to the fresh wildness and beauty, obeying it as necessarily as unconscious sun-bathed plants.”
 
“Leaving no place for the old fears in a spirit filled to its capacity with wonder.”

Pray or Meditate on your aspirations for your family. For you work. For your health. Know what you are praying for. Pray for strength to accomplish your dreams. Pray for peace. Pray for each other. Pray for your marriage.

And then rest. Depok Chopra says: Spending time in nature will give you access to infinite creativity, freedom and bliss. It’s about appreciation for the Here and Now. And it’s for strength.

Even though my faith is weak and I cannot define sometimes what or who I pray to I seek the “quiet room. The holy presence." The spirit that will aid me in all we share and do. And do your best to believe that as Jesus says, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”

Prayer will bring peace to your marriage … a peace that passeth understanding.

In everything give thanks. Count your blessings. Be present. Give thanks. Ask yourself – what am I thankful for.

Believe it or not – someday when it’s not your wedding day, and the laundry is backed up and the bills have yet to be paid or worse can’t be paid and you find something wrong with the other person, it’s so helpful to also be thankful and to have this habit developed every day. It’s a reserve you can draw on.

I’m so thankful that my husband of 25 years this past month is so faithful, so smart, so respectful, such a good father, kind, and good to look at. The bills or laundry become so unimportant when weighed against all those great attributes.

And sometimes it’s okay to be sad about the things you find disappointment in. No –one will meet every expectation, all the time. Allow yourself to be sad about some things so the other person doesn’t have to be perfect to satisfy you.

And say how thankful you are often. And say thank you. Good manners make good room mates. Thank you honey -- Goes a long way toward making a good marriage.

In the book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, author Annie Dillard studies God and nature for a year and at the end even though she acknowledges the violence and cruelty of nature… of life, she exhorts us all to: "Go your way and your left foot says 'Glory' and your right foot says 'Amen'; in and out of Shadow Creek, upstream and down, exultant, in a daze, dancing, to the twin silver trumpets of praise."

If you Rejoice evermore - pray without ceasing. and give thanks. Life and your marriage will be Blessed.

The Williams Family

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