Jill put the coffee on at 6:30, we caught a whiff of it in our suite, and shortly thereafter, Jerry and I came for a cup. During the next few hours, our family and friends congregated here, as the Storybook served a magnificent breakfast buffet.
Jerry and I had never before stayed at a Bed and Breakfast facility, much less celebrated such an occasion as this significant anniversary. We were extremely pleased that we had chosen the Storybook Inn and highly recommend such a place.
It was evening now, most of the guests had gone, but we had taken every sleeping room at the Storybook, so we all congregated for a few more hours of celebration. It was a delightful time of visiting with our family and treasured friends.
In the valley below, multiplied thousands of city lights were visible from the glass-enclosed room that connected to this area. A spectacular view enveloped our evening.
I had told the children I wanted to be responsible for the favors. I bought crystal vases, filled them with gold wrapped chocolate coins and tied a gold bow near their stem. I tucked in a hand written note from Jerry and me thanking our guests for being at our reception.
The guests had gone from the tables to their chairs on the deck, music was playing, and Berl waited at the podium area. Our family had gathered in the back, we talked a bit about the technique now, then we began walking down the center aisle, Jerry and I in the lead, accompanied by our children, their spouses, and a bevy of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Our procession and arranging ourselves in the front was a bit ragged, I believe, but that was okay, and we grinned and moved ourselves around until we were in some sort of order. We had planned a short “walk-through” of the procession before the reception, but we had called for too much picture taking, and had run out of time. Anyway, hours before, the whole family had been handed a detailed schedule, so we did all right, I think.
We stood. Berl grinned, looked us over, scanned the audience, then asked, “Who thinks this couple should repeat their vows?”
“We do,” shouted our family crew.
“Well, we need a preacher to handle this, so I’m calling on Steve.”
Berl moved aside and handed the microphone to Steve, our eldest.
To Jerry and me, Steve made the light comment. “This couple needs to stand in front of me to speak their vows.” I could hear laughter from the audience. Jerry and I turned, so that we faced our son, our backs now to the audience.
In an expert way, mixing levity with solemnness, Steve spoke from the 13th chapter of I Corinthians, making loving and complimentary remarks concerning his mom and dad. He then introduced his brother Andrew for the vows.
It was hilarious. Jerry’s vows were first, and when he tried to rush them, Andrew spoke sternly, the trace of a smirk on his mouth, “I said, Dad, Repeat after me.” Once when Jerry leaned toward me, Andrew said, “You can’t kiss her now. That comes later.”
The vows were finished, introductory music was played, Jerry was handed a microphone and, facing me, in his spectacular baritone voice, he began singing, “Always”.
I’ll be loving you, always.
With a love that’s true, always.
When the things you’ve planned, need a helping hand.
I will understand, always…always.
Things may not be fair, always.
That’s when I’ll be there, always.
At this point, I too grasped the microphone, and leaning my head into his, harmonized with Jerry for the ending words:
Not for just an hour…not for just a day…not for just a year but always.
Always….(Jerry added and I joined) Always…
Jerry’s eyes had widened as I began singing, for this was not planned. It was my surprise to him…and we brought it off without a hitch!
The applause for our song died, and Michael stepped forward with comments, after which, he called for THE KISS. Then he added a special word. “I’d like all of you to stand, and in your own way, join me in prayer for my mom and dad.”
They resounded through the towering oaks and fragrant pine trees of Storybook Inn, filtered over the lower valley, and ascended to the heavens above–the sweet and powerful prayer of our family and friends. The holy presence of God was a final stamp, marking in a capital way our ceremony.
“It’s a Wonderful World,” is the song Jana would sing for the conclusion, and at a particular place in the song, we would turn, and with Jerry and me leading, begin our walk down the aisle, laughing, shaking hands and greeting our guests. I believe we had started when I heard someone say, “Stop.”
Jerry looked toward the back and asked for the gift. Someone brought a small, wrapped package to the front, and handed it to him. He smiled at me, handed me a card and the gift. Behind me, someone said quietly, “No, that’s not it.”
I was confused, and looked back and forth, quizzing…is this mine, should I open it? Finally, someone came down the aisle, and took away the package. I looked around, made some comment to the laughing crowd about my gift being taken so quickly, and again we started our recessional. Jerry was lagging, reluctant to leave, I think I was still walking with the family group and when we were about half way back, Jerry returned to the front and called me to join him. We stood for a minute, then from the back someone brought a different package. While Jerry handed it to me, Mike came to my side and took away the card I still clutched so that I could open the package. Within was an elegant black-faced watch, with gold hands and a gold flourish at the 12:00 spot. Written in tiny letters at the bottom of the face were the words Movado–it a gift from my Honey.
For real now, we walked the recessional. The beautiful cake was served, my grandchildren and friends handed out the favors I had arranged–crystal vases, stuffed with gold wrapped chocolate coins and tied with gold ribbon, with a card from Jerry and me tucked in. We lingered, we smiled, hugged, complimented, cried, laughed…and then the party was over.
And from my memory cache reverberates a high school graduation song that could never be more appropriately noted….
…..Now this is the end of a perfect day….
One hundred and nine people had come–from as far away as Washington State, North Carolina, Arizona, and the Bay area in northern California. We had virtually taken over the Storybook Inn, occupying all their sleeping rooms. Others stayed at the Greystone Manor, the Northshore Inn, and The Radisson in San Bernardino. After we moved from the courtyard where Jamie had photographed the family, Jerry and I filtered through the crowd, greeted our friends, hugged and kissed and exchanged compliments. Many of our neighbors were there. By 4:30, nearly everyone had signed the guest book, attended by Holly, and had been seated. Interesting how over the years, some families become intricately intertwined. Holly and Rebecca are very close, Holly's mother, Joyce, is one of my absolute best friends, and Holly's brother, Adam, has been Andrew's very best friend since they were 3 and 4 years old. In many ways, both Holly and Adam seem as my own children.
Our family was in place on the front row. White and green chairs were situated on a wooden deck, framed by trees and facing the distant valley. Judy had twisted a bit of white and apricot tulle around the focal point on the deck–not very much, for the setting was idyllic and needed nothing. The day was still and warm, the chairs open to the air, the ones in the shade having filled first, although within half an hour the sun would have shifted and the entire deck would be cool and shady.
It had not been difficult for Jerry and me to choose Berl Stevenson as our emcee, for we have been extremely close for decades, and both Jerry and Berl declare the other to be his very best friend. While we were pastoring in Garden Grove and Rialto, Berl pastored in El Cajon, a suburb of San Diego, so we have lived only a hundred miles or so apart since the early 60s. Together we have worked in youth camps, vacationed with our families, traveled across the country in motor homes, taken missionary trips to foreign countries, camped in the woods and by the sea, and explored cities and small towns across America. He and Jerry have served on numerous church conference boards, and both Jerry and I were in the hospital room when Sue drew her last breath. Berl threw his glasses to the floor, and Jerry grabbed his friend and held him tightly. Later, we stood together as Berl and Lavelta were married. In 1994, in Oxnard, both Berl and Lavelta hovered over Jerry as he clawed for life. No, it wasn't a problem to choose Berl as our emcee.
We had told Berl we wanted the festivities light and not at all solemn and when it was over and we told what a great job he had done, he looked tenderly at us. "Well, I wanted it to please the both of you." I assure you, it pleased us. Berl made funny and serious remarks and then Jana Allard sang. I suspect no one in the world has a more beautiful voice than does Jana, and when she confirmed that she would be available for our reception, both Jerry and I were extremely pleased. She is the daughter of a fellow pastor, is the same age as Michael, and is now a pastor's wife herself. After her song, Berl called for comments from the audience and our friends and neighbors came up with funny and poignant stories. In turn, we laughed and cried. Rebecca and Christopher then moved center stage and sang "Unforgettable." Their young voices blended in perfect harmony, a family voice–our daughter and a grandson. When the song ended, Rebecca spoke dear words of love and congratulations to her daddy and me.
Berl announced dinner, and Joel, Steve's younger son came forward and prayed…for blessings on his grandparents and for blessings on the food. Then we all moved, first to our tables, and then through the buffet line. We had elected open seating, so except for the head table where placed with us were our children, their spouses, and Berl and Lavelta, our guests chose their own places. The meal was delicious and generous:
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Seeded rolls and butter
Iced tea, lemonade and water
The china was white, some of it gold trimmed.
The staff at Storybook were exceptional and many wait persons were available to carry plates of those who were challenged.
We lingered over our meal more than an hour, friends came by our table to speak with us, and when Jerry and I had finished eating, we moved among the guests as they continued to eat. After a while, when all had finished eating, Berl directed the guests again to the deck area. Our family gathered at the back, as during this part of the ceremony, we would walk together down the center aisle.
Occasionally, there comes a time of such grace that a tuned ear may catch the tick of ethereal metronome as the flow of a perfect day is directed. Such was Thursday, the day of our reception where we celebrated our 50 years of marriage.
Around noon we arrived at the Storybook Inn, a bed and breakfast facility situated on Highway 18 in Skyforest. Set among towering oaks and pines on the rim of the mountain, Storybook overlooks valley cities that include Redlands and San Bernardino. On clear days from this point, one can see waters of the Pacific. A bustle of activity greeted us, and holding my dress high on its hanger, I walked to the clearing where they were setting the tables. Judy, the floral decorator, was arranging the center pieces, and together with Jill of Storybook, was deciding where to situate the cake table so that it would show to its best advantage. (I don’t have pictures yet, but when I receive them, I’ll give you a peek or two of everything. The pictured suite on the Storybook link was our room.)
The flowers had been chosen to complement the colors of my dress. The centerpieces were arrangements of apricot roses, red-orange roses, asparagus fern, hypericum buds, tiny white mums (?), and long apricot streamers, placed in tall square vases. Placed atop white damask tablecloths on either side of the tall vases were small square ones with matching arrangements. Rose petals were strewn the length of the tables, midst a tiny bit of silver glitter. The roses were huge and the total effect no less than stunning. My personal flowers were arranged as a wrist corsage, which I had requested, and were of white gardenias. (Do gardenias come in any other color beside white? Don’t think so). The cake was three-layered, white with different fillings: one raspberry, one lemon and I don’t know what the other was. Its frosting was white, with a style called polka dot, its top adorned with fresh flowers matching those of the table arrangements. Judy and Laura (from the bakery) had traveled up the mountain together bringing the cake and the flowers. I roared with laughter as they told of creeping around the twists and turns to protect their precious cargo and of the typically fast and furious drivers ‘ responses to their snail-like progression up Highway 18.
I left them to their work, prowled outside a bit more, then joined Jerry inside. Our home is less than ten miles from Storybook, but we had decided to spend Thursday night there, so we checked into our room, arranged our things, and spent the next couple of hours visiting with friends and family who were already there. Several of them had spent Wednesday night at the inn and told us of the great breakfast they had been served.
At 1:45 Jerry and I went to our room to don our special clothes. Jerry had chosen to wear a black double-breasted suit, a white shirt and a black bow-tie: He didn’t go to the extent of buying the sort that must be tied, but chose a pre-tied one. I helped him arrange it under his shirt collar and fastened it securely, then pushed back to get a good look, declaring him handsome and debonair. My long dress was of a creamy silk, with apricot flowers running to a rust color, topped with a silk pleated jacket of deep apricot–almost a pumpkin. My shoes and purse were of a gold color. We gazed at ourselves in the mirrors around the rooms in our suite. We gazed at each other.
Andrew had arrived with the sound system, and a keyboard. He had set it up on the deck where would be held the ceremony, and at 2:30 our family gathered in the courtyard for pictures.
I had chosen James Wellner for the photography. Jill had recommended him, and he and I had communicated by phone and he had sent electronic files of his work, but I had not personally met him. He proved to be a charming man, was conservatively dressed in black pants and shirt with a cute hat, turned around backwards. He was the epitome of patience as he snapped numerous shots of Jerry and me, of each of us alone, of individual family groups, a four-generation shot and several of all of us together, which included a squirming baby and other restless children, who much preferred to continue their running around as opposed to standing still and smiling at Jamie and his Nikon. At 3:45, we called a halt to the picture taking. The reception was scheduled to begin at 4:00 and guests were arriving.
They were calling for Jerry and me to come to the cake table, wanted pictures in a certain spot, then they would move the cake table up against a wall. As Jamie was snapping pictures of Jerry and me and the cake, four of my grandsons were serving as valets, directing cars to parking facilities across the street, to the guest-book, and helping seat our guests in the ceremony area.
A most significant holiday and one to which we should pay particular attention is Father's Day. Mother's Day is important and easily gets its press, but a case can be made for Father's Day being just as important–perhaps more so. In recent years, respect for fathers and for men in general has plunged, in great part due to the onslaught of the feminist movement. Men are belittled, castigated as fools, laughed at, and pictured as buffoons.
This attitude is in direct conflict with God's word. Ephesians 6:2 says to "Honour thy father…that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." And to the fathers themselves in the next verse is this godly admonition, "And ye fathers,…bring them up (children) in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Finally, laying out additional pattern for a godly home is I Corinthians 11:3, "The head of the woman is the man."
God clearly set these mandates and this chain of command. It is when we operate within His parameters that we are the happiest, and the most fulfilled. Our families will thrive when we obey His word, when we follow the blueprint for godly and successful families. Husbands and fathers are to be honored and respected.
On this Father's Day, 2006, I honor all fathers, and five very special ones:
My dad who is now with the Lord, Jerry and my three sons– Stephen, Michael and Andrew.
These men have dramatically affected my life for they are:
* Honorable and highly principled
* Hard workers
* Teachers who show their sons how to be men
* The heads of their homes
* Tender and kind
It is not possible for me to conclude this tribute to fathers without acknowledging our great God, our heavenly father. II Corinthians 6:17-18 "…and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
What a great thought! God is my father, and claims me as his daughter. He claims you, too…(if you'll let Him.) Let's honor all of them today–all the men in our lives, the fathers of the world, and God, the father of us all.
Not sure whether or not I have mentioned it before, but today, on this my blog, I am officially announcing that on June 27th, Jerry and I will have been married 50 years! Celebration festivities are in the works and during the next days I will tell you of some of these. I will share insights on marriage, my emotional responses to this milestone in our lives, my excitement–things like that. Hope you stay tuned.
I know what–let's take this occasion and my blog and turn it into a tribute to permanent relationships and a call for enduring and lasting marriages. Sad to say, not too many of them are around, but I know there are others out there. Not only do I want to hear from you who have enduring marriages, but from others who have suffered… and have learned. You probably have timely advise for those coming behind us. I believe we owe the world the wisdom we accumulate in our life journey, the insight we have sharpened and the wisdom we have honed.
Today, Jerry and I drove to the small town of Boron to help celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Billy and Mary Wilkins. We visited with them and with other friends, ate good food, laughed, prayed and cried.
We have known the Wilkins for many years, and though we are not bosom buddies, since the day we met decades ago, we have maintained a friendship. Jerry and Billy both pastored churches here in California, and we often attended conferences, seminars and other church functions together.
On the way to Boron, Jerry and I discussed our friends, remarking of their steadiness, their positive outlooks, their faithfulness, their pleasant and upbeat attitudes. I cannot recall ever seeing either of them without a smile or without a cheerful word.
Life is not fair, let me tell you right now. I have lived long enough to declare myself an authority on the subject, and with all the power vested in me as a self-proclaimed expert, I tell you, LIFE IS NOT FAIR. Silver-spooned, the Wilkins are not, and every particle of ground they ever claimed, required staking in their heels, pulling, pushing, and straining. Knocked backwards, they grappled with failure, reared their heads, staked in their heels, and pushed, pulled and strained anew. They never pastored flourishing, prosperous churches, and both of them in recent years have experienced life-threatening medical situations. Should you give but a cursory glance to this couple, you might pass over them, and, you probably would not mark them as modern-day movers and shakers.
You would be wrong, very wrong.I learned something about them today that I had never known. In the early days of their marriage, a woman once called with these words, "I've turned on the gas jets and my seven children are sleeping in their beds. Shortly, they will be dead."
A stunned and stammering Billy Wilkins somehow persuaded this strange woman to reveal her location. He rushed there, tore into the house, shook the children awake, and led them from that evil place. The seven children had six fathers–all had abandoned their families, and now, the youngsters had no mother. ( I wasn't able to get the complete story today, but understand there was mental illness and just plain wickedness involved.)
Billy and Mary took the seven children into their home, introduced their two biological children, and reared them into adulthood. I never knew that before. I was aware they had been involved in foster care work, but they are so unassuming, so cheerful, so godly and uncomplaining…I did not know they reared those seven children as their own.
Today, two of the seven spoke at their parent's anniversary celebration. The first was a lady, now a pastor's wife herself. I believe she said she was seventeen when she was taken into the Wilkin's home. Overcome with love and emotion, she could hardly speak as she expressed her love and gratitude for her parents–Billy and Mary Wilkins. Her brother spoke then, burly and red-faced, a man who stood helpless before us. He tried to speak, but could not. It hurts to see such a man cry. I could bend over now and weep for love and life as I recall his piteous look and desperate attempt to speak. Finally, he did. "Could I search the world over," he said, looking straight into his parent's faces, "I could never find two other people I would rather have as my mom and dad."
I tucked my head–it was too private and too dear for my intrusive stare. Around me, men and women wept.
Happy anniversary, Billy and Mary Wilkins. You are the salt of the earth.