In His power and with His joy…

We wrote drafts of our vows in Atlantic, Iowa, a little town halfway between our parents’ farmhouses. Our tired eyes hovered over cups of bad coffee that a very sweet, very blonde waitress brewed happily after she heard what we were doing. It was supposed to be our “date night” the week of the wedding, but the bowling alley wasn’t open and we didn’t feel like hanging out in the Hy-Vee parking lot or at the Tropical Sno stand. We were getting married in a few days, which also made “scooping the loop” seem a little silly.

So, we slid into a booth at Oinker’s and scribbled on scraps of paper while we imagined what covenant and promise and marriage was supposed to be about. We looked at other vows and wrote out our own words and I mostly remember saying, “We are really getting married!” over and over again.

There is nothing light about making a marriage covenant. The first covenant in the Bible involved God walking through halved animals with a vow that the same would be done to him if the promise of provision was broken. Covenant promises are heavy things and when something is really heavy, I seem to go in search of large rocks to have “writer’s block” against.

writing vows

So, I mostly sat there while Patrick mostly wrote versions of our vows and then read them to me out loud. At some point, we both realized that making any statement of promise was completely ridiculous. We were weak, and not just because we had planned a wedding in three months. We were weak because we were (and are) human – fearfully and wonderfully made humans whose words and promises are limited just like our existence.

But the promise we were powerless to make to each other in front of God and witnesses was still possible. I will never forget the statement of introduction we wrote that seemed to both honor the weight of our commitment and resign our powerlessness to keep it on our own.

“I believe that in Christ all things are held together. In His power and with His joy, I am able to make this promise.”

I still have the scribbled scraps of paper. I found them in the zipper pouch of my backpack this past week when I was fishing for a pen. I’m not sure how they got there or why I decided it was a good place to keep them. But, there I was, staring out at lunchtime commotion in Bryant Park and thinking about all the things God was holding together in that moment.

Somewhere in the mad middle of our three month engagement, our pastor challenged us to write a mission statement. Our excitement to make a declaration about how we wanted our love to honor God and bless others seemed more important than parking arrangements and party favors. So, we thought and wrote and prayed in the summer quiet of his living room. I don’t think we realized at the time that our mission statement would have the same foundation as our vows.

We are disciples of Christ and believe that in Christ all things are held together. We will proclaim the Lord’s name to one another, family, friends, and neighbors through acts of service, words of encouragement, and invitations to break bread.

As it turns out, our belief that in Christ all things are held together (Colossians 1:17) has been one of the most beautiful truths to preach to ourselves in the first few weeks of marriage. Our excitement for this new adventure feels like holidays are happening every morning. In Iceland, we were almost embarrassed by our goofy grins enjoying lobster soup at little roadside cafes and standing at the bottom of glacier mountains and holding hands in coffee shops. We were that couple, on honeymoon.

And, as gratitude for this new life spilled out over the unbelievable horizons and breathtaking views, we were in awe of just how completely Christ holds things together. Our confidence in Him grew as we thought about our vows – confidence that the God who holds all things together is holding us together and empowering us to do the same.

It has been exactly two weeks and I am now more convinced than ever of my inability to keep such a crazy promise as I made on my wedding day.

But, God. He’s such an abundant provider! He is making it possible in this moment for me to keep my promise. He is holding us together like He holds together the Icelandic moss fields and Iowa’s rolling hills and the New York City skyline. He is making it possible for us to make these promises again today.

I believe that in Christ all things are held together. In His power and with His joy, I am able to make this promise.

I, Patrick, take you, Caroline, to be my beloved wife. I will lead you, protect you and provide for you as I seek to glorify God with my life and with our lives as one. I will stay committed to you for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, wherever the Lord leads. I will be by your side, as long as we both shall live.

I believe that in Christ all things are held together. In His power and with His joy, I am able to make this promise.

I, Caroline, take you, Patrick, to be my beloved husband. I commit myself to you, striving to encourage, uphold, forgive and affirm you as I seek to glorify God with my life and with our lives as one. I will stay committed to you for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, wherever the Lord leads us. I will be by your side, as long as we both shall live.

he is one of the brave ones

After all the invisible confetti settled on the post-engagement ground in Brooklyn, I heard bits and pieces of the story that led up to the ultimate Easter proposal. Somewhere along the way, I heard about the conversation between Patrick and my Dad at the littlest steakhouse in Anita, Iowa. My Dad has never mentioned it, but Patrick shared a few things and I’ve stored them up in my heart.

Before my dad could settle into midwestern pleasantries and pretend this meeting was about anything else, Patrick said, “Dick, I’d like to marry your daughter.”

I suppose that set the tone for the conversation, but maybe more so when my dad said, “Patrick, I would be honored.”

I wasn’t there, but both men are great conversationalists so I kind of wish I could have been. In between the appetizer platter that I’m sure my dad ordered and the steak that is the best in the tri-county area, I guess they talked about life and marriage and love. I don’t know exactly how it came out, but at some point my dad shared this encouragement with him (and he paraphrased it for me):

Patrick, not many men want to pursue a strong woman these days. They are afraid or intimidated or something, I don’t know. Cindy is a strong woman and I am blessed every day that I chose her to love. And Caroline is like her mom – strong. 

It has taken months to let this conversation sink in – that Patrick flew to Iowa to ask my dad if he could marry me, that my two favorite men shared a meal, that my dad said I am a strong woman, and that Patrick loved me enough to pursue me.

I think my dad might be right – men are afraid to pursue strong women. I don’t always feel strong, but I know the Lord provides it in abundance. I am confident in a strength apart from me and maybe that looks intimidating – that I can say yes to crazy things or hard things or dangerous things because I know God has already gone before me and will sustain me with His faithfulness. I was humbled to hear my dad say he sees strength in me; humbled because it is the grace of God and it has much to do with growing up in his home.

More than that, or at least equal, came the realization that Patrick is one of the brave ones. He, too believes God is faithful and strong and sovereign. He is not afraid to pursue a strong woman and that makes me love him ever so much more.

Tonight, we are going to take my parents out to dinner to celebrate 35 years of their marriage and to celebrate the beginning of ours. We are strong women, I guess (by the grace of God), and the Lord has blessed us with brave men.

We will always be learning about God’s design – the way marriage reflects something beautiful about who He is and how He loves us. Today that lesson seems to be about God’s grace to give strength and bravery in order that two can serve one another and give God glory for His provision.

never stranded inside a miracle

They went to the tomb with good intentions. Even though Jesus had prepared them in every way for His death and resurrection, they still thought they would find his dead body three days old as if it was any other body. They went to the tomb with good intentions in their hearts and this is what the angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7 ESV)

No need to fear, he says, for you are looking for the right thing. You are seeking Jesus and He will never leave you stranded in a miracle. You are headed in the right direction and God will honor your search! The angel was God’s grace to these ladies just like we experience God’s graces to us as we seek to worship, serve, and love well. He doesn’t leave us stranded at the empty tomb. He points us toward the person of Jesus, toward reunion and delight in His presence.

This is God’s grace – that He never leaves us stranded inside a miracle.

This is the truth I am believing today. I am inside the miracle of love and I believe God will be glorified in spite of all the crazy. He does not leave us stranded at the empty tomb, but points us to His presence. He is always faithfully walking ahead of us, preparing the way for our joy and proclaiming our resurrection.

He rose, just as He said.

He is a promise keeper, our God. And we are so excited to invite people to celebrate His promises while Patrick and I make promises to each other. His promises empower our promises!

I get to marry this man!
I get to marry this man!

have you ever seen a tree dance?

Psalm 1 is one of my favorite word pictures in the Bible. Trees are a reminder of what happens when the Lord provides – the deep roots, lush leaves, and sprawling canopy flourish because of the Lord’s care.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1, ESV)

But every analogy has something in common: a limit.

A tree is inadequate to describe what we are completely “like” as we follow the Lord. As we move from one degree of holy to the next, we are not just rooted deep in the ground and stretched out to bear fruit. A tree as a picture of our sanctification is limited, even if it is a tree that prospers in and out of season and whose leaf does not wither.

Our Christian life is “like a tree,” but it is also more than this. We are rooted and established in love (Ephesians 3:17-19) but we have also inside of us the brilliant excitement that caused David to dance with all his might (2 Samuel 6:14). We have access to abundant life (John 10:10) in Christ, the kind that makes us want to sing and praise and laugh and shout (Acts 16:25, Psalm 98:4, Psalm 47).

Yes, loving the Lord and growing in this love means being like a tree, but it also means being like the bride and groom at the wedding I went to yesterday.

His gleeful squeals with outstretched arms and smile-covered face looked nothing like a tree. He was not composed and stately. He was drowning in joy and his bride was radiant with expectation. They were both very un-tree like when they bounded down the aisle after the “Mr. and Mrs. Groves” announcement and jumped into the air under the cloudy sky.

Their joy spilled out… it got into our hearts as we watched them celebrate. The love that was rooted and established in their identity as children of God was now displayed in their commitment to one another as united by God.

I have never seen trees dance.

have seen the glory of the Lord spilling over our ability to describe it. Yesterday, watching Riley and Brooke get married, was one of those times.