Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reflections on Our Daughters Wedding

Mr. & Mrs. Harley Jacob Schwartz
May 24, 2014
It has been over a year since our daughter's wedding. I must say it was one of the most lovely ceremonies of Christian love I have ever seen, and I'm not being prejudiced! It was truly wonderful and worshipful.

At the same time, there were some things which we should have thought through a little better. Hopefully, these reflections will help others in making their own special day one without regrets.

What I loved...

The Dress! 

Our Lydia has always been frugal and quite handy with a needle. With the help of a seamstress friend, she was able to craft the wedding gown of her dreams at about a third of the cost by purchasing a discounted dress as the liner ($145!) and using wedding gown lace and a pattern she found online for the overlay. We bought 4 yards of the needed lace for around $75 a yard (very cheap) at a specialty warehouse in St. Louis, MO, when we went through there to visit Jake in Dallas before the wedding. Since there was only a yard left on the bolt, the cashier threw it in for free! Amazing providence.

My Dress

The mother of the bride is a secondary focus of attention, but often in the spotlight. Every MOTB wants to look good. Those of us with weight issues have a little harder time looking as good as we would like, but there are many more options available to us now than ever before. I chose a dress from an online retailer (Woman Within) with plenty of time to make exchanges by mail if I needed to. So, when Jake first began to be interested in Lydia, I knew in my heart he was the one and went ahead and ordered my perfect dress right then and there. I didn't want to take the chance it wouldn't be available by the time he popped the question.

The Church

If you know your own church will not be big enough, please find another option as soon as possible. This was our biggest hangup. Most churches will not rent their facility to non-members anymore, and I can see this being an even more difficult situation with the new laws concerning gay marriage. However, after some negotiating with the folks at the church where the groom used to be a member, we were able to secure the perfect church without our guests having to commute between the ceremony and reception.

The Ceremony

Jake and Lydia are both believers committed to Christ in all areas of their lives. It was no surprise that their wedding ceremony placed Christ at the center of it all. The music, the sermon delivered by the groom's former pastor, the charge and vows administered by the bride's pastor, the modest clothing of the bride and her ladies in attendance, all pointed to and gave glory to the true love of their lives, the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a beautiful thing to behold.

Rev. Bernard Timmerman delivering
the blessing and administering the vows.

The Tying of the Lovers' Knot

When it came to what to do during the song duet, Jake and Lydia wanted something special to demonstrate their uniting as one, something different from the usual unity candle or sand pouring ceremonies. They decided to literally "tie the knot." Some refer to it as the Lovers' Knot ceremony where the bride and groom tie together two sections of rope into a fisherman's knot, known to be the strongest there is and actually becomes more secure when pulled in opposite directions. The ceremony was both unique and a perfect symbol of their uniting their two lives into one.

Rev. Jeffrey B. Johnson delivering the wedding sermon

The Mistress of Ceremonies & Her Videographer Boyfriend

A wedding is a good time to discover hidden family talent. The sister of the groom did a fantastic job as the mistress of ceremonies. This woman was a walking miracle, having just gotten out of the hospital with a large blood clot on the brain. You would have never known it. She was truly remarkable, and no one could have done a better job getting us where we needed to be and when. The added bonus was her boyfriend who graciously agreed to videotape the ceremony and reception using a video camera we had rented only that morning. Though he had no previous training in videography, this fella did an excellent job.

The Clean Up Crew

A wedding is also a good time to discover who your real friends are, especially when it comes time to clean up afterwards. We discovered too late what a chore it was going to be. We had a cleaning company hired to do the basics like mopping, vacuuming, and taking out the garbage, but tearing down decorations, breaking down tables in time for the rental company to pick them up, and packing up all the leftover food were not things we had adequately planned for. Thankfully, enough people saw the need and pitched in to get the church ready to be used the next morning. I don't even know who all to thank! There were just so many. God bless them every one.

What I Regret...

Not Enough Clean Up Planning

Like I said, we had a lot of folks pitch in with the clean up after the reception. However, as the mother of the bride, I had people coming at me from all directions with questions about what to do with decorations and food. Unfortunately, we hadn't planned that part of the wedding.

The huge decorated reception hall
I was not really in any shape to handle these questions, but no one else knew what to do. I had just waved good-bye to our one-and-only daughter who was moving a thousand miles away, and I was involuntarily plunged into the abyss of a sleep-deprived emotional turmoil. The first chance I got, I just went to a corner of the reception hall and wept.

My longtime friend and mother-in-love to our oldest son saw my distress and came over with the hug I so desperately needed. She knew how I felt. She had gone through the same thing only a few years earlier when her oldest daughter moved from their home in Texas to marry our son in Michigan. After that, I was able to think more clearly and, between our van and the van of a friend who lives in our same town, we were able to get the leftovers all back to our house.

Not Using a Professional Caterer

I need to clarify at the outset that I do not intend to put down the guys who catered our daughter's wedding. They were young and just starting out and literally cut their teeth on our reception. I think they and we both learned a lot from that experience. These tips might help if you decide to try to save money by going with a non-professional caterer.

Does this look like chicken salad on croissants? ;)

  • Make sure they understand exactly what you want with room for them to make substitutions within the budget
  • Keep in touch with them regularly before the event to see what they are planning and that they understand clearly what you want
  • Don't give them an order they can't handle (the coffee bar didn't happen, but we shouldn't have expected so much)
  • Ask them if they are providing containers for leftovers or if you need to do that
  • If you see they are struggling, have people ready who are ready and willing to pitch in
  • Did I mention how important communication is? 
For their first time out, our friends put on a spectacular gourmet meal with a lot of variety. It just wasn't what we wanted. If the food is REALLY important to you, get a professional caterer. 

It was certainly stunning, just not what we wanted.
Here is another important point to consider. Budget wise, if you have a lot of people to entertain, have a smaller reception, maybe an afternoon cake reception, instead of a sit-down, four-course meal. But, if you just feel the need to feed, then consider trimming off that guest list to save money. 

Photo Shoot Holding Up the Reception

We either should have taken fewer photos or figured out a better schedule than having everyone wait to eat until all the pictures were taken. This is so important if you have a time limit on the use of the facility or have rented equipment which has to be ready to be picked up or returned at a certain time, both of which were a concern for us. Our problem that day, however, was a time limit on the photographer. 

Absolute Photography
Holland, Michigan
Perhaps once everyone was gathered in the reception hall, we could have had the master of ceremonies begin the meal while the pictures were being taken. Then, when it looked like the first people through the line were nearly done eating, the bride and groom could have come in to cut the cake and let them continue eating while they finished the rest of the photo shoot. It can be ridiculous how long it takes to photograph a wedding! I just think we could have been more considerate of our guests in keeping within the time schedule.

No Special Time Set Aside Just For Lydia and Me

We live half an hour or more from the church, so we wanted to be sure the key people were close in case there was car trouble or something. So, the night before the wedding, Lydia and I stayed at a hotel near the church with two of the bridesmaids from out of town and a dear friend of mine who showed up at the last minute. I had intended to shower that night and curl my hair on sponge curlers, the hairstyle I had practiced so well beforehand. However, in my haste to pack, I had forgotten the sponge rollers! I didn't realize this until I was the last person to shower. After a quick trip to the Meijer store, which was thankfully open across the street, I finally got my hair rolled and hit the sack about 1 a.m.

A hug from Mom

Lydia and I never did get that one-on-one mother-daughter talk the night before her wedding. There was only about a five-minute interval alone while helping her get dressed the next day when I was able to share my heart with her. But, it wasn't what I wanted it to be. We should have gotten a separate room from our guests that night before.

I also regret her dad and me not taking the time to pray with her before the ceremony. We were just too busy to think of what was most important.

A kiss from Dad


I hope these reflections on our daughter's wedding may be of help to you or your loved ones when planning such an event. There's a lot more to it than love. ;)

What have you learned from your own wedding experience? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. And, if you are a blogger, please feel free to share a link to your post.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Modern Dilemma of Funding Full-Time Ministry


These are just a few of my thoughts spawned by the thoughts in this article regarding whether or not full-time pastors should be given a salary by the church or earn their own keep:

Making the Old Paradigm the New Paradigm for "Full Time" Ministry

I understand the point this pastor is trying to make, but I'm not sure he understands the underlying problems of financing "full-time" ministry.

We base our churches providing a living wage to ministers on how the Old Testament priests were provided for, through the tithes of the people to whom they ministered. Likewise, Paul mentions this same principle for providing for full-time ministers in the New Testament church when he says, "Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." (1 Cor. 9:13, 14)

One problem with this model in some churches is that the pastor is often expected to be the lone ranger minister. He holds all the offices of the church at once with the exceptions (but not always) of music and money. Yet, expecting a man to work as a full-time, lone-ranger pastor while also holding down a full-time job to support his stay-at-home wife and children is IMPOVERISHING if not IMPOSSIBLE. I know this from personal experience. In fact, my husband left Bible college and immediately had to choose between providing for his family and ministering full-time. In good conscience, he had to work.


Also, the more socialized we become, the more there is a drain on our earned wages, and the more there is a pressure for everyone to work. This has most recently been realized in the "Affordable" Care Act. With this added financial burden on working families, smaller congregations are finding it nearly impossible to raise enough funds to provide for their full-time pastors in the first place and especially with the added burden of providing health insurance for him and his family also. Yet, the fact that these congregations are small is another problem with tithe-based funding of full-time pastors.

The exodus of a growing number of wage earners to mega churches has sapped the financial resources from smaller congregations who are left with only widows and pensioners who are barely scraping out a living for themselves. As the Industrial Revolution began to change the economies of the West, Rev. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892, the London mega church pastor of his day) felt a burden to raise money to help full-time ministers in impoverished areas. Perhaps mega church leaders could learn from the example of Mr. Spurgeon and take up the cause of their poor brothers in ministry, perhaps by even taking a lesser salary themselves and distributing to others as they have need. Mega churches are all about helping the needy aren't they? Perhaps their piety should begin at home (1 Timothy 5:8).


Yet, the argument could be made that it is more a problem of distribution of duties than distribution of funds. If a congregation is unable to support a full-time minister, then perhaps volunteers could take responsibility for some of the duties of the pastor so he could be free to pursue his own living. At the same time, these ministers must be willing to let go of some of their duties to others who are also gifted. Perhaps sister churches who cannot give funding could provide gifted, qualified members who would be willing to also lend a hand.

And, then we come to the hard questions:

1. Is this full-time minister even gifted to be a minister in the first place? Sometimes congregations are small and unable or unwilling to support a minister full time because he is not ministering to them. This is one way of thinning the herd when it comes to false ministers who probably SHOULD give it up and go find an honest means of providing for themselves.

2. Is it time for this small congregation to sell their assets (or more likely realize their debts) and merge with another established church? Too often it is only pride and lust for power which keeps some of these ghost-of-a-churches in operation. They only take up enough offering to keep the lights, gas, and water on so they can maintain the status quo and keep their independent autonomy. Someone who's been a pillar of the assembly for 40 years might find it difficult to go to another church where he might not be a deacon at all, but a mere mortal member.

I would love to hear the thoughts and ideas of others on this subject. Sadly, we are reaching a point of desperation in this matter.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Happy Father's Day Indeed

My dad and me at my sister's 25th anniversary
wedding vow renewal service in 2014.
A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the 
widows, is God in his holy habitation.
God setteth the solitary in families:
he bringeth out those which are bound with
chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
Psalm 68:5-6

A few years ago I wrote a blog post regarding my struggles at the card counter when choosing a Father's Day card for my dad called When a Father Falls Short of the Ideal: Father's Day Ponderings of an Adult Child of Divorce. I mentioned at the end how God had begun the healing between Dad and I after his coming to know Christ.

I just want to say with great joy in my heart and soul that it occurred to me this year that the struggle at the card counter was completely GONE. I still passed over the sentiments which didn't fit out relationship, but the subject matter narrowed down to something religious, which had not been an option those many years ago.

Dad called the minute he got the card. After gushing over the 20 or so pictures of his great grandchildren I had included, he said, "Marcia, I just want you to know that card -- O, that card! -- really blessed me."

What more can I say? My heart is full. God has brought it all full circle with His Son square in the middle of it all. I know this may never happen for some people who struggle with their relationships with their parents, but I must return to give thanks and glory to God for what He has done in our hearts and lives. If you read the post I mentioned above, you will see it began even before Dad came to know Christ or even considered he might have a daughter who was struggling at the Father's Day card counter.

Yet, even if your situation never changes, there is still hope for the hurting heart. There is an ever-loving Heavenly Father who cares for us even to the point of giving His own Son to pay the debt of our sins against His love. You will find Him in the pages of His Holy Word, the Bible. May you seek to know Him more today and find in Him your all in all.