A few weeks ago, a few friends of ours asked Steven and I to say a few words at their wedding.
Most good wedding speeches are spontaneous, catch the mood of the event and the lovers and ride it out in an eloquent diddy, complete with laughter and tears and heartfelt words of wisdom that fill everyone to the brim with love and champagne.
Mine was typed, printed, practiced roughly 20 times and even then read word for word on the page, only pausing to look up the one time when I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t lose my place (where I had typed parenthetically ”Look up and raise your glass.” —Just in case I forgot what I was up there for in the first place, became disoriented and started crying).
But I still lost my place once and promptly got the hand shakes, made apparent to everyone by the now flapping paper I could no longer control.
I have never been much of a public speaker. Nor spontaneous, as much as I hate to admit it. But I love these two people, and so I meant what I said. However uncomfortable I made everyone.
From the top:
Good evening beloved ones of Seth and Mackensie Bravermen…
I may be a newer friend of Mackensie’s, but due to the relationship between our husbands, and being that Seth is one of my dearest and closest brothers, I can pretty much guarantee we’ll be friends and family for a long time to come, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
I first met Mackensie as the new Craigslist roommate joining me in a ramshackle house of women, known in some circles as the Myrtle Mansion.
She was sweet and shy and mysterious and much, much preferred over the 40-year-old man with a cat who—true story—also replied to the add.
The first time I saw her, her hammock, and her juicer, I knew she’d be trouble for Seth. I told him so.
“You better not meet my roommate. You’ll fall in love with her.”
He, obviously, did not heed my warning.
Shortly after they met for the first time, Seth started hanging around my house much more regularly, casually wearing his guitar, often shirtless, and with a somewhat newfound passion for vegan cooking and fine wine.
They had begun.
It was all a blur of bike rides and porch sitting and bread breaking and fire circles and cigarettes and pretty soon you could see it on their faces before either of them were willing to admit it.
Actually long, long before either of them were willing to admit it.
They were in love. A sweet, summery love that makes you wish you had your camera.
Over the last year and a half I’ve had the joy and honor of walking with the two them as they stumble and skip through dating and then engagement, summer and winter and summer again. As they’ve planted and grown and watered their love for each other, their
awe of the Lord and their wonder for the world around them contagiously, leaving a warm trail of Instgrams for their captivated family, friends and fans.
And now here we are, at their wedding day, and the two of them have vowed to be one for a lifetime of bike riding and porch sitting and bread breaking and fire circles and quitting cigarettes.
And I have to say Seth, I was right.
Mackensie is your trouble. She’s your wife. She’s your best friend, your confidant. She’s your lover, your help, your home.
So here’s to the newest, Bravermen branch. (LOOK UP AND RAISE YOUR GLASS. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER). May the two of you never lose your love of life and search for God. And please, please take some pictures for the rest of us.
Everyone deals with illness and injury differently.
Now that I am a two-become-one rather than just a one, I have noticed that my sickness and injury and most all health related issues are not mine alone, nor are Steven’s his alone. When your husband is sick, you are his caretaker of sorts. You buy tissues, make soup, encourage rest and try to slyly avoid mouth kisses. When you are sick, if he knows what’s best for him, he downloads all of Dexter Season Two, brings you flowers, tells you how becoming the red nose actually is, massages your feet and delivers endless supplies of froyo (it tastes good even when you’re sick. And especially when you think you may get sick if he doesn’t get it. This is not in your head). Don’t hesitate to ask for these things even if it’s just a cold. It’s best to be precautionary when it comes to your health and wellbeing.
But in all reality, Steven and I do handle our health quite differently. He tends to be more of a “ride it out” type, refusing to take time off regardless of his vomiting per minute rate. If he were to break a limb I’m sure he’d just sling it up until five and probably never tell his boss. This may sound like an exaggeration but it’s quite accurate. He has no concept of the term “check-up.” The single time he’s been to the doctor since we’ve been together ended up being cancer. And even then he asked if he could finish the day’s work before surgery.
I, on the other hand, lean more towards what I like to call preventative healthcare and what Steven likes to call hypochondria. He sites the time I went to the doctor for a canker sore as evidence. Which is true. But it was a really bad one. I will not hesitate to vitamin up, rest more and receive regular check-ups, just to be sure. I just think that things tend to get worse when left on their own, and I would much prefer to rest in the peace of a professional opinion that I’m going to make it than plan a funeral for no reason.
The challenge then becomes for me not to put on an “I told you so” attitude when something does finally slow him down, and for him not to minimalize it when I’m feeling under the weather. In turn I am trying not to feel under the weather more than over, and he is making an effort to not to be so manly. Which is hard for us both. But we’re learning.
Just another way, however small, we’re better together.
The day my mother would get out the Christmas decorations was perhaps my favorite day of the season.
Something about the Santa mirror decals in the bathroom and the star that appears when the mug gets filled with cocoa and the silvery tinsel that ends up in little piles around the bottom of the tree and in the cat’s throw up just seems to get me in the spirit.
For the first time, I have a home of my own to decorate for my new tiny family. And I wanted to create that same tinsel-throw-up fuzzy feeling.
I looked through our storage and quickly realized that the only items we owned that could pass for holiday decor were two garland strands and a faded red dish towel. Apparently decorations only get into the storage if they’ve previously been stored. Dang.
So in order to make my home welcoming and festive it appeared I had to start from sqaure two (square one being the garland. Thanks ma and pa Shafer.).
Due to a series of unfortunate events, I found myself at Wal-Mart with a half hour prescription-filling wait time. Wal-Mart is the opposite of Christmas.
Wal-Mart had sectioned off an area of the store solely for holiday items big enough to open up another more reasonably sized store in. They had trees and lights and giant lawn Santas and chocolates and bows and a steady flow of seasonal tunes to get customers in the shopping spirit.
I found myself lost amongst it, that little guy in my stomach saying “I need. I want. I must have.” As if all my morals and values and beliefs about what this season and life in general is about were caving into this lie that a pretty home decorated with pretty things purchased at a big shiny store could make dreams come true and Christmas real and wrongs right.
I managed to escape with just a few smelly candles and some red and green M&M’s (only the necessities). I left determined to prove that little stomach guy wrong.
I hate that guy.
After reestablishing my morals, I decided that a home could be decorated without killing children in China or sending your husband to work overtime every week up until Christmas to pay off the porcelain nativity scene figurines.
Next stop was Brand Spanking Used, a pretty okay thrift store with a pretty terrible name. Their Christmas section, although modest when compared to Wal-Mart’s, was filled with buried treasures of Christmas past that were about to become our Christmas present. I found lights, candles, a set of handmade star ornaments and a vintage Santa mug. Sold.
They went up in my house that afternoon while I listened to Matt Chandler and remembered who I was. And maybe it was the mug, but that festive feeling came. Just like at Mom’s.
To an outsider, our place doesn’t look spectacular nor showy. We will not be a stop on the Christmas Home Tour this year, unless their standards have plummeted to include basement-level two bedrooms. But to us, the smells and light and stars and warmth is enough of a reminder that this season is about remembering to hear the whisper under the wind, the hope of love come down.
And if a manger was enough for a king, then a basement is plenty. Especially if there’s M&M’s.
Decorating without Corporating:
1. Make your own stockings. And everything else. Here’s how.
2. Bake something Christmas. Do it often enough and you’ll find you wont need scented candles.
3. Create ornaments out of felt.
4. Listen to music that brings joy. It’s contagious. Amy Grant is a staple.
5. Lights. At a dollar a strand, they are a cheap way to make Christmas party mood lighting. The big colorful ones are and have been tacky since the mid-nineties, fyi.
6. Candles. They smell good, they look good, they are good. Do not put them on your tree.
*Note to readers: the majority of the photos in this blog were taken by Baily Hollen at her home - which she’s decorated almost entirely of items she’s purchased from the dollar store. She wins.
If there is any advice to share two weeks into marriage - which there probably isn’t but humor me- it’s to honeymoon.
Whether you’ve realized it or not, the last few weeks before the wedding have taken a toll. On your wallet, on your relationship, on your sanity, on your reasons for not eloping.
And after it’s all over, you are so happy. And so sleepy.
Your body needs to rest from the people, from the planning, from the stress and from burritos plus dancing at the reception. Or maybe those last two were just me. Either way, you’re tired.
It wasn’t until the plane took off and the silence set in that I was able to pause long enough to look at my new husband and realize we were embarking not just on a vacation but a new life together. And that I needed a margarita.
Nothing a swim-up bar couldn’t fix.
We used the week together to re-meet each other, not just as lovers, but as roommates, as adventure partners, as one. As the person we would wake up to and go to bed with and face across the table for the rest of our lives. And the realization that we had to choose daily whether we were going to meet eyes or look away.
The time alone, without much else to do besides each other (oops 8th grade jokes), was priceless. It allowed for thinking, resting, talking, laughing and just breathing. It set the bar high. And not just because of the breakfast buffet and towels shaped like swans. But those helped.
Because if you can’t live and serve and love with that person at a five star hotel than you’re never going to be able to in a two bedroom house.