It Rained on My Wedding!
Look at the archives list for this blog and you’ll see that September posts are non-existent, and that posts between May and August are few in number. There’s a good reason for this: I’ve been focused on two of my adult children’s marriages.
They got married within three weeks of each other. Nate and Jill were married on September 10 (note: 9/10/11) and Charity and Brandon were married on October 1. You might remember Nathan: he’s my eldest child and used to work with us on Tapestry of Grace until God called him to a different vocation. Nathan has waited until the ripe old age of 30 to meet the one girl for him. His wedding was blessed with good weather and sweet moments, and we very much enjoyed our sojourn in NJ, spending time with family and friends. Here are a picture or two to enjoy; feel free to click on them to enlarge:
Nate and Jill’s wedding was SO sweet! We came home happy and so grateful to God for his blessings on these two. Three weeks were left until Charity’s wedding. Months of work and planning had gone into this now-looming event. The task ahead seemed both daunting and joyful to me. Here’s why…
As some of you know, the Lord led us to buy a 40-acre farm last April. It was three and a half hours’ drive from our MD home and had (when we bought it) been abandoned for 30 years. Here are a few shots of how the house looked:
It was on this snowy, March day pictured above that Charity (who had been engaged since December) first saw our farm, and proclaimed: “I’d like to get married HERE!”
Well… The next six months saw many hours of prayer, counsel, and assessment. We Somervilles are always up for an adventure, but! The house is in a remote location. There is no Internet there. There is no cell phone service. The roads are twisty and mountainous. Charity wanted an evening wedding, so most of the guests would need overnight lodging. We wondered about catering, flowers, hair and nails–so many details, so little infrastructure!
Much social capital would be expended in order for the guests to even reach the farm, let alone climb to the wedding knoll where Charity wanted the service conducted. She was good; she worked through a process with us. We sought the Lord and the counsel of others for months. All seemed to agree: this was the spot.
So, as spring gave way to summer, we began renovations on the house and the farm. We installed a septic system, repaired the house’s crumbling foundation, added onto the north side, raised the roof and added bathrooms on the south side, scraped its grayed lead paint off and put a coat of yellow and white on, built fences, mowed fields, and battled rose bushes (yes, wild roses are weeds on farms left to go to seed). Hours, dollars, sweat, and prayer prevailed as the summer unfolded. Everything had a joyful dual purpose: we were beautifying and repairing for the wedding and future family retreats, so we counted it all joy. Below are some highlights.
And, of course, above are the pictures of some changes to just the house. We also pulled up hundreds of rose bushes, had thousands of feet of fences put in, and enjoyed the natural beauty of the land as we prepared and prayed to the Lord for the gifts from His Creation that we anticipated that He would give Charity’s wedding guests!
The extended, month-out forecast called for a perfect day on October 1 as we soldiered on. Then, as the weeks were spent, the weather began to change. For the majority of two weeks before the wedding, it rained. This delayed the painting of the farmhouse, and slowed down other preparations. We continued to work and to trust God. As I sought Him, He spoke to my heart through a song on my playlist by Stevie Wonder: “Don’t you worry ’bout a thing!”
I didn’t. My trust in the Savior’s ability to control the wedding day’s weather was profound. He had met us in a hundred ways, some dramatic and some simply mundane, as we’d labored over the summer. We sensed His approbation of our purchase and work on the farm. I felt keenly that I was asking a lot of our guests to travel to this “destination wedding” to honor Charity, so some of my motivation was to be able to give our guests something special in return!
One evening, as we were eating dinner, the rain cleared and we looked out our farmhouse window and saw this:
I took it for a sign of confirmation. All would be well!
The service was set for 5:30 PM. Months ago, we had made back-up plans for cold and/or rain. For good weather, we planned a double reception: one on our Dancing Lawn from 6:00 to dusk, around 7:15 would include hot hors d’oeuvres, music, a slide show of Charity and Brandon’s youth and engagement, and the traditional toasts when the bride and groom came in from taking pictures. Then, we would all travel downhill about 20 minutes to the Living Faith Church to enjoy a sit-down dinner and dancing in a reliably warm and dry building. Charity and I figured that, in the case of severe cold and/or rain, we could move the service to the church and just do one, elongated reception there.
The weather prediction changed again the day before the wedding. On the day, the weather man now said “rain, and 45 degrees.” However, the morning dawned beautiful, and we still trusted that God would part the clouds and confound the predictions of men just for us! At noon, the skies became overcast. Still, I was not worried. Close family and friends arrived. At 3:30, it started to sprinkle lightly. I helped Charity into her bridal gown, and we had pictures taken. At 4:30, it really began to rain steadily. The clouds weren’t budging. The guest wandered the grounds with umbrellas. Their spirits were not dampened, but I was thinking that it was time for “Plan B.”
At 5:00, I went into Charity’s dressing room and said, “Honey, it’s time to make the plan. It’s raining; it really is.” She looked at me graciously and steadily and said, “Mom, I really want to do it here. In the rain.”
I looked at my daughter in disbelief. I couldn’t make sense of what she was saying. I stammered out: “Really? Consider our guests! You’ll be cold. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Mom, I really want to stand up in the rain. I do.”
At that point, my mind shut down and the fatigue and overload that were already present descended. I went through the whole thing mentally numb and mechanically. Somehow, it all unfolded. We had the service–much abbreviated–in the rain. Even as I sat stupefied with wet and cold, I was also vaguely aware of the beauty and unflappable joy of my daughter and the tender, protective love of her groom for her. They were the focal point of the event, and every guest’s eye was fixed on their obvious love for each other. Every ear heard a passionate recital of their biblically-centered vows. To look at them, you would never have known that it was raining. Indeed, the pictures we have so far give you the impression that it wasn’t!
Our dedicated crew of helpers moved the hors d’oeuvres tables to the front porch of the farmhouse and the pastor invited the happy throng of 150 people into our antique house. It was packed with people who were grateful for hot spiced cider and warm meatballs. I wondered vaguely if the floor joists would give way, and moaned inwardly that cots and blankets from overnight guests were still in place, the floors weren’t swept–in fact, the house had never been prepared for the guests. My eye saw all this but in snapshots and in slow motion. It was like being in a car wreck; my heart was numb. I think I was still in shock.
After about 15 minutes, we told the guests that we would now get into cars and descend the mountain to the church building for the dinner and dancing reception. There, the PA system didn’t work, so the MC had to shout his announcements and the caterer’s food was a disappointment. But, other than these glitches, the couple was happy, the pictures were taken, and the guests socialized and were fed and danced. I ate, drank, chatted, and recovered my balance slowly… but inwardly I was still reeling. At the end of the evening, as close friends and family were leave taking, reaction set in and I was sobbing.
After all our work, prayer, and trust, God allowed it to rain on our wedding. “How,” I asked my husband in the car on the way to the reception, with bitter agony of tone, “was God glorified in that?!!!” I was stunned; I was grieving. For days afterwards, I struggled. I felt weepy and depressed, and then pretty normal, and then saw disaster-focused reruns in my mind, by turns. I told myself to snap out of it, that it was only a rainstorm! I examined myself, “Do I have idols or sins that need to be addressed here? Clearly this reaction is over the top!” I spent time alone, and time with friends. They were all incredibly kind and encouraging. They prayed for and with me, spoke truth to me, and sometimes, just let me talk or cry.
It may be too soon to be writing this post. It’s been two weeks now and I’m still digging to the bottom of all that God is doing in my heart through this. While it sounds so small to say, “it rained,” and I’m aware that so many of you reading this have so much more adversity than I will ever experience, I’m confident that I’m supposed to be sharing because I know that we are to comfort others with the comfort given us during times of adversity by God’s Spirit. Large or small, adversity is hardship, and the lessons that one learns can be applied by others to their situations, no matter what the relative proportions are. I’ve been taking my sorrows to God and to counselors who love me, and have been met with love and favor. So, for what it’s worth, here’s what I know so far:
1. Grief can’t be rushed. It washes over you like waves, and is oh so humbling. You can’t control it; you can’t fix it. It just is, and being so, it takes time to heal.
2. God loves me, and did this for a good reason. I saw a sunny day as the best of all outcomes; He saw rain was what I needed most. His Son’s death on the Cross informs me that He is not angry with me. He loves me. I am His daughter and He is disciplining me for my good (Hebrews 12:5-11). If I embrace the discipline of a rainstorm, I will grow. If I push it away, He will need to bring more pressure to bear on me until He successfully forms Christ in me.
3. I am a sinner, and I have harbored sins in my heart that God could dig out and heal in no more benign or gracious way. So far, pride, fear of man, and worldliness have come to light. I’m not going to go into detail here. I am going to say that a sunny day would not have brought these deeply harbored sins to my attention, and I’m daily digging into them so that I can repent and be cleansed according to the riches that are mine in Christ Jesus.
4. One thing that initially bewildered me was the fact that this wedding was prayed up and submitted to God and others, and not undertaken lightly or willfully. We wanted to let the gift of natural beauty frame this wedding and glorify God in all it’s golden beauty. God wanted to glorify Himself in a host of hearts in other ways through rain and cold. I will never know on this earth what all those ways are. I don’t even understand what they all are in my own heart. But, I can rest in this: we prayed for this event. God answers prayers. I now believe that He was and is glorified according to His will in the way that He chose to have the day unfold. I rest in the mystery: it’s His call.
5. Never has He left me, never has He forsaken me. There were so many grace notes to the day. As the grief and shock have subsided, as distance has come, as sleep and rest have healed my nerves and brain, I am remembering more and more of them. The guests were uniformly kind: they took on the weather as part of the adventure of the destination wedding and remained in good spirits throughout the event. Charity and Brandon were so precious and so happy; in the end, they are also married! The pictures coming back are lovely, and give back to me day after day the moment that I thought that I’d lost forever in the immediate aftermath. Many friends did see the beauty of the farm and praise the God of Creation in their hearts and with their lips, despite the rain. And, not the least of these, a marriage like that in the midst of cold and rain displayed the truth that if marriage is about Christ and the church, its inception has been in the sin-sick world we call home. How better to illustrate the overcoming power and the beauty of the Bride of Christ than to wed your true love triumphantly in the midst of less-than-perfection?
This picture is so iconic of the day, and is so much more precious to me now than any shot of the beaming couple on a sunny day could have been:
6. In the end, it’s not about me. It never was my wedding, even if I was the titular hostess of the event. What is it about instead? As with all of life–homeschooling, marriages, parenting, and church life–it’s about God working, faithfully and daily, to form the likeness of His dear Son in me. It’s about His right and ability to be GOD in my life. Its about the gospel power to overcome my sins and failures and bring a heart full of worship and praise where there once was pain. That’s our God; that’s His overriding purpose in my life (and in yours) come rain or shine. As Hab 3:17-19 (ESV) says:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
I am grateful that He has brought me to a place where I can wholeheartedly say, “to Him be the glory, now and forever. I confidently affirm that He is God in my life, and joyfully submit to His will, day to day.” What a precious gift of growth he has given to me, carefully wrapped up a perfectly timed rainstorm.