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November 18, 2019
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Our Oldest Daughter's Wedding

Jul 19 2019

On July 14, 2019, my wife Susan and I had the tremendous privilege of 'giving our daughter away' to Sam Rowe of Houston, Texas.  As we walked Jona-Lynn down the aisle her church in Austin, we knew we were giving her over to the man of her dreams.  Sam is everything Jo ever wanted in a husband: he values family, loves kids, is creative, incredibly patient, a devout- but- not- stuffy- or- judgey Christian, and he even looks a bit like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.  We could not have picked a better man.

We were actually in Austin for five days with her and Sam helping them prepare,, and our other daughters were there as well, so the wedding celebration was, like in biblical times, a multi-day event.  Also like in biblical times, there was also plenty of wine.  We met Sam's family for the first time, and we all got along nicely.  They had us over to their air B and B for fajitas as we got to know his parents, sisters, grandparents, nieces and nephews.

There were plenty of 'God moments' throughout the week.  (I suppose if God is omnipresent, every moment is a God moment, but bear with me...) Meeting their church family was beautiful.  The pastors are husband and wife (and fans of Johnnyswim, a band I've recently discovered and love) , the congregation is ethnically diverse, and the people really love Sam and Jo. In fact, since we live so far from them, much of the wedding prep was done by church folks. The catering was done by a chef in the congregation, the reception was hosted on the property of another church family, the cake was a gift, and on and on it went.  Her bridesmaids and other girlfriends set up the decorations while the groomsmen set up the tent and furniture for the reception.  

The day of the wedding, Jo sent one of her bridesmaids to get me. Jo wanted me to come into the room where the girls had gotten ready in order to put her locket on her.  This locket was given by my father to his niece, Ginny, upon returning home from World War II.  Ginny later was chosen to be my godmother, and as adults a friendship developed between her and her husband and Sue and me. A few years back, Ginny gave the locket to Jo and she has treasured it ever since.  Once the locket was secured, Becky, the maid of honor and Jo's old college roommate, suggested we all pray for Jona-Lynn before the wedding.  This was no easy feat while fighting back tears. I prayed first, and made it through with minimal crying, but when Jo's sisters prayed for her, I was done. To hear Naomi, who has gone through some rough times in recent years, and Rose, only 17, thanking God for their oldest sister and asking God's blessing on her day and marriage was one of the most touching moments of my life.

The wedding itself was also beautiful: An old friend from Jo's summer camp days who has recently relocated to Austin did the communion music, the sermonette was clear and spot on, the wedding party was beautiful, and (leave it to Jo to break from tradition) there was one scripture reading, and then this reading from "Blue Like Jazz" by Donald Miller:

“ I will give you this, my love, and I will not bargain or barter any longer. I will love you, as sure as He has loved me. I will discover what I can discover and though you remain a mystery, save God's own knowledge, what I disclose of you I will keep in the warmest chamber of my heart, the very chamber where God has stowed Himself in me. And I will do this to my death, and to death it may bring me.
I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding you love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again.
God risked Himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand this gravity that drew Him, unto us.” 

After the nuptials, we headed across town for the reception.   It was a combination of traditional (bouquet and garter toss, cutting of the cake, toasts, dancing) and not so much (a slip and slide, sparklers, corn hole...) The photographer - also a friend from church donating her services- was busy, and Jo had a few specific ideas in mind.  One picture was of me and my three daughters all juggling together. Another was of the bride, groom, and both sets of parents holding our wedding photos.  

But the moment, the one that  touched me the most, was the father daughter dance.  Jona-Lynn had chosen "Father and Daughter" by Paul Simon.  This has been my song since the first time I heard it back in the early 2000s:

"I'm gonna watch you shine

gonna watch you grow.

I'm gonna paint a sign,

so you'll always know

as long as one and one is two...

there will never be a father who loves his daughter more than I love you."

Our dance was a tearful, joyful, holy moment I will treasure forever.  After that the party began.  Rose was a maniac on the dance floor.  Naomi split her time between dancing with the other young adults and dancing with the little nieces and nephews.  Jo was every where with every one.  The juggling props came out again, the food was remarkable (who knew there was such a thing as jalapeno popper casserole?) and the fellowship was sweet.

Since returning,when asked about the wedding there is one word I use to describe it:





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