Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy First Year Anniversary Peter and Molly!

Our dear friends, Peter and Molly Holmes, got married one year ago this week.  I've wanted to blog about their wedding for a year now.  I wanted to capture every detail.  Every emotion.  I wanted to get it perfect.

Unfortunately the desire to "get it perfect" paralyzed me and it's been an entire year since we witnessed them make their marriage covenant before God and before witnesses.  And now all the details and emotions that were so vivid for weeks after the wedding are a bit blurred around the edges.  Dang it all.  So I'll start with a big, huge HAPPY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY, and try to wipe the cobwebs from my memory.

Peter was one of the first people I met when we moved from Chicago to Oregon in July of 2008.  The first time we visited Solid Rock we knew it would be our new church home.  There happened to be a 2nd grade (that's how old Grant was when we moved here!) outing at Safari Sam's the following Saturday.  We were desperate for friendship in any form so we asked Grant if he wanted to go.  He agreed.  I arranged to meet the church bus at Safari Sam's and was told to "look for Peter.  He's in charge."
our family around the time we first met Peter - Summer 2008
Grant and I arrived early and sat nervously waiting for the bus to arrive.  We saw it enter the parking lot and then saw an overgrown kid walking confidently toward the door.  He came in, made eye contact, gave Grant and I a huge smile that overtook his adorable baby face, and asked, "Are you Grant?  I'm Peter."  I almost fell off my chair.  There was no way this kid was Peter!  But he was.  Grant came home sweaty, content, and loving all things Peter or Solid Rock related.

Fall of 2008 we started attending a house church (Solid Rock's version of small group) and were thrilled when we discovered Peter was the worship leader.  He led worship as passionately as he wrestled with kids.  Curt and I just thought he was pretty incredible.  I remember telling him one week, "If Grant grows up to be anything like you we'll know we've done our job well."

A few weeks into the school year, an adorable, bubbly brunette started catching rides to house church with Peter.  Molly was sweet, kind, and vulnerable.  I remember the courage she summoned in small group to ask for prayer over something that was troubling her.  I was drawn to her beautiful smile, her frequent giggle, her raw love for Jesus, and the way she interacted with our kids.  They were as captivated as we were.

We invited Peter and Molly over to hang out for the first time in January of 2009.  Molly and I had been whispering behind Peter's back about their "friendship" and wondering if or when he'd ever have the Define The Relationship (DTR) talk with her.  We ate dinner, wrestled with the kids, and Peter and Molly even helped us put the kids to bed.  We stayed up late talking and playing dominos (Peter cheats by the way).  It was the first of MANY nights just like it.

The night before Peter and Molly became boyfriend and girlfriend

The very next day Peter took Molly on an all-day date and ended it by asking her to be his girlfriend.  It was so fun to watch their relationship unfold over the next two years as they grew up, and grew in their knowledge of each other and God's plan for their lives.  They also became an extension of our family, coming to the kids' birthday parties, to family night a camp, and Molly was even with us when Paige got her ears pierced.
Peter and Molly at family night at Camp Tilikum 
Ears pierced and new accessories.  A perfect date!
When Peter proposed, Molly called us.  We hooped and hollered and celebrated.  Then we got busy planning a wedding.  Molly is organized, opinionated (in a good know-what-she-wants way), crafty, and efficient.  She was a well-oiled machine planning every detail of her wedding exactly as she'd always dreamed it would be.  Through the process of wedding planning, invitation addressing, and bridal shower hosting we got to know Peter and Molly's parents.  It was such a treat to hear stories from when they were little and glean wisdom from moms who raised such incredible and godly children.

Molly and I at the shower I helped host for her
Peter graduated from college and came on staff at Solid Rock as a children's ministry pastor.  Could there be a more perfect job for him?  Molly just graduated with her elementary education teaching degree?  Could there be a more perfect job for her?  
Rehearsal Dinner - could they be any cuter?

Molly didn't want any of her Little Girls to miss out on her wedding and she didn't want to chose just one flower girl.  So she did something I had never heard of before.  She had an open call for flower girls.  She personally invited each of my daughters to be HER flower girl.  And she personally invited every other little girl who would attend the wedding to be HER flower girl.  My girls felt so important.  We went shopping and bought flower girl dresses and shoes that weren't scuffed.  They told anyone who would listen that they were going to be in Peter and Molly's wedding.  It was a first for all three of them and I couldn't think about it without getting weepy.

The day of the wedding - May 20th, 2011 - finally came.  Months of planning.  Months of anticipation.  Joy.  Tears.  Laughter.  It all culminated in this one day - a day to celebrate the love story God was writing between Peter and Molly.  It was so exciting!

Molly was breathtakingly beautiful.  Peter, who will always look like that overgrown boy to me, was very handsome in his tux.  The two together - clearly in love.  The bridal party came in and took their places.  I've never seen Peter look so nervous before!  He took a huge deep breath as we waited for the doors to open and Molly to come through.

But the music stopped and Bucky (our friend who married them) invited any little girl interested in being a flower girl to meet at the back of the church.  It sounded like a stampede as excited little girls flocked to the staging area.  The music started up again - this time playing Jesus Loves Me - and in they came.  Two by two, carrying little paper cones of flower petals, and oh-so-proudly walking down the aisle.  Our girls beamed at us.  I think Alli waved but I couldn't see very well through the cloud of tears.  Those girls all knew beyond a shadow of doubt that Yes, Jesus loved them because Peter and Molly loved them so well.

Molly came down the aisle on her Daddy's arm, but her eyes were on her groom.  It was magical.

Bucky launched into his message about marriage and how Peter would need Molly day to day, including kisses.  As soon as he said this, a chorus of little voices declared, "EWWWWW!!!!!!"  It was hilarious.

When I wasn't pew wrestling with Alli, I was crying over the sweetness of Peter and Molly's love.  It was an honor to celebrate with them God's perfect plan and timing in bringing them together as husband and wife.
how our family had changed in the few years we knew Peter and Molly

Even at the reception, Peter and Molly showed their kindness and love for kids.  When the Master of Ceremonies announced Peter and Molly as husband and wife to their guests, the doors burst open and Peter and Molly, with Katie at their side, walked in together.  By that time, Alli had made herself an honorary bridesmaid and hadn't left their side for hours.

Our kids partied hard, dancing until all the grown ups were too tired to dance any more.  The big kids, Peter and Molly included, made sure the kids were right in the thick of the action.  It was really, really fun to watch them all have such a great time.
Yep.  That's MY seven year old daughter commanding the dance floor.

Molly's mom sent me home from the wedding with a huge bouquet of flowers from one of the tables.  It sat on my counter for the better part of a week reminding me of Peter and Molly's love and the memories we've made with them.

We love these two!
When we helped Peter and Molly move out of Peter's apartment and into THEIR apartment,  I rescued Peter's childhood bookcase and two stools from the Goodwill pile.  They now are repurposed in our playroom, something the kids think is really cool.  Every time Peter and Molly come over, the kids remind Peter that they now have some of his stuff from when he was a kid.

Happy anniversary to one of the neatest young couples around.  We love you and celebrate your love today!

Brennan and Kelsey Get Married

Six months ago our kids went to a Christmas party at church.  When we picked them up they were jacked up on sugar and dying to introduce us to their new friends, Brennan and Kelsey.  We expected pint-sized new friends and were surprised when Brennan and Kelsey turned out to be engaged college students.

Grant loves Brennan because he's wild and crazy, tons of fun, loves candy, kids, and Jesus.  Oh and he taught Grant how to break dance.  We love Brennan because he's a grown-up version of what we pray Grant will be like in ten years.  We, like Grant, also love his fun, crazy, wild, candy-Jesus-and-kid loving personality.

The girls were initially enthralled with Kelsey because she's stunningly beautiful and had both a boyfriend and a big, pretty engagement ring.  (These are fascinating things to little girls).   They also fell in love with her sweet and fun spirit, her quickness to laugh, her love for Jesus and her love for them.  We love Kelsey because she's taken the time to get to know each of our girls personally and goes out of her way to let them know that she thinks they're special.  Of course we also love that she's tons of fun, and is a Jesus-and-kid loving role model.

Our family has spent the last six months getting to know this really great couple and were super excited to receive a wedding invitation addressed to "The Stilp Family."  Before I told the kids, I clarified with Brennan and Kelsey that they indeed wanted all four of our children at their wedding.  Their response?  "Yes please.  Kids are required."  What's not to love about that?

We all dug out our wedding clothes from Peter and Molly's wedding (a blog post I've been wanting to write for over a year now - how embarrassing) and managed to recycle a good portion of our fancy clothes.  Paige had grown so much that her dress was now a tunic top.  Grant and Alli needed shoes.  Grant really didn't want to wear dress pants, but Brennan (who was being "forced by Kelsey to wear a suit") gave Grant the green light to go with jeans.

Kelsey told the girls she planned to have an open call for flower girls at the wedding and then asked them to make sure they volunteered.  Our girls felt so special and told everyone who would listen that they were "THE" flower girls in the wedding.  I wish I could have heard the pre-wedding conversations of the other twenty little girls who also were flower girls.  What a beautiful concept.

Kelsey and Brennan's wedding was outside at 5 Rock Ranch.  Nestled in the foothills of Yamhill County, it would be hard to find a more serene or scenic setting for a wedding.  God gave them incredible weather too - a little overcast (perfect for photos) and about 70 degrees.
The archway where they exchanged vows
decor at the head table
It was obvious as we pulled into the field doubling as a parking lot, that hours and hours of time and attention had been poured into the details and decor of this wedding.  Kelsey chose a natural theme to match the setting and used wood, river rocks, and moss to create stunning centerpieces for all the tables and candle holders.  The aisle was lined with burlap and they married in a meadow overlooking a stream under a canopy made of birch trees.  Brennan's personality was not missing though.  He wore Vans with his suit and ditched his jacket as soon as the ceremony was over.
Grant was really thrilled to get a sneak picture with Brennan before the wedding

The procession of flower girls was really, really sweet.  They paired up two by two and each flower girl very proudly carried a paper cone filled with flowers down the aisle before circling back to their parents.
Paige and Hallie

Katie got to help Alomae come down the aisle

Alli and Sydney
Kelsey and Brennan chose not to see each other before the wedding ceremony which added to the excitement of waiting for her to make her appearance.  Watching Kelsey emerge from a canopy of trees was like watching a movie unfold before my eyes.  She was absolutely stunning - like something you'd see in a magazine - in a classy and elegant mermaid-style dress.  She walked across a bridge to her Daddy, who watched her with admiration and love.  He sweetly extended his hand to her and they started their journey across the meadow and down the burlap aisle to her groom who was waiting with tears in his eyes.  The emotion and tenderness of that moment will stick with me for a long time.
our kids anticipating the bride's entry

so much tenderness
Their wedding ceremony was filled with love, laughter, family, and Jesus.  It was obvious to everyone who witnessed their wedding that Brennan and Kelsey share a deep love for each other, for their families, and for Jesus.  What an honor to be a part of celebrating with them!

Mr. and Mrs.  - congratulations!
Other highlights:  Grant (who is now 11 years old) was never far from the action.  He watched the cake cutting, the toast, the special dances, and jumped right in the mix with all the single men to catch the garter.  I was in the other room when Brennan tossed the garter but I heard a roar of laughter and then the DJ say, "...and his name is Grant."  Oh dear.  Apparently Grant thought the garter couldn't touch the ground so he launched himself in the air and made a diving catch just before it hit the ground.  He is now the proud owner of a purple and white garter and does NOT plan to marry any time in the next ten years.
This picture just captures Kelsey - always smiling.  Always being kind to kids.
Our kids, who love to dance and somehow have great rhythm, cut it up on the dance floor.  Grant and Katie showcased their breakdancing moves (that Brennan taught them), and Grant did the worm across the entire dance floor.
Grant thinks Brennan and Peter (pictured with Brennan) are about the best guys EVER.

Oh, and we got a family picture where everyone is looking at the camera, showered, and not in camping clothes.  SCORE!

Congratulations Brennan and Kelsey!  We celebrate your love and look forward to making more memories with you both in the future.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Head on Over to He Speaks in the Silence

My good friend and mentor Diane Comer is a godly woman who has raised four adult children who love Jesus and are advancing His kingdom.  She writes with great wisdom and beauty on her blog -

She recently started a series called Redeeming What's Broken found under the From my Heart tab.  It addresses healing relationships that are broken between adult parents and children.  I have been challenged and encouraged by these posts and I know you will be too.  Happy reading.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who Helps You Find Strength in God?

Curt and I are reading the Bible cover-to-cover again this year. Grant and Katie are joining us on the journey.  While it's hard to maintain five chapters a day, it is such a gift to read and re-read the story of God in its entirety.

Two years ago when I read I Samuel 23, I was struck by verse 16, and wrote a post about it.  It says, "And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God."  

This year was no different.  I was again in awe of how timely encouragement can breathe life into a soul, even when they are fighting for their life.

My heart has been HEAVY with the pain my friends are carrying.  So much of it seems so senseless.  But each day, I find strength and encouragement in God's Word.  Today's assigned reading had the beautiful story above.

It also had beautiful poetry in Psalm 130:3-5.   "If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O LORD who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.  I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope!"  

And Proverbs 10:25 - "When the storm has swept by the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever."

Who helps you find your strength in God?  Why not thank them for all they have been to you?  Be specific.

Who can you help find strength in God?  As the LORD brings them to mind, follow through and breathe life into their soul with a word from the Word.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Let Me Be Singing When the Evening Comes

I've spent the better part of this week recovering from the race on Sunday and processing through what an eventful day it was.  I went back to the gym today for a mini workout and relished my time on the stationary bike, riding and studying Psalm 119.

It's clear by the end of the chapter that the author's life has been marked by suffering, and yet he never wavers from His faith in God or the power of God's Word.  He says...

  • My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
  • My comfort in my suffering is this:  Your promise preserves my life.
  • It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees.  
  • May your unfailing love be my comfort.
  • Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.
  • My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.
  • Save me!  For I am yours.
  • You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your Word.  
  • Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
  • May your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts.
Many of my close friends are walking through dark valleys right now.  Divorce.  Moms raising fatherless children.  Relational strife.  Financial hardship. Disease.  Each story is tragic and heartbreaking.  The suffering I faced in my race pales in comparison.  But I love how the marathon is a fairly accurate picture of life.  There are euphoric times and heart-breaking times.  Times when life flies by and times when it takes concentrated effort just to put one foot in front of the other.  

I was in one of those Put One Foot in Front of the Other phases at mile 24 on race day when a song called 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) came on my iPod.  Sung by Matt Redmond, the version I have was recorded live at the Passion Conference this year.  It's a new song to me and I had never really listened to the lyrics of the verses.  The lyrics challenged me and gave me strength to keep moving forward.  My soul sang, even if my lips were silent.    

The sun comes up. It's a new day dawning.
It's time to sing your song again.
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

Bless the Lord oh my soul
Oh my soul.
Worship His holy name.
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship your holy name.

I don't know what adversity you're facing or the depth of suffering that marks your life.  But I do know that there is hope, peace, strength, guidance and comfort in God and in His word.  I hope you find it there.  And I pray that whatever may pass and whatever lies before us, we'll still be singing when the evening comes.