Sunday, August 28, 2011

More Weddings!

Last weekend, I had the privilege of participating in the wedding of a girl (uh hem) woman I've known since she was about 6 years old. Bethany has always been a beautiful person on the inside and out and was one of those children you just knew was destined for something truly special.
Bethany is now a professional dancer, and met her husband in the Netherlands while she was participating in a mission based dance program. Bethany is an amazing dancer and when she dances, she is communing with the Lord. So, we viewed numerous dance performances (including one that Bethany had filmed beforehand for her awaiting husband-to-be just before she walked down the aisle) All the performances were truly amazing and beautiful. We worshiped, we cried, we laughed. It was one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever witnessed.
The photographer was Michelle B Photgraphee. I was searching through her blog right now and her pictures from the wedding are spectacular. The cakes were incredible creations by Fabulous Fare. As always, they were simply fabulous! The ceremony was held at Aldersgate United Methodist Church with the reception taking place at the S.O.S Ministries facility. The amazing food was provided by Casa Rodriguez. It was delicious. Words cannot describe the beauty of this very special day.
With such a tremendous beginning, I have no doubt this couple will sustain the marriage that the Lord intended for them to have. I wish you many blessings and wonderful years together, Patrick and Bethany!

Erin Joyner, Wedding Coordinator, College Station, Bryan, TX

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Keeping Wedding Guests Cool in Triple Digit Temperatures

I recently asked some of my friends who own outdoor venues what they recommend to brides to help them keep their guests cool in this excruciating hot Texas weather.

...Inform your guests.
In your printed invitation, state that you are having an "outdoor garden wedding". This is very important especially for older family members and guests. Overheating could pose a health risk to them.
...Adjust your wedding time.
In the movies outdoor weddings do look so beautiful, but remember they are filmed in cool California! During our Texas summers, 6:00 in the evening can be the hottest time of the day. Think about having your wedding either early or late. If your wedding venue has a shaded morning site, a 10:00 am wedding followed by a brunch could be a hit. When planning a summer evening wedding, adjust your time to as late as possible. Your guests will thank you and the bride will have a beautiful sunset glow.
...Keep family and guests cool.
Encourage your ushers to have family and guests wait inside the air conditioned spaces of your venue and reception area. When the wedding party is ready to lineup for the ceremony, have the ushers dismiss
the guests to seat themselves because the wedding is about to begin.
...Provide cool water.
Printed labels on water bottles with name/date on them can be iced and ready for the wedding ceremony. Try color coordinating several large plastic tubs; these will look great to hold your water bottles.
...A wedding favor that everyone will like.
Instead of using the old-fashioned paper fan with your wedding ceremony information printed on it, invest in a real fan! The paper ones really are just no help at all when it is hot. Go online and research and you will find grass woven fans from the islands or even wooden or cloth fans. This will be a gift they will use and keep.
If the budget won't allow this , then buy then, get them back from your guests, and then sell them on e-bay!

We suggest Fans as programs; White Sun Umbrellas as a favor to the guests given at the Outdoor Ceremony Site; or Personalized Bottle Water. We also have set-up Lemonade Stands at the Ceremony.

At Rock Lake Ranch, our best defense against the heat is the siting and design of our Waterfront Pavilion and ceremony site. We ensure that there is shading from large oak trees over the ceremony site and we keep sunscreens as well as regular canvas panels down on the west side of the Pavilion to shield the floors, tables and chairs from the sun during the day. We raise the panels in the evening, since we have a nice breeze off the pond from the south to make the area quite pleasant. We have an air conditioned service building with restrooms as well as a super-chilled room for the cake and hors d’oeuvre. Finally, we provide a place to set up a lemonade station as guests arrive.

Applying these tips from the experts will ensure that your guests remembering your wedding and NOT the hot temperature!

Erin Joyner, Wedding Planner, Bryan/College Station, TX

Friday, August 12, 2011

Triathlon Completed... Check!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run WITH ENDURANCE the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shames, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

About 5 months after I began training, I completed my first Triathlon. Certainly my feat was nothing compared to Jesus' suffering on the cross, but I can definitely understand with more depth this verse and it's meaning. I've had a few people ask me how it went, and I respond by saying, "I finished!" It is quite a humorous tale which began at approximately 7:00 am last Sunday.

We (my friends Ashley, Sarah and I) had planned to leave the dwelling in which we were staying by 5:45 am last Sunday. I think we left closer to 6, but I didn't pay that close of attention to our departure time since I was certain we would be at the race location well before the 6:35 am cut-off for placing our belongings next to our bikes. (we left our bikes in the care of an on-site security officer the day before. I, however, invested in a $7 bike lock, which was pink, just in case.) My friend, Ashley, left the directions I had carefully printed out in her purse, so we were "feeling our way" to hwy 290. That didn't turn out very well since we got turned around and ended up arriving just around 6:30 am. I dropped off the other two girls closer to the bikes with directions to take my fanny pack to my bike, #1035.

I went to park the van and ran back to the bike transition area in hopes that they would show me mercy and allow me to place my shoes and shirt next to my bike, and where I assumed I would find my fanny pack. Ashley and Sarah forgot my number and decided to leave my fanny pack near Ashley's bike. So, I was literally running around, barefoot, looking for them because my fanny pack contained my lovely orange colored swim cap, my timing chip and goggles. I was literally fighting back tears since there were thousands of people milling around and I could not find my friends anywhere. I was finally directed towards a tent where a kind lady gave me another swim cap and timing chip. The 500 meter swim across the lake would have to be completed without goggles this time.

I was placed in the wave of other women ages 35-39. We all wore the lovely orange swim caps. Waves were sent off every 3 minutes. There were two waves behind me. All women. The next wave wore pink caps and the last wave wore red. I felt very confident about the swim section of the race, less confident in the bike and even less confident about the run. However, I kept joking that even if I had to walk the entire run, and crawl across the finish line, I would complete the race. So, I began the swim and was feeling pretty good. Then, I started to see pink caps pass me and eventually began to see red caps. Uh oh! However, I finished strong and felt ready to complete the bike portion.

Getting on my bike proceeded without incident until I heard my name. My friend Ashley had a flat tire. I pulled over to loan her my hand pump. I moved back into bike traffic fairly easily. I felt as though I was moving along rapidly, but kept hearing the phrase, "On your left!" which racers use to let you know they are passing you on your left. I probably heard this phrase 50 times during the bike ride. I uttered the words once.

I completed the bike portion and moved onto "running". I actually began the 3.65 mile trek with a slow jog. My legs felt strange from peddling for 13.5 miles straight. I passed about 50 runners this time, however they were running the other direction which meant they were almost finished with the running portion, and thus finishing the race. Several cheered me on. "You can do it, 1035!" "You're almost finished, Erin! Keep going!" (our names were written on our "bib" neatly pinned on our front) I grimaced at most of them because I was so envious that they were almost finished and I had just begun the run. The words I had stated to confidently over the last 5 months came back to haunt me. "If I have to, I will walk the entire run portion." It was funny that now, in the event, I felt myself wanting to win! I realized pretty quickly that would not happen this day. I would be doing well to not finish dead last.

However, I remembered the verse that I posted above. I wanted to finish well, not just for myself, but I knew that the Lord had some sort of lesson for me in this endurance challenge. I began to pray and worship while running, walking and sweating. I was passed over and over. I jogged with a woman for a short time who stated that she had raced in numerous triathlons. This was her last race, she said. I asked her how old she was, and she stated, "65" and then kept running while I went back to my walk. Ashley soon passed me. Her bike tire was saved by a kind man who knew how to salvage her tire, and she was determined to run the entire 3.65 miles. She is a much better runner than me. I had already seen our other friend, Sarah, twice. Both times she was going the other way which meant she was much further ahead than me.

In my struggle to swallow my pride, I had a thought. "This is how the spiritual walk is, isn't it, Lord? We will struggle and hurt even though we have trained for this moment. We will be passed in life by so many. It will appear that we will finish last, but it's really not about finishing first. It's about finishing well. It's about running with endurance. It's about moving forward when we want to stop and quit. It's about keeping our eyes focused on the finish line which is our eternal life with you, even in the midst of the largest challenges of our lives. It's about choosing to live, love, laugh even when we want to fall on our faces and die. You are the prize, Jesus. I get it."

I wish that thought could have propelled me forward in such a fashion that I did not finish last. But, I did. There were a few people behind me, but I think, literally three. The 65 year old woman finished before me. I ran across the finish line 3 hours and 1 minute after the first wave of bodies propelled through the water. Some of those in the front did the race twice and finished ahead of me the second time. I don't know my time, exactly, because the new chip I was given didn't record my time. I was not listed on the records that were e-mailed to me the next day. In their minds, I didn't even show up. I know I did, though. And Jesus knows. He's proud of me for finishing. And finishing well.

I so look forward to finishing the race of life and to be told, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." I pray that I am able to continue this race and run with endurance, praising and worshiping my maker the entire way. It truly is worth it to finish, even if it's not mapped out exactly as we envisioned when we began. It is worth it. HE is worth it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Together in Eternity...

"I will be yours, you will be mine... Together in eternity." Those were the opening lyrics of the song that I danced with my brand new husband for the first time 14 years ago. My sweet husband and I celebrated our life, love and marriage yesterday with a simple "date in" without children and distractions. It was a wonderful evening of good food, movies and reminiscing about our wedding and marriage. The very first memory that came to his mind was our pastor's jokes as he was speaking to our crowd of about 250 people. I remember so many aspects of our wedding as it was exactly as I always dreamed it would be, down to the very last detail. We both agreed that as wonderful as our wedding was, and as smoothly as it ran, we both love the place where our journey together has taken us. Little did we know what was ahead of us on that blissful day. No one could have ever articulated in words what our journey would look like and where it would take us. Not one person could have spoken to our hearts what the Lord knew our life together would bring. This path has taken us to the very heights of joy with our love, experiencing the birth and lives of four amazing children, friends, and experiencing just a taste of the joy that comes from knowing Jesus so intimately. This sojourn has also led us to the depths of sorrow and pain as we have experienced loss, death, and the darkness of our souls at our very lowest times. Through the highs and the lows, though, we have had our Lord in our midst, and we both consider it a privilege and a blessing to be able to experience it all together. We are so fortunate to have family and friends to cheer us on and walk with us through the good, the bad and the ugly of marriage, family and life. For that I am eternally grateful. We ended our date with prayers of Thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father who has been so faithful, good, patient and life-giving to us. Fourteen years ago, I would have never fathomed where my dreams and hopes would have taken me. However, there is no one in the world I would rather be walking this journey with than my husband.

Erin Joyner, Wedding Planner, College Station/Bryan, TX