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Category Archives: Book

Blog Hiatus…oh wait

We are spending some fun family time for the next week, so I won’t be blogging for several days. The fact that I’m actually posting this is laughable. Let’s be honest–I am frequently on a blog hiatus. But real bloggers let people know when they’re not going to be writing, so I thought I’d do that too. Just to feel official.

In other news, things with the book are moving forward. Currently we’re recruiting people to read it and say they like it. So if you remember what it’s like to (with fear and trembling) ask someone to be your friend in elementary school, that’s pretty much how this feels.

It’s strange to think you’ve worked so hard and so long on something, and then you have to actually let other people read it. I mean, it’s a book, so it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. It’s just more nerve-wracking than I thought it would be.

In the meantime, though, we are enjoying a few more weeks of summer before my oldest starts Kindergarten. Talk about nerve-wracking.

Why I Rarely Blog About Weddings (on a blog called “Don’t Waste Your Wedding”)

Someone commented on a link to this blog from Facebook that I should start a new blog so they don’t have to go to a wedding blog to read my posts about non-wedding topics. It’s true–I’ve been writing a lot about things other than weddings. For a while I thought maybe I was just a little burned out on weddings. Once the book was finished I was excited to think about anything else. And as things come up and are on my heart, it’s natural to write about them.

But the more I thought about it, I realized the real reason I have a hard time blogging about weddings. Yes, I know. It’s a wedding blog. Clearly this is a problem. But I think it makes sense, and hopefully it will translate as I write about it here.

The nature of wedding blogs and books in general is to give couples ideas. This can be super helpful. You see something creative or unique, you “pin it,” implement it in your wedding planning and move on. I’m always impressed with wedding bloggers who build a substantial following. In my mind, it’s a marketing nightmare. You have readers who come to look at pretty pictures, get ideas, and then leave. Once the wedding is over, who cares about the wedding blog?

But in writing this book, my mom and I both felt strongly that we didn’t want it to be about “tips” for planning a Christian wedding. And the reasons for this are:

1. We could try to give a “Gospel-Centered Wedding Checklist.” Couples could follow it, checking off each task as they planned. But this would not guarantee what really matters. Because what really matters is the heart–a heart changed by the love of Christ and the grace of our great Father.

2. A true understanding of grace and the freedom of the gospel should lead to a gospel-centered wedding. But I had neither a true understanding nor a truly gospel-centered wedding. And so the book is far less about tips and ideas, and far more about the gospel. Because it has to be in that order. As God opens our eyes to the beauty of Christ’s perfect life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, it should change everything. Including our weddings.

3. A photographer friend said she is tired of shooting the same wedding every weekend. Sometimes all these tips and ideas we’re sharing and pinning end up making the rounds at every wedding. So what was maybe unique once is now standard issue. There’s nothing really wrong with this, but I believe God’s work in the lives of a bride and groom is far more interesting and glorious than the details we so easily obsess over. So I’m hesitant to share a lot of practical tips out of concern that we might create some sort of “gospel-centered wedding” culture that limits the freedom couples should have to express God’s grace in their own way.

So for these reasons, there aren’t a lot of tips on the blog. And to be honest, I have a hard time coming up with things to blog about that aren’t just practical. I know the practical stuff is helpful; I’m just hesitant for it to become law.

That being said, I’m hoping to post more regularly and more often about weddings.

But I’m always trying to balance the freedom of the gospel with the practical ideas people might want to read. And if a week (or two) go by without wedding posts, I apologize. I guess I’m still figuring out what this blog is.

Thanks for reading it, whatever it is.

The Finish Line (sort of)

'Finish Line' photo (c) 2010, jayneandd - license:

We (my co-author, a.k.a. my mother, and I) turned in our finished book manuscript on Monday. Since then, I have been too busy breathing sighs of relief to get back on here and post. I think I’ve just enjoyed being away from the computer. My kids and I planted vegetable seeds and played with worms, went to the library, had lunch at our favorite restaurant, cooked out with some dear friends. It has been a good three days of celebration.

Of course, we still have rounds of edits and proofs to go through. But for the next few weeks, I am pretending it’s all done.

So now it’s back to blogging! I am going to attempt to make a blogging schedule with post ideas for a week or two in advance. Current post categories include: wedding stuff, book reviews, highlights from other blogs and devotional thoughts.

I’m curious about what wedding-related themes I should blog on. So if you have any thoughts, please pass them along. I want this blog to be a help to those planning a wedding, although not exclusively.

Finally, for all who have prayed, written, asked, hugged, and prayed some more–thank you. God has graciously, faithfully done something I never would have imagined two years ago. I have prayed and begged Him to use this book to point others to Himself and to open eyes and hearts to the gospel. May it be so.

On Avoiding the Hosannas of the Multitude

'Georgius Whitefield' photo (c) 2011, Skara kommun - license:
When I received word that B&H had agreed to publish the book I’m working on I was in Ethiopia with my sister-in-law, meeting my precious niece. I avoided thinking about the book and the work to be done for as long as possible. Then after I returned to Nashville I listened to this message from the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, in which Jenny Salt spoke on Paul’s humility in 2 Cor. 12 and shared a quote from George Whitefield that I haven’t stopped thinking about since.

See, the book manuscript is due in 19 days. Up until now I haven’t had time to think much about marketing and promotion and critics and all the “other stuff” that comes along with publishing a book. Just writing the book has been more than enough to occupy my thoughts and prayers. But now that I’m wrapping things up, I’m starting to struggle with my fears.

Fears like:

What if (insert popular book reviewer) doesn’t like it?

What if I get it wrong?

What if no one reads it?

And then, even worse, are these fears:

What if critics do like it?

What if lots of people read it?

I know myself. I know my heart and my pride and my hunger for the praise of man.

Shortly after his conversion, George Whitefield prayed these words:

O Heavenly Father, for Thy dear Son’s sake, keep me from climbing. Let me hate preferment. For Thine infinite mercies’ sake, let me love a low contemptible life, and never think to compound matters between the happiness of this world and the next.

Later as he became more famous for his evangelism and preaching he wrote the following:

The tide of popularity began to run very high. In a short time I could no longer walk on foot as usual, but was constrained to go in a coach from place to place, to avoid the hosannas of the multitude. They grew quite extravagant in their applauses, and had it not been for my compassionate High Priest, popularity would have destroyed me. I used to plead with Him to take me by the hand and lead me unhurt through this fiery furnace. He heard my request and gave me to see the vanity of all commendations but His own.

This may all be moot. The book may not be read, the critics may not like it and that will be okay. Or maybe they will and it will be read.

Rather than praying for God to take away the commendation (which would be fine), I pray He would change my value system. May he “give me to see the vanity of all commendations but His own.”

May He use my life for His own glory, may I proclaim Christ and may I desire only His exaltation.

Sometimes the best way to defeat pride is just to put it all out there and ask for help. Would you maybe pray the above for me also? Thank you so much.

Christian Compartments, or Why We “Spiritualize” Things

'Mail slots' photo (c) 2009, Valerie Everett - license:

Since writing my post on bouquets and garters I have been thinking a lot on the idea of the sacred/secular split. Basically this is the idea that certain aspects of life are “sacred”–attending church, reading the Bible, prayer, evangelism–while other things are “secular”–sports, movies, non-Christian music, etc. This dichotomy presents itself in weddings as well. As Christians we easily say, “I want the ceremony to be sacred,” but assume the reception falls into the category of “secular.”

One of the things for which I am most grateful in life is my liberal arts education. At my college I was taught that all truth is God’s Truth, therefore we can apply a Christian worldview to all areas of life. It was something I began to take for granted, with “worldview” being the Sunday School answer to every college test question. But when I graduated and was no longer surrounded by believers who had been taught in the same way, I realized how rarely this line of thinking is taught in the Church.

It is so easy to see life as a series of compartments: the church compartment, the entertainment compartment, the exercise compartment, the friend compartment, the work compartment, etc. 

Francis Schaeffer wrote a good deal on this subject and in his writing he questioned how we as Christians view the Lordship of Christ. In essence, is He only Lord over our souls and the religious aspects of our life? Or is He Lord over all–our bodies, our minds and our souls? This kind of submission requires thought and prayer and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, though, which is really much harder than just making a list of “secular” activities that are, or are not, permissible for Christians.

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband is a film guy. He loves movies, particularly redemptive dramas, including classic and foreign films. In the past several months he has begun hosting occasional “Manly Movie Nights,” in which he invites a few guys over, they watch a movie and then discuss it. At first this was a somewhat awkward thing, I think, as we are not really taught to think of movies as more than just entertainment. Yet as Erik began pointing out Christ-figures and redemptive elements in the movies, they became obvious to the guys viewing them as well.

At the same time I often hear people give Erik a hard time for “spiritualizing everything.” 

At the beginning of January my pastor preached a sermon in which he called us to look at our identity as Christians. He said we should be thinking every moment in every action that we belong to Christ and should therefore be living for Him. I was extremely convicted, knowing I could not look at 2012 and say, “This year belonged to Christ.”

The problem is we take this and say, “I am Christ’s so I shouldn’t watch R-rated movies or listen to non-Christian music.” But instead of taking every thought captive, we’re choosing not to think at all. Rather than watching Schindler’s List and examining it for truth and fallacy, we watch a “safe” Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that espouses “family values” with some watered-down picture of perfection for us to idolize. Rather than listening to and examining the lyrics and musicality of a Mumford and Sons album, we choose a romanticized, watered-down gospel in contemporary “Christian music.”

Or we feel free to watch and listen to whatever we want, but neglect to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. We don’t examine what we take in, but turn a movie on, turn off our brains and take it in without thinking.

I guess what I’m saying in this rant, which is more for me to get my thoughts out than for anyone else to read, is that we’ve been bought with a price. I don’t think I was bought by Christ’s precious blood so I could turn off my brain and choose to not think about art and culture and society. I wasn’t bought by Christ to look like the world, but I also wasn’t bought to sit at home and avoid the world.

I was bought to participate in the Kingdom work of redeeming culture through motherhood, writing, neighboring, reading, listening, examining. I was bought to worship God with every part of me. 

And you, you were bought for Kingdom work also. Therefore glorify God in your body, and heart, and mind and soul.

So in weddings, there really shouldn’t be this secular/sacred divide, as if somethings are “spiritual” and others are not. A wedding itself is a picture of a future reality–it is a hopeful portrait of our marriage with Christ. You are a spiritual being, you have been bought with a price, you are not your own. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1)

Your worship is your whole self, presented to God through His mercy and the work of His Son. You are an ambassador for Him, the aroma of Christ.

And when it comes to choosing whether or not to throw the bouquet or the garter or dance or drink or whatever, know you’re free. You’re free to do it, and you’re free not to. I shouldn’t tell you, because much depends on your particular circumstances. But know this–you have a new identity. You aren’t a slave to tradition or to other people’s expectations or opinions of you. You are a slave to Christ. And that is true freedom, leading to true JOY.

What do you think? Am I off-base? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as I think through how to write about the big picture of weddings.

Tossing the Bouquet and the Garter – My Two Cents

'26 Pegs wedding throwing the bouquet' photo (c) 2009, Ed - license:

Thanks to all who participated in the survey on the bouquet and garter tosses. The results were actually really close between all three options, so obviously there are lots of opinions out there on this topic.

I am just going to be honest here and say the bouquet and garter toss are probably my least favorite things about weddings. I know, sometimes they can be really fun, but sometimes they can also be awkward for all parties involved.

The Bouquet

First, let’s look at the bouquet toss. It used to be somewhat customary for overly enthusiastic guests to rush at the bride in order to grab parts of her dress and accessories, including the herbs or flowers she might carry. So in order to preempt this, she would throw her flowers to the crowd to keep them at bay.

Now the bride throws her bouquet behind her back to a group of single ladies who are supposed to clamor for the honor of catching it, and the superstition that goes along with it—that the recipient will be the next to marry. In talking with several of my single friends, many of them have said the bouquet toss is the hardest thing about attending weddings. Once the emcee announces the bride will be throwing the bouquet, often a single woman is pushed and prodded by well-meaning friends and family out to the center of the floor, where she is expected to make a spectacle of herself in desperation for future marriage.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Come on, lighten up, Parks. It’s just a bouquet toss.” True, and in your circumstances this may not be a problem, but I would encourage brides to ask their single friends and family members how they feel about it. It is difficult enough to attend a wedding when you are wondering if you will one day be celebrating your own marriage or when you have perhaps had a previous marriage that failed.

This is one area where I believe it is best to err on the side of caution out of respect for others. Singleness is not something that makes a person less-than, but rather a reflection of a sovereign God’s plan for someone’s life. The Church would benefit from honoring and celebrating the single believers in our lives who are actively serving and loving Him, rather than suggesting they should be sitting on the sidelines waiting for something else—something “better.”

The Garter

The garter toss comes from an old tradition called “bedding.” In this custom a crowd of people would follow the bride and groom from the wedding to the bridal chamber and would then remove the couple’s shoes, stockings and outer garments and tuck them into bed. After giving the bride and groom a cup of spiced wine and cheering loudly as they drank, the crowd would leave. Tradition has it the bride would choose to remove her garters before someone else could get to them and would then throw them to keep the crowd from getting too close. While (thankfully) the bedding custom died out in the eighteenth century, we now have the garter toss as a souvenir of the horrors of this old tradition.

In modern times the garter toss is an opportunity for grown men to fight over another man’s wife’s undergarment. I knew a guy who went to several weddings and made it his goal to collect the garter at each. He then hung them on his rearview mirror (classy), driving around with married women’s lacy underthings hanging in his car. Seeing that made me feel even more strongly about this subject.

Grooms, do not subject your wife to this, please. Whether you engage in some sensual de-gartering dance at the reception or just throw a garter your new wife hands you, you are, in essence, giving another man a piece of your wife’s intimate clothing. No honoring of tradition should mandate this.

Often it isn’t the grooms who care about it, but rather the brides who think it is traditional and should therefore be part of the reception program. My friend Amy said her husband did not want to do the garter toss, but since their photographer was encouraging it they went ahead. Her husband was, in Amy’s words, “mortified” when a toddler caught her garter. Of course the wedding guests laughed about it, but personally I think a picture of a groom and a toddler holding the bride’s lingerie is a little uncomfortable, and in retrospect she wished they had not done it.

So what do you think? Am I being overly critical of harmless traditions? 

Next week I will share some alternative ideas to the bouquet and garter tosses. If you have any to share, please let me know! I’ve really enjoyed the comments so far on this topic.

Book Survey – Throwing the Bouquet and Garter

'Bouquet toss' photo (c) 2008, John Mayer - license:
As I write this book I continue to realize how tempting it is to just fill it with my opinions. But that is not the point of the book, and I pray and strive to make it not about me or what I think. At the same time, I cannot just shrug off my own thoughts without examining them to see why I think a certain way.

The beauty is I’m learning this applies to all areas of life–generally I think a certain way for one of two reasons: 1. It happens to be what I believe fits with a gospel-centered perspective and goal, or 2. It’s just my personal preference based on my own tastes (much of the time from selfishness).

I want my motivation in writing this book to always be Reason #1.

Over the next week or two I will be posting a bit about the bouquet and garter toss traditions, but first I would like to do a quick survey to see what YOU think–did you do one? Do you think they’re a good idea? Do they have any negative connotations for you?

I would be so grateful if you would take a quick minute to answer the question below.

AND, please leave comment or shoot me an email (catherinestrodeparks(at)gmail(dot)com) if you have more thoughts! Thanks so much.