Friday, July 29, 2011

Smith One. Smith Two. Smith Three.

Well, you guys really know how to make a girl cry, don’t you? (In a good way, of course.)

I have read and re-read your messages concerning my song and just when I think you all can’t say anything any nicer, you do. My songwriting heart is utterly full today.

We got a phone call from Nathan and Meagan this morning on their way home from Miami where their ship docked at 8 am. They sounded rested and happy and said the cruise was wonderful except for having to be rerouted from Mexico to the Bahamas due to a tropical storm. But when you’re young and in love, location doesn’t mean a whole lot. It was so great to hear from them and know they were safe. I know it’s a cliché, but their voices were truly music to this mama’s ears.

Sarah is staying overnight with a friend tonight so Steve and I are having a date night consisting of grilling fresh tuna that a church member gave us and watching a movie. He is currently vacuuming the entire downstairs of our house—if that’s not a prelude to a good date, I don’t know what is!

I’ll leave you with a couple miscellaneous picture from the wedding to tide you over until the next round of stories and pictures begins.

Again, thank you so very much to each of you who took the time to comment and let me know that the wedding song touched you. I’ve floated along in the glow of your kindness all day today

And now, the pictures.

Meagan danced with all THREE Mr. Smiths at the reception and was truly the belle of the ball. (Sorry about the picture quality; I had a camera issue which I’ll write about later.) But even a little blurriness can’t obscure happiness!

Mr. Smith Number One




Mr. Smith Number Two



Mr. Smith Number Three (Steve’s Dad)


May your heart find reasons to dance today.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Song Story

Back in March when Meagan and Nathan were visiting us, she took me out to lunch for my birthday. After we’d finished eating and were just sitting and chatting she said, “I have a favor to ask. I would love for you to write a song for our wedding as a surprise for Nathan. Would you be willing to do that?”

Well, you have to understand that I had not written a song in about nine years (ever since Sarah was diagnosed with cancer) and I did not feel at all qualified to write anything as special as a wedding song. But how could I say no to such a precious privilege?

I told her I would be willing to try and she went on to say, “I’m picturing the first verse being written from your perspective, maybe looking back to when he was a boy. The second verse would be written from my perspective as his wife and the chorus would have lyrics that would be appropriate for both a mom and a wife so that we could sing it as a duet.”

A couple weeks after that conversation, Meagan sent me an email with a few sentiments to base her verse on and the songwriting began in earnest. Over the next few weeks, I spent hours at the grand piano in the church, writing down words, scratching out words, reworking melodies and even doing some crying over all the emotion involved. Sometimes I’d get discouraged and say, “I just cannot write this song!” and then other times I’d get excited when things started to coalesce.

Finally, after eight or ten hours of work, I had a rough draft ready for Steve to listen to. As I sang, I was encouraged to see that he also got choked up on the verses, just the way I did. (A songwriter always feels happy when she is able to move a listener emotionally.)

Steve complimented the song and said that he loved the melody and the overall feel of it; however, he added that he didn’t think the chorus was as strong as the verses so we sat down at the piano together and started working on a rewrite. When he had finished with his input, I spent a few more hours on it myself and finally had a semi-finished rough draft ready. (This was about three weeks before the wedding so the deadline was looming large.)

All during the writing process, when I was feeling inadequate and not quite up to accomplishing such an intimidating task, I kept comforting myself with the thought, “Well, this song is not going to be a big feature of the ceremony; it will no doubt be played in the background while they’re doing something else and no one will even notice it very much.”

However. My cell phone rang one day and it was Meagan. She said, “Oh, I have such a great idea about the song you’re writing!”

I tentatively asked what that great idea might be and she said, “I have decided that I am going to have your song playing while I walk down the aisle! Isn’t that just wonderful?”

I closed my eyes. I felt my heart flutter in my chest. I saw my life flash before my eyes.

Did I just hear my son’s future wife say that my song was going to be used as the music for the processional? The Big Important Processional? My song? The song I was so sure would be somewhere way in the background of the ceremony?

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

I didn’t think I should share my chaotic misgivings with the excited bride-to-be so I just said, “Meagan, that’s a great idea. Let me look at the song again before I send it to you and just make sure the lyrics and the melody are suitable for what you’re envisioning.” We chatted a few more minutes about other wedding stuff and then hung up.

I sat there at the kitchen table with my phone in my hand and stared out the front window as an amalgam of anxiety, joy and consternation rippled through my brain. You have to understand that this conversation took place just a couple days after the whole song critic episode when one of my best songs had gotten ripped apart. My confidence level as a songwriter had dipped to an all time low.

That evening, I headed back over to the piano at church to play through what I already had and to my joy, I realized that the words I had written for Meagan’s verse would actually do very nicely as a processional. (Big sigh of relief.)

I spent a couple more hours fine tuning the lyrics to make them even more appropriate and then sent the song off so that Meagan could hear it for the first time. After a little while she texted me and said, “I love the verses; they are just perfect!”

And that was all. Nothing about the chorus. Which meant that I still had some more work to do.

We talked the next morning and she said that she would love the chorus to talk more about love and emotion than it did, so I set off to work some more, looking for words that were evocative, joyful and love-filled but still suitable to be sung by both a mom and a wife. It was a bit challenging and my confidence started drifting even lower. And lower. Just two weeks to the wedding and what I had wasn’t working. And even worse, as much as I pondered various ideas and solutions, I couldn’t seem to make anything work.

One night at about 8:30, I sat alone at the piano in our dark, empty church auditorium and worked for over an hour with no results. I finally lay my head down on the piano and started crying. I was so frustrated and so intimidated by the whole songwriting process, especially after all those years of not writing anything. And in my head, I heard echoes of the online critic telling me I was a horrible writer who wrote disaster pieces instead of masterpieces. The wedding was coming up soon and the song wasn’t working and I had no idea how to fix any of it. I was so incredibly honored to have been given the opportunity and yet I was starting to believe I just wasn’t up to the challenge.

After a few minutes of sinking into a morass of creative self doubt, I quietly prayed, “Help me, Lord.” Almost immediately, a tiny thought stood up and knocked at the edge of my consciousness and I lifted my head from the piano and spoke aloud into the quietness, “Why don’t I just get rid of the chorus altogether?”

In its current permutation, my song was set up in the most common form which is verse, chorus, verse, chorus. That’s fine for most songs. However, by virtue of where it comes in a song, a chorus is almost always bigger than the verses and provides much of the lift and the drama of a song.

I realized that it wouldn’t work to use that formula in a song destined to be a Wedding March because of the roller coaster effect of a quiet verse followed by a big chorus and then back to a quiet verse again. In a song used for a processional, there can only be one Big Moment, and that is when the back doors swing open and the bride enters the sanctuary.

In just half a second, I saw my problem and in another half a second, I found my solution. I suddenly understood what would give the song wings.

I finished the song that night and sent it off to Meagan the next day with a note explaining why I had taken out the choruses. She told me later than when she read the email she couldn’t quite imagine what I was talking about. A song with no chorus? But when she actually heard the recording, she understood the concept. And loved it.

When we got to Florida last week, she told Nathan she was going out to “run an errand.” The errand consisted of meeting me at her parent’s church, along with her brother-in-law, John, who would play the song on keyboard and oversee the recording of it. (John also co-performed the wedding ceremony.) Even though I had written the song at the piano, I told John I would like him to play it on the recording since he is an accomplished keyboardist and could throw in some wonderful musical extras to really make it shine.





On the morning of the wedding, the bridesmaids came down the aisle to music played on the piano. As that musical piece finished up, my "mom verse" of the recorded song began to play while Nathan and his groomsmen walked to the front of the church and the flower girl and ring bearer started down the aisle. Nathan, resplendent in tuxedo-clad handsomeness, looked happy but slightly puzzled as my voice came out of the speakers; he was expecting the Wedding March which had been played for the rehearsal the night before.

However, his puzzlement quickly faded away when the song began its transition into the key change and the grand chords leading into Meagan’s verse burst out of the speakers. The congregation stood, the back doors swung open and Meagan appeared on her Dad’s arm, smiling brighter than any bride I have ever seen--even as her voice came over the speaker pledging her love and her life to the man who was waiting for her.

I reveled in the sight of her loveliness for a moment and then I turned around to catch a glimpse of my son’s sweet face. It is a face I know so very well and up until that moment, I thought I had every single Nathan expression memorized.

I was wrong.

Nathan was trying so hard to smile but he could only cry, his hazel eyes filling with tears and his lips trembling with emotion. The look on his face was as though he had just caught a glimpse of something quite glorious. And he had.

As I watched him I wondered if maybe part of the sweet emotion of that moment was due to the fact that he and Meagan had made and kept vows of purity to each other until marriage. But whatever the reason, there was a holy electricity in the air, a settled peace, a deep joy.

That moment was meaningful to me personally on so many levels. As I stood and watched Meagan walk toward my son to the music I had written, I was grateful to feel my songwriting insecurities fall away.

All I felt was the happiness of two jobs well done—raising a son and writing a song.

Here’s the song; lyrics are below.

1. When you were just a little boy

You brought me flowers, you brought me joy

And I never thought those days would ever end

But here you stand, all grown up now

To take a wife, and make a vow

That you’ll love her as a husband and a friend

I remember younger days, when you would go outside and play

And I’d watch you through the window and I’d smile

Rosy cheeks and skinned up knees, “Will you kiss my owie, mommy, please”

How I love the man, who used to be that child

Yeah, I love the man, who grew up from that child

2. Today I’ll pledge my life to you

Today I’ll stand and say, “I do”

I will take the name of the blessing God has sent

Can’t help but stand in awe of what

The Lord has done to build our love

I have prayed for you, my husband, and my friend

I can still remember when, we first met, you were only ten

And every time we talked, you made me smile

And now a new day has begun, oh what a treasure you’ve become

How I love the man who used to be that child

Yeah, I love the man who grew up from that child

Love is the song, we are the melody

Today we’ll start writing our own memories

ENDING (It was Meagan's idea to slightly re-write the first part of her verse and include it here; it was a perfect way to end the song.)

Today we’ll pledge our love so true

Today we’ll stand and say “I do”

We will thank the Lord for the love that He has sent

Can’t help but stand in awe of what

The Lord has done to grow our love

I have prayed for you, my husband, and my friend.

I won’t have any pictures of Meagan coming down the aisle in her gown until we get the professional photos back, but here is Meagan walking down the aisle to the song when we played it during a “pre-rehearsal” rehearsal. (In other words, Nathan wasn’t present for it.)

decorating church

English Ladies

I’ve spent a couple hours over the last day working on a post about the wedding song that I wrote for Nathan and Meagan. When that post is finished it will include the story behind the writing of the song, an actual recording of the song and the lyrics. I’m hoping to have it done by the end of the day but in the meantime, I have another story for you.

Yesterday at noon, our doorbell rang and we opened the door to find these two lovely ladies standing on the porch.


Jennifer (the mom) and Rebecca (the daughter) are visiting the United States from England. Rebecca is a faithful Smithellaneous reader (and at eighteen, one of the youngest) and she emailed a few weeks ago to say they would be in the area and asked if it would be possible to meet.

But of course!

I love meeting Smithellaneous readers and I cannot begin to tell you what a delightful time we had with our new friends. We spent two hours discussing our respective countries and learned fascinating facts about each others’ cultures, idioms, education, care of the elderly, universities, career training, slang, entertainment, flags, food, and transportation.

Jennifer is a teacher who is very passionate about her job; it was inspiring to hear how much she loves making a difference in the lives of her kids. Rebecca will start college this fall to become a midwife; I was especially interested to hear how she described England’s treatment of pregnant women. She said that unless an expectant mother has complications, she will not see a doctor for the entirety of her pregnancy, all the way through delivery and postnatal care--the midwife handles it all. The reason for this is that pregnancy is not seen as an illness and non-illnesses shouldn’t require doctors. I thought that perspective was quite fascinating.

Of course, it goes without saying that even when we were talking about the most prosaic of subjects, Rebecca and Jennifer's accents lent to their words the most dignified and amazing charm.

Sarah has always loved all things English and she and I and Steve would absolutely love to visit the country someday. Also, Sarah's friend, Taylor, was with us for the day and since she is in school dramas and loves studying accents, she was especially intrigued by the conversation.


When our new friends had driven away, Sarah, Taylor and I stood on the porch and all agreed that we felt like never speaking another word ever again because we could never measure up to the loveliness of that appealing English accent.

But after a little thought, Sarah and Taylor decided that they would just compensate by speaking in English accents for the rest of the day; after all, they’d just been through two hours of language by immersion. They were actually quite good at it and it was nice to have the English atmosphere extended for a little longer after our new friends had left.

Thanks, Rebecca and Jennifer, for bringing a spot of English brightness to our day.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Unorthodox Getaway Vehicle

In the midst of all the wedding planning a couple months ago, Meagan called to tell us that she and Nathan had decided that the whole wedding party would travel from the church to the reception in a motorhome.

Yes, a motor home. Not a limo, not a vintage car, not a fancy convertible—a motorhome!




Some of you who are new readers might wonder why in the world a newly married couple would choose such an unorthodox mode of transport.

The reason? Nathan spent twelve years of his life living in a recreational vehicle and Meagan spent five years of her life doing the same. (Both sets of parents were involved in full time traveling/preaching/singing ministries that included their entire families.)

In fact, Nathan picked up Meagan for their first “date” from a fifth wheel travel trailer. (They were just good friends at that point.)

Picnik formal

And so with their combined history . . .

Heartsong Days

. . . the Unorthodox Getaway Vehicle Idea was just too great to pass up.


Fun fact: Speaking of families in the ministry, I did an informal tally of all the ministers Nathan and Meagan have in their lives. Between them, they have two grandpas, two dads, two moms, two uncles and one brother-in-law who are all ministers. Just one of the many wonderful things they have in common!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Resisting Temptation. Old Bibles. New Nephews.

As promised, here are a few more pictures of our recent Happy Event.

Meagan’s dad, Frank, made these globes (wrapping some sort of string around balloons) which he then adorned with coordinating ribbon for the ceremony. I’ll post pictures of the final product once we get those shots from the wedding photographer, but believe me when I say that they were beautiful.

wedding album2

After the wedding, we all went outside for a cake reception. I love this shot of Nathan talking with his new father-in-law while Meagan greets a guest.


Sarah and Kristen in all their sunbeam loveliness.


Since a big part of Nathan and Meagan’s relationship has always been laughter, there was plenty of that served up during the day. In this shot, Nathan’s groomsmen were urging him to do the whole cake in the face of the bride thing. One look at Meagan’s expression lets you know she felt about that.


Thankfully, Nathan resisted temptation and fed her the cake in a gentlemanly manner.


And got a sweet little reward.


When it was time to head back into the church for pictures, Meagan asked Nathan to help with her train.


He held it up just a wee bit high and got this look from his new bride.



I just love the “Aw, shucks” look on his face.


Never a dull moment with those two.

While the pictures of the bride and groom were being taken, I went over to the table that had been at the side of the platform during the ceremony; it held a lit candle and two Bibles. One of the Bibles belonged to Sheri’s sweet mom who passed away almost two years ago. The other Bible was one that my late Dad was given in 1954 during Bible College; my sister, Debbie, had brought it from Wisconsin.

It was so special to get to look through it and see my dad’s familiar handwriting once again. I appreciated the fact that Meagan thought of remembering her and Nathan's grandparents who would have loved with all their hearts to be able to attend the wedding but had already been called to heaven.


Sarah enjoyed seeing her grandpa’s Bible as well.


Although I loved Sarah’s fabulous appearance, it was also a bit bittersweet to look at her because I caught a glimpse of the woman that is hovering right beneath the surface of the 15-year old girl. I’ll barely blink my eyes and Steve will be escorting her down her own bridal aisle.


One of my favorite shots is this one of Meagan and her darling nephew. It seems so funny that this little guy will grow up calling our son, Uncle Nathan. I know the two fellas will have lots of great guy time together as the years go by. (With Aunt Meagan doing her best to keep them in line.)


Meagan’s dad did ALL the flowers for the wedding—the bride’s bouquet, the bridesmaid’s bouquets, the pew markers and the incredible centerpieces at the reception. This is one talented family.

And it was one beautiful day!

wedding album1

Posts That Are Still To Come

  • The story of the song that Meagan asked me to write as a surprise for Nathan. She and I recorded it ahead of time with each of us singing a verse and it was played while she and her dad walked down the aisle. (I’ll also post a recording of the song.)
  • The utterly unnerving, altogether alarming, and absolutely unfixable hair crisis I had just a few days before the wedding.
  • The story of the RV and the bridal party.
  • The “flopping off my feet” shoe crisis I had just minutes before the wedding.
  • The last minute loan of a 100-year old necklace/earring set that matched my dress perfectly.


Our family has been so touched by all the comments (39 so far!) left in Sunday’s post as you rejoiced with us concerning this milestone for our family; you all certainly know how to make our hearts smile!

It was also very dear to look through some of Nathan and Meagan’s wedding gifts while we were in Florida and hear about the ones that came from Smithellaneous friends; they estimate they got at least a dozen gifts from you all, which truly blows me away. Believe me when I say that there is great thanksgiving in this mama’s heart for the generosity of our amazing Smithellaneous family.

The No Water Dilemma

The plumber just informed us that our water pump is shot. Between his work and the purchase of a pump, the repair will be over $400. Isn’t that just what every already overspent parent-of-a-newly-married-child loves to hear?

But at this point in our lives, with three unshowered-since-Sunday Smiths (we don’t usually bother with showering before long travel days) three unflushed toilets, and a sink full of stinky dishes, we’re basically willing to pay the man about anything he asks. Now if our new plumber friend would also come upstairs and unpack our chaotically overflowing suitcases and do several loads of laundry, we’d be set!


Anonymous said, “You might think I am strange for noticing a tiny detail in these pictures; but how did you feel when you first saw a wedding ring on your son's hand? When my son got married almost 8 years ago, I remember how strange it was to me to see that band on my son's hand.”

I know exactly what you’re talking about. I was standing in the reception hall talking briefly with Nathan and happened to glance down at his hand. His left hand. And I kind of did a little gasp and said, “Nathan! Your ring!” (Like he had to be reminded he had on a ring.) It was the first time I had seen it and since he has never worn jewelry of any kind (not even a watch) I had to stare at this hand for a few moments to get used to his new look. It’s a tungsten ring and is so cool looking. It suits him perfectly.

Lisa said, “Was there a significance about the time of the wedding. I don't believe I have ever been to a wedding before 11:00 am so I wondered if that had some deeper meaning?

Lisa, there really wasn’t any significance to the time of the wedding. (Actually, it was at 10:30.) It just worked out better concerning the scheduling of the church and country club where the reception was held. An added benefit of having a wedding at that time is that the couple can leave for their honeymoon by four orfive in the afternoon, rather than so late in the evening.


I have a real post (with pictures) almost ready to go but just wanted to quickly let you know that we made it home from Florida safely last night.

The highlight, er, low light, of the whole trip came in the late afternoon when we were traveling along the interstate in South Carolina and Steve suddenly shouted, "Savannah!?!?"

Sarah and I popped our heads up from our computers to see what could have brought about such a dramatically random observation from our designated driver. Turns out that after we had stopped for gas, Steve had gotten back onto the freeway going the wrong direction and didn't realize it for almost an hour when he finally zeroed in one of the signs announcing the cities that were ahead. Cities that one would see if one was driving to Florida, not away from Florida.

Does that tell you anything about how incredibly tired we were?

We also ran into an accident that delayed us almost an hour, so between that and the wrong-way excursion, our thirteen hour trip turned into fifteen hours, with the last couple hours of it being driven through fairly heavy rain. Driving in rain always makes me tense anyway, and with my stretched and frazzled nerves the rain was extra tiring.

We finally pulled into our driveway at 11 pm and had a joyous reunion with Snowy before making the unwelcome discovery that something is wrong with our water pump and we have no water. At all. That was about the time we decided that heading for bed and dealing with our problems in the morning would be the best thing to do.

I can't ever remember being quite that tired; following an exhilarating (but exhausting) week with a 15-hour road trip is something my middle aged body isn't quite up to.

But we're thankful to have made it home safely and I'm thankful I had a good night's sleep. Still no water but Steve's been up since early this morning working on a solution.

More soon . . .

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wedding Day, Part One. (Of Many Parts.)

I’ve taken over 400 pictures over the last week and the professional photographer took a thousand or two or more, although those won’t be available for several weeks.

For right now (since I know many of you have been waiting), I will just go ahead and post a few highlights. Tomorrow (with thirteen hours of traveling to do) I’ll have plenty of time to go through pictures and do a longer post. (And also tell lots of wonderful wedding-ish stories.)

Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Smith






Sarah was a most lovely bridesmaid.

Meagan’s sister, Kristen, started doing her hair at 7:30 am . . .


And then Meagan’s other sister, Joy, did her make up.


We think she turned out rather beautifully. (The Mystery RV in the photo will be explained in another post.)



Here is Nathan, ten minutes before the wedding, holding forth with his groomsmen.


And taking his last Single Guy College Dude photos with his family.



And did I mention how beautiful a particular bridesmaid was?


It was a lovely day in so many ways.