The Wedding Veil

As summer races forward, there are still some weeks left to enjoy a lovely novel before the fall schedule starts up in a few weeks. An option to consider is the 2022 release of Kristy Woodson Harvey’s book, The Wedding Veil.

When I first learned about this book, I was interested from the start with a lovely bride with a lengthy train pictured in front of The Biltmore Estate we visited a few years ago and Kristy’s story did not disappoint. It features a group of women (past and present) in one family who share an heirloom wedding veil that carries the tradition of a long and happy marriage to the women who wore it. When Julie Baxter leaves her groom at the altar on her wedding day, the stage is set for Julie to try to discover how she could have broken the family tradition.

Julie escapes to the shock of her mother with the help of her grandmother, Babs, on a trek to the island where she was supposed to honeymoon to sort out why she would stop wedding with someone she had known for years in an “on and off” relationship. She keeps remembering her grandmother’s words at the recent wedding shower at The Biltmore Estate Conservatory, “It’s the surprises that direct our paths.” Was that a clue? Her grandmother had known such a great love of her husband, Julie’s grandfather until he died and now the fairy tale legend of the family heirloom wedding veil had been destroyed by her. What was she really doing here?

The Wedding Veil weaves the story of Julie’s search for answers along with her grandmother’s challenge to find a new life as a widow together as Julie recalls her trips to The Biltmore Estate and recalling how much their family’s wedding veil looked like the one she saw on display that belonged to the Vanderbilt women of fame and fortune. Certainly, it could not look so similar that it could be the very same veil.

Kristy Woodson Harvey skillfully adds another story line along with those of Julie and Babs beginning in 1879 with a sweet six-year-old girl, Edith, playing in her mother’s bedroom as she prepared to dress for a formal party. In the whimsical scene the six-year-old is given a chance to try on a beautiful wedding veil that has been passed down through generations in her family and would one day be hers and when she was married she would pass it on to her daughter.

As this parallel story unfolds, Edith marries George Vanderbilt one day and continues the socialite wealthy family tradition but in a different location from where she had grown up. She leaves New York to travel to the place George prefers – Asheville, North Carolina – where he has amassed many acres to build an estate of a different style and kind than the wealthiest of New York society.

The Wedding Veil masterfully connects the stories of Julie, Babs, Edith, and Cornelia as they love, lose, and face life with tenacity for as Cornelia says, “…a life without passion isn’t worth living at all.” In the midst of all that Julie and Babs discover the true story of the heirloom wedding veil.

The Author’s Notes will clarify the historical research done to tell this story and which parts of it fit the history of the Vanderbilt family and The Biltmore Estate and which ones are of her own creativity neatly fit into the history. You get glimpses of the famous Vanderbilt women that you may miss on your next visit to the estate.

This is a great read that moves easily from different main characters to different time periods. It could give you many delightful hours before summer runs out.


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In 1934 George Gershwin composed the aria, “Summertime,” for the 1935 opera, Porgy and Bess.The lyrics are credited to both DuBose Heyward who authored the book, Porgy, from which the opera is taken, and also Ira Gershwin. The opening line paints a picture of what we think of and hope for when summer comes − “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy” −…a change of pace from the hectic days of other seasons.

Whether we are someone still in school looking for that wondrous summer vacation, or an adult hoping for a time at the beach or in the mountains, we hope for days and evenings to slow down. We imagine tall glasses of lemonade or iced tea, the smell of meat cooking on the grill, a fire to gather around while we make s’mores, and the sparkle of fireflies competing with stars to light up the summer night sky.

We look for a great new novel to enjoy at our leisure and watch for ads to farmers’ markets to get the produce that exceeds the quality of what we find in our local grocery store. We look for which musicians are heading to an outdoor venue near us. We dream about juicy berries and melon, crisp corn on the cob, and homemade ice cream.


We like to recall times in childhood when we experienced those and want to savor such times again, but summer doesn’t always give us what we want.

More and more structured summer activities start lining up on our calendar; the weather turns gray and rainy, something happens to adjust those vacation plans, and poison ivy and summer colds refuse to skip over our family.

Challenges of all kinds have never heard about what summer is supposed to be about. Illness still happens. Death doesn’t’ take a vacation and our boss doesn’t let go of his expectations for the new project that needs to be completed in two weeks.

News headlines don’t let up on a bird’s eye view of the chaos breaking out in every part of the globe. Headlines scream at us about minor and major tragedies in places we have heard of and others we didn’t know existed. They can easily stir up fear, anger, and hopelessness for a better world.

We want to enjoy summer as Nat King Cole sang about, “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer…” We want to sit on our patio, porch, or deck and let our minds drift with no particular place to focus. We want to drift along on a stream in a canoe while we watch the leafy canopy above our heads cast shade and shadows on the water and us.

We want sunshine and cloudless skies in the summer because we often realize that we have allowed weariness to squash our wonder at the beauty around us. Such weariness was born from lack of rest and too much of everything happening most of the time.

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What happens to our spiritual moorings in summertime? In our yearning to drift along and relax without a lot of structure, does our spiritual life drift as well?

Do we forget that the things we see with the natural eye point to the unseen spiritual warfare going on about us throughout the world?

Time and again scripture reminds us to stay alert and that if we drift, we can get off course. The writer of Hebrews makes note of that in reference to salvation in Hebrews 2:1, but I think the author’s words can have a broader application as well.

“This is why it is so crucial that we be all the more engaged and attentive to the truths that we have heard so that we do not drift off course.”  Hebrews 2:1 (TPT)

Summertime is a seasonal gift the Lord gives us to enjoy, but it doesn’t come with any guarantees to fit our desires or definition.

So when the rain won’t stop, look for Him beyond the clouds where his light is always shining. When illness keeps you down and the news is empty of hope and when all our plans fall apart consider this:

“Once you learn that you can never really plan your destination, you stop worrying so much about the map.”  

Lisa Wingate in The Language of the Sycamores.

Not losing sight of the Lord or his truth is the best way to assure we will find joy in the season (even if it doesn’t meet our expectations). If we are his and He is ours, our ultimate destination is set and perhaps we can let go of the unexpected stops or detours along the way. Nothing can satisfy our need for rest and refreshing as He does.

How Did We Lose It?

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Some things get passed down from generation to generation and it can be hard for some to determine if they are taught or caught in the process. In every culture and season there is a search for fulfillment whether that is the word used for it or not. Fulfillment tends to be defined as “the achievement of something desired, promised or predicted.” What that means for each person in a culture and generation may vary but it is a common thread from the beginning of humankind.

Most times we learn from those older than we are the things we can choose to do to gain what we see as fulfillment because we are told not to expect that it just happens serendipitously except perhaps in very very rare cases.

That taught us something was required of us to gain the fulfillment we sought.

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That meant that if we didn’t want to work in the fast-food industry for the whole of our adult lives, we would need to gain some skill sets and work to move into something different, better, or more. Our daughter’s first job beyond babysitting was working at a root beer stand nearby for $1.10 per hour plus tips (not large as you might guess). She knew that was not the end goal for her and when she worked all different hours in retail stores at a large mall, she knew that wasn’t her choice as well. She might not have been sure of what she ultimately wanted to do, but by the time she was well into high school she knew what she didn’t want to do. The same was true of our son who worked a variety of jobs through high school and college including working for his dad in a local home center job where one of his assignments was cleaning the restrooms.

No question that each had other dreams and their early jobs required them to do things they did not enjoy gaining work experience as well as money to pay for their first car, gas to fill it, and other non-essentials we provided.

That was not dissimilar to my husband and I as well as the parents we came from. And as we moved through adulthood, it became clear that not everything we hoped for was in that first sought-after job or position. They ALL required two things: work and sacrifice.

Neither of those two things were things that we delighted in, and we began to learn them before we entered the working world. If we wanted to be in a high school band and play first chair, it meant hours of practice. If we wanted to compete in sports, it meant hours of training in the early morning when we preferred to stay in bed or doing the later afternoon hours when it was hot, or we had homework to do.

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Some of us hated those things like practicing and gave up those dreams of making the first chair, the lead in the musical, or the winning touchdown in the championship game. We were not a fan of the hours of work and sacrifice that it meant to go after those prized spots. For some of us, those habits continued beyond school, and we felt often that things weren’t fair, and we deserved more than we had and couldn’t understand why it just didn’t happen or wasn’t given to us for one reason or another.

But those qualities of needing to work and sacrifice can be seen thousands of years ago. If you read the Old Testament stories you discover a lot of them. One that leaps out to me is the story of Jacob who wanted a beautiful young woman named Rachel to be his wife. To get her, her father said he would need to work for him for seven years and so he did since she was so lovely the years seemed not so long. But at the end of the time, his future father-in-law tricked him and gave him Rachel’s sister and when he confronted him about it, his father-in-law said he could have Rachel too but would need to work another seven years. Talk about work and sacrifice for the man who was known as a deceiver and had always gotten his way by cunning until this point in time.

But there is even a better example in scripture. Humankind messed up out of disobedience in the Garden of Eden at the very beginning and had no idea it would cost them so much as well as all who came after them. Separation from God was not at all what they expected it to be. But God wasn’t surprised at all and He had a plan to reunite humankind with Himself if they desired it. Jesus offered to do the work and make the sacrifice to make it happen and when He did so, some still wouldn’t believe it or accept what was then a gift.

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And here we are in 2022, 1,992 years since Jesus did the perfect work and gave the greatest sacrifice and many still miss it because they want just a little more of the good life or they miss what cost it was to God to provide it. Some still look for fulfillment on the wide road that looks like it won’t require much along the way. The road is nicely paved, and the scenery is appealing compared to the narrow path through the mountains to follow Jesus. It makes it evident that we missed that work and sacrifice would be required of us always to gain fulfillment except in this one gift from God that cost Him everything to give.

Here and there you will see modern day examples of it, but it seems rarer than it may have been at one time. Sometimes you will find someone working two or three jobs to make a way for a child to have a chance at those sports or music groups even though those jobs are not great, and it means time away from family. Sometimes you will see a stranger leap into action to help someone in trouble, but far too often we see stories on the news of someone in trouble with bystanders only taking video on a phone because it might cost them too much to call for help or jump in.

Are we no longer modeling these essential requirements or have the goals ceased to seem worth it or be something someone else should just give us?


If you are a regular reader of my posts, you have found the last seven posts have featured many quotes by John Eldredge and some of you might even know that he is a favorite author of mine. John’s new release in June has been challenging my thoughts and stirring my reflections and contemplation as a good book does. This one seems to be “right on time” in the life of so many of us and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I would encourage you to do so.

The focus of Resilient is looking at the impact of the past few years on all of us because of the pandemic and the steady stream of one crisis after another with no pause. He leads the reader to consider what is motivating us now to keep looking for ways to deal with our longing to “make life good again” and how the depleted reserves within us are still not replenished.

“Right now we’re in a sort of global denial about the actual cost of these hard years (which are not over). We just want to get past it all, so we’re currently trying to comfort ourselves with some sense of recovery and relief. But folks, we haven’t paid the psychological bill for all we’ve been through.”

John Eldredge

Each of our stories over the past two years is unique despite sharing a few common elements “to be suddenly stripped of your normal life; to live under the fear of suffering and death; to be bombarded with negative news, kept in a state of constant uncertainty about the future, with no clear view of the finish line; and to lose every human countenance behind a mask.”

Considering that humankind was designed for Eden, we have been adapting to a very different world ever since and largely been remarkably resilient and time and time again learned to tap into the reserves within us to weather the latest crisis whether it was personal or global.

Eldredge points out that while we are resilient, we are also fragile and as we tap into our resources as we have done during the last few years, we have also tapped into our reserves. What do we do now to replenish them? Many of us have been blessed by vacations, family gatherings, movie-going, and more, but things within us still have the imprint of what we have dealt with and used up.

Our experiences have left us with little to call upon for the next crisis and how we shepherd our heart and replenish these reserves is critical. Who and what is capturing our attention? Are these life-giving or leaving us unfulfilled?

So, how does a book help us? That depends on you, the choices you make, and if you allow it to be more than information you log into your mind or give it a chance to permeate your heart so you can experience joy again.

“In Resilient, John Eldredge provides the awareness and support you need to strengthen your weary soul. Drawing on wisdom from Scripture, Christian tradition, and powerful true stories of grit and survival. Resilient gives you prayers and practical steps to learn new ways to strengthen your heart and soul so you can live with joy; tap into supernatural graces God promises his people; understand how shifting political currents are warning signs of more change to come; and discover renewed freedom and strength through Christ who lives within you.”

John Eldredge

This is a book to read slowly and savor, to practice the exercises John Eldredge offers and then to listen to the audiobook or read it again. Its truths and help are even more powerful if you download the free One Minute Pause App and utilize the section entitled “30 Days to Resilience” that gives you short morning and evening meditations to refocus your heart, mind, and spirit.

I have finished the book now and am on Day 23 of the app. Next step for me will be to listen to the audiobook little by little to allow the gems Eldredge offers sink more deeply into my life, so I am restored, replenished and ready for action.

“Perhaps all this crazy and erratic human behavior in this hour might indicate the loss of bearing that comes when something strong begins to overwhelm our internal compasses. Someone is approaching.

What sort of magnetic pull would the approach of our Lord and Master have on the hearts that love him?”

John Eldredge
Image from One Minute Pause Resilient App

The Habit of Habits

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From the moment we are born, we begin learning. Some might say we began learning while still inside the womb as we became familiar with the voice of our mom, but learning began in earnest after we arrived. And the things we practiced the most that we learned became a habit for us. Some of those were good things and some not so good. Some were purposeful and some were random, but once they became a habit, they were imprinted in us unlike other things we learned but did not practice.

It was likely our parents were the first trainers of habits for us. We may have figured out some things on our own like crawling and crying to communicate, but they taught us words that went with things, people, and our emotions that we carry with us into adulthood. Later, they would teach us things to help keep us safe as well as what good manners were. Before long we developed a growing list of habits that were common to us all as well as some that were unique to us.

Our most well-developed habits were things that almost became automatic for us whether good or not so good. Those that were not so good, our parents tried very hard to change with varying degrees of success.

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By the time we were heading off to school we had a longer list of trainers that were developing our list of habits. It wasn’t only our teachers, but also our friends in the neighborhood, at school, and wherever we went to worship (if we did). It was an amazing adventure, and our minds were supple and learned many of them quickly and with the behaviors came what we thought or believed as well. Those things were harder for others to know and yet they began to have a great influence on us because they would repeat in our self-talk and became very persuasive.

Some of us wanted to do things we already seemed to have a knack for and practicing those were not so hard and we became better and better at them. Some of us wanted to do things we were never very skilled at, and practice was something we did not enjoy, and our skills never changed a great deal and often we stopped trying to do those things.

What kinds of habits do you still have that you learned long ago either accidentally or because someone taught and trained you?

In 1989, Stephen Covey developed a list of habits that would help to make us more effective if we practiced them. Many people read the book and others attended workshops that trained us in these habits and allowed us to start practicing them right away. I was one of those and a small wallet sized list of them sits on my desk as a reminder. Many of you might know them. They include these: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek first to understand, then to be understood, synergize, and sharpen the saw.

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Some of us developed habits regarding God, faith, the Bible and more as we grew up. They were first influenced by our families or those closest to us, but soon others impacted us as well. Some of us kept and expanded those habits as we grew well into adulthood despite challenges that came along. Others had influences that created questions that we didn’t ever seem to get settled, but when a crisis came, we might turn back to and then wished we knew more than we did. We might have had bits and pieces of a psalm we once memorized or a prayer we were taught, but we didn’t have a firm footing from which to draw.

Our relationship with God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit is first and foremost a relationship, but the more we learn and develop that relationship, the stronger our foundation and along the way we develop habits that make sense with Covey’s initial 1989 list. But responsibilities, crises, and distractions get in the way of the relationship and the habits, and we can become more vulnerable as a result. Habits (if they are healthy and good ones) are like rails that guide us and keep us aligned during tough times. They should never preclude relationship, but they strengthen the bond of that relationship.

The last few years have upended us in many ways.

“The mistake folks are making in this rough hour is trying to figure out how to fit a little more of God into their crowded lives.

We need to do the opposite. Start with God, center your life on him, and work outward from there. Our spirituality moves from something that is part of our life to the epicenter of our life – from which all other things flow, and to which other plans yield.”

John Eldredge

And it doesn’t take a crisis to impact a well-developed habit. A change in season that alters our routine can do that as well even if it is not a negative season. I found that so true when I retired eight years ago. Previously, my days ran in a consistent rhythm of times I got up, left for work, returned home, etc. and my spiritual habits were set within those as well and grounded me for the day ahead. But retirement threw that routine out the window and developing a new routine that was consistent didn’t happen automatically. I had to practice the discipline in a new routine that still was more often subject to shifts than it had been when I was working full-time, but I knew without some rails that I would truly be adrift if I didn’t make this a priority.

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“If we have made God our priority and we have a history of tapping into him, then we are in a much better position to draw upon his resilience when crises come. If we have tinkered with our spiritual life, it has not been a priority, troubled times wake us up and urge us to prioritize God now.”

John Eldredge

There will always be another crisis in this life. If we have been depleted and need to replenish, now is the time to develop the practice of getting some good habits solidified.