In Finding Love at the Oregon Coast, three bridesmaids and a runaway bride look for the true meaning of love after a cancelled wedding. In anticipation of the book's release this week, I thought I'd introduce you to the bridal party and give you a sneak peek as to why Christina cancels her wedding.
Angela Ruth Strong
Christina gazed out the window at the balcony decorated for her wedding ceremony above the sparkling Columbia River in Portland, Oregon before turning to face the full-length mirror. Why did her eyes look so worried? Everything was perfect—her new, choppy, blond, A-line haircut, her expensive makeup and eyelash extensions, her backless lace gown that she’d lost ten pounds to wear, and even her bridesmaids in their royal blue halter dresses with hidden pockets.
You couldn’t get any more perfect than hidden pockets. But she still felt the need to have Liz, the maid-of-honor, stuff her pockets with tissues in case Christina broke down sobbing at her own wedding. What was wrong with her?
“I don’t get these pockets,” Anabeth stated dryly from behind Christina. “I mean, are we standing up front during the ceremony with our hands in our pockets? What are we—dudes?”
Liz’s reflection in the mirror turned horrified. “They’re not for our hands. They’re for holding our necessities. Lipstick. Mints. Camera. Painkiller. Batteries.”
All heads turned to face the redhead. Christina squinted to study the bulging sides of Liz’s dress. Maybe there were already tissues inside.
“What are the batteries for?” asked Kadence, blue eyes wide with curiosity behind black, plastic glasses.
Liz shrugged. “You know. In case the pastor’s microphone dies.”
Christina smiled at the women who’d become her best friends when sharing a dorm at Portland State almost a decade ago. They were each so amazing in their own way. Definitely perfect.
She returned to mentally listing all the other perfect things about her wedding to calm her nerves. The sweet scent of the hydrangea bouquets. The lines of white folding chairs with ribbons waving in the breeze. The blue sky, which was actually going to allow for an outdoor wedding in June. Usually the sun didn’t start shining in Oregon until after the rain had ruined picnics on the 4th of July.
Picnics equaled Mom. Christina was missing her mother. That’s what this sadness was all about. If she’d gotten married two years earlier, Mom could have attended.
Eddie had been there for her after Mom passed with a shoulder to cry on and ways to make her laugh. Yes, he was perfect. Wasn’t he?
“What’s wrong?” Liz froze with her hands splayed wide in panic mode.
Christina would have to do a better job of hiding her anxiety. Especially if she was going to be saying her vows in front of a hundred people in half an hour. She forced the corners of her lips to turn up. “Nothing. I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. Are you hungry? Thirsty? We don’t want you to faint in front of everybody.”
Anabeth’s full lips pursed in that brooding way of hers. “Calm down, Liz. What’s the worst that could happen? If she faints, you'll make sure the pastor’s microphone has batteries so he can announce to the crowd what’s going on.”
“That’s true.” Liz sighed in relief.
“If you don’t lock your legs, you won’t faint,” Kadence advised. “That always helps me when I have a gig at a coffee shop.”
Christina hadn’t been worried about fainting before, but she was now. Why hadn’t she considered the prospect of passing out when agreeing to have her wedding on a balcony? She could tip over the railing and splash into the water below like Elizabeth Swan on Pirates of the Caribbean. She practiced bending her knees and straightening them to memorize the difference.
Liz stepped forward and clasped Christina’s hands. “What else can I get you? What do you need?”
Christina had no idea what she needed. She’d never been married before and neither had her bridesmaids. There was nobody there to give sage advice. This must be why she was feeling so lost.
But this was also what God was for. Why she’d turned to Him when she’d seen how much peace her mother found in the Bible through her dialysis. It was a peace Christina had never had before. A peace she didn’t have at this moment. But she could.
She looked at Liz’s hands in hers. The two of them were already in the position for prayer. “I need to pray.”
There. Just saying the words gave her direction and made her feel a little better.
“Of course.” Liz pulled her hands away. “I’ll go get Eddie for you.”
“What?” Anabeth’s eyebrows drew together in confusion.
Kadence lowered her glasses to the tip of her nose to peer over them. “Liz, Eddie can’t see her until she walks down the aisle.”
“No, I have an idea.” Liz slipped out of her heels and ran toward the hallway of the hotel. “Christina, you wait on this side of the door, and I’ll have Eddie stand on the other side. You can hold hands and pray together without him seeing you. And we can take pictures.”
Christina smiled wistfully at her friend’s enthusiasm. It was almost like Liz was more excited than she was.
She dutifully crossed the room and stepped out of sight. Anabeth found a doorstop to hold the door halfway open. Kadence positioned the soft train around Christina’s ankles so it was tucked away, as well.
“I found him.” Liz ran back into the room.
Christina’s pulse picked up speed. Was Eddie nervous too?
A strong, male hand stuck out from a gray suit sleeve as Eddie reached around the door. He was there for her. Like always.
She turned her back to the door so she wouldn’t be tempted to peek at her groom. His fingers threaded through hers, warm and firm.
“You couldn’t wait to be with me?” he teased.
She pictured his sandy brown hair swooped back with gel and a day’s growth of sexy stubble on his chin. He was what every girl dreamed of. So why couldn’t she laugh and joke back?
Her audience grinned and giggled for her. Liz snapped a photo.
Christina smiled hesitantly at her friends. They were probably all dreaming about having a moment like this in their future. Maybe she was only worried because she was the first one to go through with it.
“Actually,” she said. “I wanted to pray with you.”
Why did she have a sinking feeling in her gut?
Pause. “Okay. Go ahead.”
She slid her eyes sideways toward Eddie on the other side of the door even though they couldn’t see each other. Had she somehow known he wouldn’t pray? He’d gone to church with her. He’d accepted Christ. He’d attended pre-marital counseling sessions with their pastor. She’d wanted to believe they were at the same place spiritually. Especially with the way she’d seen her own parents struggle through religious differences.
She took a deep breath to make sure her next sentence came out calmly. “I would really like you to pray.”
“I don’t like praying out loud, babe.”
Her friends weren’t giggling anymore. Liz lowered her camera.
Yes, Christina could pray. It was all the same to God, right? Why was she making such a big deal out of it? She should respect Eddie’s discomfort. That’s what a good wife did, right?
She wanted to be a good wife. She wanted to be his wife. He was everything a man should be. Loving. Handsome. Charming. Intelligent. Hard-working. He was planning to finance her bakery shop for goodness sake. She’d quit her job to go into business with him.
Her pulse pounded in her ears, drowning out her thoughts, which was a good thing. She didn’t want to hear them.
She couldn’t cancel the wedding as the guests were arriving. Great Aunt Miranda had flown in from Kentucky, and she hated flying.
If only Mom were there. Mom would talk her off the ledge.
Or would she?
Since Mom had married a non-believer, she’d gone to church every weekend on her own. She’d tried to get Christina to go to church with her, but Dad didn’t support it, and Christina had preferred sleeping in on Sunday mornings. She hadn’t gotten saved until Mom died.
Christina didn’t want to have to die for her kids to get to know Jesus.
Her breathing sped up. She sucked harder at the air. She might very well faint after all.
“Chris?” Eddie used her pet name. He was worried.
There was nothing to be worried about. She’d ask him one more time. Let him know how much it meant for her to be a “strand of three cords.”
“Eddie, I really need you to pray. This is important to me.”
His fingers curled tighter around hers. “If it’s so important, why don’t you do it then?”
He might as well have let go of her hand and slammed the door in her face. Prayer wasn’t important to him. Talking to God wasn’t important to him. She’d wanted to believe it was, but it wasn’t. Did she even know her fiancé or only the man she wanted him to be?
In counseling, they’d learned that romantic love consisted of three parts. Passion, intimacy, and commitment. They had the chemistry of passion. They had the friendship of intimacy. But commitment? She needed God to be part of that commitment.
Eddie was everything she’d wanted in a husband except for the only thing the Bible said a husband should be—equally yoked. The two of them needed to share a spiritual connection. But she felt no connection here. What was she going to do?
Dad wouldn’t understand if she cancelled. He’d never throw her another wedding. Ever. He might even request she pay him back for this one, and she didn’t have a job anymore.
Her muscles tensed. Her temples throbbed. She needed Liz’s painkiller.
Because as much as she didn’t want to give up this perfect life she’d planned and as much as she tried to reason with herself, she knew she couldn’t say, “I do.” Her mother wouldn’t want her to.
She closed her eyes. If she was going to walk out of The Red Lion a single woman, she couldn’t do it alone. Lord, help me do the right thing, she prayed.