Memories and Recipes: The Best Wedding Gift


The makings of my big and colorful family will always be a great story. It's one that has been crafted over many years and many storms and many triumphs. But really, I need you to know about my mom.

My mom had me when she was nineteen. I think so fondly of that, because it's always felt as if we've grown up together. My mom and dad married (and divorced) twice. Consistently throughout, it's been my mom and me. Before either of us had a relationship with Jesus, I think we'd been everything to each other. More so her to me, because I find it hard to describe how much I value her opinion and wisdom. She was my authority, my conscience, and my friend. She is bold, fiercely loyal, and values truth. 

The week leading up to the wedding, we were all scattered about running errands and trying to make it all happen. My parents' house is about 45 minutes from civilization, and I was heading out there on a Thursday evening. My mom said she had something for me. Bryan already knew what it was.

I stood in the dining room and waited while she ran into her room excitedly.

I had no idea what I would be presented with, but I was REALLY hoping it was a kitten. (Side note: Why don't more people give kittens as wedding gifts?)

She came out with a big bag (not a kitten), and another familiar box I'd not seen in a long time.

She'd written me a letter, describing the day I was born. How she had waited for me for months. How she would go into my nursery before I arrived and just look at my tiny clothes. She listed the smells of the hospital. What the room looked like. She told me how when she met me I took her breath away and she believed without a shadow of a doubt that God was very real, and He was good. I re-read each sentence. I wanted to read it forever, because her words were everything to me.

On the table, she set down my memory box.

Camille, Carynn, and I each have one, and my mom has been putting in treasures, keepsakes, and tokens from our lives for all the years we've been alive so far. I have always loved digging in to her closet and marveling at all of the things in the box that I was too small to remember. 

There was a little envelope with a lock of hair from my first haircut (in which my hair was almost blonde). Photos. Notes that I wrote to her in my little girl handwriting.

A tiny dinosaur sculpture I made her (the red and yellow glob you see below). A pillow I made for the tooth fairy with a tiny pocket to make our trade easier and more secure. My baby saltwaters. And the shirt I wore when I was fresh out of the oven and still in the hospital nursery.

All of this happened, and the gift bag sat undisturbed.

I sat at our dining room table with my mom beside me, Bryan on the other, and Douwe across from me.

I pulled out the tissue paper and found a different box at the bottom of the bag.

It smelled new, and when I opened it, I gasped.

My mom made me a recipe box.

But it wasn't just a recipe box.

It was filled with antique index cards that she'd printed into recipe cards...

... that she and my Nana had mailed out to every single guest that was invited to our wedding.

She asked each guest to share their favorite recipe, and on the back - to share well wishes, encouragement, a memory, or marriage advice. 

My eyes filled with tears. The box was full. It was a perfect secret.

Our friends from out of town that couldn't make it got to be with us in a great way. The guests we'd see in a few days left their mark in a way that was more meaningful than a guest book entry.

My friend Claire in Ireland sent her recipe for Baked Alaska.

People wrote funny things. Insightful things. Memories of what the recipe meant to them from their own childhood, or when they were newlyweds.

Things like,

"Don't ever not have birthday sex. Ever."


"Always remember you're on the same team, and never stop doing the fun things that brought you together in the first place."

There's so much goodness in the little box. My mom's hope was that when I made the recipe, I could think of and pray for the person that wrote it.

I was so overwhelmed by how thoughtful it was. I felt so loved by how many people responded. I fell in love with my mom a thousand times more than I already was, and was equally excited for the life I was about to start with Bryan.

I loved that my mom and Nana did it together - my mom told me how much she loved making it and spending time with her own mom in the process.

It was absolutely perfect.

Sweet, and perfect. 

That's why she's my Marmee.

“My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.”  
- Marmee, Little Women