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Erik Tryggestad takes a selfie with newlyweds James and Sarah Walter.
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Ashel Parsons Photography, ashelphoto.com

Wedding makes me thankful for the Lambs of God

I praise God for the faith-filled circumstances that brought me to rural Arkansas to see my flower girl get married.

PANGBURN, Ark. — The bride didn’t make it down the aisle.

Just as soon as she set foot in the auditorium, she froze, panic-stricken, and refused to move, crying loudly. Her grandfather, seated a few rows up, winced visibly. He thought this might happen.

The maid of honor thought so, too, and had a plan. She picked up the bride and carried her down the aisle.


Related: Love and joy: Tears flow at son’s wedding


It was a sight.

When they reached the stage, the father of the bride was waiting, dangling a brand new Polly Pocket playset in front of her.

“I’ll let you have this if you can drop a few petals,” he said.

Immediately, she chucked her flower basket to the floor and grabbed the toy. Then she walked over to the wedding photographer, held up the toy and asked, “Can you open this?”

Jaret Jacks (now Henry) carries 3-year-old flower girl Sarah Lamb down the aisle of the Thomas Street Church of Christ in Altus, Okla., during Erik and Jeanie Tryggestad's wedding in 2003.

Jaret Jacks (now Henry) carries 3-year-old flower girl Sarah Lamb down the aisle of the Thomas Street Church of Christ in Altus, Okla., during Erik and Jeanie Tryggestad’s wedding in 2003.

I should mention here that the bride, Sarah Lamb, wasn’t the bride just yet. The bride that day was a beautiful, busy medical student named Jeanie Jacks. It all happened on June 14, 2003, in Altus, Okla.

Now, just a little more than 20 years later and 500 miles east — at a rural Arkansas venue called The Wedding Barn — Sarah’s father walked her down the aisle to her waiting groom, James Walter.

They exchanged vows, rings and “I do’s.” Then, after a kiss that seemed a bit too passionate and entirely too long, my flower girl was married.

Jerry Lamb and his daughter, Sarah, in 2003 (left) and 2023 (right).

Jerry Lamb and his daughter, Sarah, in 2003 (left) and 2023 (right).

I met Sarah’s parents, Jerry and Rachel Lamb, in 1999 during a Wednesday night Bible study at the Parkway Church of Christ in Savannah, Ga. I had just moved from Athens — home of the back-to-back national champion Georgia Bulldogs — to cover shootings, stabbings, fires and other awful things for The Savannah Morning News.

The Lambs graduated from Abilene Christian University in Texas, where Rachel’s dad, Tom Winter, is a professor of social work. Rachel was working as an audiologist while Jerry did graduate work at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Dan McGregor, right, and an alien go on a photo shoot with Erik Tryggestad around coastal Georgia ... for reasons neither can remember.

Dan McGregor, right, and an alien go on a photo shoot with Erik Tryggestad around coastal Georgia … for reasons neither can remember.

A few days later I met Dan McGregor, another ACU grad and SCAD student. He aspired to be a starving artist, but he harbored a terrible secret. (More on that later.)

Dan, Jerry and I became fast friends. We had a Bible study/support group with two more ACU transplants, Chanaka Dooldeniya and his wife, Wendy — yet another SCAD student. I shared an apartment with Dan in the parlor of an old row house near Forsyth Park. When Jerry came over, our neighbors complained about the noise. To this day, we need only say a few words to each other to set off a cacophony of laughter.

Members of the Parkway Church of Christ in Savannah, Ga., gather for Dan McGregor's art exhibition at the Savannah College of Art and Design. The group includes Erik Tryggestad, Jerry and Rachel Lamb with newborn Sarah, Wendy Dooldeniya, McGregor and Chanaka Dooldeniya.

Members of the Parkway Church of Christ in Savannah, Ga., gather for Dan McGregor’s art exhibition at the Savannah College of Art and Design. From left are Drew Connelly, Erik Tryggestad, Jerry and Rachel Lamb with newborn Sarah, Wendy Dooldeniya, McGregor and Chanaka Dooldeniya.

We nicknamed Jerry “The Extreme One” for his tendency to pronounce things “the best ever” or to say “you have no idea how bad that was!” You’ll never find a more loyal friend. If I ever needed a kidney, Jerry would be the first to volunteer his. He’d remove it himself with a pocket knife and hand it to me, rendering the kidney useless and Jerry, most likely, dead.

But it’s the thought that counts.

We eagerly awaited Sarah’s arrival. She was due on March 17 — St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a huge, debaucherous day in Savannah. Traffic is gridlocked and I would spend most of it covering arrests for disorderly conduct. Thankfully, Sarah showed up four days ahead of schedule. I met her in the hospital and brought a copy of that day’s paper.

Her grandmother, Sherla Winter, suggested the headline “Most beautiful baby in the world born in Savannah.” In reality, the headline I wrote that day was probably something like, “Goat carcass found in Bonaventure Cemetery.” (Savannah had a little bit of voodoo going on.)

Erik Tryggestad reads a "Curious George" book to Sarah Lamb during a visit to Savannah, Ga., in 2002.

Erik Tryggestad reads a “Curious George” book to Sarah Lamb in Savannah, Ga.

After Sarah’s birth, Dan’s terrible secret surfaced: he had an art professor job lined up at ACU. Ashamed to face his starving artist buddies, he moved back to Abilene.

Not long after that, I went to Oklahoma to work for The Christian Chronicle and met Jeanie. When the paper needed an ad manager, I called Jerry. The Lambs headed west and gave Jeanie their approval.

Sarah called me Uncle Erik. As my wedding drew closer, Jerry and I drove Sarah to meet Jeanie’s parents for dinner and to pick up her flower girl dress. When she learned that dinner was at a barbecue restaurant in Chickasha, 30 minutes from Oklahoma City, she said, “but I want to be in Chick-uh-fay NOW!”

The Wedding Barn & Event Center, Pangburn, AR, USA

She was adorable in her dress, tears and all. And Dan was one of my groomsmen. He brought his future wife, Laura, to the wedding.

All of these memories flashed through my mind as I watched Jerry walk his little girl down the aisle. I thought of all the unlikely events — the providence and grace of God — that brought all of us to The Wedding Barn on a hot summer afternoon.

And I thank God for bringing Sarah to Harding University, where she earned a graduate degree in nursing, and to James, a Harding grad who serves as associate minister for the Jersey Village Church of Christ near Houston.

Erik Tryggestad takes a selfie with newlyweds James and Sarah Walter.

Erik Tryggestad takes a selfie with newlyweds James and Sarah Walter.

I wish for this young couple the same blessings that brought me to Sarah’s parents. The Lambs helped me get through some gritty, often-frustrating years of singlehood. They remain my best friends ever.

Mostly, though, I’m thankful that Sarah didn’t cry and toss her flowers to the floor this time.

There’s your headline, Sherla: “Twenty years later, bride finally makes it down the aisle.”

Keith Johnson leads a prayer during James and Sarah Walters' wedding in rural Arkansas.

Keith Johnson leads a prayer during James and Sarah Walters’ wedding in rural Arkansas.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD is president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @eriktryggestad.

Filed under: Babies Insight Marriage Memories Opinion Personal stories Top Stories Wedding

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