The Story of My Grandmother’s Wedding Dress

on my heart, photos

Getting to walk down the aisle wearing a family heirloom was incredibly special.

In 2018, I was married to my love in the same dress that my grandmother first wore in 1948. Seventy years, thirteen children, and a myriad of grandchildren later, along comes little Ellie getting to follow in the legacy of a blessed woman. 

My grandmother’s wedding dress had lain stored away in her house for many years. My Aunt Toni, the oldest of the daughters and the second of the thirteen Michnovicz’s, ended up with the dress after my grandmother (affectionately known as Mema to her twenty two grandkids) moved out of the family home to a smaller place. 

From there, she gave the dress to one of her daughters, Mary of Mary Dougherty Photography, thinking she could perhaps use it in a styled photoshoot. (Shameless plug for my amazing photographer cousin! In endless awe and always inspired by you.)

Then one day, Mary contacted me and my sisters and asked for our address. I was curious, but I didn’t find out why until I opened the box. My cousin had been going through some things in her house, and decided to send us the dress. Most of us were single at the time, maybe she thought we could use it?

I still remember that day the box arrived, excitedly crowding around the box with Clara and lifting up the delicate lace with wonder. “This was Mema’s wedding dress?!?!” 

It was time to play dress up, of course, I’m still a little girl at heart. 

Friends, the dress fit me nearly perfectly. I just needed heels and to suck it in a little. 

I found out from newspaper clippings that the dress was handmade with Chantilly lace and satin. Over the years, the lace had yellowed and the beading had discolored. The dress was still in pretty good shape for being nearly 70 years old.

Well, I thought, maybe someday when I get married I can wear this. 

Fast forward to 2017, when I fell in love with a Jersey boy. Our relationship was long distance, and we were pretty serious and had started talking about marriage. So get this—before a ring was on my finger—I started looking into vintage or antique wedding dress restoration, and took the dress to Heritage Garment Preservation in Tyler, Texas. From what I had researched, the restoration process can be lengthy… 

In the months leading up to my wedding, Chanda and her team did exceptional work restoring my grandmother’s wedding dress. 

When I got the call that the dress was ready, made the drive out to Tyler, and first laid eyes on the dress… I was completely amazed. The yellowish lace was creamy white, the stains were gone, and the discoloration in the beading had disappeared. The seamstresses even replaced the dozens of buttons down the back (yes, I wore a dress with alllll those buttons) with new ones that matched.

(Here’s a fun fact I learned: vintage garments were often made with metal buttons. If they had put the dress through the restoration washing process WITH the buttons, it would have likely rusted and stained the dress further. The best restoration process in this case was to replace the originals with matching buttons. I couldn’t tell the difference once they were replaced.)

One of my aunts told me that several of Mema’s girlfriends wore the dress after her, too!

Here’s a little about my family: 

Mary Lou Michnovicz married my grandfather, John James “Mike” Michnovicz, on November 13, 1948 after they met in Los Alamos, New Mexico during World War II. My grandfather was an Army photographer documenting the Manhattan Project. He continued his career as one of the founding members of Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union, among many other accomplishments. They had thirteen children, twenty-two grandchildren, and my latest count is twenty great grandchildren?

I miss them and will always hold their memory with love. 

Some photos of these special people, and some photos of my own wedding: 

 

My wedding planner Sara helped me scour eBay to find a cake topper that was similar to Mema’s. It was so special to recreate the cake-cutting photo. 

Hair and makeup done by high school friend Shea Sparks and florals by a local friend Shelley!

 

I love the affection between the two of them, shown in this photo.

 

This photo shows the side detailing of my veil. Mema’s Duchess Cap veil was not able to be restored, but I was able to add some of the lace flower detail on my Juliet Cap veil, handmade by an Etsy seller in the UK, Blossom and Bluebird!

Marriage: established on a strong foundation in Christ

on my heart, thoughts

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! So many exciting things are happening; I have a lot to catch you up on!

On May 5, Joshua asked me to be his bride. I said, “yes, thank you!” Our wedding is drawing close on August 5. Joshua moved down from Pennsylvania to Texas in June, and we have been getting to know each other better in person as we prepare for marriage. Up to that move, our entire courtship and part of the engagement had been long distance. Seeing each other in person nearly every day is so different than being separated by 1,400 miles, but of course wonderful.

We see marriage as more about God and his purpose than it is about us. Joshua and I are united in our love of Jesus, and we desire everything in our lives to flow out of that first love. Joshua has a heart for evangelism and ministry, and right now senses that he is in a season of preparation and equipping. He fully supports me serving the Lord at GFA for this season, and right now our plan (as we submit it to God and earnestly seek His leading!) is that I’ll continue serving at GFA while he works as a personal trainer and pursues some further education. We’ll be living in the Dallas area following our marriage.

Ministry Update

Our web team has been staying busy this summer too! We have had several part time employees or volunteers join us for different periods of time, and I am grateful to have had Clara, Elizabeth and Laura join us.

Almost everyone in the ministry has been involved in the launch of a big project called the Mission Support Team. This new sponsorship initiative now enables people all across the West to sponsor “behind-the-scenes missionaries” here at GFA. In other words, supporting the staff like me! Each of us working here at GFA facilitates the work of more than 100 national missionaries on the field, so we play a vital role in allowing the mission work to continue to function. Bringing the staff to full support enables us to do more to reach Asia with the Gospel!

Web has played a big part in this project, and you can check out the fruit of our labors at the new web area – www.gfa.org/mst!

I’m grateful for a chance to get to serve Jesus with this team and to utilize the webby world for God’s glory!

2017 – a year in review

on my heart

2017. What a year! It was challenging and stretching, yet full of joy.

I’m grateful for the lessons the Lord has graciously and patiently been teaching me through this last year. A song through which the Lord spoke to me last year was “Shadow Step” by Hillsong United – “I’m ready for the unexpected, ready for what You will do next.” That’s how much of last year felt, but God was there each shadow-step of the way.

And I don’t think I’ve ever done so much travelling—there was the 5-hour flight delay coming home from Florida, leaving on a road trip to Arkansas 10 hours after getting back from a week-long trip to Arizona, the July trip to Arizona/New Mexico/back to Texas, and then coming home and photographing two weddings three weeks apart. Many memories were made last year!

Here’s a glimpse of a few below.

 

 

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Girls at Street Children Home

Faces of South Asia, on my heart, photographic journeys, photos, South Asia 2013, stories

This month I wanted to share a story from one of the street children’s homes we support. I got to visit this home for girls about a month after it opened in 2013. What an answer to prayer it was to see how God went before us to open this home!

At the time I was there, 6 girls had been rescued and were living there. Hearing their stories was heartbreaking. But seeing the hope and joy they had, now having a safe home to grow, heal and just be kids—how incredibly beautiful.

In a little while you’ll read the story of “Ashmita”, a young girl who was rescued from an abusive situation where she was forced to labor as a child.

Video by Elicia Christofferson

But first I want to share a special memory from my visit to this home. The girls loved having their photos taken (it seemed like every kid we met did!) The three youngest ones, including Ashmita, would crowd in front of my camera and say “Chapati!” each time I snapped a photo—just like American kids would say “Cheese!” for the camera. (Chapati is Indian flatbread similar to a tortilla.) I secretly got a video of those precious girls too. :)


Young Child Laborer Finds New Life

Reposted from Gospel for Asia

Photo from Gospel for Asia

It burned. Ashmita hurled her exhausted young body into the kitchen. Her eyes stung as she cried out in agony. Chili powder washed off her small cheeks in a red stream as she anxiously tried to recover from the new form of abuse. But the pain in her eyes couldn’t compare to the pain and confusion found in her young, tender heart.

A Living Nightmare

Ashmita doesn’t remember very much about her life before her father died. In fact, she hardly remembers her father at all. The only thing she remembers is he was ill and couldn’t eat spicy foods, and one day he was gone forever.

After his death, Ashmita and her mother moved into someone else’s house to do domestic housework. After a time, Ashmita’s mom sent her to live with another family as a servant. This became a living nightmare for Ashmita.

From morning to night she washed dishes, mopped floors and sometimes washed clothes. When she couldn’t do her work, they beat her legs with canes and slapped her.

“The house where I was staying . . . I was very much ill-treated,” Ashmita shared. “When everybody [went] to bed after food at night, the house owner used to watch television. While watching the television, she used to ask me to massage her legs. If I am tired, if my hands are hurting, she used to beat me and ask me to massage her properly. One night, when I was massaging her leg, I was very tired and sleepy, and while massaging, I slept off. She went to the kitchen and brought some pepper powder [chili] and put that pepper powder in my eyes.

“Once my mother called me,” Ashmita remembers. “She asked that [woman] whether [I was] around. Then she told lie to my mother, and she replied that ‘Ashmita is sleeping,’ while I was sitting with them. While she was talking to my mother, she motioned me not to speak and be quiet and continue the work I was doing.”

Photo by Elicia Christofferson

Ashmita’s mother was of no comfort to her daughter. When Ashmita was allowed to talk with her mom over the phone, the young girl cried and pleaded with her, asking her to take her out of the home she lived in. But her mom told her to do whatever they said. Even though her mom was not involved in her life very much, Ashmita missed her terribly and longed to escape the life she was living.

House of Refuge, House of Hope

When the local authorities found out about Ashmita’s situation, they rescued her from child labor and brought her to a GFA-supported home for abandoned and at-risk children. Now precious Ashmita is safe from abuse, pain and hopelessness. No longer forced to labor, she lives like a child should.

Photo by Elicia Christofferson

Ashmita plays with other children her age, bathes, receives daily meals, learns songs and dances with the other girls at the home. She attends school and likes it! She especially loves the staff who care for her, and the other girls who help her with her studies.

“I like this place so much; I like all these didis (older sisters). They work hard for me and for all of us,” Ashmita shared. “I like this place and I don’t [want] to leave this place and go to any other place or orphanage because of the love and care that we get here.”

Ashmita is thriving under the love she is receiving—love every child longs for.

Best of all, Ashmita has learned she is safe in the arms of Jesus. He saw her tears and knew the pain she felt in her heart. By His kindness and love, He brought her to this home. His love is found in the staff who daily look after and nurture the children who have been abused, abandoned, misplaced and forgotten, girls just like Ashmita.

“The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow.”—Psalm 146:9

Photo by Elicia Christofferson

Hope for the Nations

on my heart, poetry, Uncategorized

As I was thinking about the brokenness in the world during Gospel for Asia’s all-night prayer meeting, I wrote this, then we sang this song.

There are people with actual problems.
There are children enslaved in labor.
Men who break down ships for a living.
A toxic, dangerous, illegal task.

There are people groups hated by everyone.
Like the Rohingya, without a home.
They are pushed aside, abused.
Is there anyone who cares for them?

Innocent, scared children,
Lied to and forced to beg.
Literally maimed or blinded
For more profit, they said.

There’s the woman who thinks she’s worthless.
I’m a sex doll, is what she thought.
I’m no better than this, it’s what I deserve.
But of truth and hope she knows naught.

Jesus. Hope of the nations.
Jesus. Comfort for all who mourn.
You are the source of heaven’s hope in earth.

Jesus. Light in the darkness.
Jesus. Truth in each circumstance.
You are the source of heaven’s light on earth.

In history, you lived and died.
You broke the chain.
You rose to life!

You are the hope, living in us.
You are the rock in whom we trust.
You are the light, shining for all the world to see.

You rose from the dead,
Conquering fear.
Our prince of peace,
Drawing us near.

Jesus our hope, living for all who will receive.
Lord we believe.

Christ’s Love Compels Me

a day in the life, on my heart, thoughts, words

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. Apart from me, no one comes to the Father.”

In Jesus alone is the gift of eternal life, given to us freely but purchased by His own blood on the cross.

When we put our trust in Him, we are redeemed, we are set free, and we are adopted into the family of God!

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Mom and I have been talking about the beautiful thing it is to be part of the family of God. Even when we meet complete strangers who also love Jesus, you can sense that we share the Spirit of God in us. (And my Mom and I experienced that this very morning… at the IRS office! God works in amazing ways.)

There is such joy in knowing the Lord and walking with Him. And it is His love in me that compels me to love the world like He does.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” – John 3:16-17

When I glimpse the incredible love that God has for the world – and I understand how many people have yet to hear the name of Jesus – my heart breaks.

More than 2.7 billion people in the world today (about one out of five) have never heard of Jesus. They’re without salvation and hope, for both this life and the next. And that means that they are on their way to hell.

It is chillingly clear in Scripture that those who do not choose Christ will not inherit eternal life.

I was struck by the analogy that I recently heard about this. If you are planning a trip to Disney world, and you’re packing, planning your road trip, and start driving there, you’re on your way. A few things might come up that deter you for a minute, but you are still on your way.

If it is true that those without Christ are on their way to hell, like the Scriptures say, how does that impact how I live today?

This is a sobering and challenging thought that the Lord is teaching me through right now.

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I’ll close with some lines from a song that has been playing in my head, ‘O Come to the Altar’ by Essential Worship:

Are you hurting and broken within,
Overwhelmed by the weight of the sin,
Jesus is calling.
Have you come to the end of yourself,
Do you thirst for a drink from the well,
Jesus is calling.

O come to the altar,
The Father’s arms are open wide,
Forgiveness was bought with,
The precious blood of Jesus Christ.

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes,
Come today there’s no reason to wait,
Jesus is calling.
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy,
From the ashes a new life is born,
Jesus is calling.

Oh what a Savior,
Isn’t He wonderful,
Sing hallelujah Christ is risen,
Bow down before Him,
For He is lord of all,
Sing hallelujah Christ is risen.

Read more: Elevation Worship – O Come To The Altar Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Video Testimony: Living for Jesus

on my heart, videos

If I were to sum up what the Lord worked in my life through my two years in Gospel for Asia’s School of Discipleship program… (that’s really hard to sum up by the way)… two things stand out.

Jesus.

Living in light of eternity.

That’s what it’s really all about.

If you care to watch, here’s a short video the team made about my SD story.

One Year Anniversary

on my heart, thoughts

  One year ago today, I was accepted on staff at Gospel for Asia. Praise God; He is so faithful. This year has gone by so quickly, but has been so full of growth, challenges, tears, laughter and joy. I am grateful for Jesus’ love and the new life He gave me… And the privilege to serve at GFA and share the gift of Christ’s love with people who have never yet heard. The best is yet to come!

Story from the Mission Field: Leprosy

Blog for Asia, Faces of South Asia, on my heart, School of Discipleship in Canada, South Asia 2013

MB-Pics-2066

When I was on a Gospel for Asia vision tour in South Asia a year and a half ago, I met a woman named Mina, who was affected by leprosy. Mina told me her story.

She had suffered from the disease for 40 years, and lived for most of that time in colonies with other people suffering from leprosy. Her husband had died, and her son lived outside the colony, only visiting occasionally. To earn some money to pay for her medication, Mina had to beg. Every day from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., she would beg outside a local religious site.

This visit to the leprosy colony was one of the hardest parts of the trip. Most of society has shunned these people, and there was so much suffering, so much despair. But we met a group of missionaries who loved and cared for the leprosy patients. They ministered to their needs in both practical and spiritual ways, like cleaning their wounds and praying for them. We saw a glimpse of hope being poured out.

Hope in this place of suffering is almost a paradox. Mina, the woman I met, smiling with genuine joy? The men and women who said they were encouraged by our team’s visit? A man who prayed to the same God I worship? But it’s true. And it’s only because of the love of Christ working through the missionaries serving there; His love touching the lives of the suffering; His love displayed through my team members.

I’d like to leave you with this quote from Pastor Jiva, a missionary who started leprosy ministry in another region of South Asia.

“’It is because of God’s grace that we have the strength, courage and motivation to work among these people, to share with them, to hug them, to love them and to care for them,’” – Pastor Jiva

(Quote from http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/compelled-by-love/)


world-leprosy-day-banner
World Leprosy Day was observed on January 25, 2015. Although leprosy is foreign to daily life for many of us, thousands still suffer from the disfigurement and devastating social stigma caused by this disease. In 2013, 215,557 new cases of leprosy were diagnosed globally. More than half of these were in India. (source: World Health Organization)

Dedicated missionaries like Pastor Jiva are reaching out to people afflicted by leprosy in South Asia, touching their lives with the love and care of Christ. This ministry takes place not only on World Leprosy Day, but also on every other day of the year. We can be part of impacting their lives with hope, too! Visit Gospel for Asia’s Leprosy Ministry page here.

One life at a time

Blog for Asia, Faces of South Asia, on my heart, South Asia 2013, thoughts

Have you ever heard the story of the boy and the starfish? As the tale goes, many starfish were washed upon a beach by the tide, and would soon die from the sun and lack of water. A little boy walked down the beach, picking up starfish and tossing them back into the water, saving lives one by one. A man walked by and saw the starfish rescue operation, and told the boy, “You’ll never finish, there are too many to save them all.” In reply, the young boy tossed another starfish back into the life-giving water, and said, “I made a difference for that one.”

starfish

When we hear big numbers like ‘2 out of 5 people have never heard of Jesus’ or that 2.5 billion people are still unreached, it’s easy to think, “How can we ever make a difference?” and I’m right there with you.

I traveled to South Asia last fall, and I was struck by how many unreached people filled every square mile. It was overwhelming. How could we ever reach them? These kind of thoughts filled my mind while I was visiting a Bridge of Hope center in a densely populated city.

BOH one life

But then, this little boy got up to share his testimony. With a mischievous smile on his face, he told us that he used to be a naughty boy. Going to the Bridge of Hope center totally changed his life, and he’s not naughty anymore.

The Lord gently spoke to my heart through this boy’s testimony, and I learned a lesson similar to the other little boy and the starfish. What He said was this: there are many yet to be reached, but every single life that is touched and changed matters.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells us there is great rejoicing in heaven over every soul who comes into the kingdom! And I think there must also be great rejoicing over every child whose life is changed, every person who decides to live in light of eternity, and every family who finds hope.

 “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

I wrote down this story of what the Lord has been teaching me originally to send to the bloggers who are part of our Blog for Asia team. However, I wanted to share it here on my blog too. This was one of the lessons the Lord taught me during our trip to South Asia, and it’s a good reminder that what I can do to help reach the lost, even in a small way, really does make a difference.

I hope to share more Faces of South Asia with you in the coming weeks, and show you glimpses of my trip last September.