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It’s been a busy two weeks. Especially last weekend. It started with my niece’s wedding on Friday, June 20, with Thursday being set up day. I headed over to the Milverton Rec Complex to help but when I arrived, things were already in full motion. Teams of people from Milverton Conservative Mennonite Church, where my niece attends, busied themselves, here and there, doing various tasks.
I found Ruth Gerber–bishop Nelson’s wife–and asked her what I could do. She looked around a bit and said, “I don’t think I have anything right now.”
I had grabbed my camera before heading out the door… Thank goodness! “Shall I take some pictures?” I asked.
“Yes! You go take pictures,” she said.
Whether it was relief that she didn’t need to worry about giving me something to do, or if she thought some pictures of the day would be nice, I’m not sure. Either way, it worked out well for both of us. I don’t like to be bored. And I don’t think she much likes putting people to work she doesn’t know well. (An observation I also made at my other niece’s wedding in October, when she married Ruth’s son, Jeremy.)
It is impressive, watching them pull together an event like this. Everything flows like a well-oiled machine, and it just seems to ‘happen’. Now, I’ve planned events… quite a lot of them… so I know that isn’t really true and it doesn’t ‘just happen’. It’s a lot of hard work. And, granted, too many helpers get in the way, so I can appreciate not having much for me to do.
Little helpers did their part, at times talking things from their place, rather than putting them there. One little gentleman, only six years old, worked hard, helping his mom and grandma. He admitted he liked having me take his picture.
When my niece Clasina, the bride, arrived, he lit up. She was his school teacher and he was helping get her wedding together. Too shy to go see her along, his mom walked over with him. Ah… I remember that feeling. I adored most of my teachers and Sunday School teachers. Maybe the shy part I don’t remember so much, but the way his little heart lit up when he saw her… I remember that feeling.
The adults worked hard but, for some reason, didn’t seem overly excited to see me coming with my camera. I tried not to be too intrusive, though that can be a matter of opinion, since one hates the attention, and the next one loves it.
…Then there’s the thing about being truly camera shy, or just pretending for the sake of it.And it’s hard to tell which is which, but one of my nieces really isn’t a fan or the camera. At first I thought she was doing it to make me work for it, but she is for real… … in stark contrast to her little sister who knows how to charm the camera and loves every second of the attention…
The flowers were a gift to Clasina from her brother. ‘Just a bit of a joke’, he said, explaining how he gathered some weeds and wild flowers to mix with peonies for his ‘soon to be married’ sister.
You can play a joke on me any time, nephew. The flowers were stunning! I asked if he arranged them himself. He shrugged. ‘Yeah’. Okay, now I’m doubly impressed.
I didn’t tell him this, but I’m quite sure they were more than a ‘joke’. I think Clasina has had quite the influence on her siblings. She is a kind-hearted girl, with a solid head on her shoulders. I think her brother is quite aware that this event changes things, and he’s going to miss her. Especially since she married a gentleman from Missouri, and will–God willing–move there, sooner than later, once the paperwork allows it.
The wedding day was beautiful. After three opening songs,. Peter Zehr had a devotional. He communicates clearly and, though laid back in tone, is easy to listen to and speaks from the heart. It’s about that, more than anything, in my opinion, and tone is secondary. But you better believe what you’re preaching, or I’m not much interested in hearing it. Even if I disagree, I can appreciate what is said from the heart. Any way, I pretty much agreed with him. Ephesians 5 is a beautiful chapter, and husbands are called to take leadership in the area of love, he said.
Hmmm… I like how he said that. And am so thankful for Tim… But back to the wedding…
My brother-in-law Leonard Hursh, from Mount Joy PA, preached the main message. He talked about the keys to a successful marriage–thought I can’t quite recall if that is what he titled it, of if I just made that part up. He gave some pointers on things couples can do do draw closer together, rather than drifting apart.
Leonard gets a little bit intense when he speaks. Not too intense. At least not from what I heard. But talking to his little girl–my beautiful niece–at the reception, I said, “You’re daddy is a good preacher.”
“Yeah… But sometimes I’m scared he uses his voice all up when he preaches,” she said with a grin.
“Does he get pretty excited?” I asked.
“Yeah… sometimes,” she said, still grinning, and speaking with that cute American accent. Her brown eyes sparkled and grew bigger, “But you should hear Paul Freed preach!” she exclaimed.
“Why? Does he get even more excited?” I asked. She nodded and giggled. “Well, believe it or not, I know Paul Freed and have heard him preach!” She laughed again, finding it all quite funny.
It was my first time hearing Leonard preach, and I was quite happy to finally have the opportunity. He and my sister Anna seem truly happy together, and have a beautiful family. Their home is peaceful and loving. Human, no doubt, with grumpy moments, I presume, but there is love. I don’t get to see them often because they live in Pennsylvania, and I haven’t spent a lot of time in their home, but enough to know that he is a gentleman and takes good care of Anna and his family.
That authenticity made it easy for me to listen to him. He speaks from the heart, and he lives what he preaches. I respect that. It’s when I’m not sure if a speakers says one thing and lives another that I slip into ‘La-di-da-di-da-di-da…’ mode, and wish it would end. But speak from the heart, without manipulation and I’ll be drawn in even if I completely disagree. Fickle drives me crazy… but I digress…
Brother Danny Gascho got them all married off, and prayed a nice blessing over them and their new home, after which we sang, “Oh Father Lead Us”, as they walked out.
It’s not a good idea to have a lot of Harders sitting together in one place, with nothing to do but wait. We’re a crazy lot, and our minds get much too busy when there’s nothing happening around us. I am convinced that well over half of the sixteen siblings have one form or another of ADHD. Probably all but about two siblings should be diagnosed, if I were shooting for a reasonably accurate count….
No more had the song let out… everything was quiet while people were ushered out… and it started. I felt the bench shaking. I leaned forward to investigate… Two brothers, at the far end of the bench… One barely holding it together, the other making an attempt at appearing stoic, while clearly ready to burst at the seams…. I looked the other way, determined not get drawn in…
But that was useless… on the other side of me, an older brother started a ‘lame humour’ competition with me… He won…
I focused my attention forward to watch the ushers. One usher, my nephew, managed to maintain his composure, and keep it to a few strained grins as he watched this nonsense play out, right in front of him. Laughter is contagious. Especially when you’re supposed to be quiet, composed and reverent. We all managed the ‘quiet and composed’ part… except that one brother who shook the bench…
We were dismissed, finally, and made our way to the back. Friends, old and new, shook hands and church members greeted each other with the Holy Kiss. One woman almost kissed me, then looked startled and embarrassed when I stopped her. I knew she would likely struggle with it if I simply greeted her back. (Which, I admit, almost happened instinctively. It’s only been twelve years…)
“I understand,” I whispered, smiling, and gave her a hug. We had connected the day before, and felt a bit of kinship, but I sensed the awkwardness of the moment. Next time, I’ve decided, I’ll just greet them back. I’m a believer, and it’s about Jesus, not about faith and culture, or even if I understand it quite as they do… So when I’m with the Romans, I’ll do as the Romans do. But only if they initiate…
The reception was fun, hanging out with my siblings, nieces and nephews. Titles and position are nothing… And whether you’re a preacher, a salesman, a mechanic, a house keeper, a speaker, or whatever else, .. when we’re together, we’re simply family.
More and more that is a reality in our family, that when we’re together it isn’t about who does what, or what diverse faith belief we embrace or some other definition… It is simply about family.
It wasn’t always that way for us. There was a time when we didn’t know how to respect one another and bless each other in spite of differences, but we’ve learned. And Friday was the best ever for me, that way, with my family. And I felt at home with every.
My sister Tina and I kept our camera’s busy the whole time, capturing memories. And our little nephew was delighted to be in the spotlight. Other family members were good sports about it too.
Unfortunately shots of the head table didn’t go as well. Lighting, with two windows up and off to either side of the head table, make it difficult to get good pictures.
I look around an audience like that–the many people from my childhood culture, and mixed emotions flood my mind and heart. Always I see a friendly and welcoming group of people, whom I enjoy connecting with. I go out of my way to say ‘hi’ to some–like Danny and Velma Gascho, and others. There is something of childhood connections that live on, long after the parting of ways.
I experience the culture of my childhood, with fondness. Still, I cannot push away the things I know, of how many are victimized and must, somewhere deep inside, long for freedom from the secrecy. And then there’s those that carry the secrets of what they have done, the crimes committed against innocent children… And surely they too must long for freedom from the secrets they carry…
So, while I enjoy those days immensely, it isn’t without a powerful tugging at my heart for deeper freedom for those trapped in secrecy and shame. One of their members dared to open that topic with me at the wedding, and we spoke candidly of it, as I shared these mixed feelings. In that brief encounter, with someone I don’t really know, I found my heart again holding on to hope that this breakthrough will come. There are women and men within, who desperately long for wholeness and freedom for their brothers and sisters in the church…. Men and women of faith whom, I believe, God will raise up to break the silence and bring positive change on behalf of the next generation…
After the wedding some of my siblings met in Stratford park for a pizza picnic and to spend a bit more time together, to maximize time with Leonard and Anna while they were in from Pennsylvania.
While we had a great time, these days are not easy for my mother, who doesn’t wander far from her apartment at Menno Lodge in Aylmer any more. With health issues, and being confined to a wheelchair, she doesn’t have the courage or confidence to stray far from her safe zone. As a result, she has missed the last several weddings and family gatherings, and I am struck by the awareness that another season of life has come and gone. While we still have mom, those days of her freedom are gone.
Things are changing… Time brings new dynamics to family… Children get married… Adults get older… People leave their childhood cultures… others discover it in adulthood and embrace it… And with this change and diversity, I am thankful that we are able to interact , as family, and enjoy each others company, in spite of differences, with respect and appreciation.
© Trudy Metzger
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