How soon it was, after we moved to Canada, that my parents bought that old daisy clock for our kitchen, I don’t recall, but I was enthralled by it. In my little mind it was the prettiest thing on earth, just like the real daisies outside. I would have one just like it when I was all grown up. Mom liked it too. So much so that when it stopped working, sometime around my late preteens, she set out to fix it. There was also the little issue of not having money for frivolous things so what Red Green’a duct tape couldn’t fix, my parents found a way to redeem. Whether it was lack of finances or love for the clock, now useless, mom took it upon herself to fix it. She pulled it apart, every little piece, and put it back together again. And, sure enough, it ran again. Backwards. We kids laughed and joked about that for a long time.
Now, at 47, I look at the picture of that daisy clock and think to myself, if but for a moment, how I’d like to take the ‘clock of my life’ apart and put it back together differently. Maybe go back and do some things differently with a second shot at it. Especially as a mom. That’s me and almost every other mom, with presumably a few exceptions.
Not because of Mother’s Day, but just because of mothering and humanity, this topic has toyed with my mind more than enough lately. My failures stare me in the eye, time and time again, and more so with age. I see who my children have become and are becoming and I am amazed by God’s goodness in spite of my failures, but the awareness of generational sins, cycles and dysfunction are pretty glaring at this stage. So, yes, if I could pull down the old daisy clock, reset it, and go back with all that I’ve learned and…
Truth told, Adam and Eve would eat the apple again, and I would fail as a parent again. And we mothers would look back with regrets, losses, and wonder how God will ever redeem the impact of our generation, and the generation before us. Somehow he just would. Because God is amazing that way.
So that old daisy clock, which looks much less appealing today than it did then, can keep moving forward and I will choose to trust God to be enough for this generation and the next, even as He continues to redeem our generation and the ones before us.
And I’ll take a step back and look at the messy parts with new hope. More like that cake mom made when I was around 8 years old. The old yellow bowl was filled with batter and mom stirred enthusiastically, trying to beat out every lump. (So help us God if cake should ever have a lump in it…) And just like that, having been a bit too enthusiastic, she sent the bowl flying and chocolate batter spread everywhere on the counter, running down the counter and onto the floor. The bulk of it stayed on the counter, fortunately. We were not wealthy by any means, and wasting a cake would never do! So, after much fussing and gasping and exclaiming – while her children watched in humour – mom scraped the batter from the counter back into the bowl, cleaned up the rest of the mess, and baked a lovely cake for us. We kids who witnessed it, and those who heard the story, laughed many times over that moment.
Life is hard. Really hard, sometimes. And we moms have a habit of beating ourselves up pretty good. We look at our failures and see only the batter running down the cupboard and the mess on the floor. We forget that the bowl with batter running down it’s sides still has much in it to give, and what is spilled on the counter, God will redeem and make something beautiful out of it. The spills, He will wipe up.
Mother’s Day is the hardest for me to blog about, or write about, and I pretty much never speak publicly about my mom. There are so many unanswered questions, so many pains left in limbo, so much loss that I must give to God constantly, that it would be easier to look the other way. That is true in my relationship with my mom, and it is true in my own journey as a mom. And I’m not alone. I hear story, after story after story. I’ve chosen to forgive even where the story has never been acknowledged. When I see mom I hug her and tell her I love her, but my arms feel empty even as they are wrapped around her, knowing some things have never been and will likely never be. Mom is old now, and because she is still living, I carry the story quietly within me out of respect. It’s something I did for dad, and it’s something I will do for mom. And when she is gone, I will speak, but I will speak respectfully as I have about dad. I bless her as she lives out her remaining days, months, years, and possibly decades (in fact probably decades… she’s pretty stubborn, or determined, depending on point of view). And I trust she has made peace with her God. I hear it in her, and bless her. But there are scars that cannot be addressed. So I trust God to wipe up the spills, scrape up the batter that remains, and make something beautiful.
This Mother’s Day, if you grieve for whatever reason, I pray for you. If you are the mom who failed and feels beyond redemption… If you are the mom who never had babies, or lost them all, or lost any… If you are the mom who is unappreciated, abandoned, or used and abused… If you are the mom who is in the thick of the mess of those early years, or struggling through difficult teen years (not all are, but some are)… If you are daughter or son who is estranged, rejected, or manipulated and repeatedly wounded… This day you are worth being celebrated.
And, this Mother’s Day, if you are the mom whose life is idyllic, beautiful and ‘perfect’…. You are worth being celebrated.
Motherhood is a beautiful thing, made up of more joy and more pain than any human can possibly imagine exists in this world. Nothing has made the miracle of God and the wonder of spiritual life more real than motherhood. Nothing has broken my heart in deeper places. And nothing has caused me to reach out to Someone greater and say, “I need You. We need You!” And I trust that Someone with my life, my children, my mother and our intertwined stories, to bring something beautiful out of all things.
Thanks to back spasms that have been tormenting me, off and on since June, with no medical explanation, I hobbled toward the checkout at Canadian Tire, looking like an 80-something-year-old with too much plastic surgery. (This is an observation I made recently, when a certain actress was on the new and her body and face didn’t match, and that is what I remind me of on those days.) On my best days I forget it ever happened and on my worst days, which fortunately are few and far in between, I cannot walk without support. And on the not-good-but able to move days, I shuffle slowly with occasional debilitating spasms. It was one of those days and I hoped to not stand too long.
I assessed the line lengths and the cart contents. Why I even bothered to assess it, I’m not sure. It’s useless, really, choosing the shortest line. I should have learned that a few days earlier when I tried it, and stood there, shifting from foot to foot, my arms loaded with more than enough stuff to justify a cart, while the elderly lady in front of me struggled with her card. Turned out she just didn’t know how to use it, and after about a dozen tries, I finally whispered to the cashier that she’s not finishing the process after entering her pin. In no time, after that, I was out of there. Never mind that the long line beside had moved a fine lot of people through by then, and I’d have been long gone had I chosen that one.
I chose a random line, in the Canadian Tire store, knowing it would be what it would be, and entertained myself with people watching. The gentleman in front of me continued eyeing the product beside us. It’s strategically placed at the checkout, in hopes customers will pick up one little thing, or another, whether they need it or not. He reached for a measuring tape–a nice big one–and placed it on top of his stack. He glanced my way and in that moment I spoke spontaneously, as I do from time to time, in a boring moment like that. And, quite frankly, he looked as bored as I felt, and there was some kind of instant connection. I saw it in his eyes, a certain kindness that welcomes conversation. His tattoos, shaved head and biker’s beard and mustache made no difference to me, other than a passing observation.
“Everyone needs one of those,” I said, nodding at the measuring tape.
“I bet I already have nine or so at home,” he said with a chuckle.
“It’s always a matter of finding one when you need it, eh” I said, “especially when you have almost as many kids in the house. And I do… five,” I added. I didn’t add that we have six right now, with a German exchange student living with our family.
He snorted then, and for one moment I thought it was because of our having five kids. It just popped out, when I thought it, and even as I said it, I realized I should have kept my mouth shut. But it’s true. Things get used, misplaced and finding one out of nine measuring tapes, or nail clippers, or combs isn’t that easy.
He looked at me then, laughing, “I have more kids than that… I have fourteen!”
“Oh wow! Good for you,” I said. It was my turn to laugh, and then I did to him what people do to me when they learn we have five children. I offered a look that was a cross between admiration and disbelief. Admittedly, my shock was a bit influenced by his appearance. May as well be honest. I picture guys like him with fourteen Harley bikes, not that big a family.
He laughed again, “No. Good for you. You knew when to stop!”
“That may be a matter of opinion… ” I said, “One of my favourite parenting moments was the day one of our children yelled at my husband and me, in anger, for having such a big family.”
He laughed and shared his parenting highlight. “My all-time favourite moment was when my oldest son, then in his thirties, called and said, ‘Dad, I just did to my son what you used to do to me’, and he told me how he was angry with his son and yelled at him.” He laughed again, a twinkle in his eye, and continued, “And he said to me, ‘Then I stopped mid-sentence to say, ‘My gosh! I’m just like my dad!’ So I said to him, ‘What… you’re calling to blame me for that?’ and my son says, ‘No, Dad, I’m calling to say “I’m sorry. I finally get it!'”
The conversation carried on from there, about parenting and the moments we have, the ups and downs. We both spoke candidly, having similar personalities, and at one point, after a particularly revealing statement he said, “I’m no hypocrite…. Sometimes I wish I was.”
I laughed then, and echoed his statement. “Yeah… I’m not either. I tend to say it as it is,” I said. The cashier called to help the next person in line, and we parted ways.
It was a refreshing moment, with a complete stranger whom I will not likely meet again, sharing things as they really are. Life as it should be, in my opinion, with no pretenses. It reminded me of a message I received the other week from a young mom who felt like she really blows it sometimes. She started by asking me if I was ever afraid I’d make the same mistakes my parents made.
I wrote back, unfiltered and told her I never feared I would sexually abuse children. Ever. But, yes, I was afraid I would repeat the anger and other harshness, I wrote back and shared how I started with spanking our children much too hard, and out of anger. I told her how I yelled at them. And how there was a moment when I realized it was all wrong, the way I parented, and I went for help. I didn’t do it perfectly, after that, but things started to change. And it’s still a growing, learning experience. I told her she will be okay, and do well, and even reaching out will have a powerful impact.
She sent a note to thank me for being honest, because it’s not comfortable for people to admit to having done it wrong. Well, I did it wrong, and that’s just the way it is. It’s pointless to pretend it was any different than it was. It was pretty horrid, at times, the first years. It was lonely and I felt like a complete failure, and I begged God constantly to transform me, to make me a good mom. Then I discovered that He was far more interested in making my heart beautiful, by giving me a revelation of His kindness, than He was in suddenly perfecting me. And in discovering His kindness, I became more like Him, and thereby more kind to my family.
These candid conversations, sharing our imperfections, failures and what we’ve learned offer hope for the next generation. They’re necessary. I think to myself, if only we could be a bit more like that, and not pretend, the world would be a different place. It would be a community of sharing. And if the world can’t be made like that, all at once, I can still be that… And so can you. Then, if we can encourage others, the ripples will begin.
My new coaching client sat across from me, suddenly distracted. Her eyes ‘popped’ in shock. She gasped. We had spent a bit over forty minutes talking, exploring her dreams, her talents, her desires, and the challenges to match. Unlike most of my clients, who are working through one trauma or another, she had come for career help, and I had asked her a question. The sudden diversion startled me.
Instinctively my eyes followed her gaze and I saw him, an elderly man, hitting the cement, then leaning up a few inches and dropping again. Did he try to lift himself up, or did his body bounce? I saw it and wondered.
The mind and body are fascinating, in a moment like that, when consulting reason is not even on the radar; they simply engage one another in reasonable and necessary action. Nor does dignity or any other thing hold an ounce of importance, or factor in, in any way, in a moment like that. I shot to my feet, and ran through the coffee shop, and before my mind had fully registered what it was I saw, I found myself kneeling beside the gentleman. He struggled, attempting to sit up. I put my arms around him, and leaned him slightly forward to lift his head from the unkind hardness, while asking him questions. He was coherent. I felt the cement under his back, and wished I had an extra sweater, a jacket or a blanket. I had enough dignity that I wasn’t willing to sit there in my bra so he could have my sweater, but I certainly would, if needed, to save a life. Most of us would.
From my vantage point there was no blood, until I sat him up. That is when I saw blood running down his temple, his neck and onto his chest and shoulders, and his hand dripping a steady pace. I looked for something to use as a compress, at the same time as I asked my client, who had followed me out, to go in and find napkins or something and bring them back, and to make sure to call and ambulance.
The manager came running and for the next twenty minutes, or so, we sat there, holding an elderly man’s hand and forehead. There was blood on the ground, blood on his pants, his shirt and matted into his hair. It was all over our hands and arms, and a bit on my white shirt. Blood stands out on white. My client sat behind the gentleman, providing a back-rest, while the manager held his forehead, and I held his hand–now gripping mine in solid tension. We chatted and laughed, as we sat there. He was so appreciative and said he was okay, that he had just lost his footing. It had happened a few days ago, too, and he had hurt his finger. He showed us his crooked finger, bent at the last joint, in an almost -perfect 90 degree angle.
As we sat with him, bleeding all over us and himself, people drove by. They looked. A few gentlemen came and asked if there was anything they could do. One was a fireman, the others made no indication that they had any training. They were just concerned.
Something else happened as we sat there, all covered in blood. In fact, two things. First of all, we bonded. We cared for him. We held his wounds. We connected. (Admittedly, I was afraid to ‘touch’ his raw wounds. Not because I feared being contaminated but because I feared contaminating them. One never knows for sure what germs or bacteria we have come in contact with and the immunity of the elderly potentially being compromised, I assessed the extent of the bleeding. It wasn’t life-threatening, though steady, so I waited for the compresses. (Obviously, had he been bleeding profusely, I would have taken the chance.) And the second thing that happened was that we learned a bit of his story. He told us that he had a ‘weaker side’ because of a stroke twenty years ago and hence the recent tumbles.
By this time we had retrieved an umbrella from his truck, and sat there, in a spritzing rain, talking and still holding his wounds. A staff member came with some forms and asked questions. What did we see? Who saw it first and what did we do? Who were we all. Names. Addresses. Phone numbers. All those things.
The paramedic arrived and together we helped the gentleman stand up, and seated him on a chair, under the awning. We stayed a few minutes, answering his questions, then went inside to wash the blood off. The red stain on my white new sweater stayed. I hung my scarf over it, and returned one more time to the elderly gentleman, to wish him well. That’s when I thought of his wife, at home, and how worried she would be. Would it be okay if I popped by their home to tell her he was okay, but needed stitches and to get checked over? He thanked me and said how nice that would be.
I had just given my new client a good-bye hug–you do that after intense moments like that–and was almost to my car when the manager caught up to me. The gentleman had one valid concern. His wife would need the vehicle, but would have no way to get it. I said I would offer to drive her back to him, and to get the truck.
She met me at the door, moments later after I rang the bell. To make sure I had the right house I asked, “Are you Mrs. ____?”
“Yes….” she said, looking quizzically at me.
“First of all, your husband is okay, so don’t worry, but he did have a tumble at the coffee shop. He said you would need the vehicle–would it be okay if I drove you there?”
Moments later I dropped her off, made sure she had everything she needed and headed for home. The rain had picked up, and I remembered that my car window was stuck… open. My old Mazda had picked this day to malfunction with an open back window. How convenient. I tried half a dozen times, unsuccessfully.
I took to pleading with God, at that moment, about something as piddly as a stuck window, all because I didn’t want rain in my car. I tried again and, “Tada!!” it went up. I whispered a thank you as I drove out off of the coffee shop parking lot.
My mind got busy then, thinking about many things. Why does God answer little prayers about broken windows, and neglect big ones like a dying loved one, a chronically ill family member, those who desperately need jobs and many other things. And I had no easy answers. Just the awareness that God is God.
I saw the blood again, and the elderly gentleman’s eyes, as he thanked us and told us how nice we were. And then the awareness that his blood had been all over me, and I had hesitated to touch his wounds, afraid of contaminating them.
That’s when my mind wandered to church. To people who are bleeding. And we sit there, like my client and I, in our coffee shops. And I wondered if we get so busy with our coffee, and conversations, and whatever things we all do, while people bleed only feet away. I thought of how I had my back turned, and my client–thank goodness she was ADHD, she said, and observing everything–was the one who noticed the gentleman, almost before it happened. He could have been there an hour, with me only feet away, if she hadn’t been there. And, while that wouldn’t have likely happened, I couldn’t help but think about, when I considered church. Or if, when we see the ‘fallen and bleeding’, do we even run to them, or do we get scared and run the other way again.
I wondered what it would be like, in church, if we stopped being afraid of each other’s cuts, and wounds and scars. What if we weren’t afraid to get all bloody, and have stains on our new white clothes. And if we put our hands on those gaping wounds without fear of contaminating, or being contaminated, and we held each other up, spiritually, even while we bled… And sitting there, under an umbrella in the rain, we could get to know each other and hear the stories behind the pain… the stories about why we have ‘weak sides’ and stumble…
And then, when the weak ones, with bleeding wounds, need help with walking to a place of rest, we who are stronger could square back our shoulders and let them rest on our strength until they are safe…. Until they find that rest in the One who Bled Love for us, all messy and dipped in grace, when we were in that place of need and brokenness…
“You know you’re supposed to do it? How long will you fight it?” He looked deep into my soul. At least as deep as I would let him, and then a bit deeper, as my defenses broke. Just as quickly I did the only thing I know how to do when I’m too vulnerable, when my soul is bared, and I would rather hide and retreat; I laughed.
“I don’t know. I’ll think about it though, I promise,” I said, still laughing. His challenge, urging me to start a group/meeting for the broken and hurting, came at the end of a lengthy conversation about the brokenness of people. Particularly in churches.
Having suffered much, he has wearied of how Christians present as ‘Happy, Happy, Happy’ all the time. Because, with few exceptions, that’s what nice church people do. And say. And are. Happy, victorious, healed, and ‘fine’ Christians.
If you don’t agree, try it sometime. Go to church and when asked how you are, if you’re not in a good place, be real. When they say, “Good morning! How are you?!” with a big smile, and warm handshake, respond with transparency. Don’t bother to smile, or say “I’m fine, thank you.” Forget about social graces for just a moment. Look them in the eye. Look longer, and deeper than is comfortable. Pause awkwardly before saying a word. They’ll squirm and you’ll want to run for dear life. But don’t let go of that hand because, odds are, you’ll both turn and run, if you release them.
When the awkward is about all you can handle, still looking them in the eye and holding their hand, which they, by now, are most likely trying to wriggle free, say, “I’m really not doing well. It’s been a hard week, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it. It feels like hell!”
If they ask “May I pray for you?” say, “Sure, if it makes you feel better, but it would mean more if you helped clean my house. With the time I’ve spent caring for my dying mother (or whatever hardship you’re going through), even basics are neglected. My bathrooms, especially, could use a good cleaning.”
If they have stopped smiling, and don’t simply mumble, “God will provide”, before apologizing that they need to run, then consider yourself in a good place. If that person says, “When can I come clean your bathrooms?”, know this, you are in an exceptional place. If they acknowledge your suffering and share how much they struggled with anger, loneliness and feeling as though God abandoned them, after some great tragedy, they are extraordinary. Most have excused themselves by now.
We withdraw because we fear people’s pain and suffering. But, as my friend pointed out over coffee that day, suffering is an opportunity to connect. It is the single universal experience all humans share. Every person on earth suffers. Some experience joy. Some success. Some happiness. But everyone suffers. Eventually.
Why, then, are we so uncomfortable with suffering? Here, my friend pointed out, it is our faulty view of God that rams a stick in the spokes of our bicycle at most in opportune moments; our ‘vendor machine’ view of God, if I pop in a prayer, out should come a miracle, an answer, a solution. And the world should be made right and perfect and wonderful.
But we do. And it doesn’t. Our prayers rise. And our miracles fall with a splat. Our faith gives way to questioning. Eventually it grows tired and we wonder… Does God care or even listen? And, as Christians scamper away from our broken pains, we conclude He doesn’t. Because they don’t. And suddenly God makes no sense. He should have done something. But didn’t. He let us down. And answers don’t match the questions.
There, with props yanked out… faith and religion having failed us… abandoned by the God of religious obligations, we are finally free to meet the true God. He sees us in that gutter, filthy, weary and faithless. And He doesn’t run. Or fix. Or pray it all away. No. He gets down on His knees and crawls into the gutter with us. Unkempt. Looking worn and haggard, bloodstained and naked–His garments having been stripped by the religious rulers who despised Him too. And suddenly we are understood. Nothing is fixed. Nothing has changed, circumstantially, but we feel hope. Because that’s what happens when someone enters our pain, offering only love.
That is what community was meant to be. And it is the community we hope to create, a place where the broken Jesus is welcome, and imperfect people are loved.
If you are local to Elmira, Ontario, and have suffered spiritual abuse or feel misunderstood and long for a safe place, a community where the broken are valued, and all are invited to contribute, regardless of class, race or gender, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is in you.” The Kingdom of God is not some distant goal we strive for, it dwells within us. (Luke 17:21) Everyone of us was made with a ‘Kingdom purpose’. And that is not a religious statement. It is an invitation to love, as Jesus did, and offer others an encounter with divine grace, regardless of circumstance. Together we advance the Kingdom of God, by loving our neighbour.
(Written for the Elmira Independent, September 4, 2014. Ending has been revised.)
I had intended, in my previous blog post, to carry on into Saturday, June 21, but ran out of time. Besides, over 2000 words is enough for one sitting., both to write and to read. Too much, for some people….
Following the excitement, noise and shenanigans of my side of the family, we had our Annual Summer BBQ on Tim’s side of the family. It’s a different experience entirely. The Metzger family, while a strongly opinionated–whom Tim would playfully describe as ‘determined’ in contrast with the Harder ‘stubbornness’–are a very peaceful group to spend a day with. Pleasant and peaceful.
No wrestling. No throwing water at anyone, or playing tricks. No rambunctious nonsense or people laughing until they can’t talk. What I’m really saying is that they are more self-controlled, mature stock than I come from. I enjoy both worlds equally. That Saturday, however, I was quite ready for the world I was in, to unwind from the busyness of the preceding week.
We met at noon, but our family was late. Tim, Nicole and Bryan had to work until noon. Everyone brings food to these events. Lots of it. And, true to the reputation of Mennonite cooking, it is good food. Frighteningly good, for someone trying to make good food choices.
We sat in the shade, in a haphazard circle, to eat lunch. The weather couldn’t have been much more perfect. Hot and sunny, with a nice breeze.
After lunch–which really had more dinner qualities than lunch qualities–Uncle Amsey hooked up the wagon and offered to take willing participants on a ride to the back of the property. A good number climbed on board, and away we went.
Amsey’s farm was the childhood home of John and Lavina Metzger, Tim’s grandparents. We listened to the uncles and aunts reminisce, when we stopped at the back of the property, going back down memory lane of ‘how things were’ back then and what has changed. It’s hard to picture parents–in this case in-laws–and uncles and aunts as little Old Order children, running around the farm. If the property could tell stories and produce images of days gone by, it would fascinate me to spend a great deal of time knowing those stories.
I jumped off the wagon to get a few more pictures. No more was I in the long grass when one of the uncles warned, “Look out Trudy! There are snakes in the grass!” Immediately others chimed in.
For one brief moment they spooked me before I realized they wanted a reaction, and resisted the urge to dive for the wagon again. Okay, I take that back about there being ‘no shenanigans’ in the Metzger family…
The young boys went exploring for a few minutes, several nearly hidden by the tall grass. A picture perfect moment
Kordan lasted a few minutes in the long grass before returning to the wagon to sit with his daddy, and watch his the others wade through it. I managed to capture a father-son picture, as well as a close up of my love.
On the way back, cousin Jen–a fun and beautiful friend–sat with her father’s farm, and the Macton Catholic church in the background, creating a lovely picture. And several other interesting shots…
…including a personal favourite of these two little boys, against the blue sky. It made me think of their lives… So young… it all lies before them… and the sky really is the limit…
Back at the house, a few aunts and one cousin sit in a circle of now mostly empty lawn chairs. They seemed quite happy to have stayed behind in the shade. And two nights later, when my sun-burned shoulders awakened me to a sharp stinging, I understood why.
We kept the annual tradition of ice cream mid afternoon. There was popcorn again, as well, and I wonder if it is becoming the new annual tradition. That’s two years in a row. And that suited me just fine, since I’m not much of a fan of ice cream… unless it’s mixed in with popcorn. I totally grossed Jen out, but Uncle Dave Metzger and cousin Lorna tried it and concluded it wasn’t toobad.
(Before you say, “Eww gross!’ and write it off, I suggest you try it and then form an opinion. When my daughters brought this idea home from a sleepover with their friend Cherry, I was totally disgusted… until I had one bite… In my opinion chocolate is best, and it’s best with super cold ice cream, when it’s not so hot that ice cream melts quickly. That way the popcorn stays crisp and crunchy. )
Tim and I engaged in a deep conversation with Uncle Dave Metzger, hearing his heartbeat on everything from faith, to family, to the culture of his childhood. Uncle Ab and I had a short conversation as well, sparked by a column I had printed in our local paper, and he shared of the discussion it triggered among some of the men from their church.
He wondered if I’d speak for them sometime, and I said I’d love to! We’d even do a Q & A session, I said, if they’re interested. From what he told me of their discussion, it would be a mutual learning experience and a delightful time.
There were many other interactions, but those two stood out. In both instances the uncles instigated the conversation… With age and time there is much wisdom. While these uncles are still young, they have lived long enough to have that wisdom and I enjoy the dialogue.
As I left the gathering, it struck me, again, how important family is. I left home a month before sixteen, and never really bonded again the way healthy families bond. Even what bond was there before I left, seemed lost. In some ways that can’t be regained, but with time and age the awareness hits me of what was lost in that process.
I find myself, especially in the past year or two, enjoying time with family–whether Harders or Metzgers. A cousin with whom I had lost touch in my early teens, has become one of my dearest friends since 2010, when we reconnected via Facebook and she attended the first conference we did for women. When I’m with siblings, I’m at ease again and truly enjoy the time.. And my in-laws are among the people I love most and enjoy being with. I call my mom a few times a month–in spite of the fact that I can’t tolerate phone calls and phone conversation because of restlessness and distraction issues–and we talk for an hour… or two… or more… At the end of the day it is true that blood is thicker than water.
After the reunion our family spent a few hours at the Crane Lake Discovery Camp annual BBQ fundraiser. It’s always a great time, and an opportunity to connect with friends we don’t see often. That could be another thousand words, but I’ll spare us all.
I had parked beside the grave yard so I took a few more pictures. I find them quite beautiful. And they carry many an untold story that would capture the mind and heart, if it were to be told. Dreams lie there, unfulfilled, unexplored. Others lived with passion, changing someone’s world. Tragedies. Promises. Hopes.
These all create a sense of mystery and wonderment for me, when I see the tombstones, marking the memory of someone resting there. And always I think about my life, and the unknown, and pray my dreams will not go to the grave with me, but that I will keep living them, no matter the battles I fight for them.
Those happy and determined thoughts in mind, I started for home. Heading toward Wallenstein, the light caught my eye between the trees and I pulled over once more, to take a few final shots of the evening sun.
As if promising of ‘tomorrow’ the sun slipped behind the horizon in the west, bringing to a close another beautiful day. My heart was full at the realization that the world is most beautiful when shared with those we love, and those who love us. When we hold on to the things that matter most, and embrace difference of opinion and culture. When diversity is not a threat, but an opportunity for richness and sharing.
(Note: Photos in blog are watermarked to prevent public use. Anyone in photos, or with children in photos, is welcome to request copies via email and I will gladly give them to you. Send private message here: email Trudy.)
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.
Anyone who has watched the movie “Up”, an animated children’s movie, will have a whole new appreciation for squirrels. And the expression. And then there’s Ice Age, Ice Age 2 and Over the Hedge, all of which portray squirrels as berserk little creatures. And they’re not so far off…
I don’t often see squirrels out in the wide open, when I walk the Mill Race. They’re much too nervous and jumpy. But this week, Tuesday, I came across one, eating the seeds someone had put on a tree stump. He was immediately startled, upon seeing me.
I dared to take another step. Slowly. Quietly. Instantly his body tensed, prepared to make a dash for it. I paused. Nervously he started eating again.
When he looked up and saw how near I was to the stump, which really wasn’t that close at all, he took off like a bullet, jumping from tree branch to tree branch. Suddenly he flew across the path in front of me and into a tree behind me.
There he sat, scolding as if I had come to do some great harm. I talked calmly to him, but he wasn’t about to hear a word I said. His world was just fine before I showed up, and he meant for me to leave again. So I did. But not before I added a large heap of seeds to the dwindling supply.
I met my usual friends. The cardinal seems to be warming up a bit, and overcoming it’s shy nature. While I still can’t get a very good picture, I’m definitely getting closer and better shots. One day…
Something I had never seen before, is this little fellow. A baby chipmunk, no bigger than a mouse–in fact, when I zoomed in for the picture I thought it was a mouse–crawled out of a hole in the pathway. And here I thought they were mouse tunnels.
Whatever these birds are, they had been flirting quite openly just before this shot, but I missed it. Ah well…
Down by the river a lone goose honked mournfully. The rest of the flock had somehow left this one behind, and it seemed quite distressed, as it swam about. I had seen the larger flock earlier and wondered if they might return for the stray goose. And to my amazement they did! And when they did, the honking stopped.
There is something fascinating about the animal kingdom. So much to learn from them. So much I understand and identify with. The goose, feeling lost when separated from its flock. I get that. When I don’t connect with people who care for me, and for whom I care, there is an ‘aloneness’ in my heart.
And the squirrel? I learned something from him too…
When I came through, on my way back to my car, he was on a different stump, much closer to the ground. For easy escape, I presume. But I didn’t let that detour me. I walked slowly. Only tiny steps at a time, and only a few. And then I stopped, a few feet away. He looked at me, still nervous and ‘at the ready’.
That’s when I talked quietly to it for a little while and watched as he visibly relaxed and kept eating. The tension, that had showed earlier in its fur, gradually went away. While the close up shots didn’t turn out well, I was amazed how differently he responded, and took a few more pictures.
I remember that feeling of not trusting anyone. It’s a hard way to do life. Always on edge. Looking over the shoulder… wondering if someone is out to get you. That’s how I was for many years.
And then–God bless them–people who cared for me, and had the patience to show it , changed my life. I think about that often, how people helped me and changed my world. It is what my heart longs to give to others.
One would think that a squirrel, like that in the wild, hasn’t any hope of it learning to trust. Much like some people. But with patience I expect he would warm up even more.
And that’s how it is with people who’ve had their trust broken. None of us are hopeless, or broken beyond healing. With patience, every one of us can be ‘loved back to wholeness’.
Yesterday was no disappointment at the Mill Race either. I had not planned to go, but rather impulsively detoured that way, on my way home from St. Clements Heart & Home. It was just that ‘gut feeling’ that I needed to go. It was especially unusual because it was after 3:00pm and the critters are not really out and about that time of day.
But when I arrived, I found horses and buggies all tied up under the trees. It was gorgeous! I love horses! Always have, since childhood. They are such majestic creatures! And in this community, where there are horses, there are often buggies. And where there are buggies, there are most often people. A short walk later and, sure enough!
I wasn’t there long before they packed up. I tried not to be too intrusive (thanks to my massive lens) but I fear I may have frightened them away… The Dave Martin Mennonites don’t much take to cameras and having their photos taken. Such a shame… they take nice pictures. And so do their horses.
Well, I had to be going as well, so I took a few parting shots, which turned out, in my opinion, to be the among the best of the day, if not my most favourite. And, having just discovered some of the editing options in my program, I had to play with that, just a little, and experiment.
An Old Order couple went by in their horse and buggy, and an Old Colony Mennonite family found a quiet spot to go fishing. And I was left with the intrigue of how many ‘kinds’ of Mennonite we are, each with little (or big) differences and cultural traditions. Each with strengths, and each with weaknesses.
It has been a beautiful week. I’ve had more fun than ever, taking pictures and the weather couldn’t be more perfect. On all fronts, today was my favourite day.
Last night I announced to Kordan, who had a PD day today, that he and I would go to the Mill Race together to feed the squirrels, chipmunks and birds, and hopefully get close enough for them to eat out of his hands.
He groaned, followed by a long, whiny, “No-o-o-o-o-o..”
“Oh yes!” I said. “You’re not going to sit at home on technology all day.” And, of course, I explained how much fun it was going to be. He didn’t believe me.
This morning the whining continued, though not as vehemently. Just gentle protests right up until the moment we walked out the door, which we did a bit later than I had intended, because of some business to tend to.
First things first, I surprised him with McDonald’s breakfast. An egg and bacon McMuffin, hashbrowns and hot chocolate. He wanted Root Beer. For breakfast…
At the Mill Race, his first concern was how far we would go. We’d play it by ear, I told him, but our first mission was at the second bench, where the friendliest chipmunk comes to sit on the bench and eat out of our hands. And, earlier in the day, the chickadees also.
If I had any doubt he would be enthralled, those concerns faded quickly. The pictures tell it all, including two other little visitors who joined Kordan with the critters.
Having made new friends, and each having had a turn to feed the chipmunks, we packed up to head back. We made it half way before we met some more friends. This time they were adults. I was proud of Kordan, who waited patiently as we chatted.
It all started when she noticed I had a camera, “Oh…you have a camera!” she exclaimed.
“Yes,” I smiled, “would you like your picture taken?” I said it playfully, but in a way that, if that was what she hoped for, we could transition without the ‘awkward’.
Somehow we got it sorted out… they had seen a bird’s nest, back a few steps, and she thought maybe I’d want to take pictures of it. But, sure, they’d love to have some photos done. What they didn’t know (but will know when they see this blog) is that I had already taken a shot of them looking up into the tree.
I followed them to the spot, and was able to capture the nest, with the mama bird’s tail peeking out. I returned, later, and she peeked over at me to investigate the intrusion. I was fairly certain it was a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, but only when she left the nest for a few minutes was that confirmed.
I suggested we go to the Ice Cream Caboose, just across the parking lot. Kordan preferred a
We chatted about the many wonderful pictures, and for some reason I mentioned the excitement of the previous day, of being able to capture three different kinds of Mennonite cultures. The gentleman then asked if I knew how many different ones there are, whether it is three, or six…
I said probably closer to fifty. We talked quite a while about that, and I told them that I had been three different kinds myself, and knew many others. About the Amish, I recommended they purchase Ira Wagler‘s book, “Growing Up Amish“–a delightful read that offers more than a casual glimpse into a beautiful and fascinating culture.
I took some gorgeous photographs, offered them my blog address–so they could contact me to get copies without my name, (and there’s many more!)–and then we bid them farewell, having made new friends.
I suggested to Kordan that we visit the Ice Cream Caboose, but he preferred McDonald’s McFlurry. And that is what we did. No healthy lunch food. Just an ice cream McFlurry. I should have known better.
We took the ice cream to go, then drove back to the Dam end of the Mill Race to eat them. When we were all done, and ready to head home, I said we’d need to do this again sometime. Kordan was quite agreeable. We’ll go early next time, I said, when all the critters are hungry.
“Sure,” Kordan said, “How about next Wednesday when I am supposed to be in school?”
Haha! Nice try, little man!
“And next time we won’t get the McFlurry,” he said. “It wasn’t that good.”
I didn’t say it… But I’m thinking it will be the Ice Cream Caboose. At least it will be in a wafer cone, and make for some great pictures!
I had not more than taken that glimpse into young love, when a family happened by. Two energetic teenagers soon climbed up the railway track–or whatever you call the structure holding it up–as mom stood by reminding them to be safe.
I smiled. Boys will be boys. And sometimes girls will be ‘boys’ too… ‘tomboys’… I would have been the first in line to try the shenanigans one day. Too old now, but not too old to remember catapulting from on top of the stable in the barn, as a pre-teen and young teen.
Mom said something about wishing she had brought a camera just as I offered to take some pictures and we stood there, with our cell phones, exchanging emails to make sure we could connect and get the pictures to them. I took a few of them as a couple, and heard a little tidbit of their story. They told me the pictures would make it all the way to Australia, where he was from, as he would definitely want to share them with his family.
I continued on then, to my car, where I sat a while just watching the creatures and the people. An elderly couple, whom I had met on my walk, sat under a tree, resting. (People with their backs turned don’t really count, when it comes to rules about taking pictures…) Though older, he reminded me much of Steve Masterson, and I found myself missing Steve and Jackie who, like Howard and Alice, had a powerful impact on my life, and on Tim’s. They were most delightful conversationalists, and I thought how bitter-sweet it is, to meet people only once and never to really know them.
I snapped a shot of the view we shared, then packed up my camera and headed back to Elmira…
Tim–who went to church with our boys–texted and asked if I would pick up a coffee at Tim Hortons. A double-double. As I pulled in, an Old Order gentleman walked out, carrying his tray of coffees. Across the parking lot, two friends waited–one on a buggy, one on a bike. I make exceptions about taking pictures of people where there are horses and/or buggies involved. Or bikes. (Okay… I just made that up, but hey, it works.)
After picking up Tim’s coffee, I did the final jaunt home. Nicole had baked the ‘Potato Flake Sourdough Bread’ that I had put in pans the night before. (An outstanding ‘friendship bread’ type recipe that I was given starter for this week, and we all love. I wish I didn’t… I’d rather stay away from bread.)
My heart was full. I met God in ways and places that are as beautiful as worshipping Him in a traditional church service. I value and believe in the importance of believers gathering together to worship God, as a God-family, but maybe salvation and ‘measuring up’ are not so closely linked to the ‘where and the how’ as we might imagine.
I’m not like the pastor who proudly announced that he never missed church a day in his adult life–not even when his wife had given birth the day before. I’ve missed church when nobody in my life gave birth and nobody was sick… I just played hookie. And not only once. I’ve done it a few times for no reason at all. Quite a few. And I’ve done it because church was too difficult when hard times caused me to struggle and I didn’t feel safe with people….
And that thought takes me back to the beginning of my little escapade…
Just off of our street, shortly after Barnswallow Street turns to Whipperwill, is the most gorgeous apple tree. I had stopped there on my way out, to capture the apple blossoms. As I contemplated how life, with all of its bumps and scrapes, seems at times to contradict the promises of God, I thought of one of those photos, and that is the extent of my ‘morning sermon’ that I would like to leave with you, in the form of this picture.
God does not lie. His promises are forever. And, as some of my dreams are coming true, I remember the many times I doubted and struggled. Times I was sure God used me as a pawn in a giant chess game. But always He has carried me through–sometimes kicking and screaming–but always with purpose and destiny.
Wherever you find yourself in your journey with God, and no matter how difficult it is to keep believing in Him and His purposes, hold on to the truth of His promises.
I reckon this post is going to make a few people want to scold me… (Feel free… my email is trudy-dot-metzger-at-rogers-dot-com… or post it in the comments.) ….Going for a walk on a beautiful Sunday morning, when I should/could be sitting in church. Especially with being in ministry and all.
But, to be perfectly honest, I had no inclination to go sit anywhere for any length of time, listening to anyone, no matter how gifted, how eloquent, how sincere…or, perhaps–though far less likely–completely broken.
It is broken and quiet I long for these days–if not broken, then quiet. Sit me down with a struggling Christian, the homeless, a prostitute, even a murderer, and suddenly my heart is at home. (Yes, I have sat with murderers. Very nice ones, too, who in a moment of desperation killed someone because they snapped. One of them has slipped into glory and, I have no doubt, is dancing with Jesus… or waiting for that dance in some ‘intermediate state of sleep’, depending on who is right on that ever-debated theological view. (Not that either one is of great consequence… if she’s sleeping, she needed a rest, if she’s dancing and singing, she is in everlasting wakeful bliss. Either way God isn’t much going to ask our opinions on the matter.)
But that is just the kind of thing I was in no space to listen to, or even some neat and tidy sermon or good Christian testimony, when I could go walking with God, enjoy creation and perhaps meet some of His children, out on that same trail.
It isn’t that I don’t love a good sermon. I really do. In fact, having attended the Gospel Express fundraiser on Saturday evening, I already had a wonderful message to contemplate. Two, really.
Chaplin Rosemary Redshaw spoke first, sharing stories of how God works in prison. One young man, in segregation on charges of murder, wanted to meet with her. When she went in, she took a Bible and prayed for him, at his request, after hearing his story. The young man could barely read, but she left the Bible any way. She didn’t see him often, after she was replaced in that department. Eighteen months later she was asked to go see him again, and to her amazement, he had taught himself to read and had accepted Christ. The fearful young man who had greeted her that first encounter, was no more. He had grown strong and confident. What was most amazing, to me, is that he was innocent of the crime, and acquitted. Now that’s a testimony! An innocent man, goes to prison to be set free from bondage.
She told other stories of how God moved among inmates, and encouraged the audience to continue to support Prison Ministries.
Melvin Kuepfer was asked to share next and, as he did, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully again. I don’t know the man. Not more than who he is. But I know some of his children, though not well, and have met his wife and find myself always drawn to her. He shared an overview of a seminar they teach in prison, offering four 2-hour sessions.
I found myself wishing he could launch into all four, right then, and give us the eight hours of teaching. I would have sat there a long while hearing the kind of truth he shared. The kind that is direct, gentle, Holy Spirit-filled and life-changing.
But it was a bit like that friend who lets you ‘taste’–meaning one little lick–their lollipop or some treat, when you’re a kid and that’s all you get…
As they walk away, leaving you with the desire for a lollipop of your own, all you’re left with is that bit of sweetness, and the awareness that there are more, somewhere, just beyond your reach.
And that is just what happened… I dreamed of ways to get him to teach these sessions… Maybe in our home… Rent a room in a church… I thought of the many people I know and work with, who would drink deep from that well of truth.
My heart was challenged and filled as I left home at 10:30 for my walk on Sunday morning. And, at the Mill Race, the world was peaceful. Few creatures scurried about at that hour. Maybe they had gathered for their own service, and only a few rebels, like me, played hookie.
I met Howard and Alice, the couple who took me in when I was a hurting twenty year old. We spoke for a few moments, and parted ways. I walked to my favourite place, the bench where I spend time with a little chipmunk every time I walk the Mill Race. I had different shoes on yesterday, and he wasn’t too sure about me…. Sniffed my shoes and took off like a bullet, but returned after a bit and joined me on the bench again. Only one chickadee showed up. The rest must be more religious about services.
After a bit of quiet time, just sitting in the sunshine watching a few critters and all the people walking by, I wandered back toward my car, leaving seeds on various tree stumps, as I walked along.
I stopped at the railway track to put down some seeds, when a young couple walked by. I hadn’t planned to–because I mostly don’t take pictures of people, out of respect–but as this young couple walked away, their sweet young love drew me in, and I found myself sneaking some shots. Later, when they returned, I made a confession and told them where to find the pictures. That assuaged my conscience quite a lot, and I didn’t make any silent promises never to do it again.
The first picture was a bit blurry. How appropriate. It is just like life and love. We start out with slightly blurred vision, when it comes to relationships. Some go so far as to say Love is blind, but I disagree. It’s only blurred vision. And maybe that is just as well, or most of us would be single for the rest of our lives. None of us are perfect and if we focused too much on it before being madly in love and deeply committed, we would never make it. I hope this couple never loses that closeness, even if, now and then in life, they drift apart for a moment as in the third picture.