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Peace Seeker: Culture Shock

I do not mean my title disrespectfully. It is a drastic change of life coming to Wisconsin, to spend time with my in- laws.

I wish phones were acceptable at these conservative weddings. You simply must take my word for it.

We arrived Wednesday, midday.

Callan, as you can see, was absolutely thrilled. “GRANDPA’S!” He shouted. I think too, he was super excited to get out of his car seat.

We had lunch and then I needed a nap. I toured my mother in law’s greenhouse but the sun was too bright, the tiredness was overwhelming and so I took myself to bed. Driving overnight is a blessing because the boys sleep well. There is a price though for me, and I don’t love paying it.

It has been 4 years since the last wedding. And the nervousness and anxiety never gets better.

I don’t expect it ever will.

I tackled getting the boys dressed, which was a frustrating event in and of itself. At home they need not wear black dress pants, fancy shirts, and vests. And no, there is no pictures because before the wedding was over the boys were muddy and dirty and again, phones aren’t allowed.

The wedding has it’s own unspoken rules. When we arrive, the men stay outdoors and the women go inside. There’s a receiving line, sort of, to shake hands with the bride and groom to be, and the attendants. And to drop off gifts. The room was impossibly small, the bride to be’s parlor, and again, my boys were less than cooperative. I heard later the attendants found my boys’ objections humorous it was just the laugh they all needed.

Awesome.

At 8:30 A.M. (no, that’s not a typo) they served cake and wine. (No, that’s not a typo either!) Tiny squares of cheesecake and little, tiny shots of wine. (Literally, wine being served in little shot glasses that looked like beer mugs, complete with little handles!) Then after that, they call you by name to sit for the wedding. There we can sit as a family.

My boys had toys and strict instructions to sit quietly. And they did. For that, I was grateful. The preachers and their wives sat directly in front of us, and facing us, so if there’s gossip to share it won’t be that my boys behaved badly. (Can I get an AMEN for little blessings? Haha)

I admit, my nervousness may color this post a bit. I don’t always know the rules and unspoken traditions. And that is really hard for me. They are a gracious and kind people. And while there will be judges and gossipers in any group of people, my in laws are not those people. And the family that hosted the wedding (the bride’s family always hosts the wedding and the groom’s family hosts a formal reception later) was gracious and kind as well.

There are two preachers who preach at the weddings. Then a third minister gives his testimony at the end and the other two share their testimony also. The testimonies can get long winded at times but not this time.

The first preacher shared many stories and real life experiences/examples. He was interesting. However it was also sad. The things shared that I know to not be biblically based. It hurt my heart. To see the solemness and sober faces, I always feel a wedding was a time of joy and celebration but not so in this culture. Instead they use weddings as an opportunity to speak of the evilness that is fornication and lust, the punishment you are sure to endure should you fall prey to that carnality.

The preacher isn’t wrong. Those are sins and if not repented of, yes there is eternal damnation. However I feel a wedding is a terrible platform for that message.

He also linked severe illness to being a chastisement from the Lord, he spoke of abusive husbands, and stated that loud and vocal women are not women who get married.

Thankfully Lamar did not get that memo.

The second preacher. I admit I missed a lot of his words. I think I was trying to pick my jaw up off the floor from the shock of preacher number one. He didn’t speak as long and when he switched to German, I knew the vows were under way.

The mood was solemn and mournful as we slowly, so so slowly, sang another song. In German. And by we, I mean not me or my boys. We were dismissed row by row, to shuffle out of the garage and shake the hands of the new husband and wife.

Within quick order the garage was transformed to an eating area. Tables had been set up, covered with table cloths, and prepared for us to eat. They call you again to file in and sit. That was when I lost Callan. A young girl brought him to me then.

The food.

This is where I wished for my phone for the camera. My goodness. The wedding meals are simply the best. And if you are on a diet, just reading this may cause you to gain weight!

Rolls and butter and jelly. Mashed potatoes literally swimming in melted butter. Topped with brown butter. Noodles. Meatballs. Cheese curds. Pretzels. Some type of fruit in jello. Ice cream. Cupcakes with 2-3 inches of icing.

I mean… WOW.

After the meal, they return thanks and you are dismissed. Again, all segregated. The men sat in the driveway, the women to the house or porch. They also took turns touring the greenhouse. The children are left to play and this particular home has a really nice swingset and play area.

There are again, these unspoken rules. And me, well I broke the biggest one. A wife never approaches the husband to go home.

And I did.

Twice.

The second time I stated he may stay but the littlest one needed to go.

I hate doing that. I hate feeling like by being a “vocal woman” I’m offending an entire group of people. I apologized to Lamar since. He says he didn’t mind.

I hate that the grace that’s spoken of so often in the Bible, is so rarely preached on. And even less to be offered to fellow Christians.

We came home. And all suffered the consequences of so much butter.

I reflect back on the wedding day, where two people joined in marriage.

Besides for my sisters in law, a handful of other ladies spoke to me. Plenty of glances and whispers. But very few approached. The first one who did is my father in law’s sister. A woman who I suspect has not had an easy life. But these things also, are kept quiet. She offered her condolences on the loss of our sweet baby. She shared her son and his wife have buried two babies, babies who lived and suffered tremendously in their short lives.

Others shook my hand and offer a quick “vee gaehts”. (Translation: how’s it going?) (Not the correct spelling. Not even going to try that!) Stating they know who I am and they’re glad to see me again. Rarely offering their name, maybe assuming I recognize them too. I’m ashamed to admit, I don’t.

Life in these conservative circles is fascinating. Full of interesting people, each carrying his or her own story. As I watched people talk and laugh, I wonder what their stories are. I would be honored for a glimpse into their worlds. I viewed the youth who served our tables. I wondered if any of those girls felt the call to just be free from the rules and regulations that are man ordained. I wonder if any of them could care less about the youth boys who hassle you for tip before you leave. I consider that one day one of those youth girls may one day be a sister in law.

I am blessed. My in laws are beautiful and wonderful people. Welcoming and gracious. And generous.

Not all can say that.

This trip I’ve challenged a few points the preacher made. I have shared that I believe him to be misrepresenting the Word. (Only when asked, not openly and defiantly. I’ve chosen my words carefully and been respectful.)

I don’t share this post to be disrespectful or unkind. It’s a different world in these churches and family circles. Everyone is connected and everyone knows everyone’s business. And for the most part there is caring and compassion and love. But there is also admonitions and unsolicited advice.

They are people. Fallen people living in a fallen world just like the city slickers of New York City to the hunters of the jungles a world over. Just like you. Just like me.

While I object, strongly, to the rules and customs, I see the wisdom. I respect them. And am as honoring as I can be.

Maybe by the next wedding I will learn to keep my opinions to myself. To be the quiet, docile and submissive woman they preach of.

Doubtful.

But with God, all things are possible tho.

I will share more life on the farm things next week. Here I can get photos to share.

Love, Rachelle

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