Category Archives: Odds and Ends

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A Farmer’s Wife?

It’s been shocking to many, many people (including ME) that I am marrying a farmer and moving to the rural midwest to live in the land of cornfields and barns.  I’ve been asked how I can leave the bustling, fabulous city of Nashville for country life.  Won’t I miss Starbucks?

I don’t mind answering these questions because I had to answer them for myself first.  I had to come to terms with what’s really important to me before I could even consider seriously dating Rick.  I had decided that I was done with casual dating and I could tell he was serious, so I did some soul-searching early on in our relationship.  Just how important is Nashville to me?

I love Nashville.  I love the American southeast.  I have a special place in my heart for magnolia trees, rolling hills, thick green trees, and that sweet, southern drawl.  I enjoy mild winters and how very nice everything is.  If I need to purchase something, I have so many choices that I’d never be patient enough to look at all my options before making a decision.  I live right next door to one of the wealthiest towns in the entire country.  Right down the road from my house are streets lined with mansions.  It is a lovely place to live.  But no amount of loveliness can make up for loneliness.

I have lived a good life.  God has blessed me with good friends.  I’ve really enjoyed city life.  It’s been no big deal to go to NFL games and cheer the Titans on, scream “Fang Fingers!” at hockey games, go to a major concert and see the performer the next day at a pancake restaurant.  I’ve eaten in the fanciest restaurants, traveled the country and stayed in the nicest hotels, and filled my life with good things.  But in all of that, I went home alone every night.  I felt the ache of empty arms when I saw a mother rocking her sleeping baby.  I chafed at never having a home of my own to settle into and decorate and organize just right.

To me, the reality of having a loving husband, a home of my own, and the hope of children is worth giving up a weekly visit to Chipotle or seeing a celebrity at church.  Not to mention that the idea of wide, open spaces and the safety of country living is very appealing!  I’ve had all the big living I need.  I’m ready to settle down and be a wife and mother.  And writer.  And maybe do a little teaching and speaking on the side…  🙂

I grew up in the area I’ll be moving back to.  Vivid childhood memories of running free, totally unafraid, and feeling connected to the ground beneath my feet draw me back.  I was the wild child who did all I could to get my four-wheeler (ATV) completely air-born, who caught slimy tadpoles in the pond, and whose heart was broken when my willow tree got cut down.  During a recent trip to visit Rick, I sat quietly on a large rock and listened to the sounds around me. let the little ants crawl up my arm.  I felt like I was twelve again – carefree, happy, and at peace.  I’m blessed to still have relationships with people I knew when I lived there, including my grandfather and cousins.

Will I be the typical farmer’s wife, canning peaches and running a tractor?  Well, probably not.  But I don’t think I’d mind learning how to can my own food and avoid the preservatives and unknown ingredients I’ve been eating in food that comes from who-knows-where.  Driving a tractor, though, is something I plan to leave all in Rick’s capable, calloused hands.

By the way, even though the community is rural, there’s a good-sized city within 40 minutes of his house and a grocery store just a few miles from his front door.  The man who acted as my adopted grandfather when I was a little girl (before my grandparents moved there) has a coffee shop just two miles away.  And there’s a mall within 30 minutes of the farm.  See, friends?  I’m going to be okay.  And I even hear they’re building a Starbucks a couple miles down the turnpike.  Oh yeah…

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Maurice Carter

 I think the first time I saw Maurice, he was singing with the choir at church.  Then I worked with him on staff at the church.  When I started on staff, he was the Single’s/Young Adults Pastor.  I’d originally come to Nashville because of music, but upon arriving I discovered that when EVERYONE sings, only the ones with the best connections (due to talent or some other factor) get to sing on stage.  Maurice opened up the stage for me to sing in the single’s ministry.  It was an intimate group, and I cherished it.

Maurice and I started making a habit of stopping by each other’s offices from time to time to chat.  He was the one who encouraged me not to stop blogging when I faced some resistance in it.  He encouraged me to do all I could with writing.  He could sense the presence of God, tap into that power, and encourage me in a way that touched my heart deeply.  Apparently, I’m not the only one he ministered to.

He was also an amazing musician.  He had another life when he wasn’t ministering to me and others around the church.  He was a back-up singer for Wynonna Judd and The Judds.  He wrote songs, mentored others in music, and helped lead worship at our church.  His talent was remarkable, but he didn’t treat anyone else like they weren’t important because of it.  He rubbed elbows with some of the most famous people on earth and he never let on that he was kind of a big deal. 

My last conversation with Maurice was unfinished.  He was at church on the Sunday night after I got engaged.  Rick was with me, and with Maurice’s travel schedule and Rick’s infrequent visits to the church (he lives out of town), they hadn’t had a chance to meet yet.  I introduced them and Maurice immediately began getting to know Rick.  Sensing that I wasn’t necessary to the conversation, I allowed them to talk and I moved on to speak to some other friends.  When they finished, Maurice told me that I had a good man.  He wanted to talk to me more about our plans and the changes coming in our lives, but he was heading to Japan for a mission trip the next day and that conversation would have to wait until he got back.  I was looking forward to the next time I ran into him at Starbucks or after a service at church so we could talk more.

Exactly two weeks after that conversation, I received word that Maurice had died of a heart attack.  He was 43 years old.  I had just started driving home from my fiancé’s house and had a long drive ahead.  Through tears, I attempted to make the right turns and find my way back on unfamiliar roads.  No surprise:  I got a little lost.  I pulled over and called Rick, tearfully explaining that I needed his help to figure out where I was, and that I was extra upset because my friend had died.  Rick got me on the right road again and I made it back to Nashville in a fog of grief.

This week has been hard.  We’re having a service to honor Maurice on Sunday at church.  I look around me and see the faces of so many that loved him, felt his friendship, and are aching from loss.  He is in heaven with Jesus, but we are left with a hole in our hearts and in our community.  Will I always think of Maurice when I see a bright yellow SUV?  Will I always wonder what he’s laughing about when I hear loud laughter in the halls of the church?  Will I always look for him when I walk into Starbucks?  These are the questions I have, and my friendship with him was nothing compared with many who were much closer.  My heart aches for his precious family, including two little nephews who adored him.

In the middle of all that, I’m trying to plan a wedding.  My friend is gone, but I need to pick out a wedding cake design.  Our church has lost a pastor, but I need to find a rehearsal dinner location.  My friends are grieving, but I need to get their addresses for my guest list.  My mind is a jumble of joy and grief right now.  Do the trivial things like the color of my bridesmaid’s dresses even matter?  Death puts a new perspective on everything.  My dreams at night are a tangled web of a wedding service mixed with a funeral service.

And this must be the way many of us feel.  We have children to raise, jobs to do, events to organize, and yet we bear the grief of missing our friend.  It feels like the world should stop, but it doesn’t.  Even his family must make plans and move forward while they stumble in grief.

We loved Maurice.  We are happy for him that he is with the Lord.  We are sad for ourselves.

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Budget

As anyone whose ever planned a wedding before knows, these events are shockingly EXPENSIVE.  The average cost for a wedding today in the USA is just over $20,000.  Yikes!  The daughter of a pastor and a minister myself, these numbers are very intimidating.  There is just no way we could be fiscally responsible and still spend that much money.  And if we chose to spend that much money, what in the world would we do with it all?  My sweet fiance has offered to help out a bit, but he has major expenses to prepare for himself:  honeymoon, new home, furnishings, and eventually, children.  At this time, I don’t have a job lined up there, so he may be supporting us both for a while.  It doesn’t feel right to expect him to make major contributions to it as he prepares for all the other aspects of married life.

My parent’s have been generous with me.  They are handling the lion’s share of the expense, and I am incredibly thankful that I was raised by gracious givers.  As we go to the bank this morning to set up a wedding account, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the wise way they have managed their money over the years.  The legacy they leave me is a great blessing.  With all that gratitude also comes the realization that we cannot afford to spend $1200 on a cake, $5000 on a photographer, $2000 on a wedding dress, and $3000 on a discount videographer.  (All actual, fairly normal amounts to spend.)

I’m a person who has spent my life building relationships.  I love having friends, being a good friend, and networking all the people I know together so they can be blessed.  As I consider my wedding day, it’s hard for me to imagine who I can exclude from that wonderful celebration and meaningful sacrament as we pledge our lives to one another.  Which relationship is less important than the other?  (BIG sigh.)  I keep hearing that I need to cut, cut, cut the guest list and I react strongly against that idea.  I love my family (all 125 of them).  I love my friends.  I want Rick to have his precious family around him (all 150 of them)!

The solution I’ve decided upon is to trust those friends and family who I have spent my life celebrating.  I will have the extremely talented folks I know provide the entertainment, create delicious food, make beautiful pictures, arrange stunning flowers, and manage all the details that we can possibly work together on.  And I’ll be delighted to tap into Rick’s amazing network of friends and family as well.  They are a very talented bunch!  Then I can take our limited budget and use it for materials and supplies.  I am praying that with this philosophy, we will have a beautiful wedding that’s a community affair and brings blessings to many as they are able to display their gifts and talents.

I’m not the kind of person who wants every single person I’ve ever met at my wedding.  I want those who I’ve built relationships with over the years to be there, to celebrate with us.  Rick would probably gladly to go Vegas or get married with our parents and siblings around us.  On this issue, I’m thankful that he has told me the wedding is mine to plan and he’ll do whatever he can to help.  He’s a good, smart man!  Even with all the help from family and friends, we still won’t be able to have an unlimited guest list.  But I’m thankful that we’ll be able to invite many of those who have meant so much to us over the years.

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Details, Details, Details

I’m visiting my parents in Maginia today.  No, that’s not a typo.  “Maginia” is the way my adorable 3-year old niece pronounces Virginia.  I’m not writing about her today, but I thought I’d share that little tidbit.  She was here this weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed her.

My sweet little niece, prego sister, and my mom took me wedding dress shopping on Saturday.  I didn’t have any plans to buy a dress in Maginia, thinking I’d have to order one and get the alterations done there and it would be a little difficult since I live in Nashville.  However, in the second shop we went into, they were having a big sale.  If a customer found a dress on the rack that fit and was the right color for them, they could walk out with it in hand for an extra-good price.  I happened to be that customer this time.  I found a dress that makes me feel like a princess, in the right color, in the right size, for 1/3 of what I had been willing to spend.  When I walked out in that dress, the best niece in the world pranced toward me, hugged me, and declared that I looked “fabulous.”  WooHOO!  A Kleinfeld bride I am not.  Off the rack works for me.  I’ll have a friend in Nashville do the very minor alterations that are needed.  I leave Maginia, dress in hand.

My wedding dress? Wouldn't you like to know!

We also chose and contacted our bridal party, picked out our invitations, settled on wedding colors (winter white; metallic gold and silver), and secured a photographer.  All this done without quite having nailed down the date yet.  I sure hope it works out like I’m hoping!

We have so much more we need to do.  It’s amazing to realize how much goes into planning a wedding.  And a honeymoon.  And finding a place to live/moving.  And furnishing a new home.  Holy moly.

One last detail I’m considering…  What will I do with my blog when my name changes?  “Kimberly Wenger’s Blog” won’t really work any longer.  I’d love to hear your ideas and imput.

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RUN!!!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I present something intended purely for entertainment…  Enjoy! ♥


I want you to imagine for a moment that you’re a teenage girl who has rented a movie on a Friday night and invited several friends over to eat pizza and watch that movie.  Of course, it’s a pretty decent movie, as you know that it will be inspected by your parents prior to viewing.  You have some old quilts thrown over the ugly couches in the basement, a rather large, dusty old television that someone handed down to someone that eventually made its way to this very basement (the first time your family ever had a second television in the house), and some snacks (thank you, Mom).

You turn off the lights, settle in, and enjoy the show.  The movie is good.  There’s no cussing, no immorality, nothing offensive at all – until, of course, your dad (The Preacher…) walks downstairs to check on things.  As if on some kind of heavenly cue, the movie suddenly has it’s only suggestive scene – and wouldn’t you know that the characters in question aren’t married?  (How does he do that?  It’s like he has radar or something!)  Rather than be the cool dad who says hello to everyone, eats a few bites off the snack table, and goes back upstairs, THIS teenage girl’s father utilizes all 6’2” of his holy, pastoral, public-speaker presence to glare at the screen and holler, “RUN!  Flee!  Get out of there!  Kids, you must RUN from immorality!  Fornication!  RUN!!!”  

Welcome to my world.

I wish I could say that only happened one time, but it was a pretty regular occurrence.  In hindsight, I guess most kids would’ve stopped having their friends over, but I just kept inviting people over and kept getting embarrassed. 

Dad was actually right, for all his drama and interesting delivery of that message.  No matter how hard I might’ve wanted that booming voice gone from my head, its impact can’t be doubted.  And all my friends knew they were going over to a pastor’s house, so at least I had a little bit of an excuse. 

These days my parents have a 90” high-definition projection-screen television with DVR and universal remote control, a wet bar, and leather reclining couches in their basement.  And when I go over there and catch Dad watching a James Bond marathon, I wait in anticipation for the moment when I can use all my 5’10” and loudest and holiest pastoral public-speaking voice to yell, “Fornication!  Sin!  RUN!!!” 

My, how times have changed. 

So, kids, what’s the moral of this story?  As you prepare for Valentine’s Day frivolities, if you aren’t married, remember to RUN!  Or you could be like me and find that the sexiest part of your lovers’ holiday is talking to your boyfriend on the phone about the old, leaking paint gun he’s using on his mission trip in Guatemala.  LOL. 

 P.S.  If you are married, by all means, ♥ CELEBRATE!  ♥

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Love

I’m not sure how many times I’ve mentioned on this blog site how difficult I have found “the wait” – waiting for love, wishing for love, hoping, dreaming, and trying to keep my mind off my perpetual state of singleness.  I could probably do a count of some kind and let you know the statistics, but that seems like a lot of work.  The point is, I’ve been waiting a long time for love.  When I say “love” – I mean the REAL kind…  The kind where one person is so comfortable with another person that they don’t hold back, they can laugh and point out a new pimple on their face to the other because they know it doesn’t matter, the kind where they can say those words “I LOVE YOU!” and nothing in their hearts cautions them – be careful

There have been times in my life where that kind of love seemed so distant, so impossible, that I couldn’t imagine it ever actually happening.  I looked around at this wonderful life God gave me – such a great life – and saw absolutely no one who might be my match.  But even in those dark moments, I had an inkling that one day it would just… happen.  I would turn around and see a man standing there, smiling at me, and we would know that we’d finally found what we’d been looking for.  I had a feeling that when that day came, it would be easy to stop walking alone and take his hand and begin walking together.  I had a feeling that I was standing at the bottom of a great mountain I could never climb, but one day that mountain might just flatten out and be gone. 

Back in July of this year, that very thing happened to me.  I received a message on Facebook from a man I was acquainted with in childhood.  He’s older than me, so we weren’t exactly friends, but our families knew one another and I was familiar with his family.  He said, “Hi. Remember me?”  And my mountain went flat. 

It took a little while to believe he was for real.  I’ve dealt with so much dysfunction and seen the blackness in the heart of man so clearly that I didn’t really think someone like him existed.  Although he’s aware of the world around him and all the sin and darkness that exists in it, he has somehow kept himself unspotted from it.  He isn’t a man who talks much about his faith in God or feels the need for deep, theological discussions.  He simply lives his faith in the way the Bible describes – pure and undefiled religion…  I actually had to meet with my pastor, a professional counselor, to get his take on the situation before I could accept that it was possible there wasn’t some deep, lurking darkness he was hiding.  Speaking with my mom about him at one point, we decided it was sad that when we meet someone who is a genuine Christian, our first instinct is to try to figure out what’s wrong with him because we can’t believe anyone actually follows the commands of God and lives according His Word.

This man is not what I had in mind for myself, but the more I get to know him, the more I see that he is exactly what I need.  In the middle of my big-city, mega-church, Starbucks-drinking life, I fell in love with a farmer from the rural mid-west.  He’s deeply involved in his small, Mennonite congregation.  He’s been all over the world on mission trips.  He is aware of the impact he makes on the environment, treating the world God created with respect and helping to preserve it for future generations.  He serves as a leader with the local Youth for Christ chapter.  He’s a little shy, has a sense of humor that many don’t know because you have to stand close and listen to hear his witty remarks, and he cares deeply for those the Lord has placed in his life.  He’s a man’s man, with a shop full of tools and tractors.  He’s currently out hunting deer and always carries a pocket-knife.  And yet this calloused, quiet man has opened his heart to me, trusts me with his thoughts and feelings, and patiently handles my moods and, yes, even my blog

One of the barns and the "Grain Leg"

I’ve moved at least ten times in my life (not counting moves across town), and for the last five months, I’ve been falling in love with a man who’ll never move from the farm he has worked so hard to build.  We’ve spent time in each other’s homes, putting some serious miles on our cars and racking up frequent flyer points.  We’ve used all the great technology available to us today to stay in touch and be a part of each other’s lives.  This city-girl has been incredibly surprised by the freedom and security and joy I feel when I visit him.  In his area, there’s no need to lock doors, check under the car and in the back seat for predators, or worry about children getting kidnapped from the front yard.  He’s related to half the people there.  It’s the community I lived in until I was twelve.  My grandfather and his wife and some of my cousins live there.  It’s a familiar place, in spite of the vast difference from the life I’ve been living in Nashville. 

And because I’m not working at the church full-time, I have time to spend with him when he visits.  I have time to go visit him.  Because I’m not working at the church, I feel the freedom to explore other options for my future outside of Music City. Because I’m not working full-time at the church, I have time to enjoy being a girlfriend and nurturing this relationship.  I’ve been helping out a friend who has five children and a large house to manage – caring for her wonderful children, helping her organize and manage her home, and getting an intimate look at the life of a stay-at-home mother with a large family.  It’s a world away from my career as a minister, but I find great satisfaction and joy in ministering to her and her family.  I see God’s hand at work in my life, changing me, growing me, leading me down a beautiful path I could not have imagined for myself.  I see how God has ordered my steps, has prepared my heart, and has gently opened my eyes to see something new and wonderful.  I feel so blessed. 

Dear readers, allow me to introduce you to Rick, one of the most wonderful men I’ve ever known… 

 

Isn't he handsome?

    

Being silly for the camera

So happy together...

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”  -James 1:27
 
Photo credit:  Leslie Coelho, dear friend, wonderful photographer!

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Combine Derby

When I started this blog, I wrote a post about the county fair that I went to once when I was 12 years old.  I was really excited about going, but it didn’t turn out to be the most pleasant experience.  In the spirit of making new memories, I went back to the same county fair last week and had an entirely different experience.  (Thank God!)  I didn’t ride any rides this time (I prefer keeping my food in my belly), but enjoyed all the displays and junk food and the thrill of walking hand-in-hand with a handsome man who proudly introduced me to his friends.  The weather was beautiful, we were relaxed and happy, and the day was topped off with something called a “Combine Demolition Derby.”   

For those of you who are as uneducated about farm life as me, a combine is a very large tractor used to harvest crops.  It has two big front wheels and two smaller back wheels, an enclosed cab area for the driver, and a large attachment on the front that separates and cuts the crops.  These machines can cost up to $500K, so I’m not sure why anyone wants to smash them into one another, but one of the combines in the derby had a title painted on the side that seemed to explain it all: “Redneck Recycling.”   

   

In the Combine Derby, several of these huge machines enter a small, confined space and bang into one another until all are disabled but one.  The last one standing is the winner.  I’ve been to a demolition derby with cars once in Nashville, but that’s as close as I’ve come to this kind of entertainment.  I was a little skeptical when my new boyfriend (a farmer from the rural area where I grew up) said this would be a fun way to spend an evening.  Much to my surprise, it really was fun.  The large, open cabs on the combines give the viewer better access to see the drivers, who worked hard to entertain us.  We could see when they were having problems shifting or were steering one direction but the combine was going another direction.  The large wheels made it very obvious when they were disabled.  I definitely think I’d return to another combine derby.   

Two combines going head-to-head

 

So in honor of my most recent and better experience at the county fair, I’ve edited my previous story and am reposting it so you get a good understanding of the contrast.  Mom straightened me out on some of the details, which actually make the story a little funnier (in my opinion).  Enjoy!  

Wenger Family Fun, Take 2…  

In the farming community that I lived in until I was 12, the county fair was a really big deal.  There were all kinds of rides and they actually cancelled school because all the farm kids took animals they had raised to show and compete at the fair.  This was a totally foreign concept to me, but I wanted to go to the fair for the rides.  ALL the other kids went to the fair, but Mom and Dad would never take us.  It was terribly expensive to ride the rides.  I think you could get a bracelet to ride them all for $15 (plus $6 to get into the fair) and that was highway robbery.  

When Adam was a baby, I finally convinced Mom and Dad to take us to the fair.  Adam couldn’t have been more than 3 months old and they had this nifty carrier thing that Dad could strap to his chest and carry Adam around.  So off we went, into unchartered territory, with a father who was NOT HAPPY about the amount of money he was about to spend.  I was as dressed up as I could be with my little lavender purse just chock full of money ($27 was a lot of money to an 12-year-old) and about to burst with excitement.  

Things did not start well.  Not only was Dad in a bad mood to begin with (which we all tried to ignore and act extra cheerful to help him out – no fighting, no asking to go to the bathroom), but he had not anticipated the parking situation.  They had turned a field into a parking lot and it was muddy and rough.  We had to park as far away as a person could get from the fair and hike in through the field.  Mom was wearing flip-flops and after we’d hiked for a good 10 minutes (or so it seemed), her shoe broke.  So Dad tried to fix it with the metal tab of a Coke can.  Dad got it fixed up so Mom could at least continue walking, sort of (she would never admit there was another problem at this point), and off we went again.   

  

We spent the atrocious amount of money to get into the fair and started riding the rides.  I convinced my mom and sister to go on the teacups with me, so Dad went to show off his son to his friends.  After spinning around in circles within circles, the three of us stumbled off the ride to find the nearest trash can to throw up in…  (Ugh.  Who comes up with these rides?)  We found Dad and were considering if our upset tummies could handle another ride when Dad commented that his shirt felt wet.  We trudged along toward the next ride while he tried to discover the source of the wetness.  

Suddenly, we heard a great shout and looked over to see Dad standing stock still staring at his hand that was frozen in mid-air.  It was covered with yellowish brown slime.  Yup, folks, it was poop.  Upon further inspection, we found that our sweet little three-month old baby had at that very moment released more poop than we thought could come out of a grown man into the tiny littlest diaper – which of course could not hold all the poop.  

It was everywhere:  in the carrier, in Adam’s clothes, up his back, in his hair, all over Dad’s shirt and arm and hand…  And remember, things were already tense that day.  This was one of the first times they’d used the carrier, so they weren’t real familiar with how to put it on and take it off, and those things can be kind of tricky.  So Dad found an empty tent at the edge of the fair and commanded us all inside while he and Mom tried to figure out how to get this carrier thing off him and Adam out of it without smearing any more poop around.  Oh, by the way, it stunk to high heaven!  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth…  

Katie and I stood off to the side and tried our best not to laugh out loud.  I mean, what else do you do???  Stay out of the way and do all you can to stifle your giggles and PRAY that at some point this will strike Dad as funny.  

And then I made a startling discovery.  My little lavender purse with the $27 inside was missing!  After we had sort of cleaned up the poop, we silently backtracked to the teacups and discovered my purse in a nearby trashcan.  Everything was inside but the money, which brought me to tears.  All my hard-earned savings was gone.  We left the fair then.  I don’t remember the lecture I received on the way out, but I’m sure it was really good.  If I had any memory of the ride home, I’ve suppressed it by now!  

**************  

And so, now you see why this most recent trip to the fair was so much better than the last one.  And yes, Mom and Dad, I learned my lesson and brought absolutely NO money to the fair with me this time.  And when contemplating what pair of flip-flops to wear, I thought better of it and put on my tennis shoes.

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