My Failure to Communicate

I am a foreign language teacher.  I am a mother.  I am also, now, a mother-in-law.  I like to think I am adaptable, but Germany was not the experience I had planned for.

We went to Germany this summer with not even enough money to properly celebrate my son’s wedding.  My younger daughter and I had tried to learn some German phrases.  We could repeat some of the language CD, but as I speak mainly Spanish and English, I spoke terrible German with a silly Spanish accent.

My daughter-in-law’s family spoke some English and we spoke German fragments.  It made for a a frustrating and stressful time.  We discovered in Germany that using a credit card that was anything but a German credit card could be used in only scattered locations.  We were not sure how much things would cost, how much we could (or would be able to) pay for the wedding, and the wedding customs were quite different.

One such custom was to smash plates a few evenings before the wedding.  Called a Polterabend, we were both excited and confused to see merry Germans tossing crockery into the air and streets, followed by the bride and groom cleaning up the mess with brooms.  It was quite the experience to watch the passersby expressions (or those who tried to drive or pass by).  The custom was to wish good luck to the bride and groom.  The young couple had to learn to work together, protect their brooms from theft, and survive a seemingly endless process.  Metaphorically, it is very much like a marriage.  Marriage is meant to (hopefully) be forever and should not be “torn asunder” by trivialities.

Other customs to adjust to included attending a tiny church ceremony where usually groomsmen and bridesmaids did not stand up for the ceremony.   The ceremony was religious and the audience had to try to sing in both German and English.  The minister’s words were spoken and translated.  The vows were spoken in both English and German.  The young couple wanted a blend of both traditions.

At the reception, this blend was repeated with symbolic flags from both countries on the tables.  My husband and I felt quite inept at the head table since in Germany this seating consisted of the bride, groom, and their parents only.    In fact, I did not understand the importance of the table settings until I found out later that they served  and cut the cake/s prior to the main buffet meal.

Our children had never planned  a celebration before.  Our children did not have a plan nor a budget.  The theme was a blended American/German, so neither set of parents were entirely comfortable with the whole celebration; however, once the music started everyone began to relax.  The Germans did not know how to dance to all the American songs.  We Americans did not know how to sing or do the moves of the German songs.  One of the reception highlights was when a group of competitive square dancers made a sudden and fantastic appearance;  the bride and groom later joined in.

This is not to say we did not enjoy Germany.  The area was beautiful, the people kind, and although the area we stayed left us often trapped without a vehicle, we felt safe and secure in our small hotel.  I am truly grateful to have been able to celebrate with my son and his new bride.

We still try to communicate with our new in-laws.  They have become our new family.  We have since “Skyped” with them and showed them bits of our house as they have tried to share their lives and homes with us while in Germany.

It made me realize how important communication is.  We had to try to figure out what others wanted by using fragmented conversations and a lot of silly gesturing.  For example, I am pretty sure we were scolded at the hotel.   I think the lady who ran our hotel was mortified that we had hung some wet clothing in the open windows.  We tried to explain that our daughter had been quite sick on the way from the airport, so some clothing was soiled in vomit.  The next morning the hotel owner seemed offended that my still ill daughter would not eat much for the complimentary breakfast.  Before the end of our stay she understood that our appetite matched our health.  She was also thrilled that her guests  found her granddaughter’s missing  ring underneath a bed.  We eventually came to be trusted,  once better communication had been established.

I heave learned that God is much the same.  He will bring blessings in His good time, not on our time.  He tries to communicate with us, but we need to speak His ways, instead of ignoring Him and doing things our ways.

I prayed a lot on the trip.  I prayed for more sleep. I prayed the airplane would safely deliver us. I prayed for the new, young couple. I prayed the wedding and reception would go well. I prayed for my daughter’s recover. I prayed the taxi would deliver us safely to our hotel on the  jagged mountain roads.  Although my trivial needs were nothing compared to the pain and sufferings of others, God has truly blessed me with a new, wonderful people.

Maybe we just need to take more time and prayer to thank Him?

I guess God knows what He is doing after all!


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