Our Long Awaited Wedding Day

4 09 2014

Oh however is this possible? To blog about a day that contained a lifetime of emotion and generated almost one thousand photos?

When I thought of wedding photos the first person who came to my mind was Christy. I met Christy years ago when her husband Steve and I co-taught at Cold Spring Mennonite School. We’ve corresponded off and on through the years and I loved the idea of a friend doing the photos. I also knew that Christy was good and would be able to deliver even if we couldn’t allow as much time as normal for photos and that she would be sensitive to my health needs. I was thrilled when some friends offered to help with the cost as a wedding present so I could afford her services. And so the photo credits in this post go to the talented C.Smucker Photography and her wonderful assistant Jolene.

I’ve had a very hard time deciding which photos to post! *clicking on any photo will bring it up in a larger image*

If you will remember, months ago when Joe & I were first engaged, my desire was to be able to walk down the aisle. We endeavored to plan our day in such a way that allowed for as much rest as possible. We took our wedding photos in about three different sessions rather than everything the morning of the wedding and the wedding began at two in the afternoon.

O U R  B R I D A L  P A R T Y

The amazing people we’re blessed to have a part of our lives!

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte, “that in itself is a tremendous thing.” -E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

The day of the wedding my walking wasn’t very good. The photo shoot and rehearsal the evening before had maxed me out and I was “pulling”. I had two very amazing personal attendants and my Aunt Marta insisted I stay in my wheelchair. She was conserving my strength and I do believe that played a huge part in my being able to walk down the aisle.

watching guest arrive from the quiet of the bridal suite


O U R  C E R E M O N Y

It was important to Joe & I that our ceremony would be a time of honoring God. Throughout our relationship we were keenly aware of God’s leading.  Joe & I are committed to this marriage for life. Divorce is not an option for us. The only way this is possible, is for us to keep our focus on God and maintain a relationship with Him. And so we wanted the focus of our ceremony to be on God’s unconditional love for us and our commitment to Him as Christians.

I’m finding that I can understand a little more of God’s love for me when I see how Joe loves me. My diseases don’t deter him. To him my limitations are just another way for him to show his love. Even when I’m upset and don’t know why he just stays calm and works through things with me and makes me laugh. How did I get so blessed?

One of my favorite songs that was sung by my talented cousins at our wedding was My God, I Thank Thee by Adelaide A. Procter

My God, I thank Thee, who hast made
The earth so bright,
So full of splendor and of joy,
Beauty and light;
So many glorious things are here,
Noble and right.

I thank Thee, too, that Thou hast made
Joy to abound;
So many gentle thoughts and deeds
Circling us round,
That in the darkest spot of earth
Some love is found.

I thank Thee more that all our joy
Is touched with pain,
That shadows fall on brightest hours,
That thorns remain;
So that earth’s bliss may be our guide,
And not our chain.

For thou who knowest, Lord, how soon
Our weak heart clings,
Hast given us joys, tender and true,
Yet all with wings;
So that we see gleaming on high
Diviner things.

I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast kept
The best in store;
We have enough, yet not too much
To long for more:
A yearning for a deeper peace
Not known before.

I thank Thee, Lord, that here our souls
Though amply blessed,
Can never find, although they seek
A perfect rest;
Nor ever shall, until they lean
On Jesus’ breast.

We did not enter the sanctuary until it was time for the vows. Rather our bridal party watched the ceremony with us in another room via live video. It was very special and a lot less nerve wracking than sitting up front the whole time! Our Mennonite wedding ceremonies are a worship service and are typically an hour long.

This was actually OUR wedding!!

And suddenly it was time for the big moment!

…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.


and we are… Mr & Mrs Bontrager!

And I WALKED! I needed my back supported so I wouldn’t pull back too far… those of you familiar with dystonia will notice the classic dystonia pull. Just after this photo Joe decided it was enough walking and picked me up. =)


 T H E  C E L E B R A T I O N

We missed a very important person that day… he tried to come, but health prevented the six hour trip. We kept his seat reserved, cause no one can take Eddie’s place!


Our wedding meal consisted of belizean rice & beans with ricardo chicken. Going back to our roots, you might say, as Joe & I spent 6 simultaneous childhood years in the small country of Belize. And never met! We had wonderful cooks, Ken & Rosie Kratzer. They outdid themselves! The food was amazing!

And the flowers! I can’t forget them! I loved my flowers! A dear lady by the name of Leona Beiler agreed to do my flowers. She had never done flowers for a wedding before, but she is quite talented and really should get into the business! Not only did she do an amazing job with the flowers but she pitched in, doing whatever she saw needed to be done. She took responsibility for printing the cards for the vases of flowers we took to the hospital after the wedding and also made sure the flowers got rearranged in the thrift store vases we’d found for that purpose immediately after the reception. She is a jewel… that one!  And of course, Casey, who found the last minute flowers and made the long run to Greenville to pick them up! Bless her dear heart!

There was a small room off the the main reception area where I took several breaks from the crowd. It wasn’t too bad really… at least while people were seated. our table was back and away from the crowd which helped.


 T H E  P O R T R A I T S

and us…

03_JAWED_CSmucker-211 (1133x1700)He hath made every thing beautiful in his time. Ecclesiates 3:11 

This verse meant a lot to me during our engagement as I thought about marrying my best friend, the man I love!

Another song sung at our wedding:

In His time, In His Time
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord please show me every day
As You’re teaching me Your way
That You do just what You say
In Your time.

In Your time, In Your Time
You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord my life to You I bring
May each song I have to sing
Be to you a lovely thing
In Your time.

…you will forever be my always…


Sick Computers

28 08 2014

I take technology for granted. Perhaps I am too dependent on it.

My computer started acting very strange. First of all it slowed down. Way down. Every thing took a long time to do.

Then it began blanking out randomly.

The poor thing would try to carry out my demands, but kept sending me error messages saying there wasn’t enough room on the scratch disks to perform the task. I would delete files and clear as much memory as possible and it would work again for a short time and then inexplicably the 300 gb would be full again. But there was only about 60 gb of files stored on the computer.

I took my computer to get checked out as it was beyond my fixing abilities. I felt sad leaving him there. I use my computer for so many of my hobbies and jobs.

Joe called and I told him I felt as though I’d left a part of me behind. He said, “Well, come on home, I’m waiting for you!”

“I didn’t mean you,” I said. “I meant my computer.”


The computer tech said there was a worm that was just writing away… filling up my hard drive with lots of nothing and we had no choice but to wipe the whole thing.

But we are now on the mend and it’s time to dig my programs out from among the boxes that house the over abundance of things we call “our stuff” and start re-installing. Fun.

Hopefully I’ll be back and blogging with a little more regularity. And that wedding post was in progress when the computer went to the shop… i’ll try to get it out asap!


Pre-Wedding Blessings

26 07 2014

Well, It’s past time to post! My married friends told me that life after the wedding doesn’t exactly slow down. I didn’t quite believe them, but now I do!

In the past 5 weeks since we returned from our honeymoon in Florida, we’ve had two elderly members of our church pass away, been on two trips and finally moved into our own little house on Barnett Road.

I do believe, however that things have finally slowed down. We are enjoying a Saturday at home and I told Joe I absolutely MUST post today!

Last weekend we spent four days in Texas thanks to the generosity of Paul Beachy who purchased tickets for us. Joe’s Parents and three of his siblings departed on Monday for Guatemala for another two year term in mission work. They are driving a bus down through Mexico. We were so glad to be able to spend some time with them.


Maria & Andrew provided us with entertaining conversation.

I received my wedding photos and I’m so excited to show them to you! but first I’d like to give you a peek into our life the few weeks and days leading up to the event. The majority of photo credits in this post go to Rosemary Wagler & Bradlyn Wagler.

There was the invitation stuffing/addressing party. The whole family was involved including Alex. There were numerous other details being worked on as time allowed.

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Joe moved to South Carolina the first of May and began tearing into the house. Several work crews came and my mom graciously fed and hosted them all. About two weeks before the wedding, Joe’s family came from Guatemala & Texas. Jason, Joe’s dad, began building our cabinets and his mom and sisters painted the entire trailer! Then they cleaned it. And would you believe that I was so consumed with wedding details that I didn’t get any photos of all that hard work?! Here’s a photo of Joe spraying the primer on the walls.


As the wedding day drew near more people started showing up and our to-do list somehow never got shorter!

These two very dear girls came the Sunday before our wedding and literally saved the day! They just jumped in and helped me sort out what was necessary and what wasn’t and found solutions for would be disasters… every girl should have friends like these to share the pre-wedding jitters!


meet Arlene & Rosalie

My Aunt Jan came the week of the wedding and did the cooking, cleaning, washing and I’m sure a host of other things we never found out about!


My cousins helped in dozens of practical ways! These folks and my sisters, worked like crazy to give me an amazing wedding! God bless them!

We made flower balls… it may have been cheaper than real flowers but it was hours and hours of work! Joe’s sisters, my cousins & youth girls came one day to work on them.


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We even worked on them one evening when my family and Joe’s family went out to the lake…


And then there were the flowers… I ordered most of my flowers from Sam’s Club with excellent results! On time delivery and gorgeous flowers… no this isn’t a review. *grin* They too required some care. The girls enjoyed the real flowers a lot more than the t-shirt rosettes!


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However, I ordered spray roses from another online florist. The flowers arrived late. we could work with that. We had twelve hours till Leona needed them. BUT… Do these look like spray roses to you? Yeah, me neither. A sad fact. image12AAAAA! I’m a bride who spent quite a bit of time finding a wallet-friendly bouquet that I liked.

The company demanded a photo to prove they were not spray roses and said they would ship more but they wouldn’t arrive on time. We called several places but no one had the amount I needed and of course the price would be too high anyway!  I sent out a quick text to a friend who can somehow always find things or figure out a solution and my sister and I began googling bridal bouquets using the flowers we had… several minutes later my phone rang and it was Casey. “How many did you need?” She asked. I gave her the number of stems and she replied, “Ok, I found a florist that has them and I’ll have them there tomorrow.” I burst into tears! “It’s your wedding!” She said in response to my thanks. “I can’t believe they screwed up your order!”

Now flowers do not make a wedding. I would have been just as happily married and I know Leona would have done an amazing job creating a bouquet without those spray roses. But I’m glad God worked out that little detail.

Following are photos of the, may I say “organized chaos” that was our home the two days prior to the wedding…

We had groups of people out picking Queen Anne’s lace by the road side, folks cutting and tying together programs, last minute sewing and Marta made a diagram of the reception as a reference for the cooks & servers.


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*photo credit C. Smucker Photography*

This is just a glimpse of all that happened those few weeks. So many people pitched in and helped, I could never name them all! But one couple I must mention is Zach & Crystal Funk. They flew in on Wednesday and WORKED hard the few days they were here. They saw work and did it. They took responsibility for different projects and we didn’t worry about it any more.

All in all… yes it was a stressful time for me. But I had family & friends to take care of things. I wasn’t feeling well the last several days before and actually only briefly saw the reception set-up before the wedding. My friends and family did all of it. They had a few photos to go by as the general look that I wanted, but otherwise they did all the decorating and set-up.

Well Saturday is almost over, and I have yet to finish this post!

I’ll leave you with one final photo…


*photo credit C. Smucker Photography*


Twenty-One Days

27 06 2014

Twenty one days ago I said, “I Do” and became Mrs. Bontrager.

It was a wonderful day!

God answered my prayers and I WALKED up the aisle! I used my wheelchair for most of the day, but I did walk up the aisle. While my walking wasn’t the greatest, I did feel well enough to enjoy the day.

I can’t wait to tell you about the rest of the day and show you more photos when I get them! I had the best photographer out there!

I’m also working on a post to let you know about all the details prior to the wedding! SO MANY people just pitched in and helped pull off a wedding of which I could only dream! I have amazing family & friends!



27 06 2014

photoWell I’m in the Greenville ER again. But this time I’m not the patient, I’m on the support team. =) It’s a very different and good feeling not being the patient! But unfortunately someone else is.

I have this friend who has been very loyal the past. Esther’s been through an awful lot and knows more than most of us just what pain is. She had a shunt put in about 15 years ago and has had approximately 15 surgeries. She’s sat with me in the ER/hospital many times and is one of my role models! She just lives her life of pain without complaining and stays cheerful & accepting through it all. She has the gift of serving and will do anything for you. The days before my wedding she worked like crazy, even though she wasn’t feeling well and then on Sunday she ended up in the ER when her headache spun out of control. Now 3 weeks later we are back again… Something isn’t right and she needs help!

So here we sit, my mom, Esther & I… all the familiar things… the IV, the different scans and tests they like to do in the ER and the waiting… the L.O.N.G. wait.

Perhaps, depending on how long this wait is, I’ll get a post written to update you on the events leading up to one of the best days of my life.

I’m In Love…

11 05 2014

…with peach orchards in the spring and a certain guy who makes them romantic.








Thanks to Heidi Mast Photography for being flexible and doing a wonderful job! Check our wedding website for a lot more photos from this session! The password is: june.

Four weeks ago was my cousin Amanda’s wedding and I was very honored to be a bridesmaid. Amanda has a few health issues also and so their wedding ceremony was adapted to fit her needs which made it easier for me as well. So after being in this wedding, I have a much better idea of how to plan for my own day in white.

I spent some time on the phone with my dear doctor the other week and we have a plan to put into action that will hopefully help me to feel well on my wedding day.

It’s only 26 days away!!! And I’m excited!




Counting Down

25 03 2014

The days are slipping past faster and faster. So much to do and my brain feels a little muddled with trying to keep it all straight! Right now it seems that if it doesn’t have something to do with school or wedding then it just doesn’t happen. And blogging has been one of those things that just hasn’t happened.

I received feedback via email after my last blog post and I was touched with the way you opened your hearts. This seems to be a struggle so many of us face and I was encouraged to hear your thoughts and how God is working in your lives. Thank you for blessing me!

Health wise things have been rather up and down. I got a cold a while back and it took awhile for things to level out again. I was doing fairly well for a bit and then for some reason I began feeling sick and triggering randomly again. This past week has been a lot better! PTL! We took our engagement photos yesterday in some gorgeous peach orchards and everything went fine and NORMAL! =) We did have to adjust the time because of the low temperatures in the morning, but God blessed us with comfortable, non-triggering weather and a very accommodating photographer. And I can’t wait to see the photos!

There has been lots of activity my corner of the world!

Planning a wedding that allows for health needs is interesting. There are many different things to consider and everyone has an idea of what could make things easier. I’m very thankful for my mom’s calm logic and for the way my family doesn’t pressure me into feeling I need to have as “normal” a wedding as possible. We’re just going to try to be realistic, have a plan B and take things as they come.

We emailed our save the dates a few weeks ago. There have been so many people who have touched our lives whom we’d love to invite but we’d like to keep the wedding as small as possible. However, so many of you blog followers have rejoiced with us and we’d like to share our wedding website with you. Click here or enter www.weddingwire.com/andreaNjoe to view it. The password is: june.

Two weeks ago my sisters and mom hosted a bridal shower for me. They did an amazing job with an around the clock theme. Each guest was given a time of day and their gift was to reflect whatever they thought I would be doing at that time. People were very generous & creative and I received so many practical gifts!

I was so honored by the presence of everyone who came and it was hard to know who to talk with next! Most of my students, past & present, of the female gender were present and sang a song. It was very special to have them there. Unfortunately the photos were disturbed while in the card reader and now refuse to be seen. I’m hoping to be able to recover them and if so, I will add them to this post at that time. So check back later!

My friend Kristen Hooks came for the shower and for part of the following day. She helped me to organized the huge pile of shower gifts and we brainstormed on ways to fix up the trailer Joe & I bought and put on a piece of land a few minutes from my parents.

Last week, four of Joe’s friends, along with my Uncle Phil & family came from NC for the weekend to give us some help with the trailer. A few of the guys were there to work on Friday, but Saturday was the main day. My family and a few other others from around here were there to lend a hand.

Here is what the trailer looked like on the lot when we bought it. Charmingly ugly with lots of potential.

photo 5

Soon after it was placed on our lot, my family went over to see it. There were no steps and so dad stacked some cement blocks for us to use as stairs. Later as we drove out the lane, Alex’s little voice called out comfortingly, “Don’t worry Andrea! We will build some steps for you!”

The floors all need to be redone, the walls are yellow & ceilings brown from their former owners smoking habits and the cabinets need to be replaced. So a whole lot of energy went into sprucing up the outside and tearing out the inside! Joe and I were amazed at how much was accomplished!!

They put the skirting on, painted the ugly red to match it and sealed the roof. We’re very pleased with how it turned out and several neighbors even stopped by to give their approval. It’s amazing what a little paint and elbow grease can do for a place! I’m thinking a blue front door would be a nice touch but we’ll see. =) They also ripped out all the flooring, cabinetry and trim. They even scraped the ceilings of their browned popcorn.

Now we’re ready for the fun stuff like painting and new flooring ect. We owe a lot to these folks and are so grateful for the boost they gave us!

Now look at the difference 15 pairs of helping hands can make!

Saturday morning before they started.

Saturday morning before they started.


Erica is the painting expert of the family and spent hours getting the trim painted.

Erica is the painting expert of the family and spent hours getting the trim painted.


He's done a lot of work to find a home for us and get it livable. I'm proud of him!

He’s worked hard to find a home for us and get it livable. I’m proud of him!

My brothers, Brad & Aaron and also my sister Rozi scraped the ceilings.

My brothers, Brad & Aaron and also my sister Rozi scraped the ceilings. A very dusty job!

ripping out the cabinets in the kitchen.

ripping out the cabinets in the kitchen.


My local aunts brought lunch for everyone.

My local aunts brought a delicious lunch for everyone.







The finished product at the end of the day.

The finished product at the end of the day.

I wielded a paint brush for a fraction of the time, but the ladders made me a bit too dizzy so I mostly sat and watched or walked around documenting the event with my camera. It’s an overwhelming feeling to watch so many people tackle a project like this and know that it’s because they care about you. Joe & I are so blessed!

That evening the young people played volley ball and Joe and I went to watch. It had been such a long time since I had played and it looked so fun! Joe & I had never played together before… and what young Mennonite dating couple hasn’t played volley ball together? So I played. =) And it was fun even if it was a short, slow paced game. I knew I’d trigger, which I did about 15 minutes after I stopped playing, but it was worth it. My mom was rather surprised at me and I think I probably won’t make a habit of involving myself much more than cheering from the sidelines.

There are only six and a half weeks of school left! My students are so much fun! They are so involved in my life. They like to know what’s going on with the house and when I took them over to see it one day they were running from one end of the l.o.n.g. trailer to the other exclaiming over different features. They have claimed the guest room. Literally. In fact, one little girl went home and told her mom, in all seriousness, that in “our” room the closet has two doors. =) We also got to watch them drill the well which was especially interesting for my 2nd grade boy. They keep tabs on how much longer it is until the wedding and we’re just all excited together.

It’s 73 days and counting down! =)

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