My Son :: The Honorary Mennonite Woman

When I accepted the offer to join the staff of Mennonite Women USA little did they know they were getting a 2-for-1 deal. Two DeBerg’s for the price of one! What a steal.

Harold has been my faithful office partner while I work from my home in Minneapolis and do all the Timbrel editing, correspondence, proofing, designing and communications my job requires. I could not have designed a better situation like the one I find myself in with Mennonite Women USA. This is an organization that is respectful of where women find themselves.

I was determined to be with my son and continue breastfeeding while working. It has been a wonderful and wild journey working alongside my son for Mennonite Women USA. He has been with me to all our staff retreats, conferences, convention and even Women in Conversation.

I can guarantee you I’ve written emails with a nursing baby on my lap. I promise you I have taken a phone call from Ruth trying to whisper during the whole conversation so I wouldn’t wake my sleeping beauty. I was 15 minutes late to a call once with Lois because I had fallen asleep while nursing Harold down for a nap. When I finally called her and apologized she said, “Oh, that’s wonderful. You need to nap. Good for you.”

I am just so supported by this organization in both my gifts but also my family life. It is a risk for businesses and organizations to allow people to work remotely. Will they get the work done? Will they be honest with their time? Are they wearing pajamas on this call? I can answer all of those questions for myself: Yes. Yes. Yes.

But here is the thing…Harold stopped nursing at 2 and a half. And now there are other people in my house (ahem husband, daughter) who can put him down to sleep (oh the freedom!) and for the first time I am not bringing Harold along with me to the MW USA Staff Retreat and board meeting in a few weeks. My heart is a little lonesome for my dear travel companion.

So for a fun little change, here is a picture tour that will explain why Harold is an honorary Mennonite Woman:

Here he is under my desk with the box of Timbrel I received from the previous editor:


And as a side note I work from a closet office I created to be close to where Harold slept. See my little Timbrel in the basket on the left? That’s where the latest issue always sits because I constantly refer to it:


Then I created my first official MW USA t-shirt to surprise the staff I would be meeting for the first time:

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And I brought Harold along with me to The Hermitage (the Mennonite Retreat House in Michigan) where our first staff retreat was held. There is all this beautiful land to explore:


Then we had meetings in Elkhart so I had to meet up with my friend, Joanna Shenk at the MC USA headquarters where she walked me through the work of the Women in Leadership Project:

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Did I mention I brought my parents with me so they could care for Harold while I was retreating and meeting? They are the best ever. The put in lots of Harold Time so I could engage fully in my meetings. Here are Grammy and Poppy shopping at a store in Indiana.

IMG_2233 2Here is Harold on the AMBS campus playground where I met with our stellar copy proofer, Rosalie:

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Harold was exhausted from all the meetings, too:

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Next MW USA work trip? Phoenix convention. Harold was ready to take the Mennos by storm:

IMG_2790If you were at the Phoenix convention you will remember these escalators. We spent an ungodly amount of time on these escalators:

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Back home he would sit beside me while I worked and play with one of our Sister Care notecards saying, “Pretty Red Mama, Pretty Yellow Mama…”


Our next adventure was the Anabaptist Communicators Conference in Bluffton, Ohio. My mom met me there and played Super Grammy while I attended seminars and meetings. Here’s Harold playing with yet another hotel phone:

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Next stop? The Women Doing Theology Conference (naturally). Harold fell asleep on the cab ride over so I stationed myself in the conference center lobby and greeted familiar faces while this hot pocket slept on my chest:

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This time Aunt Jennifer was my helper. She helped get Harold dropped off at the childcare room, she read endless books and blew endless bubbles:

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Harold and I were back at The Hermitage a year later for the next MW USA Staff Retreat…back in his favorite field of grasses. He loves it there:

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The meetings were energizing yet exhausting:


Here I have my Sister Care t-shirt on for our Staff Retreat (and a little Harold who is out cold):

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This staff retreat only my mom could come…but boy did those two have long hiking adventures and story time and playtime. IMG_5061 2Again Mennonite Women USA meetings put Harold to sleep (I’m kidding of course, it was all that wonderful fresh air!):

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We headed to Goshen for the annual board meeting and Harold returned to his favorite nursery at Silverwood Mennonite Church:

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He’s a good little traveler…it helps that he adores airplanes right now…there is never a problem getting him to get excited about another trip to the airport:


In the spring Harold and I attended the Women in Conversation Retreat held in Kansas. This time the family constellation was my sister, Jennifer (as the keynote speaker) and my mom as a participant. It was windy and warm and wonderful:



Plus Harold got to reconnect with his friend, Berni. They go way back:


But now our traveling days for MW USA are over (though we are all headed to convention this summer). In the meantime he’ll snuggle in the prayer shawl I was gifted by the MW USA board. He loves it as much as I do and asks often if I’d wrap him in a burrito with it:


For now while Harold isn’t traveling for MW USA he is back to what he loves most: baking. This boy loves to bake. I hardly do anything in this realm anymore. Muffins, pies, cookies, breads, pizza dough, lefse…this child is all over it:






And I’m so grateful to Mennonite Women USA for allowing me the freedom to work for this amazing organization AND be with my Sweet Boy. Looks like I’m getting the two-for-one deal!

PS: I love you so, Harold (and someday I’ll show you this travel log that tracks your honorary membership as a Mennonite woman…you’ve put in the time, after all):

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14 thoughts on “My Son :: The Honorary Mennonite Woman

  1. Carolyn Heggen on said:

    Love this article! Thank you for sharing your sweet journey as a mother to Harold and a dedicated staff member of MWUSA. I wish all mothers were able to so gracefully and effectively combine their multiple roles. I’m glad Mennonite Women has supported you on this journey. Hugs to Harold!

  2. Awww, loved this and all the memories it brought back of my little ones traveling with me to various meetings over the years. One time I was doing a seminar at the Mennonite Church convention and had a 2 year old sleeping under the presenter table. No one was the wiser. Lots more memories. I’m sure you will miss Harold on your trips and your special connection time. Great post.

  3. Claire, what a beautiful tribute to Harold, to yourself, of course, for creatively figuring out how to accomplish your professional and personal goals, and to MW USA for gifting us with your energy and vision. We will miss Harold at retreat and board meeting. Give him a hug from his MW USA friends.

  4. Rhoda Keener on said:

    Oh my Claire. We are truly fortunate to have Harold as part of our honorary staff. I will miss him too at the staff retreat. Thanks for this delightful travelogue. We love having you on staff and of course your little helper too. Rhoda

  5. Denise Nickel on said:

    What a lovely choreographed story! We will take Harold as an honorary Mennonite Women USA member anytime. We’re so blessed to have Claire with her many gifts, along with her treasured Harold, and support of her husband and daughter, to boot!

  6. Marilyn Kamp on said:

    Yes, what a blessing you have received while you have served God where He has called. It is a great example of a faith community support at work (and play). Thanks for telling Harold’s story of his journey with Mennonite Women. Bless him.

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