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Posted on Jul 28, 2014 in Devotional, Love, Spiritual Life, Wisdom | 4 comments

A Prophetic Word?

A Prophetic Word?

 

Sometimes I find it hard to believe my life these days.

 

Charlie - 3 months

Charlie – 3 months

There are times when it seems like every single little thing I ever wanted in life has been handed to me on a silver platter.  I look around in wonder and stop for a minute to lift my hands in praise to God.  I wonder if it’s somehow wrong to be so blessed and happy.

 

Other days I get out of sorts and frustrated with less glamorous aspects of life.  At times children may be impressive little destroyers, husbands may forget to speak tenderly, extended family and friends may disappoint, and there may even be an unrecognizably puffy, middle-aged, graying woman staring back in the mirror – but isn’t that just the stuff of life?  It’s not a perfect life, but the frustrating and difficult days are much fewer than the good ones.

 

I’m a stay-at-home mom whose husband works from home and is also able to be around much of the time.  Rick often works long hours, but he can typically set his own schedule and work around the needs of our family.  God has gifted us with two little blessings who are now 19-months old and 3-months old.  They’re very close in age because we weren’t sure how many years of fertility we had left, so we figured we’d better get it done.  They are light and joy to us.

 

But taking care of two babies, plus trying to keep the house up, cook meals, manage the farm books, volunteer at church, spend time with friends, exercise, shower regularly, and squeeze in time for writing just can’t all be done well by one person.  At least not THIS person…  As helpful as Rick and his parents are, they have other responsibilities too.

 

Our wonderful helper

Our wonderful helper

Thankfully, we were able to bring in someone to help out with the housework and the kids.  She stays with us three nights a week and is a tremendous blessing.  I know I could make it work without her, but having her around means that our household is much more peaceful.  Chores are done, children are nurtured, and we’re all fairly well-rested.  It makes a huge difference – the difference between surviving and thriving!  I’ve been encouraged by the model of a godly woman in Proverbs 31.  Verse 15 says that she has servants.  This amazing woman in the Bible doesn’t do it all herself!

 

As I was puttering around the house this morning, wondering in awe at the beauty of God’s redemptive work in my life during this season, I was reminded of something I still don’t completely understand.  There was a couple who came to our church and ministered to the church staff one day.  They didn’t know us.  Our pastor knew them and trusted them.  When he told us what was going to happen that day, I burred up inside.  I was skeptical and just the tiniest bit hopeful.

 

The couple that came to our staff meeting are prophetic ministers.  Hearing that they were coming to pray over us individually and to give prophetic words to us as they heard God speak filled me with mixed emotions.  I grew up in a Charismatic church and have seen prophecy used to manipulate people’s emotions, have seen those who claim prophetic gifts be completely wrong, and have seen the rare occasion when it raises the hair on the back of my neck and proves true.  I’d often longed to have someone give me a prophetic word from God, some inkling that He knew my situation and wanted to speak to me, but there had been very few.

 

When this couple began to pray and speak over my co-workers, my defenses started to come down.  They seemed to know intimate, personal details about them that couldn’t be fabricated.  How did they know that my co-worker was a potter and an illustration from God about pottery would mean so much to her?  Over and over they accurately spoke about the person they prayed over.

 

When they came to me, I was ready to hear what they had to say, hopeful that they would tell me and all my co-workers that I was going to be mighty in the kingdom of God.  (Yes, I admit that was what I wanted to hear.)  I hoped to hear I’d have a ministry greater than Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore.  God does say “exceedingly, abundantly”, doesn’t He?

 

Instead, they told me my past.  They told me the place in my heart that was aching.  They told me how I thought the things that had gone wrong in the last few years were my fault and that I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I could’ve done differently.  Then they told me there was nothing I could’ve done differently.  God was working things out in me, making some adjustments, and nothing I’d done was a surprise to Him.  I was exactly where He wanted me to be.

 

Then they told me about my future.  Their eyes bored into my soul and they saw that I was terrible at receiving, preferring to give to others.  I had no idea how to receive and was often suspicious of those who wanted to give to me.  And while the Bible says it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), it also says that God will cause us to receive blessings from others – a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.  (Luke 6:38)

 

The word I was given was that I was going to learn to receive, and that I would find it wasn’t weakness but just openness to God.  They encouraged me to take the time I’d been given in my current season to press into the Lord and get to know Him more.  Without realizing how much I love butterflies, they compared me to a caterpillar in a cocoon, soon to be released as a butterfly.

 

I did as they said.  I pressed into God’s presence, spending time in Scripture, fasting, praying, and ordering my life around Christ.  I received one other prophetic word in the months that followed – received it from several people who had not spoken to one another about it.  They all told me that the answer to my prayers was already there, like it was in the shadows of the room, just waiting to step forward and be seen.  I was told to be still and stop struggling.

 

DSC_0588All my attempts at wrestling my life into the mold I had in mind for myself stopped at that point.  Obediently, I became still and stopped struggling.  Everything seemed to turn upside down, but I waited like I’d been told.  Rick finally stepped out of the shadows of my life and claimed me as his bride.  He became the person God used to provide for me.  Through his love and through the covenant of marriage we made together, blessings from God have poured into my life.  I have become a grateful receiver.

 

My aspirations to become a big deal have melted away as I’ve stepped into my role as wife and mother – a big deal to the three people God has given me to love and nurture.  The experience of waiting in stillness, aware that nothing I was able to do on my own could bring me one step closer to God’s plan for my life, has taught me to relax into what God is doing NOW in me.  If God has other plans for me at a later point in life, it’s His job to bring them about.  Not mine.  I have learned to walk in obedience and to believe that He is working out the details.

 

Sometimes fear tries to creep in, whispering that I shouldn’t get too comfortable because it could all be taken from me in a moment.  Whispering that I’m not doing enough with my education, that I’m supposed to be striving to BECOME SOMEONE.  While I know that nothing is ever guaranteed, I refuse to let fear rule my life.  For the time I have my precious husband and these beautiful children, I will soak up every moment with gratitude and praise.  If everything I’ve been given is ripped from me tomorrow, I will deal with that sorrow then.  During this season of my life, I will joyfully change diapers, wipe noses, sing silly songs, give lots of hugs and kisses, and teach everything I can to these sweet little treasures.

 

For today I choose to wrap my arms around the amazing little loves that call me mama, give all I can back to the gracious man who calls me wife, and shine with all the love I’m receiving.

 

Thank You, God, for the many blessings You’ve given me.  Thank You, thank You, thank You.

 

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Posted on Jun 2, 2014 in Wisdom | 2 comments

Never, Never Ever

Never, Never Ever

 

“You’re gonna hear me roar.”

My six-year old niece was belting out these lyrics over the weekend during her visit to the farm.  She got to meet our little Charlie for the first time and spent time playing with our delighted daughter.  It was amazing to see the cousins playing together and to finally not be the childless, perpetually-renting, penniless, over-educated, unmarried aunt.  Praise Jesus!

My sweet niece loves to sing as much as I do.  She can memorize song lyrics in a flash.  I’m enamored with her charm.  She’s growing up in South Carolina and has a cute little southern accent.  She calls her mother Mama.  She’s beautiful and talented, quick to give a hug, unaware of both misogynists and feminists.

And she has no problem speaking her mind.  She’s growing up in a culture that tells her to roar – to share her opinion openly and to not let anyone silence her.  But she’s also growing up in the American south, where she’ll likely receive the dual message that a young woman is supposed to be at all times charming, gracious, and never, never ever to offend.

Having spent the first part of my life in Ohio, I claim dual citizenship to both the Midwest and the south.  From the ages of 13-36 I lived in the south.  Once married, I found myself back in Ohio.

I love the south and felt like I was in some ways rescued when we moved there.  We left rural life in a matter-of-fact farming community for a genteel southern city, full of beauty and charm.  I cherish the time I had in the land of warm weather and hydrangeas.  It helped shape me into the woman I’ve become and I’m thankful for it.

But I picked up on a dangerous idea there.  It slowly seeped in and altered the way I view myself.  Women are to be soft, quiet, always smiling, and never, never ever to cause offense.  Even if you have very good reason not to like a person, you never let them know.  If you’re seething inside, you smile and say, “Bless his heart; he doesn’t realize what he’s done.”  Very rarely do you confront, say anything unseemly, or talk about how much something costs.  It’s all about grace and charm.

Grace and charm are nice ideas and it’s understandable that they’re valued and taught.  But the way I interpreted the lessons I was taught did not serve me well.  I’ve spent many years biting my tongue, holding myself back.  And God-forbid I ever out-shine a man!  Any strides I made toward finding my voice and speaking my truth have met with smilingly vicious slaps right back down.  At times the hand holding me down was so sweet and gracious that I didn’t see it for what it was, misinterpreted what happened for God’s hand of correction.

Into this environment I’ve been finding my voice as a writer.  I’ve been educating myself with whatever books and resources I can get my hands on, attempting to learn what I can during these years where it’d be very difficult to focus on formal education.  I’ve been writing, writing, writing.  But what I haven’t been doing for the past two years is actually posting or attempting to publish most of what I’ve been writing.  I often seem to run out of steam somewhere around ¾ of the way through, save the document, and never return to it again.  It starts to feel like gravel in my mouth and I lose my urge to communicate.

I’ve been blaming it on baby-brain.  I lose focus because a baby is crying for me or all I can think about is my babies.  But is that really all of it?

The book I’m slowly poking my way through these days hit a nerve with me a few months ago.  Julia Cameron, the author, suggested that I’m running out of steam because I’m not writing the truth.  I’m afraid the truth won’t be received well, so I’m changing it.  Trying to make it more palatable.  I’m trying to be above all gracious, charming, and to never, never ever cause offense.

I was working on a blog about disciplining our daughter.  There are times when we spank her.  We don’t abuse her.  We remove her from the situation if at all possible, but she’s a stubborn little angel.  There are times when that doesn’t work and all the attempts at redirection are failures.  The only way to get her attention is with a spank on the hand or through her diaper on her little bottom.  We don’t enjoy hitting our little sweetheart, but we also don’t want her to be a brat.  We’re willing to do the hard thing in order to achieve the long-term results we’re hoping for – a respectful and obedient child who understands authority.

I didn’t feel like I could write that in my blog though.   I didn’t want to offend those who are against spanking.  I really didn’t want to sort through angry comments about how I was causing injury to my precious daughter.  So I tried to write about all the ways we attempt to redirect her and remove her from the situation and how stubborn she can be.  In the end I gave up.  I realized I lost passion for the article because I wasn’t telling the truth, but I didn’t want to tell the truth.  I didn’t want to deal with disagreements.  I wimped out.

And then my six-year old niece roared into my world over the weekend.  God bless that precious child.  (And her mother who has no problem saying to me, “You need a better bra.”)  What am I so afraid of?  Controversy?  That someone might decide they don’t like me?

How can someone like me if they don’t know me? 

I don’t want to be that mealy-mouthed woman.  I don’t want to be the woman standing before God one day trying to explain myself…

…God, I know You gave me a voice to speak the truth.  But there were these folks who got offended when I spoke up in a meeting.  There were these men who went behind closed doors when I wasn’t around and changed the plans I’d been told to make, making my work meaningless.  There were people who didn’t like it when I knew more than they did about something.  They told me to be quiet, then attributed my ideas to a man…

I felt like God’s presence entered my car as I was driving, settled in around me, and poked at my heart.  He hasn’t asked me to keep quiet, to be soft and inoffensive.  Who was more of an offense than Jesus?  And I’m to model my life after His?

Through prickly tears, I gave myself the time I needed to absorb the idea.  I wondered how I can expect my niece and my daughter to speak their minds when I’m not willing to share my honest opinions.  (Becoming a mother is challenging me in so many ways.)

As it always seems it is when God has a message for me that rocks my little world, He’s been dropping it into my lap a little at a time here and there for a while.  It’s just taken me some time to accept it.  He wants me to use the voice He’s given me to share the things on my heart, whether they cause offense or not.

I took some time to pray about how I might handle it when I receive the push-back I fully expect to receive.  I’ve been operating under the policy that I keep my mouth shut (and do things my own way) in an attempt to keep the peace with others for so long that it’s going to be a big adjustment for me to open my mouth and speak/write what I feel.  I believe God will guide me in those times and give me wisdom to handle the dissent.  I’m going to try to stay open to other’s ideas and accept the possibility that my ideas may be in need of correction.  And I’m going to try very, very hard not to get hurt and shut down when others roar back. 

I’ve set my mind to embrace the discussion and not allow myself to become offended when others disagree with me.

You might want to put in some ear plugs, my friends.  Otherwise, you’re going to hear me roar.

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Posted on Oct 21, 2013 in Wisdom | 1 comment

A Little Note

 

This morning I decided to do a writing exercise I’ve been thinking about for a few days.  I modified it from a suggestion I found in Julia Cameron’s book, “The Right to Write.”  To gain some perspective on my current situation, I was to write a letter to myself, using my imagination to write it from the perspective of my 88-year old self.  Fifty years from now, what would I want to say to myself at 38-year old?

I like the exercise because I’ve written letters to my younger self, telling her what I wish she would’ve known back then.  Usually the letter is reassuring and encouraging, with a little touch of reprimand.  Don’t worry so much about this or that.  Appreciate this or that more because you’ll miss it when it’s gone.  That kind of thing.

And so I embarked on a new kind of letter this morning.  I’m not going to share it with you here, but I let my imagination run unchecked.  What would it feel like to be in an 88-year old body?  What would my surroundings look like?  What smells would I encounter?  Sights?  Sounds?  Would I have regrets?  Would I have accomplishments I’d be proud of?  What can happen in fifty years?

My 88-year old imagined self was a great-grandmother, presiding over her brood on Thanksgiving Day.  She had achieved her goals.  She was encouraging, and had just an edge of challenge in her voice.  She had slowed down after a long and fruitful life.  She surprised me by immediately challenging my notion that I’m an older mom and might not have the energy to pull off a large family.  She told me I still have plenty of life, strength, and energy and I should tap into all of it.  I have plenty of time to feel old, but that’s not today.

She went on from there, looking back on her accomplishments and what it took to get there.  She reminded me that I have plenty of time to become all that I hope to be.  It was nice to think about things from that viewpoint, reminding myself that God has worked out amazing things in my life already and He isn’t about to stop now.

That’s one reason I love writing.  I never know what I think until I start to write.  Then what comes out tends to surprise me, even make me chuckle or shed a tear.  So I wrote a little note to myself this morning and it’s made my day.

Have you ever done something like that?  Would you consider doing it today?

 

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Posted on Oct 1, 2013 in Wisdom | 9 comments

The New Girl

The New Girl

When I moved from Nashville to the rural Midwest, even though I was returning to a place that was once home many years ago, it felt a little like walking into a fog. Everyone already knows everyone else. I’m one of the few new people around, so it’s easy for others to remember me. But I face a sea of new faces, names, connections, and stories. Even those faces I knew as a child have changed, and the memory I had of them at 12 years old isn’t exactly fresh. The shops aren’t the same, the roads are a logical sequence of numbers and letters (but I do better with street names), people talk about things I’ve never heard of, and no one knows about all the friends I have in the other place.

One of the most challenging things for me in these last 21 months of marriage and relocation has been making those connections – remembering the person I’ve just been introduced to when they walk away, learning who is related to who (very important around here), catching up on stories I know nothing about. It’s a terrible feeling when I run into someone whose face I know, engage in conversation, but find my mind totally blank when it comes to their name, circumstances, or even where I know them from. It seems rude to tell them I can’t place them and ask for a hint. Instead, I often nod and smile and move on as quickly as I can. It seems the people I actually know are the ones who are often so kind and helpful, taking a moment to remind me of their name and how we know one another.

Another challenge for me has been when someone I’m getting to know talks about the other people in their life. Brother, sister, friend, child… I’m doing really well to know their name, face, occupation, and spouse’s name, but I do not remember the names of most of the other people in their life. So when they off-offhandedly refer to “Susan” I politely listen for a while, straining to find something that will help me make the connection. But when that connection isn’t made, I will actually stop them and say, “Please remind me who Susan is?”

These frustrations make it hard because I have a wonderful group of friends in Nashville (see photo above) with whom I’ve made all the connections. When Shannan mentions Michael she doesn’t have to tell me anything else to identify him. When Pamela mentions Sally, I can picture Sally and her enormous dog. When Penny tells me about The Jerk, there’s no need for explanation. It makes me homesick sometimes, the knowledge that I need to start all over again. Where I could once walk into a room of hundreds and immediately be greeted by those who know me well, I now see faces I want to know but can’t quite place.

Walking into a new place where many people already know one another is intimidating. I’ve joined a local mom’s group and went to a few meetings last year. People were kind, but I didn’t make any connections outside of the group. I signed up to join summer play dates but wasn’t contacted about any. So when it started back up this fall it was hard for me to go. The idea of walking in there, trying to get to know someone new, trying to make friends, made me exhausted. But I’d already paid my membership fee in the Spring, so I forced myself to go. Thank God for the sweet woman who saw me coming and walked right up to find out how my summer went. Within a few minutes of talking to her, I was relaxed and ready to take on a table full of new faces. And after the meeting, I pulled together all my courage and looked those ladies up on Facebook, sending them all friend requests. Whew! I think I used up my stash of courage for at least a week doing all that.

Being the new girl is hard, even for someone who appears out-going and confident. The truth is, I’m shy when in a group of people who all know one another. It’s hard for me to branch out, work the room, and try to catch up on the conversations happening around me. I can only imagine how hard it must be for those who aren’t out-going.

I’ve been “the new girl” many times, and this location has been similar to all the ones before.  Not counting moves for college (where everyone is basically new), I’ve been the new girl at least eight times in my life.  It seems like it might get easier each time, but I’ve found it to be more difficult.  It seems my capacity to reach out shrinks with each move, causing me to embrace the part of me that’s shy and introverted and only pull out the extroverted, out-going side on occasion.  I see the beauty in the tight-knit communities of those who’ve lived and worked side by side for most of their lives.  I understand the risk it takes to invite someone new into your well-functioning, comfortable group of friends.  I don’t find fault with those who have closely guarded friendships and seek to preserve their peace and identity as a member of an inner-ring of companionship.

I’d just like to encourage all my readers – no matter where you live – to look around you as you plan your next shopping trip, play date, or bonfire. Are there people in your church, parenting group, or extended family that are new? Why not invite them to join your group of friends? It’ll be a little more work for you to help that person find their place, but you might just make a friend for life.  If it doesn’t work out, you don’t have to invite that person again.  But maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that the new person brings life and joy and dimension into your group that wasn’t possible otherwise.

Matthew 25:40
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

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Posted on Aug 20, 2013 in Wisdom | 0 comments

The Launch!

The Launch!

I recently attended a conference for Christian women who are writers, speakers, and leaders called She Speaks 2013.  It was an amazing experience for me and I learned so much!  I cannot say enough about this conference if you want to become a writer or speaker in the Christian market.

The main thing I gleaned from the conference is that good writing isn’t enough.

 A successful published author is someone with a real job, real responsibilities, and a real time-commitment. 

There is much more to it than writing well.

After discussing what I learned with my husband and his parents (who we farm with), we all agreed to work together to launch my writing career.  It’s a team effort to help me achieve these goals.

If you’d like to keep up with my daily work to become a published author, you can follow me on Twitter @wysekimberly

My Office, Complete with comfy chair, reference materials, computer, printer, file cabinet, and snack!

My Office, Complete with comfy chair, reference materials, computer, printer, file cabinet, and snack!

One of the first things I learned is that I need a better website.  I was very happy with my WordPress.com site, but having a hard time making it successful.  Once I understood what needed to change, I committed to do it.  This site is my work-in-progress. 

Please bear with me as I figure out how to go from total ignorance of websites to becoming an educated website owner.  It absolutely terrifies me!  As I’ve been working today to transfer the old blog information to this site, my face has been hot and fire-red.  I am stepping out of my comfort zone and challenging the limits of my blood pressure.

I’ll write more about the other changes I’m making as the time approaches.

I’ve been calling myself a writer for some time, but I finally have the tools and knowledge to become a published author.  Please whisper a prayer for me as you read these words.  I can use all the prayers I can get.  Thank you.

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Posted on Jul 18, 2013 in Parenting, Wisdom | 17 comments

Mennonite

Mennonite

Rick and I have had to overcome some major differences in lifestyle and point of view in order to be together. Because my father’s parents were farmers and my childhood vacations were often spent running around with cousins through pastures and barns, visiting the small, Mennonite church many of my close relatives attended, and observing a more simple lifestyle, I had an idea of what his life was like. My lifestyle in Nashville was much more foreign to him. Nearly all of Rick’s close relatives live within a few miles of his home, attend his traditional Mennonite church (erase horses and buggies from your mind now; it’s not Amish), and many are also farmers. My family had moved to the city when I was 13, left the Mennonite denomination to pastor independent, Charismatic churches, and had embraced an openness to that which is new and different. It became a way of life to us – trying new things, comparing them to how the old ways worked, trying other things, and coming to our own conclusions on what was the best way to live.

My very traditional, stable, steady husband isn’t always sure what to make of my ways of doing things. I often find myself frustrated at what seems to me is his determined support of something simply for the sake of tradition. I don’t embrace the new just for the sake of newness. I like to wait and see what other people discover, let them work out the kinks, and then determine if it’s worth my attention. However, if I’m called upon to tackle something new and different, I find a certain satisfaction and joy in that as well. Rick may well reject the newer, even after it’s been proven effective, simply because he doesn’t want to change.

What church we would commit to as a married couple was one of the major discussions and challenges we faced early on in our relationship. I’m a graduate of a seminary that has Pentecostal roots and have been ordained as a pastor in a non-denominational, spirit-filled church. Although Rick has visited churches like I’m used to, he has faithfully attended the Mennonite church of his childhood all his life and is very involved there. He told me he was willing to look at other churches with me if I felt I couldn’t be comfortable in his church, but asked me to at least give it a try. He spoke passionately about the kindness of the members, the love they show for one another, and the acceptance I would find there. We discussed our views on the gifts of the Spirit and Rick assured me that he was familiar with the way I practice my faith. Although he has never embraced the more mystical side, he believes it’s real and has no problem with me practicing and teaching it to our children.

I went to my pastor and asked him what he thought. I was almost positive he would tell me that Rick and I didn’t belong together. Shocked, I listened while he told me the good things he knew about the Mennonite denomination, assured me that there’s nothing to be concerned about in their doctrine, and encouraged me to go to Rick’s church and embrace it. My father’s family has been Mennonite for hundreds of years. My parents met at Eastern Mennonite University (then College).  I would simply be returning to the faith of my ancestors and discovering for myself the beauty in it.

Rick was right about his church. The people there have been loving, kind, accepting, gracious, and welcoming. They’ve embraced the gifts they see in me and encouraged me to get involved. They are open to new ways of doing things and even include contemporary worship in with the traditional hymns and prayers. Young people and families are encouraged to get involved. The elderly are respected and cared for. They are peace-loving people, opposed to war, and they send out missionaries to join in the work God is doing around the world and bless others who are in need. They won’t fight in a war, but they will go to the places that have been destroyed by war and help rebuild, showing the love of Christ to all they meet through their humble acts of service. They aren’t likely to hold a crusade, but they will build a home, dig a well, or provide medical treatment to the sick. When given an opportunity to share, they will do so with grace and dignity, inviting others to join them in serving the Lord. They believe strongly in social justice and the ability to change the world through the actions of one. Several families in our church have adopted children from foreign countries, are active in efforts to preserve our environment, and live simply in order to quietly give away large amounts of money to those who are in need.

As I’ve gotten to know how the congregation is run, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I had all these ideas from my studies in seminary about how a church should be run, but couldn’t seem to communicate them effectively enough to bring about change in any of the churches I’ve been involved in. Rick’s church does all those things and more, operating as a well-organized, primarily volunteer-led, grace-filled ministry.

How could my heart not be stirred as I worship with them, pray with them, and learn to love them? How could I hope to ever find such community and beauty anywhere else? How could I take my sweet, sometimes shy husband from that environment where he’s so comfortable and willing to get involved and ask him to start over, simply because I’m more comfortable with a church where people are more demonstrative in their worship?

And now we have a baby. What better place to raise a child than in a loving community, surrounded by family? And will Eliana and her father be members of that church while I remain on the outside?  I decided that I needed to become a member also. I needed to return the embrace that I’ve been given.

And yet I struggle with the implications of what people think of when they hear I’m a Mennonite. I know that it conveys to many people who are unfamiliar with it a sense of uncertainty. Does this mean you will start wearing cape dresses, put your hair in a bun, and pin a doily to your head? Does this mean you can no longer drive a car, use modern conveniences? Are you going to stop wearing makeup? As I struggle with these questions and concerns, the only answer I can find is to show others what it might mean to be Mennonite.

Yes, Mennonites try to live more simply, to embrace a quiet lifestyle that doesn’t include flashy clothes and gaudy makeup. They appreciate quality and understated elegance. Many Mennonites you meet are financially secure, but you will find them driving mid-level vehicles, living in well-built but modest homes, sitting on finely made furniture, wearing high-quality clothes that aren’t particularly trendy or out of style, and using technology that they bought new until it wears out. Women tend to reject owning mounds of costume jewelry in favor of a few select pieces that are valuable. Men try to make things in their homes and shops last as long as possible, taking good care of what they have and making repairs whenever they can. It’s not that they can’t afford something new, it’s that they want to be good stewards of what they have.

Because of my family’s background in the Mennonite denomination, I grew up with many of these concepts as well. Mom taught me to take off the last piece of jewelry I put on so as not to overdo it, to choose clothing that would stand the test of time, and to stay away from anything too trendy. I could always bring my broken hair dryer or jewelry to Dad and know that he would likely find a way to fix it. I was taught to take good care of the things I was given and to make them last. But years away from my parents, away from that foundation, influenced me toward materialism. Years of scraping by financially led me to understand the fun of cheap and trendy things that could be easily replaced when they broke with more cheap and trendy things. It is definitely an adjustment to return to the way I was originally taught.

The Mennonite church I am embracing is not Amish, is not against technology or modern worship, and does not abide by legalistic standards of years gone by. It has wireless internet, a website, air conditioning, and electric. What it doesn’t have is fancy décor or gilded throne-like seats for the pastors to sit in on the stage. The pastors sit with the congregation and get up from their seats to go to the front when it’s time for them to participate in the service. The assistant pastor preaches once a month and when she does, the young adults often lead praise and worship.

What distinguishes Mennonites from other mainline denominations is their focus on peace (they are pacifists), service, and stewardship. There are various types of Mennonites, just as there are many types of Baptists, and some dress more conservatively than others and only drive black cars. But you can find vehicles in every color of the rainbow in our church’s parking lot.

And so, on Sunday, July 14, 2013, I joined my husband’s congregation and received the right hand of fellowship into the Mennonite church. I’m still a little stunned to write those words, but it felt like a natural and joyful thing to do.

Soon, Eliana will be dedicated in our church. Some of the things I believe may not be taught there, so it will be my job to make sure she understands them. That’s okay though. As her mother, I believe it’s my job to teach her our Christian faith at home and allow the church to supplement that teaching. I feel blessed to have a church like ours to join with me in the joyful task of training her in the ways of Christ.

If you’d like to read more about the Mennonite faith, click here.  You can also watch a video:  Who Are the Mennonites?

Feel free to comment below.  I’ll try to answer any questions as best I can.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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