Wednesday afternoon

We’re on Day 4 of grey whiteness. Light snow, crazy windchills, stay-in-the-house weather.

I kind of enjoy it for a bit. The fire is cracking and the lights are cozy. I wasn’t sad to see that tomorrow’s forecasted weather is very sunny, though. I never do well with grey skies for days on end. Never mind that tomorrow’s low is -30 and the high is -22.

I have a few minutes to write before the kids come home from school.

Today included a walk in what my neighbours call their forest. We usually call our woods “bush” up here, due to many scrubby poplars and willows mixed in with some spruce and birch. But the Funks live in spruce heaven. My neighbour Linda and I walked some trails this morning to avoid the wind chills on the open road. It was magical. I wanted to take more pictures, but mt phone quit working because of the cold.

Today also included baking Dan’s mom’s peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and finding the source of a vinegary smell in the fridge.

I forgot the eggs in the cookies for the first round. They were hard, dry lumps. This was hard on my ego. It’s not something I normally do.

{Despite her many other flaws, she is a careful and rather excellent baker, she said humbly.}

Thankfully it worked to add eggs to the rest of the dough and keep baking.

The smell in the fridge was some pickled jalapeños that fell over and leaked down beneath the vegetable crispers.

Four of the children I taught in school in Sparta, Wisconsin, lost their dad yesterday. My heart is broken for them. Their dad, Ernie, was a gentle, hardworking soul and appreciated by so many. What a hole his home going will leave.

Thank you for your prayers after my last post. I actually felt them! You are the sweetest friends.

I upped my dose of the blue pill and I’m back to my usual tired and hopefully stable self. I’m grateful.

Children are home. I’ll see how they like the dry cookies. 😄


Could you pray?

It’s Sunday evening after a very nice Sunday. Church was good. We are studying a book by Leonard Ravenhill at church on Wednesday evenings and it talks about soul-hot preaching. I’d say that today’s message was that type. The minister, a visitor from Minnesota, was very passionate. But he was joyful too.

I taught Ruth 2 and I hope it was an encouraging class. Among other things, we talked about accepting foreign immigrants and how Boaz didn’t make a charity project out of Ruth, but gave her dignity and respect.

Lunch was roast beef and noodles.

We did a session of premarital counselling with an engaged couple this afternoon.

I took a sunset walk with my sister.

We’d planned to get together with friends tonight, but both of us had sick kids, so we’re home instead.

The girls and I talked for a long time about the trends of my youth and it made me wish to be 17 again. I had a very happy youth. Some of my best days happened during ages 17-22. Someday I should write more about them.

Now I’m feeling a little lonely. The children are feeling unwell enough that they don’t even have brain space for a game or movie. Dan had some chores. I should read, I guess.

I ate rosemary and olive oil triscuits with Swiss cheese and extra old cheddar. I gave a head and back massage and made hot tea for the sickies. And I asked my girls what I could do this evening that would better the world.

They didn’t know.

I’ve told a lot of you about lessening my meds a bit (with doctor guidance) in hopes that I have more life and energy.

It’s been wonderful to feel alive again.

But lately I have a niggling sense of feeling too good. My senses are slightly heightened (see my post on chewing noises on Facebook). I want to write. And volunteer. And organize. And change the world.

I always want to do those things. But often I am weary and worn out and cynical.

Fear niggles and it’s ugly. Am I headed for a manic high? Will this feeling accelerate and get out of control and cause the issues it did last time?

I’m going to start by taking a whole blue pill instead of half tonight. One of the mood stabilizing ones. Dan and I talk about the possibilities. Linda cautions me to be careful. I weigh my words and responses guardedly.

It’s a pain. It really is.

But I have no desire to go through psychosis again. Or the years of depression that followed.

I know I’m just putting it all out there. But maybe you can take this journey with me.

Would you please pray healing and stability over my mind? Also freedom from anxiety and what-ifs?

I’d appreciate that so much. 💗

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

I’m a Mennonite, Post 1

I’m sitting with Dan in what has been our family pew for what feels like decades and actually is. Third row from the front, right hand side of BayTree Mennonite church.

Not because any rule says we need to sit there.

My husband is a man of habit and we’ve always left the back seats for the visitors and the people with little children. We’re the pastor’s family and we sat there even when our kids were small. I find the back of the church to be very distracting, probably because I was a preacher’s daughter and sat up front all my life. But back then it was on the left side of the church with my mom and later on the front bench with my teenage peers. We had segregated seating and I was always surrounded by altos and sopranos, black nylons, and black shoes.

Tonight it’s counsel meeting night and testimony time. If we’re married, we stand as couples and each talk about how things are with us and God and others. Older singles and younger youth do the same, minus the couples part. We have this service every six months in preparation for communion. “Let a man examine himself…” 1 Corinthians 11:28. And “confess your faults one to another…” James 5:16

The air is warm and close and the testimonies are a beautiful mix of joy and sorrow, struggle and victory, longing for heaven while tied to cumbersome earth. It’s like a little window into everyone’s heart. We cry happy tears when the new members say they feel so at home here and laugh with understanding when *Galen shares something brutally honest about the realness of life in battle against the flesh.

*Names are changed because Dan says I shouldn’t use them (even in a positive light) without asking people first. And I was too lazy to get their permission.

Kara talks about struggling to find her place as a young married person without any children. She doesn’t quite fit with the youth girls anymore and while the young moms are lovely, they have different conversations than what she can identify with.

Richard talks about his recent stroke and learning trust when everything else is stripped away. Heidi talks about choosing not to feed her mind with depressing news articles and Rachel reads a song about how precious Jesus is to her.

When it’s my turn, I say that relationships are definitely a work in progress at our house and confess that Dan recently told me in a teary conversation (the tears were mine, not his) that he feels like he doesn’t have my trust like he wishes he did. I talk about my tendency to try to control situations and people instead of just being quiet, praying, and letting God do His work.

Dan confesses that sometimes he’d rather live a reclusive life and just go out and feed his cows instead of taking his place as a pastor. We smile because we all know that about him, but also know that he’ll always show up and do his job.

We are honest, it feels like a safe place, and we feel loved and heard.
(Sometimes I wonder if my church people would be scandalized if I’d actually be more honest yet with my temptations and failures. But is this the time and place for it? Some of those things are better off taken to a trusted friend and not the entire local body.)

I love our untraditional-by-Mennonite-standards church group. I love that Brian with his mental challenges passes the offering every Sunday morning and shares long testimonies and prayers. I like it that we can giggle irreverently sometimes when a song goes badly and that no one expects perfect, well-ordered communions that go off without a hitch.

Our church hasn’t always been the strong, close-knit group of people that it is currently. In my limited experience, it feels like churches ebb and flow. They grow, they fight, they split, they struggle. Sometimes they rise again from the dust and rally and grow again. It feels like we’re in a sweet spot right now and while I am so grateful, I hold the joy loosely and try not to be smug about one single thing.

Smugness. It’s one of the things I’d like to talk about in what I hope will be a series on church, particularly the Mennonite church. Of the “conservative” practice, for lack of a better term.

Let me describe some of our current outward practices for those of you who might not speak Mennonitese.

The women wear cape dresses (there is an extra layer of fabric over the bodice). Purpose? Modesty, helping to avoid sheerness, simplicity.

We have a veil guideline too. (colour and size)

I could tell you more, but maybe that’s sufficient now for those who don’t know a hoot about our traditions.

Dan still wears the traditional plain cut suit, mainly because he is a pastor and likes to dress up and that’s what he owns.

(But as one of my friends (a deacon’s wife) puts it, there is a lot of sin that can hide behind that plain suit. As you can tell, she’s not a fan.)

My experience with the conservative church will be different from yours. For one thing, we live far from other churches who practice things quite like we do. We are isolated and independent of large conferences. Many of our members come from stricter backgrounds and are pushing back against that.

But I’d like to talk about a few of our strong points and also our weaknesses in the next few posts. Hopefully they’ll be applicable to Mennonites or any other denomination with a stricter, more traditional background.

(And by doing this, I in no way claim to have the inside track on the pros and cons of our practices. There are some wonderful Anabaptist people who have written on these subjects in a much more skilled way than I ever will.}

When I asked for responses on instagram and facebook about what people love about being a more traditional Mennonite or why they have left, what impresses them about our groups and what depresses them, I got a lot of conflicting responses. Like is common to all of us, our strongest strengths can also be our weakest weaknesses.

One strength of my church and hopefully yours as well is Brother/Sisterhood.

Bunny trail: We had a baptism yesterday and Dan did the traditional practice of taking the applicant by the hand after they knelt for the pouring of water and helping them to their feet.

(No, we don’t immerse and no, we have no biblical reason not to).

He intoned, “As Christ was raised up by the glory of the Father, even so you also shall walk in newness of life; and as long as you are faithful and abide in the doctrine of His Word, you are His disciple indeed, and shall be acknowledged as a member of the body of Christ, and a brother/sister in the church.”

He baptized Coleson and pronounced him a brother. Natalia was next. Taking her hand, he invited her to rise and be acknowledged as a brother in the church too. He caught himself quickly. But it was a funny moment that we won’t forget for a while.

Brother and sisterhood is a truly beautiful thing. I heard this from so many of you. When one member suffers, the others suffer with them. We rush in with casseroles and blankets and childcare and money. We clean houses when people are moving and cut wood for the teachers and donate beef to the family whose father had Covid.

Hopefully we do the same when someone is suffering emotionally or spiritually. We might not be as good at this. But I never once felt judgment from anyone in our congregation for my mental health battle. There was only much support and prayer and physical outpouring of love.

But I know of people who have left our church (and there have been more than a few) who didn’t feel like people cared a lot or wanted them back very badly. Sometimes we care more about what people leaving does to our good record than thinking about the individual and their hearts.

And sometimes, as I heard from various people and know from experience, we are loyal to the point of covering up things like abuse. That is a sad, sad day, when the church is not dealing with its own who have sinned against God and others, when we believe strong, controlling men over the children they have harmed, when the plain dress covers the black heart.

Someone was commenting to me recently on the generosity of our brotherhood and I thanked them and said that I hope it extends beyond the four walls of our church. Not that Jesus says we are sisters and brothers to an unbeliever. That’s a different dynamic altogether. But how do we feel about the church of God at large? The church of Jesus is huge and diverse.

A downside of a tight knit brotherhood is that outsiders feel like just that-outsiders. Kind of like I feel when my kids talk about music and movies that I know nothing about. They quote lines and roar with laughter and I sit there like a sore thumb and try to look interested but not too curious and nosy and pathetic.

Someone who commented on my Q and A posts on social media said that when you try to join a Mennonite church from a different background, it’s like going to a new school where everyone else grew up together and knows the same people and plays the same sports. You often just feel like you don’t fit.

I really challenge you to give some thought to how visitors/”interested” people feel in your church group. Does your sense of brotherhood extend beyond your four walls?

This might be also a good time to bring up the point that various single people made to me personally about not feeling accepted and at home in a culture that is so family oriented. I feel like I’ve read a lot about this subject on various blogs and am not prepared to discuss it a lot, nor can I do it as well as some have already done. Do you feel like single people have a place in your church? Are you open to them being other than the traditional school teachers who contribute for years to the church in that way? Do they feel awkward about finding a place to sit on your family pews or at your fellowship dinners? Do your pastor’s sermons include more than just advice to parents when he preaches about home life? Are they precious and honoured and do they have a voice?

Dysfunctional families have a really hard time, too, fitting into a culture where a strong and healthy family life is so revered. Is there any room in your group for people from backgrounds that are vastly different? Do you give them a place of belonging and acceptance?

More on this later, God willing.

I hope I won’t regret having committed to more posts on this subject. Somehow this post feels stilted and cliché. And I know that so many of you have experienced broken brotherhood relationships and are carrying hurts from that.

I’d love to hear from you, either publicly or privately.
Are you experiencing healthy brotherhood somewhere or feeling alone and unwanted?

The posts I didn’t make

I seem to have a lot to say these days and I’m afraid people get tired of my voice. At least if I write my thoughts here, they’re not right in someone’s face. You have to click on your email or the blog post share to go here. And there’s no need to like or comment.

Me getting long winded:

Lately I’ve been especially noticing the poetry of the Bible. God is poetic. David writes poetry and Paul isn’t too shabby at it either, especially in his beautiful benedictions.

This morning I read: “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”~1 Timothy 1:17~

“Eternal, immortal, invisible…” Say those words and think of your Creator.

One year our school sang this verse in a song that we never sang growing up and I love it so much. Thanks to Mr Overholt.

I couldn’t find a version that was very good, but there are several decent ones below. And then the hymn that also uses part of that line is so pretty too.

I love to watch these people sing.

On Wednesday we had sewing circle at church and hot lunch for the school. (Sewing circle: wherein Mennonite women gather and sew blankets for those who might be cold in various parts of the world.)

I wore a dress I don’t love and leggings because it was cold (hate ’em) and some thick socks. And all day I felt so dowdy and unfeminine.

The lunch was delicious and the company was very good. But I couldn’t get past feeling uncomfortably ugly.

This morning while Now Unto the King Eternal played over and over in my mind, I dressed and combed and took a selfie and hoped for a better day. Sometimes I feel like such a kid. Do you remember being an adolescent and your favourite clothes were all in the laundry and you had to wear your least favourite outfit? And somehow your whole day would go bad.

Today was better.

Work was good. Networks is a busy, busy place. We have new clients every day and the old building literally hums with activity.

Tonight Dan roasted prime rib and made smashed potatoes. And there was pumpkin pie by my sister Linda for dessert.

This is almost too close to home to be funny.

Andre: “Make sure you don’t forget anything tomorrow. Because it’s Remembrance Day.”

What matters right now?

A woman I follow on Instagram recently wrote a post about how when she was trying to find her calling and purpose in life, it gave her anxiety to think about questions like, “What lights you up?” or Mary Oliver’s “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

So she changed the questions to “What matters to me right now?” And that simplified her purpose and calling.

I like that idea.

What matter to you Right Now? You don’t need to overthink or write something profound. It could be as simple as getting your house ready for guests or as hard as working on a difficult relationship.

In no particular order of priority and with a valiant attempt not to be long and wordy, here are a few things that matter to me right now.

A marriage of mutual respect and joy in each other. (Sometimes it feels like we are both so flawed that this is out of our reach. But then there are moments of preciousness and understanding that make all the effort worthwhile. I know. You didn’t know we struggle, did you?)

The warmth, safety and stability of the homeless/mentally ill/addicted in our hometown. It gets COLD and the needs are many and heartbreaking. I don’t really know what to do about this, but it matters.

Open, trusting relationships with my children and church family

My closets, freezers, and other spaces needing serious attention

Finding beauty. Always.

Compassion and empathy 

Holy Spirit guidance 

And now it is onward and forward to creating organization out of some of the chaos of my home.

Facebook post

Tonight I posted this on Facebook:

“Dan’s latest thing is making zucchini bread at crazy hours. He doesn’t get tired of eating the same thing like I do.

We were gone this evening and when we came home the 3 youngest kids were downstairs practicing Christmas music at the piano. Of course my heart is thoroughly warmed.

I’m overwhelmed with your responses on my last blog post. I don’t know how to go about letting you know how I appreciated each of your comments, humour, and insights.

One thing is clear. We are very passionate about death and how it’s treated. It’s understandable. When our hearts are twisted with grief and emotions are so terribly raw or numb, we have big feelings about how things should be done. Or strong feelings that something is amiss.

Now let me retreat for a bit and think about my own funeral directives.”

Thank you so much to those of you who weighed in here on the blog too. You are appreciated!

On burial again

Recently in a fit of writing whatever came to my mind (I’m good at that) I asked my readers what they’re likely to be buried in. I was mostly just being lighthearted about me and my Mennonite clothes and how I’ll probably live and die in them.

Most of the responses came on Facebook comments. Some said white, some said anything but black, some said floral, some said they didn’t want to think about it.

Somehow that discussion has made me think about viewings and funerals. Our children haven’t been at a lot of funerals that they remember and they just don’t understand why anyone would want to view a deceased person. I’m kind of with them on that sentiment.

I haven’t been at a lot of funerals either, but nothing is a harder experience for me than being in those long lines of people heading up to the front of a church or hall to view a body. To me it almost feels sacrilegious.

But I know that is not at all how many people see it and I want to be understanding. For many people, viewing a body brings closure and healing.

Dan’s roots are with the Wissler Mennonites in Indiana and you haven’t really been to a viewing if you haven’t been to one of theirs. Death is sacred and shared with many in this culture. Long, long lines of friends and relatives wait their turn to view the body and greet the family of the deceased. Viewings last for hours and hours. There will often be an open casket at the funeral as well. I can’t imagine the exhaustion of grieving people having to stand and meet people offering their condolences for that long. But there must be a reason for it. Perhaps being surrounded by so many people who care brings healing in a way I know nothing about.

Another culture that views death in a similar way is the Russian Mennonite community. It is not uncommon for them to take pictures of the deceased and treasure them. And funerals and viewings seem to hold a similar preeminence.

I tell my kids that if they lose someone very close to them, they may feel differently about viewings. They remain unconvinced.

I kind of grew up thinking cremation was wrong. I had a vague sense, whether taught or just imagined, that people chose it because they didn’t want their bodies to rise to eternal life or damnation.

I hope it’s not indecent to say that it now seems like a good option and sacred in its own way. I have no doubt that God could put my body back together when He so wills.

A person named Jenn commented on my previous blog post and said she’d like to be buried in an old pine box under a tree or wrapped in a cozy quilt. I loved the quilt idea. Why do we dress dead bodies austerely? Why not in something comfortable and soft?

I don’t know much at all, really. I don’t know how I’d feel about dressing my child or my husband for burial should they pass before me. I think that death is a deeply personal matter and we all grieve differently and have our ways of bringing closure and healing. Is there a right or wrong way to do this? I think not.

I’d love a discussion on this topic. What is your personal experience with viewing and burial?

If it’s not weird of me…

Just meandering

We’ve been having quiet Sunday evenings this summer because Dan is often doing a baptismal class at church in the late afternoons and then he doesn’t feel a lot like being sociable in the evenings. I have a love/hate relationship with quiet Sundays. I love them, but easily get restless with too many in a row.

I took a lovely long walk and read this afternoon. The youth group got together tonight, so that means Liesl is the only child at home. I did a few dishes and now I’m drinking vanilla rooibus tea and thanking God that my taste and smell are coming back a week post Covid.

(Yeah, we had a round of *that*. Nothing major, but definitely not fun.)

Maybe due in part to being sick, I have a restless feeling and just want to GO somewhere and DO something. (But I’m not sure where or what.)

We did stick pretty close to home this summer and I didn’t mind much at all. It was such a beautiful summer in countless ways. And now we’re having a gorgeous fall.

One of my friends commented that I look like I have extra long covering strings on this picture. Sometime when I am rich, I will buy some cordless earbuds. But for now these work just fine.

There are pumpkins all about the house and I just got my tomatoes out of the freezer to thaw for a day of making marinara sauce tomorrow. I freeze them as they ripen and then have a big day of canning them.

I just ate a piece of very nutty zucchini bread. What is your vote? With or without nuts? We have strong feelings about both in our family.

Other random things:

I was told last week that I have beautiful eyes. Even though one droops and the droopy one also has a little skin tag on the lower lid (if it’s called a lid on the bottom), which you can see in the picture above. So that was nice.

In his Sunday school devotional at church today, Andrew asked us what was the nicest thing someone ever told us. I had to think a while on that one and I’m not sure I came up with a final answer. But I wondered if I’ve ever told someone the nicest thing they’ve ever heard. I hope so. I’m going to work on perfecting that.

Dan is listening to a podcast by one of his favourite soil health experts, Gabe Brown. Gabe is from North Dakota. Just in case you were wondering.

I wonder if I shall ever be a world changer or if I’ll always sit up north here making zucchini bread and marinara sauce and going to BayTree church and shopping at No Frills and photographing sunsets. I will likely be buried in my cape dress and placed next to my dad and brother in the little Briar Ridge Cemetery that our kids mow every summer.

Hopefully I will be remembered as a kind soul.

I’m not sure how this post turned morbid. That’s what happens when you don’t have a Point for writing and just let it meander along.

I’m sure you’ve all seem enough fall photos, but here’s another one.

I made the mistake of telling my children that “grody” was a common word when I was a teen and that “grody to the max” was also used. They hooted at the hilarity and now they use it themselves.

I miss the old days of blogging my heart out about busy mom life and hilarious kid snippets and all the deep and doubtful things I thought about.

There’s a settledness and weariness and acceptance that comes with getting older. It’s mostly good. But I don’t want to become old and boring and some days it just creeps up on me. But I’m still playing Wordle, so there’s that.

What are you doing to keep from becoming old and set in your ways? What will you be buried in? And how do you like your zucchini bread?

Monday morning

Canadian Thanksgiving day.
Recovering from being sick.
Dishes to put away.
Missed yesterday’s turkey dinner at church, but will celebrate with waffle brunch and family.
On my grateful list: Physical health, mental health, my dishwasher, my kids, friendships, fall, purpose, grace.

It’s also World Mental Health Day, which I of course didn’t know till I read it on social media.😄
It’s a subject very precious to me.
Postpartum depression and family with mental health issues and spending time in a psychiatric ward after a manic episode and then several years of crippling depression have left me raw and ragged and with more questions than answers about mental health. I am left with super sensitive feelers out for other people who may be struggling.

I think that if something has worked well for us or someone we know, we tend to think it will work for everyone. (I got this thought from my sister Twila.)
Counselling. Plexus. Casting out demons. Diet changes. Exercise. Immersing in the Word. Repentance. Medication.
In truth, we are complex beings with bodies, souls, and spirits.
Our mental health issues may be spiritual, physical, or emotional. And they may be a complex combination of any/all of the above.
“We may even know what will help, but not have the drive or energy or motivation to act on that knowledge.” #diaryofanhonestmom
For me, medication has helped me to think more clearly to address spiritual issues and get the exercise I need. Reaching beyond myself and giving to others has been huge. (Forgive me for referring to my beloved job at Networks Ministries ONCE AGAIN. 🤪😊)

If you struggle with seeing the light or know of someone else who is in that place, please ask for help. Keep checking in with your friend you’re worried about. Listen without judgment. (I know this sounds like all the other things you read about how to respond. But those words are there because they’re true.)

Happy thanksgiving if you’re Canadian.
Happy Monday if you’re not.
Be kind today. ❤️