Almost February

“It’s fun to put up Christmas decorations, but it’s even more fun to take them down,” I told my girls this afternoon.
Well it’s actually not FUN. But the calm results of less clutter and the hope of spring spurred me on. My plants are back in circulation and it’s so much lighter at 5:00 pm than it used to be.

I’ve grown to love winter here. The hard part is its length. The ideal life (like any of us get to live that) would be to leave here February 1st and come back the beginning of May.

But I don’t see that happening anytime soon. So I’ll enjoy the beautiful skies and my blooming geraniums.

We are having cheese smokies and Belizean garnaches for supper. Garnaches are crisply fried corn tortillas topped with refried beans, lime cilantro cabbage, and grated cheese.

The oil rig guys are headed home from their day shift on the road below our house. I’m almost done listening to These Precious Days by Ann Patchett. Liesl made granola and of course it makes the house smell caramelly and cozy and good.

I’m sad about all the ads and confusion and conflict on social media and the fact that I have too many friends on Facebook and don’t have time and energy for interacting with all of you. Please don’t take it personally. EVER. If we should meet in real life, I’d love it and we’d eat granola or garnaches or chocolate together. But I’ve long given up spending a lot of time scrolling and interacting and looking at pictures. I miss the older, simpler days of social media even 10 years ago.

Now I’m sounding like a cranky, wistful old lady.

What are you reading or listening to or having for supper or finding joy in?

Advertisement

I’m a Mennonite, Post 3-Relating to Government

Because Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world” and because of his commands to love our enemies and return good for evil, Mennonites have historically not voted or become involved in government jobs or fought in war.

This is a big topic and many other people have discussed it extensively and I don’t have the intellect or bravery to address it here. Especially our ex-Mennonite friends have challenged us on these issues. I love and respect them and their views and I’m not here to defend our views and create an argument. It’s just not me.

But in my last post when someone remarked in the comments on Facebook about conservative Christians worshiping Trump and I jokingly (kind of) reminded my friends that I don’t want political discussion on my page, a good ex-Mennonite friend of mine named Phoebe reminded me that nonresistance is actually a political topic. I guess she’s right.

Somehow with all the political pressures of the past years, many Mennonites and Amish have started voting. I have heard that is you choose to vote, you will not be allowed to file as a conscientious objector. Can someone enlighten me on whether that is true or not? I can’t seem to find backing for it in my hasty internet search.

My friend Phoebe has this to say about choosing not to vote and then criticizing the government:

“It is very strange to me to see how very many Mennonites that claim to stay out of politics judge those were in support of Trump, especially if those same people don’t care if someone voiced support of Obama or Clinton. Most conservative Mennonites do not even vote. Why do they now have such political and often judgemental voices against those who are not aligned with them politically? You may as well go vote at least to back your opinions. If you do vote, I can respect your voice on political issues then; otherwise it seems hypocritical to me.”

Hurrah for social media and news at our fingertips and free speech. It gets us into all kinds of trouble in our claims to be not of this world and part of only Christ’s kingdom.

Relating to respect for government, I do have a lot to say, but I think I’ll let the Bible speak for itself, pious as that may sound.

I have seen the kindest, gentlest people open their mouths with relation to Trudeau or Trump or Obama and spout out the closest things to expletives that Christian people allow themselves. It makes me sad to identify as a Christian and/or a Mennonite.

Romans 13:1-2, 5…there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.

I Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions…

I Peter 2:17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Acts 23:5 I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.

Our governments are flawed, to be sure. But study France in 1780 when you get too discouraged. (Can you tell that I’ve been reading A Tale of Two Cities?)

I did not do this subject justice at all. I should invite someone like my brother in law Steve to do a guest post for me. But I do maintain that the ways Jesus responded to enemies and the building of His kingdom on earth is our purpose as Christians, Mennonite or not.

Edited to add a comment by my friend Dorcas Miller, who makes an excellent point.

‘I skirt politics, too, because, whoa 😳 if you open that can of worms. 🤯 The few times I opened my mouth (er, typed with my finger) left me hot and shaky and I ended up deleting my comments, because I certainly didn’t intend for it to go that far. It is a touchy, tricky subject because we are called to “ Fear God, Honor the King.” And also “Obey God rather than men.” I guess something that made me realize that both sides have some true, strong arguments, was reading Corrie Ten Booms book “The Hiding Place” which then got me started on some other books about the holocaust and then got me thinking of the era of slavery in America. And in those instances the good people were in resistance of the government, and rightly so. So yeah, it can just end up being a confusing muddle. And in the end “we will be known as Jesus’ disciples by our love”. So let’s just all make sure our debates and discussions are polite and loving and open minded. If we can’t do that we should probably not debate. 😅😅’

Thanks, Dorcas. A lot of the reforms in society WERE brought about by resistance. I wonder how to do that respectfully.

Thanks for reading. I invite your comments.

I’m a Mennonite, Post 2

I’m regretting my choice of title for these posts.

I’m a Mennonite and I own it. But like my good friend Judy, a pastor’s wife from Idaho, puts it: “I’m a hundred other things. Oh…and I’m a Mennonite too.”

That is exactly how I feel.

I asked for input from Facebook and Instagram on why people choose to stay with the Mennonite church or why they’ve left. I also asked for what impresses or depresses you about the culture, especially if you are an observer.

One of the messages I had concerning this series was that Menno Simons (from whom our name originates) would turn over in his grave if he knew a church group was named after him.

It’s definitely a point of contention, this naming ourselves after a man. I don’t have a good answer at all for why we do. I guess for the same reason that Lutherans are called Lutherans and the tribe of Dan were called Danites?

I talked last post about the beauty of brotherhood, something a lot of Mennonite churches are strong in.

In hearing from various people on what they appreciate about the Mennonites, there was a strong argument for our adherence to obedience and sound doctrine.

One friend said, “One thing I keep coming back to: there is a level of comfort in being so obviously different from the world. I don’t have to explain to the people I work with that I’m a Christian: they EXPECT me to be one because of the way I dress. And that, in turn, forces me to be keenly aware of my language, my attitudes, my use of time on the job, and the way I interact with customers. Being Anabaptist/Mennonite has shaped who I am in ways that I love. This Christmas, I’ll spend the day with cousins whose parents left Mennonitism behind three decades ago. Do I feel like a fuddy-duddy sometimes?–absolutely. Do I wish that my parents would have made the same choice?–absolutely not. I am beyond grateful to be who I am and where I am.”

Another online friend said this:

“I am a member of an anabaptist church and I am very happy to be so. I can point out their inconsistencies, and even their sins, but they are among some of the few church groups who actually believe the faith shapes practice, and practice shapes faith. It’s actually a big deal. They still believe that the virtues are important and that the commands of God are final. And at the heart of Christianity is true nonresistance in every form. If we actually could practice this like we preach, it is exactly how Christ lived. We try to, though we fail often! I am proud of my people for standing for love and no violence( dare I say proud) if I am ever called to die for Christ or for my worst enemy, I hope to do it with the same courage as Christ and his disciples. A reformed heart is a reformed life, displayed in virtue. I won’t budge on this!😀

The concept of the two kingdoms explains the Bible beautifully, something that many Protestants have stumbled over, therefore justifying getting involved in politics and war. We were given a spiritual understanding from our forefathers and the first Christians, that shouldn’t be discarded, and I am afraid too many plain people are sucking from the thumbs of protestant teachers, (not all are bad, but we must be discerning of what the Bible says).

I am actually rather passionate about this subject, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you view it!😀. I am so sad that many of our young people are discarding their faith and picking up a cheap version of Christianity that doesn’t call for sacrificial discipleship. There is a cost to following Jesus, and it’s not always easy. I think we are losing our theology of martyrdom, and that makes weak Christians. We say other are doing it, so I can do it too, not ever thinking about Christian maturity and our accountability to it.

Anyway, I don’t want to be gloomy. There are many faithful souls in the world. I believe though, that all the confusion in the west is because we are losing moral virtues that churches and community once said was important, and so many young people are jumping on the bandwagon, not realizing they have sliced their own throats. It’s disturbing.”

I wish I was a good (or dedicated and hardworking) enough writer to somehow compile the many thoughts that people shared into a constructive article, highlighting the main points instead of rambling and direct quoting.

I really did have a multitude of counsellors in this little project and a lot of people express themselves better than I do. So that’s why I’m copying and pasting.

We could find points to differ on with the writers above, I’m sure.

And I don’t know if I’ll get brave enough for a church and state discussion at all.

But I did want to address legalism somehow. It’s a harsh pick that a lot of people have with especially the conservative Mennonites. Our tendency is to put our faith in looking right and abstaining from certain vices and pretty soon those things are ranked right up there with salvation.

I belong to a church with fairly stringent rules on dress. (Although whether you agree with that statement depends on which stripe of Mennonite you are in the conservative class. {I know! This is all so confusing and irrelevant if you didn’t grow up in the culture.}) And now I haven’t used proper parentheses and I’m not going to change them because I’m too lazy.

I have chosen to be part of the church I’m in. It was mostly a free will choice, influenced by my parents and peers (most of whom later left) and the fact that some of our groups tie baptism and church membership together, which is another whole subject which has been debated a lot.

Anyway. I’ve chosen to be where I am and this is where my husband pastors and this is what I know. And that is well and good. Most of the time.

My struggle with the dress codes and the rules for outward practice escalates when it comes to asking it of others.

I think this friend says it so, so well:

“21 years ago we came to Poland with Anabaptist international Ministries. Very long story short-we’ve moved quite far away from traditional Mennonite norms in our little mission church. The lightbulb moment for me was after I’d prayed with a precious young lady as she became born again, and instead of the bursting joy I should’ve been feeling, I instead felt weighed down by all of the important doctrines and practices she would need to learn before most people in our tradition would view her as truly born again. She wouldn’t be able to be baptized until she agreed become a member of our church. I felt defeated in the knowledge that even though her simple faith in Christ immediately put a huge gulf between her
and her Catholic family, and she faced a much bigger sacrifice than anything I’ve ever faced, it wouldn’t be enough to grant her acceptance with many Mennonites.

Another young man who is like a son to me and my husband stood up in our church, and with shining face told us all that he wanted to be baptized and become a part of us. My heart still breaks when I remember his hurt confusion when he was told that wouldn’t be able to happen until he took his wedding band off. “But don’t you understand?” he said. “This band is my protection when I’m traveling without my wife.” He’s a very handsome guy and my husband was with him once even he was propositioned by a woman. He simply held up his hand and showed her his wedding band and she backed off.

There are many more stories, but those are two examples of why my husband and I started to feel uncomfortable, especially with the way Mennonites have traditionally approached missions. Transplanting a traditional American Mennonite church simply doesn’t work in Europe and we needed to rethink everything. We absolutely don’t feel like we have arrived in some superior level. We hold deep gratitude in our hearts for our heritage. But it can never, never take the place of the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It’s so dangerous to rest on and be complacent in, the convictions and writings of those who’ve gone before us. It often removes the need for the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth. If He had already revealed the whole truth to my forefathers, why do I need Him to guide me into truth? Yes, He is our Comforter, but He also guides us into truth, and that is what every generation needs to experience anew.”

AMEN and AMEN.

The impracticality of some of our traditions became real to me personally when we served in Belize. There we were, expecting machine sewn cape dresses and pristine white veils of a particular pattern from some people who lived in board houses with a dirt floor who didn’t own a sewing machine. I’ve heard these described as imported traditions, ones that have to be brought in from the US to be observed.

Generous souls from the states sent hand me down dresses for the mission and that kind of worked. But they were often ill fitting or not to the taste of the wearer.

It made me so sad.

****************************

I’m sitting here on a snowy day in January, months after I started this post, staring at what I’ve written and wondering what else to say. I’m afraid it’s getting too long and I’ll lose you. I also don’t really feel like I’ve done it justice and shared all the good input I got. And I don’t know how to wrap up something when I don’t have a lot of answers to the puzzling queries.

I’ll tell you how I deal with some of our inconsistencies and don’t go crazy.

  1. Realizing that every church and culture has its hard issues.
  2. Hoping/praying/believing that our love and compassion will shine brighter than our distinctive dress.
  3. Feeling like our local church has a ministry (albeit small) to those who have been hurt or disappointed in more rigid settings and need a safe place to land without a lot of judgment. I know that out west we sometimes judge the bigger churches back east and wonder why they don’t branch out more. One minister friend in Ontario told us he feels like his church has an important ministry to those who’ve left the more traditional settings like Old Order Mennonites who need a spiritual church when they make the unpopular choice of leaving some of their traditions.
  4. Being part of a church that is open to change and hopefully not exclusive.

I guess this input below also sums it up well for me.

We stay because we value what the Mennonite church believes (or used to believe) about pacifism and nonresistance. We’d be hard pressed to find a church outside of the anabaptist that would have a solid number of members share that belief. We also stay because we think maybe we can help others think more openly (like we have all the answers🙄) but still embrace our culture. I’d like to think we can “be the change”. I get so weary though…

Thank you for reading here! I guess this post is probably most relevant to those of you who have chosen to stay with the more or less conservative or traditional Mennonites.

My prayer for all believers on this Saturday morning as I wrap this up is that we would follow Jesus with our whole being, whatever that looks like for you.

2023

On Monday I posted the following on Instagram and Facebook.

“We started out our New Year in Raymond, AB, with coffee and the special tea ring my mom used to make only for Christmas.

I’ve loved seeing some of you post your year in review. I would maybe follow suit if I didn’t have 8765 photos to wade through. (Yes. My life is a bit bungled up.)

I’m grateful for 2022. In many ways it felt like a year of peace and healing for me. I don’t have big goals for 2023, though I’d like to commit to reading two books a month and finish listening through the Bible.

Dan sometimes gets bothered when people talk about how terrible the world is becoming. He is an optimist and feels like there is lots of hope. I think he’s rubbing off on me.

There IS a load of sadness and despair and depravity. Denying it is neither healthy nor helpful.

But there is also compassion and intelligence, new calves and beautiful words, moonlight and music, green grass and baby giggles, generosity and honesty.

We’re in the good and the hard together and Jesus is here.

I hope I don’t sound pat-answerish and smug. I need cheer as badly as any of you.

🌿Happy New Year! 🎼”

After those upbeat words, I seemed to grapple especially hard with some ugly things. People I care about struggling with substance abuse, general malaise after too much holiday food and too much sitting around, a disagreement with Dan, reminders from interactions with my children that I am needy and broken in many ways, grim reminders of war and suffering.

The sky was blue and pink and peach all around the horizon when I went walking this morning. The colours of winter are so soft. Grey, white, a dash of pink at sunset and sunrise.

I took down a few Christmas things and left the winter stuff to languish till I get tired of it in February and long for simple green plants and clean spaces.

Dan and I cooked supper. He carefully mixed spices for Cajun tilapia and grilled it in mild -10 degrees Celsius under the porch lights at 5:30.

I brushed sliced potatoes with butter and sprinkled them with garlic and salt and thyme. A salad. Garden carrots that I crunch while preparing them for cooking. We eat in peace and safety. Good, healthy food.

Tonight there’s Bible study at church and the chapter in the book we’re going through by Leonard Ravenhill is called “Wanted-Prophets for a Day of Doom!”

Ironically, Dan is the study leader tonight. After what I just wrote about him.

We have a good discussion, throwing various ideas around. Do we preach Doom and Gloom or Hope and Peace?

As usual, I’m not necessarily sure why I’m writing tonight. I just had Things that were in my head and they came out on paper (er…screen) as they so often do.

And I wanted to post this summery picture because it’s bright and happy.

Good night and much love.

2022 and us

We do family pictures every two years and this is our year off, so I’ve not got a picture with all of us on it to share with you.

It’s been a good year. We celebrated the end of mask mandates, planted a big garden, ate lots of steak, enjoyed our long, hot summer, taught Sunday school, picked zinnias, taught and played piano, took long walks, harvested many beautiful white pumpkins, raised pigs, learned about soil health, ran out of logs to saw, prayed daily for our oldest boys who feel far away, had arguments about phone use, prepared sermons, ran hither and yon, celebrated being together with the big Peachey clan, had kittens and puppies, and lived through days of -40.

Alec is currently living in southern Alberta, but doing a lot of traveling with his newly solo drywall business. He comes home fairly often, where he loves on the dogs, enjoys heated family discussions, and sometimes picks up work for his old employer here.

Alex and Victoria live nearby and we love it so much. Alex has endeared himself to our family in every way. He’s currently working for Dan. Victoria teaches piano and voice lessons from home.

Bryant is currently working as a night security officer in a resort in Kananaskis, Alberta, which is near Canmore and in the beautiful Rockies. He does some online college courses in his spare time. We miss him dearly, but enjoy lots of long phone conversations and hashing out life, something he’s very proficient at.

Natalia is our going concern these days. (Do people even use that term anymore and what is it derived from?) She is in her last year of high school and raised puppies this summer. She teaches seven piano students and bought her first car this spring. She is a talented and efficient girl. The work really flies when she gets going.

Andre is steady and cheerful like always. He raised a batch of pigs and helped manage Dan’s adaptive grazing this summer. He listens to lots of podcasts and amazes us with the knowledge he stores. He has a beautiful tenor and we have his wonderful music teacher to thank for that. Somehow Mr Overholt gets boys through that “it’s not cool to sing” stage without them thinking it’s not cool.

Liesl is only 13, but she’s so grown up these days that I sometimes forget it. She loves to read and is good at geography. She doesn’t love cooking (wonder where she gets that from?!), but does a good job of making supper on Tuesday evenings after I’ve been at my Networks job for most of the day. It’s so lovely to have big kids who help out a lot. Liesl recently took up violin and Natalia is her piano teacher. She is a gentle nurturer of little people and animals and her friends are very dear to her.

I am in better mental health than I’ve been in a long time and I’m so very grateful. Dan keeps things together in the way that only he can and fills his spare time with experimenting with all kinds of regenerative ag projects and doing research.

We are having a cozy and relatively quiet Christmas at home, but plan to spend New Years with our boys down south and my mom at Raymond, Alberta.

God is good, life is rich, and we love you all.

(I forced the teenagers to pose this morning in their Christmas program clothes because I Have Done it Every Year of their Existence and One Must Keep the Traditions.)

Morning thoughts

Kids off to school after some small, crazy last minute catastrophes and attitudes.
String lights still glowing and tiny Christmas village shining.
Dishwasher running with a large assortment of mugs in it, which always means food and fellowship and hot drinks on cold days.
Washer doing what it’s been told to do.
A walk in the frigid morning with my sister in an hour.

I’m sitting here with vanilla earl grey and a corn tortilla egg wrap. (Delicious corn tortillas come from a Mexican Mennonite store in southern Alberta.)

I have a day at home and there is time to pray for my boys far away and my friend’s daughter in law who has a tumour and my student from long ago whose little boy got a pecan or walnut lodged in his lung that caused a lot of complications.

My good life is not lost on me. Always, always in the midst of the gratitude, there is awareness of others who are not as fortunate as we are. Every week I encounter precious people who are struggling through hard things. Loneliness, addiction, mental and physical illness, grief, eviction, cold, rejection, adjustment to a new culture.

We can get SO smug and self satisfied and busy and materialistic.

Jesus, while enjoying our many, many comforts, help us to always look outward.

As my dear sister in law Michele Martin wrote in a message to me the other day: “So many hurting people, so much work to be done, so much love to live out.”

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 tightly 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.”