Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Mother's Faith: A Mennonite Interview

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
~Abraham Lincoln

This is the first in a series of interviews on faith and motherhood. I am so excited about this!  My goal is to interview fellow mothers/bloggers of different faiths and have a little window into each of their lives...and to see in the end, how we are all trying to achieve the same thing...to prepare faithful, loving, compassionate, children to go out into the world and lead productive, purposeful, meaningful lives. 
 We are all more similar than we are different. 
Different doctrines, different traditions, different rituals, different beliefs, but our fears, our love for our families, and our hopes for our children are all so alike.
____________________________________________________________________________

Here's my first interview with a mom who is raising her children in the Mennonite faith.


I met my husband and best friend (one in the same) in college and we married immediately afterward. I worked as a clinical social worker for six years before becoming a full-time mom when our son was born. He’s now almost 7 and we went on to have two daughters, ages 4 and 8 months. We live in an old farmhouse on the outskirts of town on one and a half acres. We grow much of our own food, raise chickens for eggs and meat and are in the third year of no income while my husband studies full time for pharmacy and I am home full-time home schooling and caring for our children. Our life is not dull, to say the least.

1. What are the strongest values and beliefs of the Mennonite religion?

Mennonites are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ and believers in the Bible. Living a life of love, peace, simplicity and service is crucial to the Mennonite faith as is the importance of community. Mennonites believe in adult baptism. Also, for many Mennonites it is important for us not to be “of” the world as we live “in” it. This is played out across a wide spectrum with some Mennonites deliberately setting themselves apart from society while others, like ourselves, may not appear to be different, but try to live out values and beliefs that do set us apart from the wider culture.

An excellent on-line resource to learn more about Mennonites can be found here.  The site includes the most commonly asked questions about Mennonites and answers them in a very easy to understand and conversational way.

2. What are your family's daily and/or weekly worship/prayer rituals?

It is very important to us to attend Sunday morning church service and Sunday school every week. We pray before meals, read our children Bible stories, pray with them before bed and teach them about faith, the Bible, God and Jesus as part of their home school studies. All this exposure to faith finds us fielding some interesting questions from our children, which we are grateful for. Open discussions, even about difficult issues, give us opportunities to talk about what we believe.

3. What are the most important concepts of the Mennonite religion that you wish to teach your children?

I see myself as Christian first and Mennonite second. So, primarily we want our children to experience the love of God and to live a life inspired by Jesus Christ. We hope that they will grow up with the bigger picture in mind, seeing others as loved by God as much as they themselves are, acknowledging that they are imperfect but that through God’s grace they can lead lives serving and leading others to Christ by their example and their beliefs. We understand that they must make these choices for themselves and hope that their upbringing will both lay a strong foundation as well as cause them to investigate further why they believe what they believe and make it real for themselves.


4. Is your choice to home school for religious reasons?

Home schooling is not a “Mennonite thing”. In fact, we are one of only three families in our church congregation who home school. However, our faith does play a part in why we choose to do so. We want to be the example that our children follow (as imperfect as we are) and believe that it is our role as parents to teach them our values. We see home schooling as an extension of parenting. This is a personal decision we have made for our family and understand and respect the choices of others not to.


5. Do any of your religious beliefs effect your food customs?

There are no universal customs or restrictions in the Mennonite church when it comes to food. Enjoying food, particularly sharing a meal and fellowship with others, seems to be one of the things many Mennonites (from all over the world) do well. Both my husband and I were raised eating mostly homemade food, a portion of it being homegrown. This is not necessarily a Mennonite trait per se, although many of my husband's and my ancestors farmed, gardened and preserved their own food. We find ourselves in awe of God's creation. The miracle of watching a seed become a plant, produce flowers, bear fruit and yield seed (starting the process all over again) is amazing. The sheer variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs that have been created for our pleasure is overwhelming. We want to respect and relish this by participating in the process first hand. We talk more about our food choices and reasons for them here.

5. What are the most common misconceptions that many people have when it comes to Mennonites? Have you ever been offended or dismissed by others because of your faith?

The most common misconception that I have come in contact with is that people imagine us to look Amish, wearing coverings and full beards. Some Mennonites do choose to set themselves apart in appearance, but many, many of us don’t. We look very ordinary. I feel fortunate to say that I have never been dismissed or offended because of being Mennonite (that I know of). I remember back in public high school friends were curious about my beliefs particularly because I professed faith but wore combat boots and had a partially shaved head (even Mennonites push boundaries at times). These friends were very respectful of my stance. That’s been the story of my life and I am so thankful for this knowing what many others experience because of their faith. I have done nothing to deserve such an easy life in this way.


6. Have you ever questioned your faith?

There have been times that I have felt distanced from God, but I do not believe I have ever seriously questioned His existence or my faith. Beth Moore, a Baptist writer and speaker has said (I’m paraphrasing here) that when we don’t feel God is near, it’s not Him; it’s us- our feel is just messed up. I believe this- He is always there.

7. Have you ever had a profound spiritual moment that has stayed with you forever?

I can’t think of one in particular, but there have been many times in church when we are singing four-part harmony (acapella), when I have been outside in nature or gazing into my children’s eyes when I feel an overwhelming sense of peace and of being loved. It moves me to tears and I seem to float through the rest of the day or week.

8. Do you see your spiritual beliefs playing a large part in your marriage?

Yes, I do. My husband is also Mennonite. Our similar beliefs and values about commitment, honesty and forgiveness have helped us through some difficult times. The fact that we agree on the lifestyle we want for our family and the rules/expectations of our children lessens the stresses of day-to-day life. This does not mean we always get along. Who does?


9. What are the most difficult struggles you have overcome and how did your faith play a part in bringing you peace.

We experienced two ectopic pregnancies, both requiring I have emergency surgery. You can read about those experiences on my blog. They rocked my world. Because of the circumstances surrounding the first one, I consider myself lucky to be alive. Surprisingly, I wasn’t angry with God. I was angry at the circumstance, but my faith has enabled me (thus far) to see tragedy not as something God inflicts on us, but as something that happens because we live in an imperfect world. I fear that if I begin thinking that people or entire countries deserve the tragedy they’ve experienced, I am assuming I know the mind and will of God. I do not. So, while I believe that God does not inflict it upon us, He does enable us to grow and become better in spite of it if we are willing. Without my faith, I’m not sure how I would have reconciled those two loses in my life.

10. What is your favorite Biblical or spiritual quote?

Oh… I have many favorite Bible verses. The Bible is full of wisdom and answers. One of my many favorites is…

This is what the Lord says, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."
Jeremiah 6:16


A few other favorite quotes are…
“There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in- that we do it to God, to Christ, and that's why we try to do it as beautifully as possible”. - Mother Teresa

"Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important." - C.S. Lewis

“If we knew the power of prayer, we’d be afraid to get off our knees”. - Unknown


My interviewee (I didn't use her name because she keeps it private on her blog) blogs here.
I visit often to pretend I too live quietly in the country.
The recipes (oh, the recipes!) will suck you in.
The photos will help you dream.
Her wonderful posts will keep you there.

______________________________________________________________________

47 comments :

  1. I have been a silent follower of your blog for a while now, so I guess I will de-lurk myself :)

    Firstly, I just want to say that I admire you, your family, and your blog :)
    I have appreciated your insight on life, your stories, your humor, and your example of motherhood and womanhood.

    I myself am LDS, and am actually not a mother... yet. My husband and I are currently facing infertility; however that has not stopped us in our future "parental" journey :)

    Sooooo, secondly, I want to say what a great idea this post was! Thank you for taking the time to search out OTHER such wonderful women, who too share such commendable qualities. I am anxious to learn more about these other women of different faiths.

    It's quite intriguing to say the least :)

    I am looking forward to reading about all these women, and how they view life, how they raise their family, and how they practice their religion, etc :)

    So refreshing!
    A tremendous way to encourage unity! Bravo!

    ♥ ♥ ♥

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ok this has not much to do with your post but just wanted to say I'm so glad you commented on my blog so I could find yours!!! I love it!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love this idea of this series. I'm looking forward to learing a bit more about other faiths!

    ReplyDelete
  4. What an interesting interview and series. A great idea! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sarah, What fun to do this series! I'm actually a face-to-face friend with ThyHand, lucky me.

    You did a good job, ThyHand---thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks, that was really interesting :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love this idea, Sarah! I think it is so fascinating to hear about how others live and practice their faith. It is so interesting how religion can be so universal and yet so unique. Can't wait to read more!

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is a great idea Sarah. I feel like I need to learn more about my own religion as well. I think a while back you wrote about a book you were reading on Catholicism? Would you recommend it?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Maybe I am a Mennonite and don't even know it :) Great idea to interview women with different faith, ideas. She is just lovely!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Beautiful interview and so fair! I am an LDS mother who was raised Methodist until my family converted (to the LDS faith) when I was 10. I have always had a healthy respect for other beliefs and feel that we will all live in a more peaceful world if we are understanding of our brothers and sisters who may believe differently than we do. You're an amazing woman and I just want you to know that you are admired more than you may know! I SO look forward to more interviews:)

    ReplyDelete
  11. This was a fabulous idea! There are so many women of so many faiths with the same goals in motherhood, I love the concept of highlighting and honoring these goals, and learning about these different beliefs at the same time. My husband's family has many ancestors that were Mennonites, and I have often wondered about this faith of my children's ancestors. I have never known a Mennonite, and was delighted to read this interview. She is a wonderful example of a faithful mother.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Beautiful! It is so nice of you to share these looks into those that we we thought different but yet we are all so similar in our efforts to raise our little ones to be children of God! I am looking forward to the next....I was raised methodist but went to Catholic schools and became and married a Catholic... we are very strong in our faith and from what I can tell raise our family similar to you! I have respect for all religions that teach children to grow in faith, respect and restraint... It is inspiring to see that there is hope in so many families out there in this culture that is a little is contradicting so much of what is important! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Love this series. I'm hooked! I connected with so much of today's interviewee. Thanks for the glimpse into another lovely life. And, I must say, your questions were absolutely perfect! You did a great job of showing a broad picture of her faith and how it impacts her daily life. Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've been a "lurker" for a couple of weeks. I can't even remember how I stumbled upon your blog, but I've been reading it each day and I've enjoyed each and every post!

    I too am excited for more posts like this one. I, myself, am LDS and it's wonderful to see the similarities in basic beliefs and values between women stiving to be the best mothers they can be among all religions.
    I was actually surprised to realize that you weren't also LDS.
    Thank you for your example of faith and motherhood.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I grew up in southern Idaho, and I had little exposure to people of other faiths until Brad went to law school in Chicago. One of my favorite people we met while there was a woman from Minnesota that was Mennonite. She was a minister in her faith and had two small children. We often would exchange babysitting and play together at the park. I learned a lot from Susan, and it was the first time that I realized that we all believe in the same God, we just get there in different ways.
    Thanks for this post, and the series is a great idea!

    ReplyDelete
  16. As always, love your blog and the insight you share. What a wonderful idea for a series, I look forward to these little glimpses into the lives of these women and their faith.

    I might be missing something, but I don't think the link to the interviewee's blog is working. I would love to read more! Thanks! :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. thank-you for doing this. this is such a fabulous idea. it will be so interesting to get to know one another, through this series!!! i'm so excited.

    ReplyDelete
  18. What a great interview... Thyhand you are AWESOME!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I really enjoyed reading what she had to say today and am looking forward to what others have to say in the future. I've never considered Mennonites to be of a different faith than I am, Christian(Presbyterian), just a different denomination. However, each group has different ways of speaking about God. So it was interesting to see how close Presbyterians are to Mennonites. This is such a great idea, thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Very interesting! My great grandmother was a Menoninite, although my grandmother (her daughrter) was not, nor did she raise my mom that way. I really did not know much of the religion, other than the fact my great grandmother never cut her hair & would not allow a TV in her home. I think she was old school Mennonite. :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I love this post. I myself am LDS and a stay at home full time loving mommy. I love to read about other dedicated mommy's from all over (religions and world). Love your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Lovely interview and wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I love this idea of interviewing moms of allll different religions ;) I can't wait to learn more!!! Thanks Sarah :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. I just stumbled upon your blog today, blog hopping around. This is a wonderful idea to bring women together, showing how we are very much the same in trying our best to raise our families to be good and righteous. I firmly believe that families are the basic unit of any society. If families fall apart so do communities, countries and nations. Satan, the devil, or whatever name you want to put on it knows that and tries whatever means possible to destroy our efforts, including trying to magnify our differences in religion and beliefs. Thank you for fighting those efforts and bringing women together, to provide a place of support for this hard journey we are all on to keep our families strong.

    I grew up in Georgia near a very large Mennonite community. The women did wear dresses and caps while the men wore beards much like the Amish. In their community they had a restaurant and gift shop where they sold their canned goods, quilts, toys, and furniture that they made with their own hands. It was our favorite place to go and eat and shop! They produced a cookbook with recipes for the food in their restaurant. I use it everyday!

    ReplyDelete
  25. What a FABULOUS idea!! I so enjoyed reading this, and you are so RIGHT--we have so much more in common than I think we realize sometimes. Keep up the great blogging! I can't wait to read more about different faiths.

    ReplyDelete
  26. You might want to include an interview with a single woman and her faith. Love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  27. You have been nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award! Check out it out on my blog www.allthisandmore.typepad.com. Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Sarah,

    What a great idea for a post. Good interview. Is there no end to your talent....watch out Oprah!

    ReplyDelete
  29. What a great idea, and I am sure it will be continually fascinating. I look forward to the next one.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Great idea Sarah! Loved this interview and can't wait to read the others on your list!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thank you for this! That's one thing that drew me to your blog in the first place. I am LDS (Mormon) and you are not, but alas! we have the same values/beliefs in how our kids should be raised. It's so refreshing to get outside my little bubble or Mormon friends and know that I am not alone out there in the big, scary world. Thank you, thank you!!!

    ReplyDelete
  32. This is an awesome idea/series! Love it! you have the best ideas!

    ReplyDelete
  33. loved this post!

    i can't wait to see more of your series. i truly appreciate that we are all together in this life, trying to do great things. it is so wonderful to be reminded that family and motherhood cross all bounds of economics and religion.

    and i loved your interview questions. i think i may answer them just for posterity.

    thanks again...love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  34. What a great idea, I really enjoyed reading this post. I don;t dare show my husband her blog or he would want to move to the country which is a dream of his...

    ReplyDelete
  35. I have been following your blog for a while now, and just have to say I LOVE this "series" you are doing... What an awesome idea! I can't wait to see more interviews - because as you said we are more alike than we are different. If more women would stand united I believe the world would be a better place!!! I can't wait to see more!

    ReplyDelete
  36. I loved reading this! Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Ive also been following your blog for awhile now :-) Love this series! It is interesting to read & know that although we may be different based up on religion we are the same in our role as women, wives & mothers. Great work! thank you! ~kim

    ReplyDelete
  38. I finally just got the chance to sit down and read this post about the Mennonite faith. What a beautiful life and a beautiful person she is.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Awesome. I look forward to more!!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Sarah,
    This interview is really interesting. I am also a Mennonite; altho I am of the more conservative. I wear a dress, etc. I so enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  41. What a lovely interview! I look forward to reading more.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Love this idea, Sarah. I also admire the Mennonite religion~what a beautiful, simple life.

    ReplyDelete
  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I really enjoyed this post. I've always been curious about different religions, Mennonite being one of them. So interesting to see the similarities in those of us who are working towards the same goal. I look forward to future posts in this series.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I'm a Mennonite from Nebraska and was thrilled to see this post! Nicely done.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Thanks for the info! I am doing a speech for my Public Speaking class at Western Kentucky University about the Mennonites. This really helped. I have always been fascinated by mennonites and would love to be one.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I just found this interview (5+ years late)! and would love to read the other interviews you did with women of different religions. Is there a tag/label they are under that I can search for them easily? Love your blog and spirit! Glad I found you. Blessings!

    ReplyDelete