I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
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.”
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.