Tuesday, March 16, 2010
All the details of a lot of my posts are to explain how I got to where I am *spiritually*, and what propegated, cultivated, and instigated my spiritual decisions that lead me to this awkward place that I now thrive in.
Many of my friends don't really *get it* and chalk it up to my quirky nature. My family doesn't really understand it either, but they all make impressive attempts to accept me as I am, which is all anyone really wants. What's not to love about that???
But the bottom line is; I came to Jesus as a broken, outcast, arrogant, opinionated sinner who knew her way of doing things was getting her nowhere. I knew what the final outcome was. I knew what would happen if I died without repentance and acceptance of Christ as my Savior. I had a LOT to repent of too, but trusted God was bigger than any poor choice I could possibly make, and was eager to forgive me. God is always eager to pick you up, dust you off, and set you on your feet agian... no matter how many times He has to do it.
So, while my roadmap to Jesus may be a little off the beaten path, and may even seem peculiar to many, it's how I got here. Isn't being here all that matters?
For those who are curious about *Plain Living*, I have thought long and hard about what I would do differently, if given the chance. Here's what I suggest: PRAY ABOUT IT. Ask God to show you every step of the way, and to open your husbands heart as well about any lifestyle changes. GO SLOW. Do not try to emulate others because you've read all the Titus 2, & Proverbs 31 material, you can get your hands on. Maybe your the one who wants to leave everything worldly behind and start a new life? Well, it's still important to let the Holy Spirit lead you in all your decisions, and not get caught up in simply *being plain*. It's too easy to loose sight of why your doing what your doing if you do it all at once. Really, get on your knees, and ask God to guide your every choice. Start with modesty and then God will lead you to the place where you, your family and God are most happy!
God plucked me out of some pretty murky waters and set me on dry land. A good, firm land with a strong foundation. I am confidant he'll do the same for you and those you love. Just ask Him. But He wants an obedient child, and He honors obedience. Too much of this world's message is about pleasing self. That isn't what The Bible teaches. We are to die to *self*. Being obedient isn't easy. And staying humble is key.
If anyone serves Me, he must continue to follow Me [to cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying] and wherever I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. John 12: 26
It is through Him that we have received grace (God's unmerited favor) and [our] apostleship to promote obedience to the faith and make disciples for His name's sake among all the nations. Romans 1: 5
For just as by one man's disobedience (failing to hear, heedlessness, and carelessness) the many were constituted sinners, so by one Man's obedience the many will be constituted righteous (made acceptable to God, brought into right standing with Him). Romans 5: 19
Continually surrender yourself and your carnal nature to God and let Him show you what He desires for you.
I hope this is a help for the seeker and confirmation for those who follow Christ selflessly.
In the meantime, Reading Resources for those who are seeking:
The Anabaptist Bookstore Online
The Seekers Refuge (A good place to ask questions and get genuine answers to all things Anabaptist)
Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or need prayer.
Your Sister In Christ,
I often get the question; "How did you become Mennonite"? This is a tricky question because the average person thinks of Mennonites in the same context that they think of the Amish; as if they are all pretty much the same. Well, this just isn't true, but it's hard to articulate the differences without taking up someones entire afternoon.
I was befriended many years ago by a Mennonite lady in Ohio.. I went to visit her church and what I found was the fellowship I'd been seeking for years. That's it in a nutshell. I didn't start out trying to be plain, or be like the Amish or Mennonites. I knew nothing about them.
I am not a member of a conservative Mennonite Church, but I do worship with the conservative Mennonites. I am still retain membership with the Mennonite Central Committee, which is not a conservative church. This all happened after I developed a relationship with my Mennonite friend in Ohio, and had moved to Texas. I wanted to find that same kind of fellowship here. So, I cracked open the phone book and started looking. I found a listing nearby for *Hope Fellowship Church* under ; Mennonite. I called and they invited my family to a pot-luck dinner they were having that evening. Up until that moment- I ALSO thought there was pretty much one, garden variety Mennonite. But when we arrived, we were greeted at the door by a beardless gentleman, and his lovely short-haired wife. I was confused. Was I in the right place??? The look of confusion must have been written all over my face with Pastor Stolzphus introduced himself. He assured me they were Mennonite and to come, make myself comfortable.
The evening was filled with a brief reading from the Bible and short commentary. Much food was brought out and served, then tables were set up in small groups where we all played various games from Scrabble to Dutch Blitz! The evening was concluded with another Bible reading and prayer. This was the beginning of many similar fellowships that over several years, and countless good memories...So we joined the church.
This also began the beginning of my journey. When I join a church, I join the body of believers. I have never put too much thought into how they came to be, or what branch of believers they might have stemmed from? I figure the here and now is what's important.
But this time it was difficult to ignore. It seems that most of the church came from Conservative Mennonite beginnings, and for various reasons, they desired a less restrictive congregation. I can understand the desire to not be micro-managed, so I didn't think a lot about it. However it did present a lot of questions and pique my curiosity.
As time went on, I was trying to comprehend WHY anyone would dress plain, as my friends in Ohio did, or cover their head? What was the difference and why would one group under the same name be comfortable in modern dress and lifestyle and the other is the exact polar opposite??
I heard stories of Martyrs. I heard people speak of their families Mennonite History going back as far as the reformation. People spoke in whispers of their *plain* relatives not approving of this type of Mennonite Church and how it really isn't *true* Mennonite.
So, I began spending a lot of time at the library researching the Reformation, Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites trying to understand what made each group unique? This has turned into a 15 year journey that probably doesn't have a concrete answer, or a predictable end.
Nothing is cut and dry. Every single group of Anabaptists are who they are, and practice their faith the way they do, for a variety of reasons. I found a lot of answers and just as many new questions in the process.
I don't care what someone wears to church, but what I learned from these self-imposed studies was; it needs to be modest. The Bible says so. I can't find an supporting argument that says you should be otherwise. I also don't judge people who choose to wear other styles of clothing. Frankly I think you should be able to wear what you want within reason.
BUT, this is my journey and I'm the one who has to answer for it. So, when my husband and I arrived at Saturday Night Church gathering (at a members home) to find 2 Sisters in string bikini's in the pool...we knew there was a problem. See, you can throw the baby out with the bathwater in either direction.
1 Timothy 2:9-10... “In like manner also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” Here we are given instruction in how to dress as godly women... in “modest apparel.”
Well, now I've opened a can of worms. The Church I was attending WAS very loving and kind, but some of the women and young teen girls were coming to church in spaghetti-string dresses, tight, tight TIGHT jeans, and mini-skirts on a regular basis IN church...not just at home. If a skirt is so short you can't bend over without exposing your naught-bits... your nor professing godliness, (see scripture above).
I also found 1 Corinthians 11 to explain in very clear detail that women should veil their heads during worship services. No one did at my church.
Now, you can look into this yourself and decide. Many scholars have worked hard to say that this was Jewish Custom only and Paul was only trying to pass it on. But the Early Church up until Vatican II required that women cover in Church/Mass.
While I do not press anyone I know to cover, I do encourage all to investigate for themselves.
SO, you can imagine what happened next: I began covering my head with a veil at church and in private prayer, and also paying attention to how I dressed. Did it line up with 1 Timothy???
This quickly became a sore spot for the Pastor's wife, who told me that she had been forced to wear ridiculous garb as a child in an Amish home. Same story for her husband. They did not want me challenging them on this issue. It was not welcome to them or anyone else in the church. This is what most had left behind. Yet...there it is on the pages of my Bible. What to do?
I did what I am supposed to do according to The Bible: I followed my convictions and didn't challenge the people there on any level. I found joy in my new manner of dressing and the feeling that I was pleasing God with my sincerity. I wanted no attention from this, and to this day- that is the hardest thing about it; setting yourself apart from Pop-Culture, friends and family. Actually your friends and family are likely to be either your greatest source of encouragement or your greatest source of despair regarding modest dress and the headcovering. It is either something they can wrap their minds around, or it makes them very uncomfortable.
So, back to my research; as I read about the history of the Mennonites, I realized that I there was most likely a conservative church somewhere on the outskirts of my city, so I hit the internet to find it. After visiting several churches, I began to think I was caught in the middle of two cultures, and one denomination. Luckily, through the internet, I have been united with hundreds of women who have very similar stories. We all seem to be displaced a bit. Some are in progressive churches, yet remain faithful to their call to modesty. Others are in conservative congregations, but struggle as they go through the conversion process. Regardless, we are all here for each other.
So, that is my story. This is how I came to the place where I currently am, where I currently serve Our Lord. It is a story that is often repeated in a more condensed version. Many short stories are gleaned from this experience. Some very comical, and others very spiritually intense. But all part of the learning curve. And goodness, it's a BIG curve! I am neither *PLAIN* in the traditional sense, nor do I fit into a modern, pop-culture mold. I am who I am, which is: Modest, but not frumpy on most days, reserved in behavior, because I am desire to please my Heavenly Father, but honest with myself and my friends because they would know otherwise:-) I am still Kelly. I am happy, funny, curious, eager, and willing to be a friend, and share the love of Christ. This is me at the very core. I pray this part of me never changes. God is working on the less desireable parts of my personality, and I trust Him to take me where He needs me, even if I go kicking and screaming. For the most part, I do so willingly.
Let me encourage you; dig a little deeper if you are interested in knowing WHY one group has practices that differ from another. You won't be disappointed- you'll be amazed to know the history and have a better comprehension of a special group of people. You might just broaden your mind and have a better outlook towards those who don't *fit in*. Blinders come in all sizes for all ages. Sometimes it's good to take them off and get a feel for the world without them.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
The Conservative Anabaptists take these following scriptures literally:
Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (I Corinthians 6:14)
"Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord" (II Corinthians 6:17)
“And be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
These are the scriptures that they hinge their clothing, lifestyle choices such as cars, electricity, and fellowship with.
Many women read Amish Novels, (I am no exception), Mennonite Autobiographies and Memoirs, or come into contact with local Amish or Mennonites where they live, or read about them on-line, and find the lifestyle so intriguing that they decide to persue it in a way that is unhealthy. Many, throw the baby out with the bathwater by ditching every pair of pants they own, and donning the frumpiest garb they can either sew or buy in a thrift store. The stop wearing any make-up, and let their hair grow. This usually happens in a matter of months and along with the change of exterior dressings, their attitudes become as pleasant as their appearance. They become sour. Opinionated. Obcessed with being *plain* they spend an unreasonable amount of time focused on their church and the women who do NOT cover (in accordance to 1 Corinthians 11), and who are not *PLAIN*. They are no longer happy in their church because they are *the only one* who viels.. and friction soon developes between this woman, and: her husband, her friends, her church fellowship, and anyone she thinks isn't *like-minded*.
I've only been there-done that for a period of time. It didn't take me long to realize there is a difference between PLAIN and MODEST. And that you CAN be MODEST without being PLAIN. But try telling this to someone who has just caught the fever? Basically, it has to run it's course, and there is no amount of reasoning that will ever sink in for most. Being their friend while they go through this, and loving them dispite themselves is taxing, but for most, it will level out in time.
Women who are PLAIN usually have their dress dictated from a church standard that says the dress needs to be a certain length, what styles, double-covering, etc.... There are exceptions. I choose to be modest... Plain? I prefer a classic style in dressing over a plain one. I do have some rather plain dresses. I also have some snazzy skirts and blouses that I bought in department stores. Both are modest. I wear what I *feel* like wearing any particular day, because I am not a member of a church that tells me otherwise. I have to excercise my own common sense here. My husband wants me to be modest, but not frumpy. Mission accomplished. Harmony maintained between God, my husband and my conscience.
Believe it or not, modesty was a fairly new concept for me in my 30's. I had been raised to believe that my body was to more or less show off, and all clothing should accentuate my figure to it's fullest. Now, I think it's pretty awful to wear clothing that makes you look ugly, because your job is to be a joy to your husband. Who wants a butt-ugly wife??? Especially when you know she could make herself more presentable, but chooses otherwise.
Ladies- You can wear clothing that is modest and attractive for you figure, but doesn't reveal your entire figure. No need for sackclothe and ashes here. And it's our responsibility to be everything we can be to our husbands, including: Attractive. The problem is in how you define attractiveness. Do we go buy the worlds standards? I hope not. A clean face, and bright smile go a long way. Does your attitude make you look harsh? Lets keep joy at the forefront, and you'll find it's infectious to our husbands and children.
I would go so far as to ask our husbands what they would *like* to see in us? For example: My husband likes me to wear a little make-up. I have some skin discoloration, and for me, a little is a lot. So, a bit of cover-up, powder that nose, and a splash of blush make me look more radiant to him. And, you can barely tell I have any on.
Now, if you don't need it, don't bother. But look like the bride of his dreams every day you have the strength! I realize we all have our moments with a red sore nose and a scratchy throat... or the baby has been up all night. Those are exceptions.
Maybe he doesn't want you to wear any makeup at all? So be it! Fulfill your husbands desires as they line up Biblically...I am not suggesting we go to extremes.
So, you want to be plain? Plain is good but it takes a bit of trial and error for the first time user. Be reasonable about what you do and why you do it. Your choices have an impact on your family.
Prov. 11:22 – “Like a gold ring in a swine’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” That is, a woman’s true beauty is her inner beauty, the sacred and mysterious creature that God has made.
So, if you really want to join a church that has a certain criteria, there is nothing wrong with adhering to it once your a member. But be cautious that we don't romanticize certain lifestyles, and think that dressing plain MAKES us anything, other than modest. As we say in Texas: "You can put your boots in the oven- That don't make 'em biscuits."
Friday, March 5, 2010
Well, that didn't happen. In the beginning of our marraige, I can't say we were poor. Perhaps strapped for cash frequently, frugal because we had no other choice, but poor? No. We were content. We managed. But I'll openly admit I look forward to the day, joy oh joy, when I would have a matching set of silverware! I never said a word about it to my husband who worked so hard to provide for our family and childrens needs. He probably never gave it a thought...
Over the past few years I've bought curtains, and a sofa and loveseat... a new bed. .. But mostly, the majority of our furniture is still the odds and ends we had in our apartment! Aren't I supposed to want more? I've oddly become attached to it over time and dont really see a need to purchase furniture that will probably be out of style in 7 or 8 years. Yet I see ads in the paper for very trendy decor, and I see people who actually RENT televisions, livingroom furniture, etc... and the trendy advertising seems to suggest that we somehow deserve THE BEST, and will be happy with 50" flatscreen. Happy? No, I don't think so.
A content person makes the choice to be content. Contentedment IS happiness. Happiness is not having newer, shinier, trendy furnishings or even cars to drive. All will eventually loose their shine, and find themselves in a second hand shop, or used auto lot. All of it.