Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Meme: Questions, Answers, and Questions

I got tagged by Rebecca from Chicken Scratchings to be part of a meme. A meme is an idea or theme that spreads like a virus. In this case it's a list of questions you answer.

The meme…

The (bendable) rules:
Post these rules.
Each person must post 11 things about herself on his/her blog.
Answer the questions the “tagger” listed for you in her post, and create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
Choose 11 people to tag and link to them in the post.
Go to each blogger’s page and mention that you have tagged

Here are the questions I was asked.

1. How many children are there in your family and where do you fall? (Oldest--youngest)

There are six of us, first three boys, then three girls. I'm #5, the middle daughter. Oddly, I ended up with three boys and three girls as well, but not in the same order.

2. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Just took a test on this and scored almost 100% introvert. I enjoy people a lot, but prefer one-on-one to crowds, and need time to recharge, alone, afterwards.

3. What room of your house do you spend the most time in?

Either the office or kitchen.

4. Do you have any pets, and if so how many, and what kind?

Pets come and go at this house, and at the moment we're down to three cats.

5. What time of day do you most often write blog posts?

It varies a lot, but often late at night.

6. Which of these do you enjoy most? Cooking, cleaning, or laundry?

Definitely laundry, although lately Emily has been doing all the laundry and I'm realizing just how much of my time it took.

7. How did you meet your spouse?

I came to Oregon to teach in a Mennonite school. One of my students was little Rosie Smucker who told me about her big brother who was teaching two hours away. Eventually we met. And stuff.

8. What are some hobbies you have other than blogging?

Sewing, crafts, reading, traveling. In film days I enjoyed photography. I like history and old novels and exploring other places and cultures.

9. What is your favorite verse in the Bible?

Romans 8:1 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. . .through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."

10. What time do you get up in the morning?
6:30 to 7. Slightly later on weekends, but not much.

11. If you had a choice would you rather go away for vacation, or stay at home and relax?

I'd go back to Jamaica in a heartbeat. Or out to the coast.

Thanks for tagging me, Rebecca!

Ok, here are my questions, for bloggers who I see as authors or potential authors. If you don't want to do the whole "meme" thing, but feel like answering the questions, I'd love to hear from you in a private message. (dorcassmucker@gmail.com)

Also, there are no blog-meme police to send after you, so feel free to post without tagging others.

Ok, my burning questions:

1. How long have you been blogging, and how often do you post?
2. Have you had anything published, and if so, what and when?
3. Who is the author who best speaks your language and who you would most like to be like, in style and message?
4. What do you see as the unique message God has given you to share with the world ?
5. Who or what has made you believe in yourself as a writer?
6. Who or what has done the opposite?
7. Besides blogging, what types of writing have you done? (journaling, poetry, news articles, letters, short stories, etc.)
8. Where would you like to be, writing-wise, in five years?
9. What would need to happen to move you from here to there?
10. Any advice for beginning bloggers/writers?
11. Just for fun: what's a skill you have that almost no one knows about? (example: I know how to develop black and white film in a darkroom.)

I'm tagging:
1. Emily
2. Amy
3. Rhonda
4. Anita
5. Laura
6. Jeanette
7. Luci
8. Margaret
11. Justin

(So many good people I'm leaving out. Maybe another day, all of you.)

Quote of the Day:
"Is she kind of the Pat McManus for mommies?"
--a child of Alyson, an amazing and kind woman from First Baptist Church, who reads all my articles to her four children.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Authors' Party

Why are Jenny and her friend Janane having tea and celebrating?

Because their poem was published in Partners, that's why! Look for it on March 4th.

Quote of the Day:
"I'm afraid people are going to read that and be as judgmental as I am about other people's poems."

(My three daughters are all published authors now. I am one proud mama.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

No Fear

Back when Paul's sisters, Barb and Rosie, were both young and single, one of the many friends they made said that she was drawn to them because of their fearlessness. They just joyfully plunged in to life and adventures large and small--the sorts of things most of us over-think and hold back from and hesitate about.

My daughters have those genes as well. Granted, one of them has an odd phobia of making phone calls to places like the bank, one is afraid of moths, and one is afraid to go dump the compost after dark. But generally they just plow ahead through life with an abandon that I can only look on and envy.

They help people and go places and strike up conversations and share their faith. "Why not?" they say, and send applications and pick up lizards and learn to play instruments and offer to sing.

They will argue with this, since I'm not afraid to call up the bank. What they don't realize is how many fears I've had to overcome to learn to call places like banks and travel agents, or to navigate downtown Eugene, or to make small talk with store clerks.

Jenny certainly shares her sisters' and aunts' genes.

Our upstairs windows can be washed from the inside except for the outside of the upper pane. On three sides of the house, you can stand on the porch roof to wash that part. On the fourth side, it's a straight plunge down into the camellia bushes, and I usually get one of the boys to help me, with one of us leaning out awkwardly with a squeegee and the other hanging on to keep him from falling.

A few weeks ago Jenny decided to wash her bedroom windows. She hauled the spray and rags upstairs and before long brought them back down. "I'm all done!"

"I suppose you just left that top outside window on the north side?
"No. I did it myself."

She glibly explained that she had opened the window, wiggled out, stood on the windowsill, held onto the center sash, and merrily washed.

Utterly fearless, that child.

And recently she had her cousin Allie over and they went over to play at the warehouse. After they came home, Jenny told me they had climbed up to the top of the warehouse to look out the window.

That window is some 90 feet off the ground. Getting there involves going up stairways and ladders that get steeper and narrower and dangerous-er as we go. At the end you have to walk or crawl along some boards that, Jenny said, they had to dust off so they wouldn't slip and fall down to the floor below.

But they got to the window, and had fun looking out on the world far below.

Frankly, I'm surprised they didn't get the bright idea to try and wash that window on the outside.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jamaica 12--Photos

I posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook.

Click here.

Jamaica 11--Church

On Sunday we went to a little Brethren church in another part of town which seemed peaceful enough but the pastor talked about how they have a hard time scheduling youth activities because of the curfew. And the curfew, I was told, is because the area has had a rash of murders, which of course turn into revenge killings, back and forth, over and over, and no one will tell on anyone else, so the police can't do much.

But you wouldn't have guessed that on a Sunday morning. The doors and windows were open and the breezes blew and the nice young man played the piano and an even younger man, who couldn't have been much older than Jenny, played the drums amazingly well without a hint of showing off.

The lady in front of me nursed her baby until she fell asleep, and about two minutes later the already-loud music was cranked up two notches out of the suitcase-sized speakers, and people in the audience picked up the tambourines that had been left on their seats and joined in.

The baby slept through it all.

It really was a nice service.

However. I managed once again to embarrass Jenny. See, I didn't clap.

You don't know what it's like, you Pentecostals and musical people and Africans, you who can coordinate hands and feet and beat and words.

It's bad enough in an American service when people clap on the obvious beat. But in Jamaica they had some funny twist to this, and there was no possible way I could clap along.

Jenny said,

Quote of the Day:
"If I would have been a little native girl there I would have thought you were a sullen and disconnected white person."

Well, my dear, these were my options:
A. Try to clap along, get completely befuddled and confused and "off," try and fail to follow the person in front of me, and make an idiot of myself.
B. Stand there and smile and try to look interested and pretend to sing even if I don't know the song, but don't clap--and also make an idiot of myself.

You can't sway with the tambourines if you grew up on the Lob Lied, that's what I always say.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jamaica 10--Projects

On Amy's days off, we went sightseeing and had fun.

When she had to work, we still had fun. Jenny played with all the children on the compound, and I sewed.

Having hours and hours of uninterrupted time to sew is lots of fun. When I got tired of it, I could go on a walk or go swimming. It was wonderful.

I made:

1. A skirt for Jenny I had started at home and not quite finished.

2. A simple black skirt for Amy.

3, 4, 5. A set of curtains for the foster boys' room, to block the sun so they can take naps, and to replace the makeshift curtains you see there behind the new ones. It was a challenge because there's no curtain rod, only that iron grid. So I attached ties to the top of the curtains and tied them on every other gap.

6,7. Liners for the above curtains. But they're not up yet, since there wasn't enough fabric or time for ties, so Sharon will probably buy some ribbon and make her own ties, or use drapery hooks.

8,9,10. Three little "market skirts" from this tutorial on Dana Made It. If you want to try making one, I have a few tips to make it even more efficient.

11. A blanket for a boy.(Family: do you think Jenny looks like Janet here?)

12. A blanket for a girl.

I wish I could have stayed two more weeks, and sewed a lot more.

Quote of the Day:
"You look less pale than usual!"
--Matt, when I came home

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jamaica 9--Delete

I was (kindly) asked to pull or edit my posts about the orphanage for fear they'd be read by someone in charge who could make things very tough for anyone who wants to come and help.

Not that I can really imagine someone from Jamaica finding my blog, but I see their point. And I guess this happened to another American organization recently.

As my sister says, we live in a fallen world.

If you want to see those particular posts, email me at dorcassmucker@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jamaica 6--JRM

Here's the history and purpose of Jamaica Relief Ministries, as I understand it:

In 1989, Hurricane Gilbert devastated the island. Mennonites from the southeastern U.S. periodically went to help and eventually set up a presence near Montego Bay, with the name of Jamaica Relief Ministries.

Over the years they've reached out in various ways but the focus now is on orphans. There's one houseparent/administrator family, Mark and Karen Smucker [no relation] and their four children. Then there are five nannies who take care of five children, all of whom came there from Blossom, the government orphanage that we visited. And then there's Amy, who teaches the Smucker kids, does the bookwork, and helps with the orphans.

Up until now they've been licensed to do foster care. But just recently they've been licensed as a group home, which means they could have up to 20 children, although they don't plan to have more than 8 or 10. So changes are afoot but I'm not sure exactly how it's going to play out.

The mission is located on a mountainside on the outskirts of Montego Bay, in a beautiful set of buildings that once held an Italian restaurant where the likes of Mia Farrow and Johnny Cash ate, in a beautiful compound with big trees and a huge lawn.

(view from the backyard)

Each nanny is in charge of one child, but they all share child-care and housework duties. Sara, for instance, is Kenroy's "auntie," so she gets him ready for church and sits with him at meals and puts him to bed, and so on. But when it's Sara and Renita's day to go to Blossom, then Melinda might do all the cleaning for the day while Erica is in charge of the children.

Sharon, who has been there for 8 years, does the cooking. Sometimes short-termers come as well, like a young man who was there for a few months doing maintenance projects and left the day after we did.

The children are all adorable, but having come from previous emotional neglect, they have various difficulties with communication, screaming fits, frustrated outbursts, and so on--some a lot more than others.

But overall they seem to be doing very well, it is heartwarming to see how they are so very loved and enjoyed now. I mean, they are just very solidly and whole-heartedly loved.

Some of them are in the process of being adopted, and some would be if one parent or the other would sign off on them.

Since, like so many children in Jamaica, they are not true orphans but the products of a culture where so few dads take responsibility for the children they father, and so many mothers keep having babies in spite of it.

If you would like to make a donation to JRM, you can send a check to
Jamaica Relief Ministries, Inc.
2535 Blue Ridge Blvd.
Walhalla, SC 29691

If you'd like to adopt a child, you need to get in touch with the Jamaican Child Development Agency. You won't be able to pre-select a specific child, just so you know. Adopting there is a long, slow process, but it can be done.

Quote of the Day:
--little Ruth Ann, when Amy tried to get her to say my name, and of course we laughed and thought she was adorable, and I wish every neglected child in the world could be so doted on

Jamaica 5--Home Again

I'm wearing a flannel shirt this morning and debating about pulling on a wool sweater besides, which is to say, we made it safely home last evening and we are not in Jamaica any more.

This is what I like about flying: the people you meet.

Going there, we went Portland-Seattle-Miami-Montego Bay. On the 6-hour haul from Seattle to Miami I sat by a young woman who clutched two ancient and ravaged stuffed animals. Jenny (of course) asked her about them. She'd had them since she was two, she said, and their names are Dog-dog and Piglet.

She still needs them when she's feeling anxious, and she was feeling anxious because she was spending the next semester in Cuba.

Her family is from Seattle, but she's a Princeton student, majoring in public policy. Hence the trip to Cuba, where I hope she gets a clear picture of which public policies work, and which don't.

My seatmate from Miami to Montego Bay was a young woman with a lovely accent. Jenny said, "Are you British?" and she said, "No, I'm from South Africa." She worked on cruise ships, and was off to join her ship in Montego Bay. She loves her work, as she can go all over the world on cruise ships and get paid for it.

Coming home, Miami to Los Angeles had me beside an Australian girl who was just finishing up her holiday travels, as the equivalent of our summer off school, in Australia, is December to February. Then she goes back to college in Perth, where her family is.

And from LA to Portland it was a businessman from China who deals in auto parts and was pale and talkative and had halitosis, which I probably did too, by that point, so never mind. He said lots of Americans and other westerners are moving to China as it gets more open because you can live well for a lot less money than here. We should move there, he said. Get good job, good salary, good standard of living. Yes, make a lot of money.

He really pushed that point, so I told him we've talked about going to China, but we are Christians and so like to go where we can serve Jesus and others, rather than make money. He thought that was funny.

He also showed me a picture of his wife and daughter. He thinks it's sad that with China's one-child policy, so many children, like his daughter, have no brothers and sisters to play with.

He was amazed that I have six children and said several times, "Six children! You are so fortunate. You must be so happy together!"

Well, yes, most of the time.

Paul got stuck in traffic coming to pick us up, so Jenny and I got our luggage and went up to the main level and Jenny got a Frosty at Wendy's. And we discovered something useful. You know how packed the pick-up area gets at PDX late at night? Well, if you go upstairs to Departures, you can go out to the curb and pretty much have the place to yourself.

What I don't like about flying: the food situation. Really, now. Five and a half hours from Miami to LAX and the only food choices are $10 sandwiches, $3.29 cookies, or the old peanuts at the bottom of your backpack? And in every airport except our own beloved PDX, all the food is priced double or triple the street price.

Paul met me with pink roses for Valentines Day.

It's good to be home.

I'll do more reminiscing in the coming days of course, between unpacking and catching up.

Thanks for all the prayers and good wishes.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Letter from Hburg

A few weeks ago Jenny's friend and second cousin Dolly stayed with us for the weekend. Dolly has disability and health issues, and Jenny is as strong and healthy as a horse, but they are both utterly normal 12-year-olds.

I wrote about this experience for today's Letter from Harrisburg.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jamaica 4--Tastes of Jamaica and Saving the Day

Today we went to the beach. Now I may have been Beachy Amish but I was never Beachy in the other sense of the word.

Lying in the sun is for people who can tan. Instead of burning to a crisp and then getting all blotchy looking.

Swimming is for people who don't panic when their face gets wet.

But Jenny loves to swim and splash around. So we went to this pay-to-get-in beach and oh my. This is why people come to the Caribbean. Lovely teal water, lovely rough-sand beach, palm trees to sit under when you're done in the water.

Since this is Jenny's 12 Trip, after all, I indulged her, and we stayed way longer than I would have needed to be happy.

Eventually I tired of swimming and of sitting under the palm tree so I got showered and dressed and went wandering around looking for iced tea. Which is not a Jamaican drink but maybe I'd be lucky. I mean, I just very badly needed some iced tea.

There was a covered area full of tables and chairs that sort of oozed into the bar area. That seemed to be the only place to get anything to drink so I asked if they had iced tea. No they did not. They had something with the word "tea" in it, but it's alcoholic, and he looked at me like, I know you don't want that.

I got a table a safe distance away and asked the waitress if I could have a cup of hot water and another cup of ice.

She said sure.

I fished a bag of Kenya tea out of my purse, brewed it in the hot water, and poured it over the ice.

It was wonderful. Kenyan tea saves the day again.

Partway through this process I ran down to the beach to let the girls know where I was and Amy says I said,

Quote of the Day 1:
"I'll be sitting by the bar, because I got a drink."

After we got back to the house and cleaned up we went out for dinner with all the staff girls at one of those amazing places you find only in warm climes, where the inside sort of flows into the outside, with no clear Mason-Dixon line, and you sit at a table with a linen tablecloth, and the breezes blow around you and the bougainvillea is blooming.

But first, before we left for the lovely dinner, Jenny went to use the bathroom quickly before Amy locked up the house. And then she screamed.

Amy went to investigate. She screamed too.

I went and looked. I screamed too.

This is why.

Amy saved the day, as she always does. But first she said,

Quote of the Day 2:
"You keep watch and don't let him get out of the toilet!"
Jenny obeyed, but this is what she thought of the task.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Jamaica 3--Up the Falls

Today a guy from the mission here took us to the airport to rent the car Paul had reserved for us. (Thanks, Paul!) Of course this is not allowed to be just a routine procedure, this being us ladies in a foreign country.

We got a ride with the ones taking today's shift to Blossom. On the way, I discovered that Amy, who had sounded so confident that she could drive on the left side, which had made me delighted to get the car in her name, actually never had yet, but she was sure it would be ok.

I had been warned that they would want me to buy insurance and I should say no. The tall Jamaican lady said I had to buy insurance. I said no I do not. She said yes, it's a requirement here, and here are your options.

Argghh. Where's Paul when I need him?

I fussed enough to embarrass Jenny. In fact I tried hard to sound exactly like Paul would, and he always gets his way with that tone of voice, but it did no good. And obviously the lady had all the power because we needed that car.


She took a key off the row of hooks (not the row that said, "dirty keys") and took us out to a neat little gray car. I hopped in, along with my long-handled purse. She took Amy around and showed her the details. Then she asked me to step out so she could show Amy the jack under the seat.

I stepped out and promptly hooked my foot in the purse handle on my way out. I took two panicky hops and was flying nose-first toward the asphalt when the lady, Ms. Dishonest Yes You Must Buy Insurance, reached out, hooked her elbow into mine, and hauled me up with the neatest save you ever saw.

So I forgave her.

I also laughed so hard I embarrassed Jenny.

Then we took off for a day of touristing.

Amy capably drove us along the coast for about two hours, to Dunn's River Falls. It's an amazing place, with the river dropping over 600 feet in maybe a quarter mile, and then it flows right into the ocean. The cool thing, and the real draw of the place, is that you can climb the falls from the beach right up to the top.

When we parked the car we shared the parking lot with three huge tour buses and probably 50 smaller buses, our first clue that this was a big tourist draw.

As we walked inside the gates, we saw hundreds of tourists milling everywhere. We changed into swimwear we could conscientiously wear in public, stowed our things in a locker, and headed down the path toward the beach, surrounded by crowds of people speaking Italian, German, American English, British English, Southern English, and languages I didn't recognize. They were also in swimwear, and if I never again in my whole entire life see such quantities of bare flesh again--tattooed, bulging, shapely,or bouncy, I will be perfectly happy with that, and that is all I will say about that.

It was Cruise Ship Day, it turned out. The ships dock at various places along the coast of Jamaica, and people can sign up for a frolicsome time at this natural attraction.

Amy had been here before and knew how to go about it, so we went barefoot, and didn't use the guides.

It was beautiful. Lush green growth hanging down and growing all around, and this clear just-cool-enough water flowing down over a rippling and tumbling stairway of rocks that settled into pools for landings and then flowed down another flight.


As high as we could see, a long line of shrieking tourists held hands and slowly worked their way up the falls, with agile guides coaching them along and other agile guides leaping over the rocks to take videos, egging people on in imitating crazy whoops and cheers, which I have a hunch were all to make them not think about how terribly slowly they were progressing as they waited for a bottleneck to clear way up ahead.

We slipped behind tourists and in between them and began climbing. It was refreshing and fun, climbing up from this rock to that one, all with this lovely rush of water sloshing over you. It seldom had enough force to make you unsteady on your feet, but just enough to take all the fatigue out of your calf muscles, and I was wondering how a person could replicate that sensation in an exercise video.

Amy and Jenny started a little water fight in a pool, which the cheerful guide caught on his video camera, which will no doubt show up on the overpriced video going home with the cruise passengers.
(Looking downstream at people working their way up, with a tour guide in the yellow shirt.)

Finally after about 100 feet we gave up. We weren't about to join the cruise ship conga line, and it wasn't working to slip past them. The girls clambered back down and I found a way off the side and back to the path. Amy asked a guide and he said it should be better in an hour or two.

So we swam in the lovely warm Caribbean and walked on the beach and did other unbelievable rich-people things, and then after a while things did indeed clear out and up we went.

I wish you could all experience it. Up and up, step by step, left here along the rocks, grab there, step there, down through a pool, on and on. All with that soothing water flowing toward you. I read that the hike takes 3 hours but it took us maybe half an hour. It helps if you're not with 200 other people, in a long line.

I pretty much kept up with my agile girls. That was very cool too.

Afterwards I asked the lady at the desk how many people come through here every day.

"It ranges from 1500 to 7500," she said. "7500 is on the big cruise ship days."

I said, "Was today a cruise ship day?"

She said yes.

Then Amy drove us safely back, and on the way we stopped for Jerk Chicken And Jerk Pork With Rice and Beans, and Festival.

Festival is a deep-fried cornmeal thing. It's good. So is the Jerk stuff.

While we were eating, I suddenly remembered that I was going to be very clever and ask the girls, when we reached the top of the falls, if they didn't feel like they should start spawning*. They didn't think this was funny.

*Since we had just fought our way upstream, like salmon, which you might not know if you're not from the Northwest.

I also had an idea that was even more clever. The cruise ships should offer one more day trip for their adventure-hungry passengers: a trip to Blossom. These wealthy people could hold babies for a few hours and have their eyes opened to how some people really live, and their consciences could be stirred, and they could either come volunteer in Jamaica or send money to JRM for their foster care program, or they could sponsor adoptions so babies like little Aldane could go live with my niece Annette and her husband Jay, or they could come to Jamaica to help people set up micro-businesses and help the economy in general, or they could come find a way to motivate Jamaican men to be real men, since some 85% of babies are born to single moms. Or at the very least they could just hold babies for a few hours and that would be good too.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Jamaica Trip 1: Amos's Genes at PDX

Jenny is officially her Grandpa Yoder's descendant.

We're at the Alaska Airlines gate in PDX. We got here early because Paul wanted to see about buying a used stretch wrapper, so we did that first and got to the airport well ahead of time.

A while back they announced that there's a flight leaving for Seattle, and there's room for more if any of us are scheduled on a later flight and would like to go now. So Jenny and I went up to the counter and asked if we qualified.

We had checked luggage, so we couldn't. But just as I was turning away, Jenny leaned forward and said to the blonde Alaska lady, "Um, I have a question. Most people, when they have braces, their rubber bands go up and down. But yours go slanty across the front. Why is that?"

Gah. Should I apologize for my nosy daughter or what?

The lady laughed. It's because I have my father's jaw on top and my mother's jaw on the bottom, [she pulled it exaggeratedly to the left] and my teeth in between."

Jenny said, "Thank you. I wondered."

We went back to our seats. Those of you who know Amos Yoder, you know why I thought, yep, she's her grandpa's granddaughter.

Off to Jamaica

Jenny and I are about to head off to the Caribbean!

As you probably know, Amy is in Jamaica for a year at a home for orphans. She teaches the director's children and also helps with the care of the children and volunteers at a government orphanage, which you can read about here.

Amy was hoping that Paul and I could come visit, but Paul felt like he has too much going on and too many other trips coming up.

And then he said to me, "Hey, you haven't taken Jenny's "12 Trip," yet, have you?

That would be the traditional overnight outing that I do with each of the children, supposedly when they're 12 but sometimes it, um, gets delayed a bit. Like this one. And this one.

Jenny and I both jumped at that opportunity. I mean, if your husband/dad suggests you go to Jamaica, you'd be crazy to say no.

But first I sent an email to all the older kids: "This is way more than I did for any of your 12 Trips, and I don't want this brought up at my funeral, how unfair I was."

They all said it was ok.

We leave this afternoon, the Lord willing.

In the next week, you can all think of us basking in the warm tropical sunshine, sipping iced tea. And, of course, playing with orphans and sewing new curtains for them and hopefully being generally useful.

Quote of the Day:
"I went on vacation and forgot I had a neck!"
--Paul's Aunt Nadine, a summer or two ago. I hope I don't do that.

(I think she had hurt her neck just before that and was supposed to do therapy every day. Or something.)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

On Leaving

Someone who goes by "Life of a plainlady" commented on a recent post, speaking of the Mennonite subculture:
"If there is so much 'coziness', I wonder why so many leave and go elsewhere?"

So I decided to explore that just a bit. These are my observations. Feel free to add your own.

There are at least three types of "leaving" if you're Plain.

1. You leave the community you're in and move to another one that's roughly the same scale of conservative as the original.

2. You leave the church you're in to join one up or down the scale.

3. You leave the Amish/Mennonite church entirely.

Here are some reasons people leave:

1. Practicality. A better job, getting married, living closer to aging parents, that sort of thing.

2. They want to do something with their lives that simply doesn't fit the practical parameters of an Anabaptist community. If you want to work in the space program, be a lobbyist in Washington, DC, or design bridges in California, it's really hard to do that and be a part of a rural, established Mennonite church.

3. They don't agree with the doctrine and interpretations of the church they're in. Surely it isn't necessary to part your hair in the middle and wear only solid colors--that sort of thing.

4. And I really think this is the most common: they have been badly hurt in the setting they're in. It's sad--the elements that make for a close cozy community can also make for opportunities to do some phenomenal damage.

5. I guess I should add the reason that gets the most blame--"Because they are stubborn and rebellious and wicked"--but I really don't think that's the real reason very often.

Often, it's a combination of the above.

I thought some of the Beachy-Amish rules were silly, but I could have stayed Beachy if I felt called to stay where I was (I didn't) or if I had been part of a church that didn't have the painful relationships mine had at the time. Paul was Mennonite--well, sort of--but not a member anywhere and still maybe half Wesleyan Methodist after going to Allegheny WM College. Definitely not Beachy. So we got married and joined a Mennonite church.

And eventually left that one to go on the mission field.

And came back to this Mennonite church because we had family here.

And have felt called to stay here ever since.

It's a different journey for everyone, and it's not for me to tell anyone what theirs ought to look like. However, it's definitely mine to make sure it isn't any cruelty from me that drives them away.

I think most people will stay a part of a congregation where they feel loved and welcomed and useful and nurtured and valuable and helped, and if those ingredients are present, an odd rule or two won't matter very much.

Like I said, feel free to add your observations and experiences.

Quote of the Day:
"It's like with Smucker men, if you keep asking, they dig in their heels. You ask one time and then you be quiet and then after a while you say, "Uh, did you hear me?" and they're like, "I'm THINKING."
--an observant young relative and friend of Jenny's