Here’s the fall issue of MennoExpressions, theme: Intersection. Contributors include Haley Bastin, Kenda Resler Friend, Dean Habegger, Dan Hess, Kim Johnson, Addie Liechty, Mary Liechty, Martha Yoder Maust, and Carol Mullet. Thanks for reading MennoExpressions!
Reading, especially fiction, is one of my highlights of being alive. Disappearing into a story, mulling it over while I’m away from it, reading far too late into the night because there is just no logical place to possibly stop, sharing the excitement with a fellow reader who was just as caught up in the story—all of these make me feel so grateful to simply know how to read and to be able to be immersed in someone else’s craft, someone else’s story so completely. And yet I rarely retain more from a book than the feeling I had while reading it. I’m often reading books for book club at the very last second because after a week or so, I can’t speak to details, plot points—just the overall feeling of how much I loved it or was completely annoyed by it. I keep the feeling.
There’s a lot of literal “keeping of stuff” in these pages. Somehow lids—you know, lids to yogurt containers—prompted a lively discussion in our planning meeting for this issue. We keep lids because… we’re frugal! They have many uses! You can use them to play kitchen hockey! They are great coasters and popsicle holders! We agreed: just because something has outlived its intended use doesn’t mean it has lost its value.
And yet, we hang on to so many things Just In Case. This goes beyond literal, tangible items: What friendships do you maintain over decades? What have you retained from cross-cultural experiences or international travel? Do you believe everything you’re “supposed” to believe as a Mennonite? Why have you kept certain traditions alive, but not others? What memories or stories are important to you to pass on to loved ones? And—just as important as what we keep—what would we be better off without?
I love the day that submissions are due for each issue. Before that point, the issue (and its theme) is only an idea. The editorial board has hashed out a plan for a theme, we’ve divided up who will ask whom to contribute, usually with a specific prompt in mind – but we don’t know who will actually write and what they will have decided to write about. And so deadline day comes, emails begin to hit my inbox, and I see the issue start to take shape, as reflections of the theme emerge. It’s exciting to see it come to life. Your stories are beautiful, as is the trust you put in the rest of the congregation as you share your truths.
Contributors weighing in on Is it God? include Evonne Swartzendruber, Maggie Girard, Michele West, Ethel Hartman, Dan Hess, Ben Tapper, Shari Wagner, Nancy Fletcher, Julie Monroe, and Beth Goering. They have offered up incredible stories, reflections, experiences, artwork. Which one resonates the most with your own experience of God?
The beginning of the year often brings intentions of reviewing habits and patterns in our lives, choosing which to discard, which to begin, which to emphasize. This issue brings reflections from Marcy Major on how her life has changed as her son has grown up and moved on, Erin Rodman on musical patterns, Hollins and Rachel Showalter on adjusting VBS schedules, Marie Harnish on designing quilting patterns, Mary Liechty on some of her life’s disruptions and learnings, Amy Bixler on following a pattern and what that does for her focus, and Heidi Boschmann Amstutz on her ritual of running. Woven through the prose is beautiful photography and artwork by Annabella Habegger, Dan Hess, and Emilie Walson.
Thanks for reading MennoExpressions!
Dovetailing with the theme of Indianapolis’ annual Spirit & Place festival, our fall issue centers on Power. How do power structures in the church help or hinder our faith? How does the power of community help us through difficult situations? What does the power of a Sabbath provide? Stunning photography, poetry, prose – this issue has it all. Thanks for reading MennoExpressions!
Happy 30th anniversary to MennoExpressions! In celebration of this milestone, this issue centers around the traditional 30th anniversary gift: we started this year with an issue on “dirt,” followed by one on “interruptions,” and now come to our “pearl.” Something potentially pesky and irritating sits in darkness and silence and, over time, is transformed into something beautiful, precious, cherished.
Catherine Swanson offers up a wonderful meditation on what happens when she embraces the silence and trusts that there is something she can listen to and find precious and worthy in that space. Others share reflections on what worth they’ve found in these pages over the last three decades. Our artists each created something specific just for this issue!
Part of what I value so much about MennoExpressions is that it brings out the parts of people that you don’t normally see or find out about on Sunday morning. Such trust that contributors have placed in us, the readers, as they share personal stories and struggles. What a gift that is.
Erv comments that people must often be surprised when they are asked to write, not considering themselves a writer. I agree that it’s a very common answer, and yet more often than not, people push past their hesitation and create something transformative for the rest of us to appreciate. Thank you for trusting us – MennoExpressions, FMC, Shalom – with your stories and your art. Here’s to the next pearls of wisdom and cherished contributions!
I was trading messages with Michele, one of this issue’s contributors, and she joked that her “first thought about ‘interruptions’ is ‘my life’. Because when you are a parent, your life is just pretty much one of constant interruptions, isn’t it?” Seriously.
But whether we’re parents or not, we’re all bombarded with interruptions, big and small, as we move throughout our lives. Some of these interruptions are pesky, some are life-changing, some are welcomed, some are not. All of them make for some interesting reading and reflection here. Thanks for reading MennoExpressions!
In this issue of MennoExpressions, you’ll find artwork and prose themed around Dirt: the content includes stills from an experimental video performance in which dirt is used instead of makeup; reflections how dirt makes us clean; a story about repurposing contaminated property (where a dry cleaners used to operate) into a thriving community garden; a photo essay on compost; plus beautiful artwork and poetry. I think you’ll find something to dig your toes into. Enjoy!
Hurdles are present in each of our lives. Some are easy to see and therefore easy for us to make a plan to get over them. Others are not as clearly seen or recognized. Contributors to this issue of MennoExpressions discuss several different hurdles: those in our education system, emotional and physical hurdles during a painful pilgrimage, and a growing awareness of what advantages a white mom doesn’t share with her black children. What is a hurdle you are currently facing?
“In the midst of” seems to have struck a chord with our contributors. Not only are there glimpses into the lives of 22 (!) FMCers and SMCers (these interviews alone are worth opening the issue!) but other contributors share unique perspectives on what they are in the midst of, including:
- Karen West’s perennial search for harmony (her preferred term to “work/life balance”);
- Catherine Swanson’s haunting poem about a family who has fled their home and is desperately searching for a country to take them in;
- Jen and Nate Christophel Lichti’s exploration of their transition away from church and towards deeper community within their own family and with others;
- Martha Yoder Maust narrates what she sees in her downtown neighborhood as she takes a Saturday morning walk, while Pattie Mishler explores the gifts walking gives her;
- Two FMC college students reflect on their experiences living in France and Peru, respectively, this spring; and
- Laura Friesen’s journey through issues of power and connectivity while she reflects on Steve’s time at FMC as transitional pastor.
What are you in the midst of?