Author Archive: BeccaJayne

About BeccaJayne

Writer who teaches.

Wanted: Stories of Women & Leadership in Mennonite Church USA (which I always think sounds like a sports team)

“I will tell you something about stories . . . They aren’t just entertainment. Don’t be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death.”
~Leslie Marmon Silko

I truly believe that sharing our stories–including the actual process of writing them out–is one of our most powerful tools–a small act that starts a transformation in ourselves and the world around us. What if sharing our stories could help future generations of both men and women? What if a story could “overturn a table” in the various Temples of our day– including in the bellies of our own communities and congregations? Social media’s given more women affiliated with Mennonite Church USA a chance to get a glimpse of the diversity and reality present in our national congregations and communities–a reality and diversity that’s not always heard or lived out, let alone celebrated.

Let’s change that. Every step and every story counts.

Wanted: Stories from any woman or girl who considers herself Mennonite or shaped by the Anabaptist-Mennonite traditions. Check out the newly launched Mennonite Monologues web site where stories can be told through essays, poems, art, songs, photographs, and other forms of creative expression. The Women and Leadership Project needs stories that speak to your truth and experience: joy and gratitude, as well as stories of lament and pain. Multiple stories are encouraged. Whatever story you wish to tell, it is welcome. All will be collected on our blog and may be submitted with a name or anonymously.

“Women have often felt insane when cleaving to the truth of our experience. Our future depends on the sanity of each of us, and we have a profound stake, beyond the personal, in the project of describing our reality as candidly and fully as we can to each other.”
~Adrienne Rich


Prompts to help get you started

-As a woman, what are the stories that have shaped your sense of leadership?
-What are your experiences of being called (or not called) to leadership in Mennonite Church USA?
-How have you been empowered by the church to lead?
-How have you been discouraged from taking on leadership roles?
-Do you think there is a difference in the ways women and men are cultivated to be leaders?
-Did you grow up seeing women in leadership?
-Who were your mentors?
-What is your ideal vision of church leadership in the future? Where do you fit in?

YAR, we need your awesomely radical selves! Thanks for helping to spread the word. ~Women in Leadership Project, Mennonite Monologues team

What We Give to the World: Insuring Our Better Selves

Hi, YAR family! It’s literally been years (years!) since I’ve written to fellow YAR readers here in our online sanctuary. Though I’ve been silent here, know that your existence has buoyed me and challenged me in my Anabaptist seeking.

Why do we write, anyway? To an audience of one, to loved ones and complete strangers? After finally visiting with an insurance agent yesterday (who’d been emailing and calling like I was a close friend who’d been putting off a brunch date), I found that I needed to make sense of my unease and questions about “insuring” a better world as a 21st-century Mennonite. Writing is my go-to in these cases. An act of faith, so to speak.

So here’s something for our collective offering plate: http://tattooedmennonite.blogspot.com/2013/01/insurance-and-wordles.html

Voices in the Night: What keeps *you* awake?

(Hi friends. Tis been awhile.)

Lately, I have been thinking about the Biblical stories that star God’s voice. (You know, humans actually hearing God in the middle of the night and assuming it’s someone else.) I wish I could say God’s voice is what’s waking me up at 4 in the morning. Mostly, I fear that the news and election are the real voices echoing in my head. I admit, I still hold a bit of angst about getting involved politically, just as my ancestors did. It’s hard to come to terms with wanting to be an activist, an Anabaptist, and still realizing that we’re most likely never going to have a president who does not want to be the world’s superpower in both “peace” (military might) and prosperity at the sacrifice of other nations. It’s harder still to watch my heart harden around other Christians who do not share my views on how we should work on the “mighty ache” in the world, those who view “the other” candidate as more Christian. Yikes… But let’s be honest–mirroring Shane Claiborne’s views–if Jesus was running for president, neither of the candidates would vote for his platform! It’s so radical, so embracing of the weak and misguided, that we’d nervously laugh him off the platform. All this election talk and anxiety has made me realize something else: Most friends and family know where I stand politically; my t-shirts, posters, and discussions make it clear. But am I just as vocal or transparent about my support of a Christ-led life in the presence of those who don’t know me well? And how can I do this without becoming what I so “lovingly” now refer to as “a crazy Christian”?

When and where do you hear God’s voice, and what is keeping you up at night? Plant your suggestions here.

And in the meantime, here’s an excellent radio source for listening to diverse issues of faith, ethics, and the human heart not found on NPR or Fox called SPEAKING OF FAITH: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/

When in War, Go to Poetry (and then what??)

Hi, folks. If you are a fellow Menno who would love to hear more sermons on how we can show our peace church roots on a local and national level during times of war, read this article. It warmed my ever-reaching heart.

It’s easy to fall into “Acedia” (being so overwhelmed that we do nothing). But there are oodles of things one person can do for peace and justice. Here are just a few of those oodles:
-support the Peace Tax Foundation in various ways
-walk/bike/carpool
-buy a consistent fair trade item (like coffee, wedding gifts, etc. etc.)
-dialogue and connect face-to-face (I’ve gotten to know a classmate whose husband is a soldier in Afghanistan…it’s been challenging and humbling)
-read poetry! :) OK, I’m a poet. I’m biased. But words do powerful, lifechanging things to people!

Breaking my writer’s block!

Have you ever experienced something so overwhelming that it takes a while to sink into a place where it can be digested? (I’m hoping the American people are going through a “writer’s block,” so to speak, and will very soon rise up with their voices, pens, and withdrawn tax dollars to stop the worship of war in our country! But I digress…)
I spent last July in Monrovia, Liberia with my parents (they were there on a two-yr. humanitarian term with MMN, years that tested their marriage and their faith–but that’s a whole other entry!). A collapsed infrastructure is astounding and brutal to see face to face; so is the result of centuries of violence, corruption, and struggle…It’s taken me 8 months to put my experiences in Liberia onto paper…and even so, they are so hard to capture or revisit. Anyway, here are some new poems. I’d love to read others’ travel writing!
_____
TO THE GIRL ON SOMALIA DRIVE

I am not prepared to see her on Somalia Drive.
We have the car windows closed, partly
so that no arm can reach in, see what white skin
has to offer, partly to block out the loudest fumes.

Diesel trucks and busloads in front of us mimic
slowly rolling waves (children have been lost
in the mahogany puddles of rainy season potholes.)
Roads pulse with people, dogs with teats dragging, lines
of goats. We crawl past a slaughterhouse, a Coca Cola factory,
a trailer packed with workers singing
of the Promised Land.

We are some sort of horrible royalty.

After all, we are from America,
that real Promised Land that sent freed slaves here
to start Liberia, also the home of “freedom.” We are tied
to these people outside our car windows
by blood and sweat and quiet
greed. Men suck their teeth
at my mother and me, their way of getting
our unnerved attention. Looks of longing,
money signs, and awe. Babies often cry—
to them, we are ghosts.

I have learned to be overly interested in my shoes.

When I do glance up this day, I see a flash of white,
and there she is: a blue-black body
all treble clef curves, a bucket of bananas
cocked on her head. We look
at one another, five seconds
at the most.

I am becoming numb to seeing more and more
young men with missing limbs or hands,
the sickening artwork of civil war.
But meeting eyes with a faceless girl—where cheeks
and nose should be, only white, only white—

who can ever get used to that? (more…)

Unhooked? An unabashed reflection (and rant) on love

The other morning, driving to teach, I caught myself listening with a longing heart to a laughable story on NPR. Welsh farmers who, because of a shortage of eligible women, were “advertising” themselves as possible husbands in hopes to keep their small community going. Women from all over the world were responding! I found myself daydreaming about me and some handsome Welshman eating scones…then snapped back to reality in order to lead a poetry course to 35 carefree college underclassmen. I wanted to tell them, “Look. Don’t ever graduate. Don’t ever assume everything’s going to be as easy and planned out as it is now. And for goodness sake, don’t assume that Meg Ryan movies can happen in real life.” But I decided to talk about the Beats instead.

It’s no secret that young people in America–often faced with too many options or life choices– go through a “quarter life crisis” (just see the whole book series on the subject). I’ve been rethinking my life goals a LOT recently, along with all the assumptions and expectations that go/went with them. I used to believe that every “Anne of green gabels” had her “Gilbert” out there. I used to believe that God knew what was in store for our hearts and protected them. Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe I’ll be singing a different tune in ten years, but for now, I’m content to sit with my multiplying questions. (more…)

Can we find ourselves in Poetry?

Hey, everyone. Tim suggested I post some of what I’m working on, so here goes. This selection was among poetry read at Bluffton’s “Beyond Borders…” writing conference last month, and I’m attempting to publish them elsewhere. I’m really interested in why practicing Menno women are still so wary of certain issues in their poetry. Is breaking from community approval and drawing focus on the creative “self” still so painful? Are we comfortable with the silences demanded of us? Julia Kasdorf and Di Brandt are examples of more “confessional” writers who have not been afraid to keep the church accountable…but both also had decided to leave the Menno dem. before publishing. I’m thankful they’ve opened doors for others to raise up voices and concerns, but where are those creative voices in the current Menno church? Surely some appear in A CAPPELLA, the recent poetry collection. But I’m aching for something more… (more…)

Revival, anyone?

Perhaps I am writing this because where I live, I have to explain at least once a week what a Mennonite is, our core values and goals, and this makes me long to see more of us practicing them. Perhaps I am writing this because I am tired of silences and homogeny of so many different kinds…who knows? I’m just glad that YAR offers a chance to talk…

Here in Athens, Ohio, we take pride in many things: our farmers’ market, fair trade coffee shops, beautiful hiking trails and rock formations, and the obvious diversity in our population: undergrads known for making O.U. the on-again-off-again #1 party school, international grad students, professors in tweed jackets, and colorful Appalachian locals. I revel in the atmosphere of a college town, especially one so “progressive,” at least for Ohio. I have to face it; I like to feel “different,” on the “verge” of something, and Athens allows me to have this faith in Humanity’s ability to create and evolve. Speaking of the “p” word (“progressive,” in case you are confused), one would think that being Mennonite would immediately peg us as “different” in the larger society. But the kind of Mennonite I want to be–actively seeking out peace and justice according to Christ’s example, accountable simple living and community, and heck–maybe even preaching one day– does not involve head coverings or long hair and dresses. So what distinguishes my “sect” of Mennos, those who have greatly assimilated back into the dominating culture out of fear, comfort, or for some other reason? (more…)

Confessions of a Tattooed Mennonite

Hello, everyone. This blog does the body/soul good! For the past few years, I’ve been addicted to “confessional” forms of literature. As a poet, I just can’t stay away from bringing skeletons out of the closet or mucking through some pretty big issues in my own work. The other young women in my grad workshop don’t see what the big deal is…What I’m finding is that even though my home community was supposedly “progressive” in many ways, I grew up thinking my voice was somehow inferior. I know others will relate to balking at any form of confrontation, too. Well, today I am noticing a silence in our (mostly rural?) “anabaptist” congregations towards issues that once gave us our name and purpose, and as a young woman I want to speak out “firmly but gently.” Poetically, if you will. To hold us accountable, to remind us of a God much bigger than any red, blue, or purple state and what our neighbors think of us. I’m beginning to publish inside the “Menno Realm,” something that’s frightening for me b/c of its obvious audience. But (I think) I’m ready. Grandma, Grandpa, prepare thy ears!