Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress ~ A Guest Author and Giveaway

Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside-down. From the outside, it seemed she had everything she wanted: a fulfilling job, a beautiful lakeside home, and a brilliant husband of fifteen years. But then her husband announced he was leaving her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com—and that same week a car accident left her with serious injuries, scarred legs, and "Franken-bruises" on her head.

You would naturally do what any liberated career woman would do—you'd go home to the bosom of your Mennonite family. Rhoda did, even though her spiritual path had long parted ways with the Mennonites. She was more at ease sipping cocktails with fellow academics than sitting in a conservative church. But she returned to the land of Borscht, Zwiebach, and corduroy-covered Bibles to heal, where, as a child, she wore sober, handmade clothes her mother taught her to sew herself.

Rhoda wasn't just raised a Mennonite; her father was the head of the North American Mennonite conference. And although she had left this conservative community she was welcomed back with open arms and generous advice. (Rhoda's good-natured mother suggested she date her first cousin!)

I am so pleased to be able to introduce Rhoda to you today. Her story, her book, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home, is remarkable and climbing the lists. (I just saw it reviewed in glowing terms in Entertainment magazine.) When she writes, her humor is laugh out loud contagious, and her ability to dig deep—to come to terms with who she was and who she finds herself to be today—is heartwarming. If you liked Eat, Pray, Love, you will enjoy this book. In fact, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of EPL) raved about Rhoda's book and is recommending it to all her friends. She says it's the most delightful memoir she's read in years. High praise!

We're giving away a copy of this book (hardcover!) , so be sure to leave a comment. Click here and you can view a marvelous short video about Rhoda's Mennonite childhood and coming of age years, narrated by hers truly. It's a treat. Personally, I loved the "big hair," 80s photos.

Welcome, Rhoda!

JLL: Rhoda, as we begin this interview, what's on your heart today?
RJ: I find myself in a completely different place in life now since writing the book. I'm married. I married a man of faith. And I am at the tail end of a cancer diagnosis. My life has been shaken up this last couple of years. I had a double mastectomy last spring and reconstruction will begin soon. I've done chemotherapy and radiation.

Of course, I am startled to hear this. Just as her success about "Mennonite" is starting to build, she is slapped with a cancer diagnosis. I wish her well and offer blessings of health. Despite her current challenge, I find Rhoda upbeat and positive about her life. She is warm and engaging. Because the tone of her writing is rather self-deprecating and quirky at times, I thought she might she might be that way, too, but she's not. She is also highly intelligent (a professor of literature at Hope College in MI) and profoundly centered. She feels to me like a woman who knows who she is—a woman living boldly in the world as her truest self.

JLL: After all this, after all that you have gone through, do you consider yourself a resilient woman?

RJ:  I do, though I never really thought of it in terms of resilience. I've thought of it in terms of balance. What good is faith, what good is family and friends if when you are at your lowest they cannot minister to you, or lend any comfort or support? They do, and all you have to do is reach out and take it. For me the faith aspect, the spiritual pursuit, the belief in God, in family and friends, those things were just so clearly and richly present for me. That made it that much more easy to go through all that difficulty—with the cancer especially.

JLL: It seems to me that going home the way you did would help you sort out who you are today, in light of your family of origin. Did this help you to do that, to know who you are?
RJ: I believe you can never really arrive at the definitive answer of who you are, especially if you conceive of your identity as something that is continually changing. I am so glad I am no longer the person I was in my marriage, but I am not beating myself up about it. I have received many letters from women, angry women, who say I was not hard enough (in the book) on the relationship with my ex. (Note: She does refer to him as "the Tasmanian Devil of charm.") That I wasn't more horrified at my own role in the relationship and that I stayed with a man they called an abuser. For me, it's so much easier to say I did that. Yeah, I was complicit in the marriage. Yeah, I stayed when maybe I should have gone. But I learned so much from it, and that is one of the the things I can do to be at peace with who I am, with the the decisions I have made. I don't look at my history as a lot of horrible experiences. Wow, I have learned and learned, and every mistake I made has pointed me in a new direction.

JLL: I hear self-compassion in your voice.
RJ: I'd say that's true. For me, it is not even about forgiveness, or forgiveness toward my ex-husband. Forgiveness turns on the idea of moral judgment. If you are forgiving someone you have judged what they have done to be wrong. With compassion we are seeking peace around the situation. It is so much more healthy in relation to our own experience and the choices we made.

JLL: So you are saying that compassion for our self allows us to take the next steps we need to take and not get stuck in old stories.
RJ: Jan, that is such an important point. And it seems to me that when people are thinking about this they talk about what's blocking them from moving on. But compassion not only eliminates the block, it propels you forward. It helps energize you to reinvent yourself in a very proactive way.

Rhoda's book is definitely a "tell-all" sort of book. She speaks with candor about her family's (and Mennonites') unconventional habits. From her father re-using his toothpicks to her mom traveling to Hawaii with a deep fryer for chicken packed in her suitcase, it lightens the illusion that "spiritual folk" are boring. And she does so with warmth and caring. 

JLL: How is your family responding to all this now.
RJ: They are responding in ways that don't particularly surprise me. My mom is most supportive and she is encouraging me in my writing and of my new project as well. As for my brothers, there is confirmation there that we have very different world views. My father would have written a different book, likely on the topic of Mennonite theology, or been more globally inclusive. Overall, they are very supportive of me.

JLL: And what about this voice you write in? It really cracks me up, but it doesn't quite sound like you, the you I am interviewing. Is this a part of you?
RJ: It is. The book grew out of a couple of e-mails I had written to my girlfriends back here when I was in Fresno (CA) healing. I was telling them these little stories and amusing anecdotes about what it is like when a 43-old goes home to her conservative Mennonites parents' home. They were encouraging me to write more, so that is what the book came out of. When I got nervous about writing it, I would just pretend that I was writing to my friend Carla.

I wondered if she'd experienced any fear about writing. 

RJ: I knew that my own personal choices and ideology and more liberal politics would be a problem for some of the Mennonites and, of course, that has happened. I knew that it would. It did provoke tension in me when I was writing because I did not want to do anything disrespectful to the community that I love. (Though Rhoda is the first to admit that in her teen years, she thought of her community as "turbo-geeks.")

JLL: When you think back now on your upbringing, what is the strongest virtue or quality you brought with you into who you are today?
RJ: Nice question. The the most useful quality is a work ethic, a serious Mennonite work ethic. I'm busy, and I can work hard and long, and that comes from my parents.

The best value? To look at people and their choices and be able to think, 'Good for you. You are doing the best you can with what you have.' This notion of compassion. My parents are not blamers and they do not judge people in a negative way. And one of the things that has shaped my recent return to a faith community was found in going back home and seeing their demonstrated application of their faith. For me it wasn't about what they believed but about how they behaved in the world. And I love the way they behave. I love their service to other people. I love their compassion and their patience and their kindness. If they have given me any of that, it is something I would cherish above all things.

JLL: So you are exploring your spiritual in new ways?
RJ: Yes, I married a man of faith. I am going to church on purpose! (she laughs)

Things are different today. I think there is such a broad community of people seeking spiritual things. It is easier now than it used to be. There are so many ways of being spiritual-minded, so many ways of being Christian, and I think people who are doing synthesized spiritual approaches—where they are interested in Buddhism and applying some of that to the principles of Christianity, for example, I love some of that stuff.

JLL: Do you have regular spiritual practices?
RJ: I do. Every day my husband and I have devotions together and we read a variety of spiritually- themed books. Some of them are explicitly Christian. My husband is from a Pentecostal background, very different from my own, so we read that but we also read Eckhart Tolle. I meditate. I do yoga. Exercise is very spiritual for me. Before the cancer, I ran 6 miles a day and I would call that part of a spiritual practice. Now I am swimming. And I'm learning it, so it's not a spiritual practice as it might be if I were better at it! That will come. Reading. I pray actually. In the book I talk a little bit about prayer.

When I wrote the book I thought that prayer was a discipline for rehearsing gratitude. For taking the self out of the self. And into being in tune with nature and the needs of other people. I have since reversed my position on that. Now I am exploring prayer as a way to grow and change, and to affect outcome. So I am thinking about that in new ways.

And what is she working on now? 

RJ: My next project is titled, Backslider. It's a humorous memoir about sliding back into religion. About somebody who has been more on the academic, skeptical side of things for most of her adult life who makes a discurive move on purpose—with doubt—back to organized religion.

And, yes, it's her story ... Stay tuned.

Thank you, Rhoda, it's been wonderful speaking with you, up close and personal!

Now, Rhoda and I welcome your thoughts ... the conversation is already rolling and she is cracking me up so more! We're talking about issues near and dear to women's hearts: fasting, chemo hair, and drinking lye. WHAT??? Please join in, quick!

You can learn more about Rhoda at her publisher's website.
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is available at Amazon.com or in your favorite bookstore.
You may enjoy this Profile article on Rhoda in the New York Times, too. 


Rhoda Janzen said...

Good Morning, Jan and readers.

I come to you this morning in a homemade robe, with crazy-curly chemo hair all cattywampus, like one of those Frisbee haloes on a medieval saint. It’s early, and instead of my usual cup of coffee, I’m sipping a glass of tap water. What do you all think about fasting? The church I attend here in Holland, MI, has begun a month of corporate fasting and prayer.

Fasting was never a big part of my own family background, though of course I grew up with a sense of it as distinct from dieting or economic privation. When I was a girl, I had the idea that fasting was the special purview of hardcore old-testament types, those plunged into what some religious leaders call the "spirit of religion"-a rigid adherence to praxis at the expense of revelation. In other words, I thought fasting was for missionaries and hermits.

As I understand fasting in my adult life, the idea is to seek connection with God. You put your body where your heart is, showing with your most basic stuff--your stomach, your appetitive--that you are both proactive and sincere in seeking that connection. Every time your stomach rumbles, you are reminded to pray. Kooky, or contemplative?

The longest I’ve ever fasted is two days, but in the last week of January I’ll be fasting for four days. Should be interesting.

Jan said...

Oh, my, you are a brave soul! Fasting. Ugh, it strikes terror in me, to tell you the truth. I think I may have lived previous lives suffering through starvation because the idea of not being without food (even as a spiritual practice) sets my heart a'beating.

Interesting, my husband IS a faster. He swears by it. In fact, he did a two month long fast once. Seriously. That was before I met him and it sounds extremely ascetic to me. But what he found was that he got extremely clear - deep insights about life came - and ultimately, felt blissed out a lot of the time. He also lost a lot of weight! I wish you well on this. Oh, boy....

Rhoda Janzen said...

As a young woman, I thought fasting profoundly lame, the wacky irrational behavior of nutters who had internalized a sense of their own badness. Fasting seemed not unlike ritual human sacrifice—we’re bad! We’ve offended the gods! How can we appease them? Quick, let’s kill our daughter! Maybe the gods want my sandwich!

At some level fasting is indeed one of those desperate-seeming behaviors that we inflict on ourselves. It seems more civilized, though, than the weirdness of the 14th-century flagellants, who mortified their own flesh with whips and hair vests. Those chaps were literally punishing their bodies by inflicting pain, chiggers, maggots, what-have-you. Fasting isn’t about adding pain; it’s about subtracting food. How could a seeker be edified by nastying up his shoulders with a scourge? Going without food on purpose seems more on-topic, especially in a culture that encourages over-consumption. Not only do we eat too much, we eat too often.

As a foodie and an inveterate eater of chocolate, I like the idea of trying to find a balance between the needs of our body and the needs of our spirit. Or maybe my willingness to fast comes from an attraction to obsessive behavior. I like the idea of running until exhaustion, of working until it’s done, of cleaning until it’s clean. The disturbed poet Charlotte Mew was so fixated on hygiene that she cleaned herself to death—she drank lye, poor thing. Obsessive thinking is the tragic flip side of drive. Show me a woman with a vision, and I’ll show you someone who’s willing to go to extremes to achieve it.

I wonder: is balance something you can pray for? I understand that balance is a choice; we can use our discipline to behave in a balanced way no matter what we feel like doing. But maybe there's more out there. Maybe we can move toward a desire for balance, so that moderation comes to us easily, like insight or common sense.

Moderation ought to be a perk of middle age. Lord knows we deserve some perks given the Frisbee hair, the rogue tumor. But even with our immoderate longings and our bifocals, who among us would turn back the clock twenty years? I'm not sure I would even if I could be 25 again, knowing what I know now.

Jan said...

Moderation SHOULD be a perk of middle age. I am there and loving it. At 56, I've become weary of pushing myself. It seems that is what I have done most of my adult life - and that strikes me as an obsessive behavior.

So more and more I'm leaning into harmony. Not balance. I think balance, by its very nature may not be achievable. Balance requires things balancing, which means they are always tipping one way or the other! I tired of tipping and now prefer to smooze around inside of me with feelings of self-acceptance and unconditional friendliness. That is much more satisfying—and, interestingly, productive! I've gotten more done in the last couple of years focusing on harmony rather than balance than I ever dreamed possible. More accomplished by "softening" toward myself. Letting go of the shoulds creates space. And you know, in the end, it's not really good to "should" all over yourself. (wink)

Anonymous said...

Talk about divine serendipity ... I was on Amazon, just yesterday, looking for new memoirs to review as well as recommend for a local book group. During my search, Rhoda's book kept showing up and it sounded intriguing, so I wrote it down on my list of "next-reads" yesterday. Then, visiting this site this morning, here's Rhoda as the featured interview! I really believe I'm supposed to read this after "The Middle Place" (which is on my desk now) ... Can't wait.

As for the fasting -- this too is interesting to me. I've only tried it once, but wasn't able to continue on. Coming from a family of diabetics, I worried that my fasting-induced dizziness was a warning. So I had to stop the fast. For me, it's all about striking a balance. If you're interested in a discussion on "balance," I hope you'll visit my blog this week.

Jannie Funster said...

Okay, I SO want that book!! I had seen it elsewhere, but this clinches the deal for me.

Rhoda!! You amaze me. Completely. Can you please meet me for coffee?? And Jan too, of course. I can't wait! :)

I LOVE this thought... "all you have to do is reach out and take it" [the love and support.] That is so true of any given moment.

Love is everywhere.

Lisa (Mommy Mystic) said...

Jan, thanks for introducing us to Rhonda and this book, I had not heard of it and it sounds like something I will really love...Rhonda, I love what you had to say here about compassion especially, and not focusing on blame looking back, and how that opens up a space for peace. And I can see from your comments on fasting how funny your book must be! I have fasted periodically as part of various spiritual disciplines...it has helped me see my relationship to food more clearly, if nothing else! Thanks for a great interview...Lisa

Rhoda Janzen said...

Like you, Jannie, I’ve often been overwhelmed at the generosity with which love is given. What’s even more amazing, though, is that in order to receive it, we can’t be passive. We have to be active, even proactive.

That’s hard for many women, especially those who have grown up absorbing cultural patterns that tell women that it’s not okay to ask directly for what they want and need. The result is a kind of spiritual timidity, a little bog that we sink into, waiting for the good stuff to happen. Translation: passive-aggressive women who think that they have to hint around.

I remember the first time I learned this lesson. I was in Chicago, working at a law firm, and I said to my then-husband, “I’ll be working until midnight tonight.” And he called me out on it. He said, “If you want me to come pick you up, dammit, just ask for it!” I vowed then and there to start working on being more direct with people. And that has helped me more direct with myself.

Even traditional Christianity models oomph— “Ye have not because ye ask not.” So boo to all the philosophers like Nietzsche who thought that God was for wussies!

Julie G said...

Rhoda, welcome to Awakened Living and Jan, thank you so much for this wonderful guest!

You got me with "I am going to church on purpose" I love that!
I was raised a strict Catholic (still very much involved in my church) but now I am part of that broad community of people seeking spiritual things and doing "synthesized spiritual approaches". I am interested in Buddhism and applying many different traditions into the principles of Christianity.
Jan, and the many others who share on this site, have offered so many good books and other resources for enhancing our spirituality.
Thank you, Rhoda, for sharing your story here. You are an amazingly strong woman. I'm looking forward to reading your book and learning more about you. It sounds like you have a great foundation of faith from your family, love this.

wifsie said...

the book is on my list now. Compassion and acceptance are such great forces! Continued faith and happiness on your journey!

Wifsie said...

Sorry. Forgot to say that I'm tweeting this now. Good luck!

Joni Golden said...

Rhoda, thank you for being so open and sharing your experiences and perspective. What you had to say about the way you view your former marriage resonated with me. I am also in that space, and it feels so much better than holding onto anger or regret or fostering resentments. My children are adults now, and I believe they're better for my traveling the path of peace and compassion as well. Thank you especially for sharing that, I took it as a wonderful affirmation.

As for fasting... I married a Jewish man and fast with him on Yom Kippur. We also observe the Passover tradition, wherein we eat mountains of matzoh. At first, I did this out of love for my husband, but having learned the purpose behind the rituals, I now observe them from my spiritual heart as well.

I can't wait to read your book, and thanks again for sharing here. Thanks, Jan, for introducing us to Rhoda!

Jan said...

So glad serendipity struck! I am confident you will LOVE Rhoda's book. I am sure she would appreciate a review. As for the fasting, I am with you, especially as someone who has low blood sugar, but for those who can tolerate it, I say go for it!

Yes, Rhoda is a gal after your own heart. She can find humor in the most wonderful ways. Her book really is a laugh-out-loud adventure.

You picked up on what I admired most about Rhoda and her writing. Despite the humor that is sometimes quite quirky, there is deep compassion and kindness that runs through...I'm sure you'd like the book, too!

Carolynn said...

Serendipity, indeed.

Rhoda, your publisher approached me privately, on my blog, to do a review of your book a short while back. I hadn't read it, so felt unqualified to do so, at the time. Now, here you are again...Funny how interconnected we all are, no?

Excellent interview and dialogue, Jan. Thank you for bringing Rhoda forward in this uplifting manner.

I have fasted. Twice. For about two weeks at a time. Unfortunately, my motivation was weight loss, not spiritual enlightenment, and it worked. Until I started eating again. Seems it wasn't the food that was the problem, after all....

As a result of my experience, I'm not an advocate of fasting. I feel it damaged my body in ways that weren't necessary. That said, it was an interesting 'experiment' demonstrating that I could go without food for quite some time, that I could manage the discomfort, and that I have dominion (to a point) over my body. I don't think it's a practice that should be entered into lightly.

I'm in a new relationship with a man who is more aligned with God than I am and it's wonderful. He is human, however, I find that I am able to relax and feel safe in his presence because I know that he answers to God. It's very reassuring.

One of the most valuable words of advice I've received was when my brother urged me to Use My Voice. It was hard for me to do, at first, to speak up for what I wanted. I was afraid that I would be construed as a b**ch. I really had to work at this one, but find that I do it more often now and have found a way to honour myself and others at the same time.


see you there! said...

Jan and Rhoda, I really enjoyed reading the interview and I'm sure the book must be interesting. The choices make and why they make them fascinates me.


Rhoda Janzen said...

Thanks to all of you for reading and responding!

I'm only recently begun to get in touch with what Joni calls the "spiritual heart." The reason is a little bit sad: I spent most of my adult life overidentifying with the life of the mind. That life can be powerfully seductive, especially when you've staked your whole identity on it.

But I, too, have married a man who prioritizes a strong relationship with God. My new husband is "Mitch" from my book, the guy with the bigass Jesus nail necklace. Which he still wears, by the way. I sure didn't see that one coming.

Mitch's church is full-on Pentecostal, and when they set out to lift up some noisy praise, sparkler pom-poms start a-flyin'. Folks surge up and dance at the altar, and I'm here to say that the Pentecostals can really shake a tailfeather! Once at the beginning of Mitch's and my relationship the congregants were joyfully shouting, musing, twirling, and singing, each according to his or her own zeitgeist. It was all so loud that I had no idea what anybody was saying/singing. After church Mitch said, "Honey, I really felt the presence of the Lord in that service. Like a cool breeze." And I answered, "No, that was probably just me, gasping in astonishment."

Which is all to say that it is a perpetual delight to relate to people who are on a different spiritual path, or who are further along the same path, than we. Speaking as one whose ex mocked anything that adverted to spiritual growth, I cherish this spiritual strength in my husband. Gotta hand it to a man who reads theology out loud to you. He's, like, "Darlin,' how about some smoked oyster crackers and a little Marcus J. Borg?"

Carolynn said...

Ha! I just had to add something. Both I and my new guy are Pentecostal. I will say this, it's not boring! He quotes the bible to me all the time. I love it, actually.

Jan said...

Synthesizing the best aspects of our faiths can be helpful as you are finding. Doing so, can even enhance our chosen faith or faith of origin. Thank you for your kind comments to Rhoda.

I appreciate you stopping by and Twittering too. May compassion prevail.

Thank you for sharing about blending traditions in your marriage. I can sense how strong, yet tender this must make your relationship. Glad Rhoda's story resonated...

Jan said...

I loved reading all this "inside scoop" on you. We are getting to know each other in new ways. :-) And so good to know a new man is in your life and can share your spiritual life. Though you did take me by surprise when you said Pentecostal.:-) Definitely, heart and soul shakers! And finding our voice, that is such an ongoing process for us women. I'm surely celebrating this grande unfolding of Carolynn!

Jan said...

I am so very happy for you too, to have found a loving relationship that honors you. I have too and I feel so blessed after a long term marriage that was dishonoring. Your "Mitch" sounds like a great guy and one who brings out the very best in you, too. Love rules!

I am truly appreciating your kind and thoughtful comments to everyone here. You have a very big heart. It glows. :-)

Jan said...

Oops, skipped over you. :-) I am glad you are here and, as always, appreciate your support.

Anonymous said...

There were Mennonites living in the rural Wisconsin town I'm from, but I just remember them quietly keeping to themselves. How wonderful that they took you back into their fold and were able to help you heal. I, too, was disillusioned by my religion but found as I got older it made me feel empty. I've started my own quest, reading and studying differnt paths. Thanks for sharing, Gayle

Anonymous said...

The book sounds really good. Count me in the draw, please. :)

Sharon said...

Thank you Jan and Rhoda for sharing your thoughts. Open and honoring discussions about religion fascinate me. I was surprised when a friend of ten years just shared with me that she has decided to spend this year exploring prayer, something she has never considered before. I told her I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't pray. We are such a mixed bag, and that makes the journey interesting.

twila said...

I'm putting this on my "to read" list. I've always admired the menonites I've met for their gentleness and compassion. Sounds like a wonderful read. I'm even more interested in the book-in-progress, though. Having moved out of the "house of christianity" myself, I would be very interested in reading about a journey back to God.

Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord said...

I read and enjoyed Mennonite In A Little Black Dress, so this interview is perfect! Rhoda, thanks for being so open and sharing more of yourself with Jan and her readers. Jan, thank YOU for having Rhoda here; what a treat!

My favorite line in this interview was, "With compassion we are seeking peace around the situation. It is so much more healthy in relation to our own experience and the choices we made." What a beautiful, clear way to put that. Like you, Rhoda, I believe that when we feel the need to forgive, it's pointing to our foundational need to judge. I'd rather not be that person, frankly, and when I AM able to be gentler, find that compassion just slips into my life effortlessly.

I wish you the very best, and look forward to your next book!

Jan said...

We have many Mennonite and Amish families here too. Such gentle souls. And, yes, Rhoda is definitely blessed that she remains so close to her family despite new life choices. May you seeking journey continue on with ease...

Ms. Kiki-
You are in. Thank you for stopping by!

Appreciate your thoughts. The Quakers too, gentle folks. I bet YOU would like her new book too, very much, considering your path...

Thanks for your comment and praise of Rhoda's book. We can never be reminded to often of the healing power of compassion, can we?

Annie said...

I missed this yesterday, too busy, but it is a great interview. Thanks Jan and Rhoda, and good luck with the book and with your recovery. xoxo

Jan said...

Thanks for visiting. I am sure Rhoda appreciates the well wishes.

Cheryl Wright said...

Like you Jan, just the thought of fasting freaks me out. No food? aarrrhhhhggg!!!!

I may choose to have breakfast of two slices of dry toast and coffee, lunch on salad and grilled chicken and dine on skimmed milk and a wholewheat muffin with a pat of butter for three/four days. But fast? Even a 6am to 6pm fast must send me into a start of anticipated starvation mode.

I've never fasted and don't intent to ever. Kudos to Rhoda and others who can and do.

Jan said...

I am with you on this one. Talk about terror. But I really honor and appreciate anyone who can go the distance on this. It takes courage to fast. So many ancient wise ones did so for spiritual purposes, and many still do. I bow to them. It is definitely an act of purification and commitment. :-)

Laura said...

This book sounds fantastic! I loved Eat, Pray, Love, so I will definitely check this out at my local bookstore.
Spiritual-real life memoir is so interesting, especially if the author has some sense of humor and awareness.

Thanks for the tip!

Sharmila said...

Thank you Jan for being a lovely hostess and Rhoda it was a pleasure to read this! I actually grew up surrounded by the old order Mennonite and they were so kind to me the family whom we rented our house from at the time. Then I ended up going to a school for 10 yrs at a conservative Mennonite. hmm, I prefer the old order Mennonites to be honest, much more transparent and friendly, practical and not high on themself. Anyway, I find myself years later stop in to visit those old order Mennonite family when I returned back home to Canada and they were just the same loving people! I wanted to say "thank-you!" to them for all the beauty that they shared with me growing up. Their gardens were the best and they had me join in and help and I learned so much! To this day it is why I love Nature so much thanks to them! They also taught me to hook a rug and a bit of German which I faintly remember a few words. Mostly, though I appreciated their warm hearts to me and not minding my silly questions of why they do what they do. It was good times! As far as the fasting, I want to thank you for sharing what you did because I needed to hear this part again today: 'You put your body where your heart is' -- 'and cleaning until it’s clean.' and the idea that 'balance is something we can pray for',.. 'in order to receive it we can't be passive',.. I sometimes fall into this and lately I am having to give 'wholeheartedly in alignment with my heart', so this was so necessary to be here today! Thank you for being here and sharing! God bless you, and namaste! ;)

Sarah said...

Oh what a wonderful interview..I am facinated!!I related in so many ways with what you have offered up here!! Amazing what circles around in our lives!! Wonderful thank you for sharing her with us Jan! Rhoda..thank you for offering up this wonderful book!! Sarah

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jan said...

What you say is my experience too. And it IS what makes this all so interesting. I believe that when we can keep ourselves open, we can often be taken by surprise at what re-ignites our spirit. :-)

Oh, I so agree. I think spiritual memoir may be by new favorite genre. I just saw that a new one is out, the memoir of Edwina Gately, the Christian mystic and social justice advocate. She came under much criticism in her view of God as Mother. Actually, I love that. Enjoy!

Jan said...

Such beautiful rememberings of your Mennonite connections. I can see how deeply they touched your life and influenced your values. I love what you said about helping you to experience the beauty of life. What a gift.

Chaquita said...

I was delighted to stumble across a reference to Mennonite in a Little Black Dress! I moved to a nearby Mennonite community in junior high and eventually joined the Mennonite church. I learned so much from the Mennonites. Nineteen years and five children later, my husband and I just could not make it to the finish line. I had envisioned growing old together and fading off into the sunset together on the porch of our Victorian farmhouse.

It took everything I had within me to keep body and soul together over the past seven years since our divorce. In that time, I learned to relate to God in a way that I never had, to trust Him with my every need, and to find humor in the absurdities of life again.

I found myself in a Pentecostal church post-divorce. Although I identify myself simply as a follower of Jesus, theologically, I would sort of brand myself a "Mennocostal". I've moved beyond self-flagellation over my failed marriage and have learned to love myself, imperfections and all. I have compassion for the limitations of my fomer husband as well. I'm blessed by what is, and find myself moving past what could have been. I understand and appreciate men in a way that I never could before, and I have confidence that I will soon meet the man of my dreams.

Altogether, definitely not the route I envisioned or had ever imagined for my journey based upon my previously sheltered life, but on some level, had conceived of early in life. I feel so much richer for having made it this far! I can't wait to read your book, Rhoda!

Many Blessings!