A handbook for adulting (written by someone who’s still figuring it out)Adulting Guidehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/A-handbook-for-adulting-written-by-someone-who’s-still-figuring-it-outA handbook for adulting (written by someone who’s still figuring it out)By Ginny Miller

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Inauguration thoughtsInauguration thoughts https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Inauguration-thoughtsInauguration thoughtsBy John F. Lapp
Witnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVSAlumni Reflectionhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Witnessing-the-church-in-real-life-what-we-learned-from-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-and-MVSWitnessing the church in “real life:” what we learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. and MVSBy Edith and Neill von Gunten
Shaped by war and people of peaceLife storyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Shaped-by-war-and-people-of-peaceShaped by war and people of peaceBy Lee Roy Berry, Jr.
Epiphany amid eclipseEpiphanyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Epiphany-amid-eclipseEpiphany amid eclipseBy Laurie Oswald Robinson
On earth as in heaven: memories of Bonny DriverObituaryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/On-earth-as-in-heaven-memories-of-Bonny-DriverOn earth as in heaven: memories of Bonny DriverBy José Ortiz
Creating a to-be listSenior care ministryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Creating-a-to-be-listCreating a to-be listBy Hildi Amstutz

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Triple catastrophes converge in Guatemalahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Triple-catastrophes-converge-in-GuatemalaTriple catastrophes converge in GuatemalaBy Deb Byler <p>​<em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">Deb Byler has served with Mennonite Mission Network in Guatemala since 2018, as well as, with Eastern Mennonite Missions from 1984-1997. Byler shares her experiences of walking alongside those who face the devastation of COVID-19 and two hurricanes with faith and courage.</em></p><p><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"><br></em></p><table cellspacing="0" width="100%" class="ms-rteTable-default"><tbody><tr><td class="ms-rteTable-default" style="width:100%;"><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Today, Nov. 18, it's raining steadily as I write. Just two weeks ago, Hurricane Eta dumped rain for five days, leaving severe flooding in its path. </span><a href="/news/Mennonites-sing-and-serve-despite-losses-in-Hurricane-Eta" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">Many people in Alta Verapaz, the region of Guatemala where I live, lost their homes</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">. Those whose houses withstood the water lost possessions in the flooding, as well as their corn and bean crops. The loss of a year's corn harvest is devasting, since people eat tortillas (or other corn-based food) three times a day.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">My heart aches for such great losses, even as people are struggling to survive the long battle with COVID-19.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">And now, Hurricane Iota is moving through Central America, adding its nonstop rain to Eta's floodwaters, which have not yet dissipated.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">It's hard to be here in my safe home, knowing others face further loss.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Yesterday, I visited Dora Alvarado, a Mennonite widow who lives about 10 minutes from me. Her house is beside a river that flooded during Hurricane Eta. Dora's household, which includes her daughter and five grandchildren, had to evacuate. They found shelter in a hotel, where the government paid for their stay.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Dora told me that there was about four feet of water in her house. She managed to save some things by placing them up high, but the beds were ruined, and her wood-burning cook-stove suffered damage. It will cost about $100 to fix the stove. That's a lot of money here, in Guatemala. Dora is praying and trusts that Hurricane Iota will not flood her home. But all predictions are that this storm will be at least as damaging as Eta.</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Mennonite Mission Network and other agencies are providing some relief. I was present at the church offices last week when a large shipment of relief and hygiene kits, comforters, and clothing was being sorted. All present were touched by these signs of love. We thanked God and prayed a blessing on the people who had donated and those who would receive the items.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">One of the men who was sorting said, "This is the way the church is supposed to be. We help each other in times of need."</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Sebastian Cuc, pastor of the Semesche Mennonite Church, heard of the need for corn and other food items. Since his community had not been flooded, he organized his congregation to provide from their crops. They gave the food they had gathered to the mayor of </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Carchá</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> —</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> the city where I live</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> —</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> and asked him to distribute it to those who need it most. The Carchá mayor is a good man, who cares for people. He has been doing everything he can to help.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">There will be an ongoing need for food, tin roofing materials, boards to rebuild homes, and clothes for people who have lost so much. Second-hand clothing is fine for the men, but since the women wear traditional clothing, their clothing needs to be purchased locally. </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Santiago Iqui</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> —</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> the Mennonite church president </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">—</span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> and other church leaders are doing a good job of distributing relief aid fairly.</span></p><p> </p><p><em>Editor's note: A Nov. 28 update from Deb Byer reported that Hurricane Iota was not as damaging to Guatemala as Hurricane Eta, though in Honduras and Nicaragua, Iota caused more damage than Eta. Dora's home escaped a second flooding. </em></p></td></tr></tbody></table><br>
What am I hearing over here?https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/What-am-I-hearing-over-hereWhat am I hearing over here?By Alisha Garber for Anabaptist World <p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Anabaptist World has </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">given Mennonite Mission Network permission to reprint this blog,  written by Alisha Garber. She serves with </em><a href="/workers/Europe/Catalonia-Spain/Josh%20and%20Alisha%20Garber" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;"><em>Mennonite Mission Network</em></a><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;"> in Barcelona, Catalonia, a region where allegiance to Spain vies with voices calling for independence. With her husband Joshua and son Asher, she works alongside the leaders of Mennonite Evangelical Community of Barcelona, focusing on youth outreach and congregational mission.</em></p><p>People often ask me, "What are you hearing over there about the elections?" What a tricky question. In 2020, news and political commentary are limitless. Whether you're sitting in your recliner in Sunnyslope, Arizona, or typing this article from a kitchen in Barcelona, Spain (as I am), the media you choose to consume determines what you hear — and frames your worldview.</p><p>And yet, here I am wrestling with this question, while also carrying my own baggage of being both a veteran of the U.S. military and a Mennonite mission worker. </p><p>Now, I know good Christian folks on both sides of the aisle politically and, prior to COVID-19, they could have sat next to each other in church. Within my family there are "blue" folks and "red" folks and others who lean Libertarian, vote for the Green Party, or remain independent. And, like a good dinner-party guest, I often decline to comment on politics (declining to discuss religion is not an option, due to my chosen vocation).</p><p>That said, I feel moved to shift political questions like, "Should I vote?" and, "Who should I vote for?" to thinking more creatively about fundamental issues of faith and allegiance. This comes from a place of not wanting to embolden an egomaniacal society that has assumed the role of self-appointed world police, while living an "in God we trust" nightmare where:</p><ul><li>Babies are separated from their parents and put in cages (#MigrationInjustice).</li><li>Tax-paying citizens are still without clean drinking water (#FlintMichigan).</li><li>Folks are living under tarped makeshift shelters as another hurricane season comes and goes (#PuertoRico).<br></li></ul><ul><li>Children of God are suffocated in the street and shot on their sofas for the "crime" of being born black (#BlackLivesMatter).    <br></li></ul><p>"One nation under God"? Well, my God doesn't stand for that nonsense. These certainly aren't examples set by the Jesus I know.</p><p>What am I hearing over here about the elections? I'm hearing about a nation where the power-hungry pursue profit over people. A nation whose peaceful activists are silenced with brute force and whose cries for justice are suffocated by pepper spray. A nation whose elite rise by kneeling on the necks of the Brown and Black folks whom Jesus sought to protect.</p><p>What am I hearing? I try to listen carefully, broadly and wisely. With resources like PolitiFact and Snopes, anyone can discern facts from fake news. Social media can be a cesspool of false information, especially before an election. I implore you to eschew ignorance and pursue truth, with a heart attuned to justice in the name of Jesus.</p><p>Please pray the words of Luke 6:27-28 (NRSV) and carve them into your heart, before it becomes hardened by the donkey vs. elephant debate: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you."</p><p>To make our every thought, word, deed and social media post reflect the character of Christ, we need to revisit the God we see in our world today (see Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). After Christ's death on the cross, we assumed his "second body" here on Earth. We are what remains and have a responsibility to the whole world, not just one country.</p><p>What am I hearing over here about the elections? Let me tell you, the world isn't so different over here. <br>A few months ago, the youth group of the church we serve — <em>Comunidad Evangélica Menonita</em> (Mennonite Evangelical Community) — took responsibility for the Sunday online church service . In solidarity with the political demonstrations occurring globally for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, they dedicated a section of the service to listing the names of people of color who died at the hands of police officers in Spain, leaving space for contemplation and prayer.</p><p>What a beautiful way to shed light on the very things for which Christ desired justice!</p><p>In a conversation later that week, we realized not everyone received the service the same way. One person asked, "Did an adult approve the things the youth published online?" This person went on to say that topics <em>like that</em> have no place in the Sunday service because they aren't about spirituality or from Scripture and just <em>aren't church</em>.</p><p>My response was that matters of justice are matters of Christ. They can't be separated. Both deserve attention and action.</p><p>Similar conversations happen in places other than Barcelona. When one treats the church like a perfect crystal cathedral — only worthy of four-part <em>a cappella</em> songs and perfectly preached sermons that affirm your own lifestyle, while turning a blind eye to the beggar on the corner and the hate speech outside your neighborhood mosque — then one's bound to be disappointed when we talk about the muck of the world.</p><p>What am I hearing over here about the elections? Honestly, nothing I should share. What I can tell you is that I hear the wind rustling the trees, blowing warmer as the summer heat encroaches well into autumn (#ClimateJustice).</p><p>I can tell you I feel a rock drop to the pit of my stomach every time I read about another person of color murdered by those meant to serve and protect (#SayTheirNames).</p><p>I can tell you I hear the young people in my church crying for change, imploring us to try something different after the reset of a pandemic.</p><p>I can tell you I'm listening but not sitting idly by.</p><p>If you ask, "What are <em>you</em> hearing over <em>there</em> about the elections?" I'll respond: "What are you doing about the cry of the Lamb?"<br></p>
You are braver than you think you are: A letter to MVS participantshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/You-are-braver-than-you-think-you-are-A-letter-to-MVS-participantsYou are braver than you think you are: A letter to MVS participantsBy Polly Carlson<p>Hello fellow MVSers, </p><p>Last I saw all of you, I was home for my childhood best friend's wedding. If you haven't attended — or been in the bridal party of — a close friend's wedding, that day is probably quickly approaching, as we are all in that phase of life where a lot of our peers are getting married. <br></p><p>I always imagined finding my spouse at Bethel College, like my friend did at Hesston College. We would have settled down in some small Kansas town. I would have taught upper elementary school kids, and hopefully, he would have done something that made more money than me! Eventually we'd have a family and maybe move back to South Dakota. </p><p>Around Christmas break of my senior year, I got the vibe from God that my imagined future was not going to happen. I took that as God saying, "Hey, you are braver and much more capable than you think." So, I applied for Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) — something I never would have considered when I was a freshman.  </p><p>At my friend's wedding, I had an out-of-body experience: I looked around at these two Mennonite families (both sets of parents also met at Hesston), the other bridal party members (all Hesston alumni), and my best friend and her new husband. I thought, "Woah, I thought this was going to be me." </p><p>And for a few days after I got back to San Francisco, I was still thinking about that, and honestly, it didn't sit well with me. I was upset that I wasn't going to have that big college wedding, where everyone knows each other and the families are friends. </p><p>My first weekend back in the city my MVS housemate, Claire Waidelich, and I biked to the beach. There aren't many things that give me a feeling of euphoria quite like biking downhill on a sunny day with a killer playlist going. I had Harry Styles' "Golden" blasting in my headphones right as the ocean became visible. As we walked the smooth sand close to the water, I thought: "One day I am going to have a life partner and a family. I'm going to be a teacher. We'll have a home and some sort of crossover vehicle. We will buy our own groceries and I won't have to worry about a roommate eating my leftovers. I can live close enough to family that I don't have to fly to see them." </p><p>But when that day comes, I will think back to when I biked to the Pacific Ocean whenever I wanted. When I didn't have to pay bills, and I worked remotely — with kids and coworkers I love — and slept until nine every morning. I'll remember how much time I had to read for pleasure, journal and do devotions. When I lived above a dry cleaner's in the heart of San Francisco, and my bedroom had five massive windows and an old fireplace. When MVS stretched and challenged me in the best ways. </p><p>My friend married the love of her life at 22. They just got a puppy and she's adorable. But she also works at an insurance company from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. My life isn't going as 18-year-old Polly planned it. And wow, the pandemic sucks. But I'm right where I need to be. I hope for all of you the same sense of contentment and satisfaction in wherever life has brought you to this point. <br></p>
Trauma stewardship: transforming wounds into wellnesshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/Trauma-stewardship-transforming-wounds-into-wellnessTrauma stewardship: transforming wounds into wellnessBy Melody Pannell for Mennonite Mission Network<p>​<em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: "Who can take away suffering without entering it? </em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">— </span><strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Henri J.M. Nouwen</strong><strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><em>, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society</em></strong></p><p>Out of her deep concern for the well-being of African-American Anabaptist leaders, Ann Jacobs, Mennonite Mission Network's Church Relations Representative and minister for African-American Mennonite constituents, invited me, in August, to co-lead a three-part webinar titled "Trauma Stewardship and Healing."</p><p>The word "trauma" means "wound." This is what Thomas Norman DeWolf and Jodie Geddes write about in <em>The Little Book of Racial Healing: Coming to the Table for Truth -Telling, Liberation, and Transformation</em>. Many  African-American pastors and lay leaders in the wider Mennonite Church have experienced the inner pain and deep despair of a "wounded healer." These healers are those who minister out of their experience of pain and struggle. <br></p><p>Recently, those leaders have incurred fresh wounds. On May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while being arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill. He died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer's knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. </p><p>This traumatic encounter was captured on video for the world to witness. Carolyn Yoder, author of <em>The Little Book of Trauma Healing, </em>writes: "When a traumatic event or series of events affects large numbers of people, we speak of <em>societal </em>or <em>collective trauma</em>. Trauma<em> </em>may be directly experienced, but it can also occur when witnessing (e.g. on television) or merely hearing about horrific events. Whether direct or indirect, a group experience of trauma can set off widespread fear, horror, helplessness, or anger." </p><p>The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd traumatically affected the African-American community while they were also struggling to make sense of —and survive —a pandemic. The pandemic spotlighted the social disparities still prevalent throughout our society. </p><p>The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMSA) states that the COVID-19 "pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. Recent news reports indicate that the pandemic disproportionately impacts communities of color, compounding longstanding racial disparities." </p><p>The disproportionate number of Black and Brown people dying due to COVID-19, whether in our church communities, our families, or society at large, has evoked symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and relentless cycles of grief for the people in those communities.</p><p>The online gathering, fostered by the "Trauma Stewardship and Healing" webinar, provided a safe space for leaders to express their concerns, share their stories, and connect with others for support and prayer. As co-leaders, Ann Jacobs and I invited participants to embark on a therapeutic journey of self-awareness, wholistic healing and courageous conversations. We also presented information on racial healing, trauma stewardship, restorative justice and radical self-care practices. Together, we created a "container" that honored the values of dignity, honesty, humility, trust and love. </p><p>One of the most powerful aspects of our discussion was one participant's testimony of miraculous healing. The participant shared a near-death experience sparked by societal stress and lack of self-care. This prompted on the group to further discuss the importance of focusing on wellness and prioritizing health. We wrestled with the question, "How do we, as leaders, prioritize our emotional and mental health while caring for and serving others?" </p><p>We also explored some key principles of trauma stewardship:</p><ul><li>Creating space for inquiry</li><li>Choosing our focus </li><li>Building compassion and community </li><li>Finding balance </li><li>Establishing a daily practice of centering oneself</li></ul><p> <br>These principles cannot help leaders to avoid trauma, but they can shape leaders into effective stewards of their trauma. This idea is promoted by authors Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk in <em>Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others. </em>The authors believe that<em> </em>"[t]hose who support trauma steward-ship believe that both joy and pain are the realities of life..." and that "trauma stewardship calls us to engage oppression and trauma— whether through our careers or in our personal lives—by caring for, tending to, and responsibly guiding other beings who are struggling." " The authors assert that suffering can be transformed into meaningful growth and healing when a quality of presence is cultivated and maintained, even in the face of great suffering.</p><p>We centered the webinar on the harsh realities that Black and Brown communities face, which allowed members of the Mennonite community to be exposed to and to explore the topic.. This open-and-honest dialogue across cultural boundaries encouraged compassionate listening, empathy and Christian love. </p><p>May we continue to strive to become vessels of healing. Let us center ourselves so we can hear the voice of God through the stories of others. Together, we can work toward healing and transform our wounds into wellness.<br></p>
On elections: Three insights from missionhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/On-Elections-Three-Insights-from-MissionOn elections: Three insights from missionBy Joe Sawatzky<p>​<strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Voting is a matter of urgency.</strong><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> Apartheid was scarcely a decade past when my family began our eight-year sojourn in South Africa. I remember the sacred satisfaction, with thanksgiving to God, of people I knew who voted in that nation's first democratic elections in 1994. For the first time, millions of South Africa's citizens of color secured a say over basic qualities of life previously denied by White-minority rule. In </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">Long Walk to Freedom</em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, Nelson Mandela recalled the significance of that day in images of "old women who had waited half a century to cast their first vote saying that they felt like human beings for the first time in their lives" (New York: Little, Brown and Co., 1994, p. 618). </span><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span></p><p><em>Not</em> to vote, therefore, strikes me as either the privilege of those blind to the freedoms they take for granted, or the resignation of those whom society has long failed. Though societal transformation moves slowly and takes more than the ballot, voting is a first, necessary, and peaceful means to promote dignity and justice for all of God's children.</p><p><strong>The capacity for dialogue should be a minimum requirement in voters' consideration of candidates for office.</strong> Dialogue, or the art of conversation, is basic to healthy relationships. In Athens, the apostle Paul engaged in dialogue with fellow Jews and Gentiles alike, reasoning with them on each of their terms. He must have listened well, for he was able to speak the Gospel through the words of their wisdom (Acts 17:16-34). Ever since, the faith of Jesus Christ has spread by translation, as people from every nation hear and accept the Word of God in their own languages. </p><p>Translation is essentially dialogue, a communicative process that requires common ground to make meaning. As in mission, so in politics, the respect to speak <em>with</em> others — not <em>over</em> them — says a lot about one's fitness to lead.</p><p><strong>Disciples of Jesus "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).</strong> The kingdom is bigger than any one party, people, or nation, and God's justice is for all. "A Christian Pledge of Allegiance," written by June Alliman Yoder and J. Nelson Kraybill, says it well:</p><p><em>I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ,</em></p><p><em>And to God's kingdom for which he died,</em></p><p><em>One Spirit-led people the world over,</em></p><p><em>Indivisible, with love and justice for all.</em></p><p>As this "one Spirit-led people the world over" is central to our understanding of salvation in Christ, we might ask ourselves why racism — that which divides the body of Christ — does not rank higher on our list of moral concerns. Similarly, we might ask why a track record of hostility toward people of color does not immediately discredit a candidate in the eyes of Christian voters. </p><p>As we pray with Jesus for God's kingdom to come "on earth as it is in heaven," may we so vote and speak "with love and justice for all."  <br></p>
The center holds hope for the futurehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/The-center-holds-hope-for-the-futureThe center holds hope for the futureBy Cynthia Friesen Coyle<p>​<span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">I have been working as a graphic designer for 30 years — on everything from printed pieces, T-shirts, displays, graphics, logos and now even some video editing. When I enter the creative process, I begin with words. Then, I look for inspiration in photos, or in the world around me. It's a back and forth dance of creation with the words speaking into the image and the images speaking into the words. Like putting a puzzle together, I don't know what it will look like until it is complete.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Sometimes, the creative process goes quickly and smoothly. Other times, it feels like birthing a child. Once art is "out there" for the world to see, it has a life of its own. If what I have created communicates clearly, I feel I have been successful. Yet, what I create may speak to others beyond my intentions. Sometimes, my creation even teaches me!</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">I recently experienced this with a scripture graphic for Habakkuk 3:17-18.</span></p><p><strong style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"><sup>17 </sup></strong><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">Though the fig tree does not bud</span></p><p>     and there are no grapes on the vines,<br> though the olive crop fails<br>     and the fields produce no food,<br> though there are no sheep in the pen<br>     and no cattle in the stalls,<br> <strong><sup>18 </sup></strong>yet I will rejoice in the Lord,<br>     I will be joyful in God my Savior.</p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">I began looking through photos for inspiration. Desert photos. Drought photos. Desolation photos. Nothing seemed quite right. I came across a close-up of a dead flower. I could put words on the petals. I found THE photo! The petals had good space for the words. The heart of the verse, "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord," could go in the center.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">This turned my thoughts to our current situation. So many people are dealing with loss. Loss of jobs. Loss of security. Loss of homes. Loss of family. I decided to use highlights from the ancient words of Habakkuk and incorporate some modern aspects of loss. I finished the graphic and </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/MennoniteMissionNet/photos/a.10150174424993083/10159083808903083/?type=3&theater" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">put it</a><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;"> </span><a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CGcaJwJp1XH/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link" style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;font-style:inherit;">out there.</a></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">But then, as I surfed various programs on my computer, I kept seeing the Habakkuk flower. The more I looked at it, the more I saw. The image now spoke to me. Or, maybe it was God speaking to me through the image, giving me a message of hope I hadn't noticed before.</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">All the petals had struggles written on them. No food. No shelter. No sheep. From the Habakkuk flower, my thoughts turned to my own garden. The petals were falling, eventually leaving just the center. </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">And, what is at the center of that flower? The seeds. And what are seeds? Hope for the future in abundance! </span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">We go through many struggles in life. But we can know that at the </span><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">c</em><em style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;">enter</em><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">, there is hope and new life waiting to find fertile soil in which to grow again. So, we have a reason to rejoice! The petals and the leaves on which life's struggles are written give life to the seeds. Our struggles are not in vain!</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">I have been trying to decide when to cut back the flowers in my garden. They are dead and shriveled up. But this morning, I saw a bird sitting on a cone flower, picking out the seeds and eating them. Here again, new life coming from the old!</span></p><p><span style="font-size:1.4rem;background-color:transparent;color:inherit;font-style:inherit;">May God's spirit blow our seeds of hope and new life onto fertile soil so that beauty may come again. In it all, God is our hope. God does not leave us nor forsake us.</span></p>

 

 

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