How to Continue the Conversation

(From the Among Women booklet handed out at conference, written by Phyllis Swartz):

The Among Women conversation of today can continue in your home community. Here are some tips for making it happen:

1. Gather a small group of women representing different spheres. This is a conversation, not a program. For this conversation, the number of women should be small enough that women can sit in a room together, see each other’s expressions, and hear the tones of each other’s voices.

2. Invite women who are ready and able to both talk and listen. People who are fresh in pain may need, instead, the help of a support group. The women you choose for this conversation need to be strong enough to ask hard questions and to answer hard questions. These women should be willing and able to speak for other women in their spheres who may not be able to talk openly at this time.

3. Focus on listening to stories instead of debating issues and concepts. The idea for an Among Women conversation is to hear from women, themselves, how God has interacted with them in their spheres.

4. Identify specific foci—the joys of the spheres, the challenges of the spheres, how the church can support and extend the ministries of women in the spheres.

5. Plan for a variety of listening/sharing processes. Here are a few examples:

Around-the-circle short responses to a question;

Individual reflection and then self-reporting to the group;

Dyad dialogues about a specific question and then reporting each other’s thoughts about that question to the group;

Question-asking in front of the group of one woman by the other women;

Inner and outer circle dialogues.

(If you have questions about these processes and want ideas for more, please contact Lynette Showalter at lynette@olbarn.com.)

6. Find a skilled facilitator. Women need to feel safe to talk about their lives. Find a facilitator who is a sensitive leader and can help women both talk and listen.

7. Set a supportive ambiance. It’s easier to talk when well-cared for. Beauty, good food, comforting drinks, comfortable seating, and quiet places to reflect all increase the quality of the conversation.

8. Assemble a support team who can provide the setting for this conversation and who will pray for the participants.

9. Be sure participants in the conversation and the team supporting the conversation all operate with the following understandings:

That confidences will be kept;

That dignity will be preserved;

That God has varied sanctified plans for women;

That according to Psalm 119:130, the “utterance of hearts gives understanding.”

10. Before and throughout the conversations stop to pray, and at the end commission each other to work for God, each in her own sphere.

Or, perhaps, you’d rather scale the conversation smaller—maybe one-on-one, possibly for a year-long, intentional relationship for learning, understanding, and encouragement.

Do it for all our sisters . . .

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The choric reading

Lynette composed a choric reading based on what came out of the Among Women retreats. Here is the text, as presented at conference:

(Opening Scripture, brief intro)

Ephesians 3:20, 21

Lynette — Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine; according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

The Among Women panelists present a choric reading composed by Lynette, based on the retreats.

Mim — A year long conversation among women

Carla — Three intense and nurturing retreats

Sabrina — A blog to reach out and connect with other women

Naomy — A day long gathering to share our hearts with others

Lynette and Naomy.

(The same Scripture, from the Message)

Lynette — God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around, but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Mim and Louella — Glory to God in the church!

Louella and Mim.

Dot and Naomi — Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!

Martha and Sabrina — Glory down all the generations!

Carla and Elnora — Glory through all millennia!

Carla and Elnora.

Naomy — Oh yes!

(Psalm of Praise, Thankfulness)

Psalm 9:1, 2

 I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

Dot — You gave vision

Dot: "You gave vision."

Naomy — You helped women dream dreams.

I will tell of all your wonders.

Naomi — You helped Phyllis with a logistical nightmare – getting 3 dates that worked for all of us!

Martha — We arrived safely from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and Kenya.

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

Elnora — I came to the retreats tired and left energized.

Louella — I was pampered with food, warmth, and beauty.

Sabrina — I was blessed with connections with women.

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Mim — Each retreat, we got noisier. The greetings were more exuberant, the goodbyes longer.

Carla – The first retreat it was a group of strangers. Now it’s a group of friends.

All – I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you. I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

(Bringing our Fears to God)

Isaiah 43:1 – 3

Lynette — But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:

Martha — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

Lynette — To that first retreat, we all brought our fears, hesitations, misgivings.

 Naomy — Like Paul, we had conflicts on the outside, fears within . . .

Naomy: "Like Paul, we had conflicts on the outside, fears within..."

 Dot – I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to remember that part of my journey.

 Mim — I didn’t want to dig it all up again.

 Louella — I thought I was over the worst of my grief — and then the floodgates opened.

 Sabrina — I felt inferior and wished I’d have more education. An assistant principal who is also a young mother?

 Carla — Oh, great, another young mom . . . it’s going to be in my face.

 Elnora — I have a life history of comparing myself with everybody.

 Naomi — I fight with communicating.

 Martha — More busy work for already busy women.

Sabrina, Martha and Naomi.

(Fears turning to Joy)

Lynette – Burst!

Lynette and Dot – Burst into songs!

Lynette, Dot and Mim – Burst into songs of joy!

All — Burst into songs of joy together!

Louella — For the Lord has comforted his people.

Isaiah 52:9

Lynette — Our fears quickly turned to joy.

Sabrina – My joy? Children 24/7.

Dot — The joy of hearing “you’re our favorite aunt and uncle.”

Louella – My dear friends who amaze me with their caring.

Naomy, Carla and Elnora.

Elnora — The biggest joy is God’s healing.

Naomy — We landed in Rosedale, a community with much emphasis on family.

Louella — My grandchildren – they talk about him all the time.

Sabrina — I’ve always wanted to be a wife and mother. God gave me the desire of my heart.

Sabrina.

Martha — There’s actually no joy in widowhood. But there is joy in obedience and accepting that life as God gives it.

Mim — The joy of knowing a God who can handle ‘the kicking and screaming and hollering.”

Dot – The joy of having a special friendship with my mother without children to take my focus.

Naomi — There are days I feel like I’m going crazy, but I love what I’m doing.

". . . I love what I'm doing."

Martha –The joy of learning how to be a person myself, a person in my own right.

Carla — The joy of living with the sense of calling and purpose.

Mim — It’s easy to fit one more plate on the table.

Elnora — A tight-knit group of friends that began as a support group for divorced women.

Naomy — Godly influence for our growing children – that is a big blessing

Carla — The joy of a supportive husband.

Naomi – My most important joy is to teach my children to worship, no matter what.

Naomy — The joy of being surrounded by beautiful sisters. They have spoiled me with love and warmth!

(Expanding fears passage; going through the water, rivers, and fire)

Isaiah 43:1 – 3

Lynette — But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:

Naomy — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

Lynette — When you pass through the water,

Elnora — People didn’t know what to do with a divorced woman.

Lynette – When you pass through the water, I will be with you.

Louella – When LeRoy died, I just wanted to sit in his rocking chair.

Naomy — I was a stranger in a strange land.

Lynette – I will be with you.

Sabrina – Oh, so you’re just a homemaker?

Mim — Why isn’t a nice person like you married?

Dot — So when are you going to start your family?

Lynette – When you pass through the water, I will be with you.

Naomi – I just felt odd.

Martha – Wesley won’t be back. Ever. Never.

Carla — I’m on a lonely island. I often felt misunderstood.

All — When you pass through the water, I will be with you;

Lynette — and when you pass through the rivers,

Elnora — I believed for years that he would come back to me someday.

Lynette – and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

Naomi — So many children have made you too busy.

Carla – I live in a man’s world. Where are my mentors?

Lynette – the rivers will not sweep over you.

Martha – Where are we going to put her?

Mim – The tables are set for 2 or 4.

Naomy – I wake up in the morning and I want to do this and this and this, and I don’t quite know how.

Lynette – the rivers will not sweep over you.

Mim – There’s something wrong with my car; I guess I do need men after all.

Dot — Oh, I guess you can put a baby to sleep.

Sabrina – There are mornings when I feel totally overwhelmed.

Louella – We’re not over it, are we, Martha. When it’s the love of your life, you’re just so entwined.”

All — and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

Lynette — When you walk through the fire,

Elnora –If you would have just been a better wife . . .

Naomi – If you didn’t have so many kids, then that one might not be struggling.

Lynette – When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.

Naomy — I miss my mom back in Kenya.

Mim — Who’s going to take care of me?

Lynette – The flames will not set you ablaze.

Dot – I’ll never be a grandma.

Naomy – Can you even speak English?

Carla – Do you really want someone else raising your kids?

Lynette – You will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Sabrina — I wonder if I’ll make it through the day.

Martha — The whole month of April is hard. That is when Wesley died . . . and my birthday is in April. I would rather skip April.

Louella — And I would rather skip December. The funeral was the day before Christmas.

All — When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:1 – 3

Lynette — But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:

Mim — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

Lynette — When you pass through the water,

All — I will be with you;

Lynette — and when you pass through the rivers,

All — they will not sweep over you.

Lynette — When you walk through the fire,

All — you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Lynette — For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

(Recognition of the things we’ve learned from listening to God and our sisters)

Lynette — We give praise for the things we’ve learned from listening to God and to each other.

Psalm 49:3 (combination of NIV and The Message)

Lynette — My mouth will speak words of wisdom;

Naomy — the utterance from my heart will give understanding.

Louella — I set plainspoken wisdom before you,

Mim — My heart-seasoned experience or understandings of life,

Carla — Speaking honestly to give understanding.

Sabrina — I fine-tuned my ear to the sayings of the wise.

The Message – Isaiah 50:4

Lynette — The Master, God, has given me a well-taught tongue,

Elnora — So I know how to encourage tired people.

Dot — He wakes me up in the morning.

Naomi — Wakes me up, opens my ears

Martha — To listen as one ready to take orders,

Carla — to listen like one being taught.

Lynette — We listened to God, as one ready to take orders. And we learned. These are some of the things we heard.

Carla – If He’s called me, then He’ll be with me on the journey.

Elnora – Death is seen as a clean break, but rejection is such a jagged cut.

Naomi – God says, Just do what I tell you and I’ll fill in.

Dot – If I can’t have a baby, life is over. I didn’t want to be that kind of person. That wasn’t beautiful to me.

Louella – Widowhood is not something you get over. It’s something you learn to live with.

Mim – Having a husband doesn’t guarantee you’ll have someone to care for you when you’re dying.

Martha – If widowhood is my cup, I will drink it.

Elnora – It’s all about forgiveness . . . You have to give up the right to revenge, and also the right to know why.

Martha – People say time heals. It’s not the time so much that heals, but what you do with the time.

Carla – If He’s called us, then He’ll be with us on the journey.

(Examples of learning from each other)

Lynette — And we listened to each other, like one being taught.

Sabrina – Naomi said when you have time for your husband, take time.

Dot – Martha, I loved the way you wrote about your love for Wesley.

Sabrina — Mim, you said we as women are always looking to the next phase. I didn’t marry till I was 26, and I remembered your advice to enjoy the moment and not always be looking to what’s next.

Louella about Carla – I admire Carla, that she can handle a career and a family. I told her, Go for it! I think she has it all.

(Connections/Identification/Unity)

Romans 15:5-7

Lynette — May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Mim – Perhaps we are more alike than different. Our circumstances are different, but our emotions aren’t that far apart.

Sabrina — Do we all at times go crazy doing the things we feel called to do?

Louella — We are all in the same “boat,” yet come from many different perspectives. We have bonded as a group.

Elnora — What? You too? I thought I was the only one.

Mim – The lies are the same for all of us. Satan is not very creative in his lies. We all think we’re the loneliest, that we have it the hardest, that no one understands.

Carla — We all have different callings.

Naomi – We all do dumb things.

Naomy — Women from different spheres, different seasons, but all on level ground at the foot of the cross.

Martha — Count it all joy,

Dot — in every sphere,

Martha — in every phase.

(Ending)

Lynette — I like to think that we will go to the painful places and we will do the uncomfortable things for all our sisters out there, so that you will know that you’re not alone.

Elnora — I did that. I spoke up.

Carla – It was difficult, but I did that, too.

All – WE ALL DID THAT!

(All — with much volume and much enthusiasm)

PRAISE BE TO GOD!

Mim and Carla present flowers from the group to Lynette and Phyllis.

Carla and Lynette hug each other.

Phyllis and Lynette, Among Women masterminds!

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The workshops

In the afternoon, each panelist led or co-led a workshop that was focused on their sphere. They were well attended!

Here are some glimpses:

Dot leads the workshop "Oh, Baby, Where Art Thou? Life Without Children."

Sabrina talks with a participant in her workshop, "Pacifiers, PB & J, and Purpose: Life at Home with Preschool Children."

Mim's workshop is "Sooo . . .Why Aren’t You Married? Understanding the Joys and Heartaches of Your Single Daughter, Sister, Friend."

Elnora's workshop was "Life After Divorce: Beauty after Ashes."

Naomy shares about her experiences in "My Name Isn’t Yoder: Living Inter-Culturally."

Martha and Louella lead a workshop together: "Tear Soup -- A Widow’s Brew."

Carla listens to a workshop participant. Her workshop was "Twice-Called: Double Duty; Double Delight."

Naomi leads "Woman in a Shoe: Figuring Out What to Do" with her usual good cheer.


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Watch our opening video clip

Among Women — For All Our Sisters

Click on the link above to view the brief presentation that opened up the Among Women program at conference. Special thanks: to Chris Jones, for putting all the elements together in video form; to Jesse Diller, for recording the instrumental and vocal tracks of “Thou True Vine”; and to Bethany Barkdoll, for her violin-playing and singing. The pictures were taken at the retreats by Charlotte Long, Rachel Miller, and Vicki Sairs.

Coming next — workshop pictures; the choric reading (with pictures); and how you can keep the conversation going with the women you know.

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Glimpses of Among Women at Conference

Our panelists graced the women’s program at CMC’s annual conference with wisdom and insight. Thank you to everyone who had a part in this program! We’ll be posting pictures from the workshops and the final choric reading (along with the text of the reading itself) in later posts, but for now, enjoy these pictures from the panel discussions.

(Left to right) Elnora, Carla and Naomy wait for their cues from Lynette in the quiet moments before the first panel discussion begins.

Dot helps Mim with her mic.

Carla and Naomy share a moment.

Naomi shines onstage.

Sabrina listens to some special music during the morning program.

Elnora speaks about her identity in Christ.

Martha is happy to be here.

Naomy, gently smiling, the way she does.

Dot expresses a concern.

Mim laughs.

Louella smiles at what another panelist is saying.

Carla listens to Lynette.

Drawing on her own experience and that of other women, Shirley talks about the thoughts and feelings of women in missions work.

Phyllis encourages women in the audience to attend the workshop of someone in a different sphere.

After the morning panels, participants went to lunch, then attended one of the eight workshops offered in the afternoon. More pictures soon!

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Come meet us at CMC Annual Conference!

Next in the Among Women project is a day-long women’s program at CMC’s Annual Conference, held July 28-31 at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland.

You can find out more about the conference at www.cmcrosedale.org, and you can read about the women’s program the full conference brochure. The women’s program runs from 9:30 to 11:30 on Friday morning and from 1:30 to 3:30 that afternoon.

Please come to hear the culmination of this year-long conversation. We’d love to see you!

Here’s the Among Women program:

Among Women

You are sitting in a room this morning with lots of women representing

different spheres. Some women sitting in this room today

are single. Some are married. Some women work at home and

home school their children. Some women leave their homes each

morning for work. Some women are divorced, and some have buried

their husbands. Some women with us today are finding their

ways in a new culture.

Often you might find it hard to talk past these differences. What if

you accidently say something hurtful? What if someone hurts you?

Maybe you won’t know what to say to someone whose life is so different

from yours. Or maybe you can find little sympathy for the

choices another woman has made.

Despite all these differences, we are called to be one body. How can

we grow in understanding of each other?

What would happen, the conference planning committee wondered,

if we gathered together a group of women who represented different

spheres and who loved God and who were brave enough to talk

with each other?

What if we sent these women on a series of retreats with a leader

who could help them talk, really talk, with each other?

So we did.

And today these women are here to share with you what they

learned about each other . . . about themselves . . . and about God.

Program

Morning Session

Opening Worship c/o Leona Graybill

For all our sisters out there—

Glimpses of the Among Women

Retreats c/o Vicki Sairs

Among Women Panel: Round 1

c/o Lynette Showalter

Special Singing c/o Anita Lehman

Missionary Spheres c/o Shirley Miller

Among Women Panel: Round 2

c/o Lynette Showalter

Offertory—make checks payable to

Women’s Fellowship

Closing Worship

Afternoon Session

Among Women Workshops

Gathering Worship c/o Leona Graybill

Special Singing c/o Anita Lehman

 Choric of Praise c/o Lynette Showalter

 Closing Remarks and Worship

Panelists and Workshops

Oh, Baby, Where Art Thou?

Life Without Children

Workshop Leader: Dot Chupp

Lane Center, room 113

Dot is full of surprises. She’s driven semi

trucks professionally, makes pizzas in her wood-fired oven, and has

listened to a preacher say in his sermon that it is sinful for a married

couple not to have children. And she loves children, by the way.

Go to Dot’s workshop if you’d like ideas on how to encourage a

young woman who desperately wants a baby and is unable to get

pregnant, how to relate to women who don’t have children by

choice or because of infertility. In this workshop you’ll hear about

questions one probably should not ask and about statements that

can be hurtful. And, as you get to know Dot, you’ll find that she has

lots of fun in her sphere of marriage without children.

Pacifiers, PB&J, and Purpose

Life at Home with Preschool

Children

Workshop Leader: Sabrina Lehman

Tawes, room 228

When Sabrina has quiet moments—which

isn’t often—you’d find her reading, cooking, blogging, sewing, photographing,

and teaching piano. The rest of the time, and especially

during long, challenging days, Sabrina tries to remember Deuteronomy

6. As she changes a diaper and serves up another meal, her

goal is to impress the words of God on her children.

Go to Sabrina’s workshop if you know a young, stay-at-home

mother who struggles to find time for relationships beyond her preschoolers.

If you would like to know how to provide emotional,

spiritual, and practical support to a stay-at-home mom, this is the

workshop for you.

Sooo . . .Why Aren’t You Married?

Understanding the Joys and

Heartaches of Your Single

Daughter, Sister, Friend

Workshop Leader: Mim Musser

Tawes, room 208

Mim travels the continents in her work for Rosedale Mennonite

Missions, but she also travels through the lives of people—

functioning as a counselor, a friend, a confidante. She lives in the

middle of people—in a condo village, sometimes with meetings by

the pool, and is good friends with the GPS. Talk with Mim for even

a few minutes, and you’ll find a sense of peace and love.

Go to Mim’s workshop if you want to support and understand a

single woman. What’s it like to be single at 29, 39, 49, 59, 69, and 79?

This is a rich opportunity for you to ask questions, hear discussions,

and get tips from single women across the decades.

Life After Divorce

Beauty after Ashes

Workshop Leader: Elnora Miller

Tawes, room 232

This mother of two and grandmother of 4

(almost 5) grandchildren doesn’t spend a whole

lot of time on the rocking chair. Many nights, you could find Elnora

in the halls of Goshen General Hospital working as a registered

nurse (this, after having gone back to school at age 41 to complete a

degree)—that is, if she’s not in Haiti on a medical mission or out to

eat with a group of close friends. And, although she’s been divorced,

divorce certainly no longer defines her. Elnora shows with

her life that it is possible to live victoriously after divorce, that God’s

abundant grace is sufficient.

Go to Elnora’s workshop if you’d like to know how to support

someone going through a broken marriage, how to help single parents,

how to provide a place of belonging for someone who has felt

rejection and misunderstanding. Elnora’s testimony is clear: God

can make beauty out of ashes.

My Name Isn’t Yoder

Living Inter-Culturally

Workshop Leader: Naomy Ndungu

Lane Center, room 111

Naomy Ndungu’s children are doing well in their new schools,

and she likes her neighbors and church, but her move from Kenya

to the United States has also brought her pain. She left behind in

Kenya relationships, roles, and recognition. Sometimes the transition

has felt bumpy. For example, in Kenya, she taught high school

for more than 20 years. She is college educated, with the equivalent

of a Master’s degree, but the process of trying to get degrees, credentials,

and experience recognized in the United States has proved

frustrating.

Perhaps you know a woman who is living inter-culturally. Or,

perhaps you would like to learn to know some women who are new

to your community from another country. Go to Naomy’s workshop

to get helpful tips on how to be friendly, what is good to say,

and what is best avoided.

Tear Soup

A Widow’s Brew

Workshop Leaders: Louella Mast;

Martha Stoltzfus

Tawes, room 156

Apparently widowhood isn’t a time for sitting

around. Not, at least, according to Martha Stoltzfus

and Louella Mast. For Martha it’s been, among

other things, learning to maintain a car and

change a sweeper belt, making sure not to miss

watching a University of Kentucky basketball

game, and moving from Bowlings Creek to

Turners Creek. Louella, on the other hand, is

still trying to decide if she will fulfill a life-long

dream of skydiving and certainly doesn’t want

to give up snow mobiling!

But these two active widows have also spent hours in tears. Go

to their workshop if you know a widow and want to know how to

talk with her, pray with her, and how to support her. This is an opportunity

to ask questions about grief and hear answers from two

wise and lovely women.

Twice-Called

Double Duty; Double Delight

Workshop Leader: Carla Hochstetler

Tawes, room 152

She’s a busy mom (two four-year olds and a

seven-year old) and a busy principal (730 students),

but, while Carla Hochstetler feels a double calling, she also

sometimes feels lonely. She hasn’t found many role models of twice

Louella

Martha

-called women in the church. And she faces the dilemma everyday

to find the balance between the two callings of her life. But Carla

loves that her own children see the passion she has for her job—the

opportunity to be a shining light in a dark world.

Do you want to support or understand a woman who juggles

two callings? Go to Carla’s workshop to explore the joys, pains, and

satisfactions of this sphere.

Woman in a Shoe

Figuring Out What to Do

Workshop Leader: Naomi Byler

Tawes, room 222

Twelve children—and she’d do it all over

again (if she were younger, that is). Naomi

Byler spends her days homeschooling in the morning, having appointments

in the afternoon, and attending meetings and enjoying

family time in the evenings. And somewhere in between the meals

get cooked, the house gets cleaned, and the laundry gets put away.

Hers hasn’t been an idyllic life, though, with multiple traumatic experiences

in her youth and periods of exhaustion as an adult.

Go to Naomi’s workshop if you want to understand the life style

of a homeschooling mother with a large family. How has Naomi

learned to be not always in a hurry, and to turn her work at home

into worship for God? You’ll find out in her workshop.

How to Continue the Conversation

The Among Women conversation of today can continue in your

home community. Here are some tips for making it happen:

1. Gather a small group of women representing different spheres.

This is a conversation, not a program. For this conversation, the

number of women should be small enough that women can sit

in a room together, see each other’s expressions, and hear the

tones of each other’s voices.

2. Invite women who are ready and able to both talk and listen.

People who are fresh in pain may need, instead, the help of a

support group. The women you choose for this conversation

need to be strong enough to ask hard questions and to answer

hard questions. These women should be willing and able to

speak for other women in their spheres who may not be able to

talk openly at this time.

3. Focus on listening to stories instead of debating issues and

concepts. The idea for an Among Women conversation is to

hear from women, themselves, how God has interacted with

them in their spheres.

4. Identify specific foci—the joys of the spheres, the challenges of

the spheres, how the church can support and extend the ministries

of women in the spheres.

5. Plan for a variety of listening/sharing processes. Here are a

few examples:

Around-the-circle short responses to a question;

Individual reflection and then self-reporting to the group;

Dyad dialogues about a specific question and then reporting

each other’s thoughts about that question to the group;

Question asking in front of the group of one woman by the

other women;

Inner and outer circle dialogues.

(If you have questions about these processes and want ideas for more,

please contact Lynette Showalter lynette@olbarn.com.)

6. Find a skilled facilitator. Women need to feel safe to talk about

their lives. Find a facilitator who is a sensitive leader and can

help women both talk and listen.

7. Set a supportive ambiance. It’s easier to talk when well-cared

for. Beauty, good food, comforting drinks, comfortable seating,

and quiet places to reflect all increase the quality of the conversation.

8. Assemble a support team who can provide the setting for this

conversation and who will pray for the participants.

9. Be sure participants in the conversation and the team supporting

the conversation all operate with the following understandings:

That confidences will be kept;

That dignity will be preserved;

That God has varied sanctified plans for women;

That according to Psalm 119:130, the “utterance of hearts

gives understanding.”

10. Before and throughout the conversations stop to pray, and at the

end commission each other to work for God, each in her own

sphere.

Or, perhaps, you’d rather scale the conversation smaller—maybe

one-on-one, possibly for a year-long, intentional relationship for

learning, understanding, and encouragement. In fact, as a first step,

you could choose a workshop with this goal in mind.

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The end is the beginning!

The panel, along with Phyllis and Lynette.

At the end of the third retreat, we can anticipate what is coming next. Among other things at conference, these brave panelists will be leading individual workshops on their spheres. This blog will continue with related posts. Keep the conversation happening.

The following books are ones that were mentioned at the third retreat. Perhaps they will be helpful to you:

Tear Soup – a picture book on grief by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen, illustrated by Taylor Bills.

Strong Women, Soft Hearts by Paula Rinehart.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.

Closing thoughts, and a prayer for the journey:

Phyllis, who lit the fire of this project.

Phyllis – Sometimes we feel like we want to give up what God has called us to. In Matthew 26:39, Jesus prayed, “Father, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, Your will be done.” Nevertheless. Not my will, but yours.

“Father, in the last retreats we came with our small offerings. We are in gratitude to You for the work of Your Holy Spirit. Continue to make us like You, and help us to understand You. As we go home, help us to work in our spheres.”

The panel and support crew, minus Charlotte, Debbie and Vicki.

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