Three Women, Three Windows: Everyday Boundaries

This article was originally published in Summer 2018 Timbrel, “Empowering Women: Claiming Healthy Personal Boundaries”

Where are you on your journey to claiming personal boundaries?

Littlewolf: I am a work in progress. I make boundaries and then reassess and make revisions. When I first became aware of boundaries as an adult, I realized I was putting up walls instead of fences. Now I tend to think that I put up barbed wire fences—where the fence can poke others and it can poke me. I’m still working on a better analogy for my personal boundaries, but the barbed wire fence gives me a fabulous mental picture of where I am right now.

Groff: Over the past few years, my awareness of boundaries has increased. With friends, my spiritual director, and my therapist, I have processed times in my life where boundaries were crossed and violated. Now I’m considering what I learned from those situations and what I want to pass on to my young daughters. I try to strike a balance between accepting what was not my fault while also embracing the concept that I’m not powerless to set boundaries or to say no.

Staton: Just when I think I have a handle on my boundaries, someone will say, “I hate to ask but I’m really in a bind…could you possibly….?” and whamo, I get hooked. Not that helping someone in need is a bad thing, but it’s a slippery slope for me. People in need are my weakness. My life, my mission and my vocation are about helping people. I’m the campus counselor at a university. So when someone “needs” me, I am tugged by my life’s purpose to jump. But it’s cost me. My first year at my current position, students would tell me, “I’m so busy, I can’t meet at any other time but lunch.” So… I would do it.  And just like clock work, I would miss meals, work long days, get run down, end up with bronchitis and miss several days of work where I had to reschedule 16 to 24 appointments just so I could make room for those few who couldn’t meet any other time but lunch. It turns out the biggest violator of my boundaries, is me. That example is from eight years ago, but I just did it again. So I don’t know that I am where I want to be yet, at almost 49 years old, in my boundaries journey.

What obstacles do you face in setting boundaries?

Littlewolf: One obstacle that I face is that when I am tired, it is easy for me to sway my boundaries or give people the benefit of the doubt at my expense. I also tend to second-guess myself and search for external validation that the boundary I set was “OK”. I also tend to realize I didn’t think through my boundaries until after I realize one has been broken, rather than honoring my boundaries from the start.

Groff: People-pleasing is my biggest obstacle! After I set a boundary, I often second-guess myself or feel the need to justify my decision or overprocess it with a friend or my spouse. Instead, setting a healthy boundary should mean letting go after the decision. Yes, boundaries can be evaluated later, but I think it’s best to move forward confidently.

Staton: Turning down new or exciting experiences is an obstacle for me. I’m good about politely telling someone when I’m uncomfortable in a situation or when something doesn’t feel physically safe. I’m really good about saying no when I don’t want to do something, but quite frankly I like to do stuff that sounds interesting and exciting. When someone asks me to do something I’ve never done before, my boundary-awareness suddenly takes a nap, which can be harmful. For example, today I saw a familiar face and we struck up a conversation that led to my mouth making a commitment that I didn’t fully process. Relive my college years and sing in a coffee shop? Sure, you bet! I probably don’t have time for that. But doesn’t that sound fun and exciting? But if he had asked me to wash his car, I could have absolutely said no. I’m a work in progress.

What is one boundary setting goal you have for yourself this year?

Littlewolf: My goal is to  pre-think, or establish boundaries, before they are broken. Right now, I tend to recognize my boundaries after they are violated, instead of recognizing my needs ahead of time. I want my boundary setting to become a natural way of being.

Groff: I am reading the book Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much this year—one passage a day. This passage on busyness is important for me! “How much of the constant repetitive housework I do is because of my need to keep busy and not because it actually needs to be done?… Often, our busyness is a subtle form of procrastination that keeps us from what we really need to be doing.” This year, I hope to do a better job of setting aside what can wait and embracing the moments of connection in my professional life and life as a new mother.

Staton: Every step backwards gives me the opportunity to re-group and re-examine my choices or im-pulsive decisions that may put me in an unhealthy place, and I really do learn from them. But that doesn’t mean I won’t make them again. In therapy there is a saying that “Relapse is part of recovery” and that applies here too. I won’t ever be perfect. The day I think I have it all under control and let my guard down, will undoubtedly be the day I am most at risk! Who knows what I will agree to then! So I guess my goal would be to remember that I can make mistakes while still moving forward.


During some website maintenance this evening, a post from April 2013, “The Governance Structure of Mennonite Women USA Adopted February 27, 2002 (last updated April 2013”, was accidentally republished and sent to all of our lovely Mennonite Women USA subscribers. We are sorry for the inconvenience!

Sharing the Joy by Kate Mast

Kate Mast is the Workroom Supervisor in the Material Resource Center for MCC-Central States and lives in Hesston, Kansas.

A “charming” hallmark of my personality is that when something excites me or makes me happy, I want everyone else around me to also love it! I naturally become a salesperson for whatever brings me joy. Over the past few months, I have tried to convince my friends to try a Zumba class, claim their free trial of Spotify Premium, buy the “hot and spicy” version of Cheez-Its (so much better than regular, in my opinion!), and watch the “Yodeling Walmart Boy” video on YouTube. As much as my friends might roll their eyes, there is something to be said for sharing what brings us joy and satisfaction, even if some of these things are more trivial than others. So, if you have talked to me in the past year or so, you probably already know that a newfound joy in my life is comforter making, specifically comforters for Mennonite Central Committee!

MCC sends comforters to overseas partners working with vulnerable populations, such as refugees, displaced persons, and people affected by natural disasters. Before starting my role as the Workroom Supervisor in the Material Resource Center for MCC-Central States, I was only vaguely familiar with what went into making a comforter. However, on my first day of work at MCC, I was introduced to a wonderful group of volunteers with a contagious passion. They carefully showed me the many steps in the process: matching fabrics, cutting squares, measuring, piecing, pressing, sewing, pinning, knotting, trimming, and binding… and reassured me that there are many steps that even beginners can do! I have always been attracted to colors, textures, patterns, and creating with my hands, so I was immediately drawn to the process. I’ve now been working at MCC for almost two years, and I can honestly say that working with comforters is my favorite part of my job! I jump at the chance to host or attend comforter-making events, I love to unfold every comforter that is donated and admire the patterns, colors, and creativity. I’ve learned so much from the act of creating beautiful things together, and so much from the volunteers who give their time, talents, finances, and efforts for this cause.

One of the most poignant lessons I’ve learned is that “comforters for relief don’t have to be ugly”—a direct quote from a talented and dedicated comforter maker in Illinois. Although the idea that a gift shouldn’t be ugly is not revolutionary, it is a statement that initiates a shift of mindset. Often times, our instinct is to keep what is beautiful for ourselves, and use what is leftover for others. However, this quote is a challenge to use our best—either using the beautiful fabric from your stash that you’ve been saving for an unspecified project, or being creative in pairing leftover fabric with complimentary fabric to make it look attractive. When MCC is able to send beautiful and well-made comforters to our overseas partners, it sends a message of dignity and humanity to the recipients. I love to observe the intentionality and quality of comforters that volunteers are continuing to create, some simple, some with hundreds of seams. Donated comforters can be so much more than mere constructions of materials that will keep someone warm or “be better than nothing”—they can be works of art; well thought out gifts of love for brothers and sisters around the world.

Another beautiful thing I have observed is the natural community that is formed around comforter making. Last week, a donor brought 12 completed comforters she had made in her home to donate to MCC. The volunteers in the workroom all gathered around the table and opened up each of the comforters, oohing and awwing, touching and feeling the fabrics and creative patterns. A few were even taking pictures of design ideas to be replicated. There was an instant connection between everyone around the table­—over the love of fabrics, the eye for design, and the care put into these gifts. Oftentimes, a comforter will be worked on by at least 5–6 different people before it is complete. It takes many hands, many ages, many different skill levels. Week after week, comforter-making groups find joy in working and creating together for the good of people they will never meet. There is something so satisfying about finishing a comforter… I’m telling you, it is contagious!

As I work with volunteers who are making and donating comforters, they often dream out loud about what they think might happen to their creation. Where will this comforter end up? Will it keep a person or family warm, or will it go to a hot climate? Perhaps be used as a mattress or a curtain or a wall divider? Will kids play “I-Spy” with this scrappy design? Will they be able to tell that a group of 5th graders tied this one? Will this bright design make them smile? Will they know that I prayed for them as I pieced it together? It is all part of the intrigue of making comforters for relief.

In my job, I often hear stories about the creation of the comforter. But, the truth is, the maker will never know what happens to the comforter once it is donated. It could be loved and cherished, it could be muddied and destroyed, it could be re-gifted, it could cover someone who is dying, or swaddle someone who was just born… the comforter will go on to have a story of it’s own that we will never know, and I think there is beauty in that mystery!

Now, it wouldn’t be like me to share all of these musings on comforter making without also inviting you to join in the fun! Last year, MCC sent 51,062 comforters to seven countries, including Jordan, Syria, Bosnia, and Haiti, and continues to receive requests for more. For instructions and MCC approved guidelines, you can visit, or reach out to your local MCC Material Resource Center. If you have made a comforter you are particularly proud of, or have a comforter-related story to share, I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out to me at Happy comforter making!

Worshiping Together Daily by Denise Nickel

Denise is a member of Tabor Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas. She is active with the worship team, children’s ministries, deacon and women’s Group. She is secretary to the principal of Goessel Elementary School. She and her husband, Elton have three children and seven grandchildren.

My husband and I are in a small group of six couples at our church, Tabor Mennonite, rural Newton, KS. In early January 2018, one of our small group friends called and said their Christmas season had been one with an unexpected turn of events. Our small group had not been in regular communication with one of the couples, Rosie and Kent, because Rosie is also our pastor and she was on sabbatical. When she called the rest of us in January, we discovered that instead of spending time reaching her sabbatical goals, she accompanied her husband to doctor appointments. They had both gone for annual checkups in December but were told to come back in early January when they received devastating news that Kent’s tests proved positive for prostate cancer. They were told that the cancer was treatable but not curable. We were all shocked and overwhelmed, but God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

What could we do to show our love? Our group immediately kicked into action and fixed a meal and gathered as a group to share their burden.

What else could we do? How could we practice Sister Care? Lois, our member who enjoys quilting, started percolating an idea. We would give them something of ourselves that would be a constant reminder that we are praying for them and that they would never leave our thoughts and prayers. It would be something special for these friends to show them that we are walking the difficult road with them. Lois had made a Cancer Quilt for another friend a couple of years earlier so her wheels were already turning.

Lois asked all of us, including Kent and Rosie, to send her our favorite colors and hobbies or interests. The next thing she did was gather fabrics that symbolized all of these things. She also purchased fabric phrases that said “What Cancer Cannot Do”. She included light blue because she discovered when making her first Cancer Quilt that different types of cancers use different colors. Prostrate cancer is light blue. With fabrics surrounding the “cancer” fabrics of farming, mechanics, estate sales, gardening, reading, going for coffee, sewing and steam engines, we hoped this would serve as a symbol of us surrounding them with love and prayers.   We added red and blue cancer ribbons to represent hope, and balanced that out with Kent’s Kansas University Jayhawks and farming and the inspirational fabric as we need the Lord’s presence to walk with us. On February 17, the ladies met to sew the top, Lois quilted it, and the ladies got together to finish the binding on February 27. Lois wrote a poem (of which some phrases I have use in this blog), and we met our deadline. Before the stitching had time to cool off we presented the quilt to Kent and Rosie on March 4, 2018.

Kent and Rosie continue with their journey of cancer shots and chemo pills and we trust that God’s presence is upon them as friends carry them with prayers. One of Rosie’s favorite verses is Prov. 3:4-5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Believing in this verse is providing some hidden blessings amidst their walk with cancer.


April Grapevine is Here!

This issue’s prayer is by Jessie Hostetler, of Portland, Oregon. Check it out to see the latest news!

Read the issue here.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post said that Jessie Hostetler was from Vietnam. The post has since been corrected to say that Jessie is from Portland, Oregon.

January Grapevine is here!

Grapevine is our MW USA monthly e-newsletter. Each issue features a prayer, important updates and news, and a recap of our most popular content!

Click here to view this month’s issue!


International Women’s Fund: Esther’s Story

Hear from Esther Mahagachi, an IWF 2017 recipient and student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. 

My name is Esther Muhagachi and I am married to Bishop Amos Muhagachi. We are blessed with four children: Violet (24), Victor (22), Grace (20), Peace (15). I have been working for 10 years as Director of Grace and Healing Ministry Dodoma (GHMD) under Tanzania Mennonite Church. In this role, I have been supervising the health team that helps people living with HIV/AIDS and the most vulnerable children in the community. I also provide counseling and guidance to people living with HIV/AIDS, encouraging drug adherence, prevention of infections, and facilitate the trauma healing and mentorship program within the diocese. In addition, I am also in charge of the Stand with Students program for the most vulnerable children registered in the program.  Continue reading