Episode 11: Brenda Yoder and Important Principles for Discipleship

This week author and speaker Brenda Yoder joins us to talk about some of the important principles of discipleship that we may have lost (or at least misplaced) in our 21st Century world. These are simple, clear ideas God gave us in His Word that we can bring back into our lives and relationships that will bring peace, growth, and joy. 

Show Notes/Transcript:

Terrie (00:37):

Welcome to “Everyday Discipleship, Every Day” where we discuss discipleship in the 21st century, guided by biblical discipleship culture, and individual needs while focusing on discipling our children as well. I’m your host, Terrie Hellard-Brown, and I’ve been releasing my devotional book that I’ve been working on for quite a few years on my blog, and you can download those chapters for free. They’re there for you, and I hope that they bless you and that you can use them. Now today we have a really wonderful guest, Brenda Yoder is with us, and we’re going to talk about some wonderful topics that have to do with the 21st century and discipleship that I think will encourage you and challenge you, and I hope it blesses you. Today we have a guest with us, Brenda Yoder is with us. And Brenda, we’re so happy you’re here. Could you introduce yourself a little bit? Tell us a little bit about who you are and your ministry and what you do?

Brenda (01:37):

Sure. I am glad to be here. My name is Brenda Yoder. I am an author and a speaker. I’m also a licensed mental health counselor who has a private practice, and I’m also a school counselor who has been working part-time in an elementary school since Covid. And I have found my place, and I may not ever leave there, but that’s kind of what I do professionally. And I’m a wife of Ron, who is a retired teacher. He just retired from teaching math, high school math for 35 years. I’m also a former teacher. I taught high school history and sociology and home ec. And we have four children. One is a full-time missionary. We have two that are married. We have three little grandbabies. And I have, one of my sons actually lives out near you in Oklahoma. We live on a farm, on a family farm in Shipshewana, Indiana, which is a little tourist area here in the Midwest. And I like to sit on my front porch and garden when I’m not doing all of those things or driving hours to go visit my family, my kids.

Terrie (02:47):

That’s awesome. Well, we have four kids as well, but so far none of them are married. And so we only have a couple grand dogs. I’m hoping someday.

Brenda (02:56):

Well, yes, we have a grand, we have two grand dogs also. So, we still do have to watch them. In fact, a couple weekends ago we had one of the, the babies and we had to watch the dog too. So I always say yes because if there’s a child attached to it, I’ll watch any dog anytime.

Terrie (03:16):

True. Yeah, I can see that. Okay. Well, I want to talk about your books before we finish today, but before, well, okay. Let’s start with your book that’s launching, because I think a lot of the topics in that book relate to what we’ll talk about here, about discipleship and growing in our faith and following Christ. So let’s start with that. Tell us about your brand new book.

Brenda (03:42):

Sure. I have a brand new book coming out in March of 24 called Uncomplicated Simple Secrets for a Compelling Life. And they include 10 kind of life skills, mindsets, behaviors, kind of all rolled into one that have been embedded in our culture over every generation. But with the development of technology and a lot of mental health needs and just a hustle culture have been really–not just forgotten. People do want them. They want these, but they don’t know how to have them anymore. And what I realized as a therapist a few years ago is that in the counseling office, some basic skills and mindsets that really are middle-of-the-road balanced type of thinking or behaviors were becoming more out of reach for clients. And then as the pandemic hit and as kind of everything seemed to kind of dissipate, I really realized that there were a lot of components that we had kind of in our rural area, and especially among the Amish.

Brenda (04:58):

I do live in an Amish area, I’m not Amish. But what I realized is that some virtues and basic principles that used to be modeled all the time in culture, we would see it in the adults around us. We would see it in discourse, we would see it in our relationships, and we’re not seeing those things anymore. So Uncomplicated really is a compilation of 10 values and principles and lessons that can be dropped into any life no matter where you live. And they’re rooted in biblical principles, and they also teach you how to develop the mindset– gives you some activities of how to walk them out. But the other component of Uncomplicated that is really important is this element that all of our life has an influence on someone else. And really empowering the reader to know that because these virtues are so scarce in today’s culture, that when we display them, when we act them out, it has a greater impact on those around us because there’s such scarcity of these skills and these mindsets.

Brenda (06:21):

And it also kind of draws us back to that longing we all have to sit at the kitchen table of a grandma or of someone that really makes us feel comfortable and safe. And I really try to encourage the reader to know how important their sphere of influence is because as we really develop these behaviors and mindsets in our own life, they’re not just for us, but they are for our families. They are for those that we work with, they are for our neighbors. And it really doesn’t have to be a program. It really is that uncomplicated. It really is about living out the values that God has created us as humans to have within our capacity of who he’s created us to be as humans in the world.

Terrie (07:14):

It sounds kind of like a Titus 2 way of living where the older women are influencing and teaching the younger women just as you go through life. And I love that because that’s, to me, that’s the ideal as we look at discipleship in the 21st century. I think that’s what God is calling us back to is, like you said, sitting at the kitchen table, just sharing life together and helping the younger women to find their way. We were talking a little bit before we recorded about anxiety and you said it was like a third of the population deals with this, right?

Brenda (07:55):

Yeah, about 30%.

Terrie (07:57):

Yeah. I know I see it all the time in the young women that we minister to, and it’s not something I can even totally understand because I don’t deal with the anxiety attacks and that kind of a thing. I may have some stressful moments, but I don’t deal with that sort of feeling of out of control, your heart racing, and just panic almost. And well, yeah, I guess it is panic. And so trying to understand that and how we can help them have victory over that, at least somewhat. And some of the things you talk about in your book, I think really speak to that. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Brenda (08:38):

Sure. So a couple of the secrets, or the different values or mindsets that are included include forbearance and equanimity, which is really that calm, balanced mindset in difficult situations. It’s having self-control, and that was a principle that was lived out in past generations. I mean, anxiety really was present in some level, but it wasn’t something that debilitated us or that was at the level that it is now. And part of that is because we had this equanimity, we had the ability to be calm in difficult situations, in stressful situations because it was expected. And because life was harder. And you know, when we think about those women who lived through the Great Depression era, there was nothing easy about that era. They had to feed their families. They had to figure out how to get through really hard situations. And one thing I’ve learned being married to a dairy farmer is that that’s what I’ve witnessed in his life and in his family’s life and in the farming culture, is that when cows have to be milked and the feed bunk breaks–getting upset, getting anxious doesn’t help.

Brenda (10:00):

You have to figure out an answer to the problem. And you have to figure it out now because cows have to be milked twice a day every day. There’s no passing that job off that has to be done. And so I think as women, as younger women especially, start having the ability to say, you can do this, you can do hard things. But the thing with anxiety is that it really is a brain function. So our brain is always looking to make sure that we are healthy and safe. And so our brain is always trying to protect us. So when our brain perceives something as threatening to us or as unsafe for us, it goes into fight, flight, or freeze. And that is what drives anxiety. So all of those components are embedded in Uncomplicated, I’m thinking primarily with two chapters.

Brenda (10:55):

One of equ–well, actually, it’s all throughout because there’s a chapter on resourcefulness, there’s a chapter on how to think prudently, which is another word we aren’t familiar with that much in the 21st century. And it’s not related to sexual prudence, but it’s related to this more calm and calculated thinking in a way that causes us to pause and to think it’s pausing and to think, if I do this, then what is the result going to be? And there’s hardly anything in our culture anymore that tells us to pause and think. Everything tells us do it, and do it now. And then just deal with the consequences later. And so I think especially millennials and Gen Z have been socialized with this influx of social media. And Jonathan Haidt, he’s an author and a researcher, he has a plethora of research, and I cite him a couple different times in Uncomplicated that correlates the rise in anxiety and depression, especially in women.

Brenda (12:04):

It is pinpointed right around 2010, which is when the rise of social media really started becoming more embedded into our lives and less of a thing that we turned on and turned off. There’s a lot of what I did in Uncomplicated is that not only did I kind of introduce this virtue or value such as prudence or equanimity or groundedness or contentment, those are some of the different chapters. But I walked the reader through what it looks like in real life, how to develop the mindset, and then how to cultivate it as a lifestyle. And then also what do we need to get rid of so that we can actually do this. So identifying that obstacle and knowing how to remove that obstacle, and then giving some very practical tools at the end of how they can walk it out in their life.

Brenda (13:00):

And then I also encourage in every chapter the reader to think about who in their life emulates this quality. So when we think about that person who is calm, cool, and collected, who we would like to be like, we, I really encourage the reader to identify that person and think about what about their life really is something that I would like to build into my life. Because what we’re missing in our culture are those relationships, like you just mentioned before, of working beside women, working beside people, interacting with people who have these qualities that 30 years ago we’re so much more embedded in the culture because we interacted with each other. And now a majority of women are interacting more with social media. In fact, I just read an article that said–it cited the rise of ADHD, especially in women 30 and under because of not so much natural ADHD, but because of their inability to focus, because they’re constantly checking their phones.

Brenda (14:12):

And then that also undermines our own confidence. So the chapter on resourcefulness really is about helping the reader know that they have the ability to problem solve, and they have the ability to problem solve in difficult situations. And that perfection’s not the goal, but the goal is to use the natural abilities God has given you. Use your brain, develop those brain muscle skills that have become weakened in so many ways because we have everything we need to do life well because God has created us that way.

Brenda (14:47):

The other thing I incorporate quite a bit is the importance of nature and the importance of being mindful and living in the present and actually using nature to help ground your mind and ground your heart and lessen that anxiety.

Terrie (15:05):

That’s good. Well, and so much of what you’re talking about is right out of scripture. You know when we’re not content, we’re not grateful. We’re not trusting God to meet our needs. And I think so many women today, old and young, struggle with a lack of contentment. If you’re in the workforce, you feel like you’re missing out on being a mom. And if you’re at home with your kids, you feel like you’re missing out on your career. And just day-to-day, I see this lack of contentment and this lack of stillness in our lives. And that’s just really interesting. And then the other thing that hit me with what you were saying the ADHD, I think we have a cultural A DHD now, and I see that, because I have of my four kids, three are on the autism spectrum, and my son especially shows the ADHD kind of side of Asperger’s. And my husband is ADD. And so then my younger daughter doesn’t have a diagnosis, and yet she says she has adult onset ADHD because she can’t be still, she can’t be focused. And the thing I notice with all my kids is they’ve never, they didn’t learn naturally in growing up, of course, they grew up in another culture, we were overseas. But still, even in that culture, they were not taught to think about if I do this, this is the consequence. They just didn’t think that. And that’s a natural part of following Christ, is understanding the choices we make, the attitudes we have, the what we do has an effect, has a consequence on our lives and on those around us. And I’m like, how did we lose that? And I think that’s part of what I see as a cultural ADHD kind of thing, is we’re not naturally teaching these things to our kids as they grow up. And I don’t know how we lost that.

Brenda (17:03):

Yeah. And I would think, I think maybe some of that, you know, came about maybe with the cultural revolution in the sixties. When we became more about upsetting the general values of the culture that kind of held the culture together. And there’s one verse that for myself that I keep on coming back to it. It was really foundational for me when I was a teenager who was bulimic. It really helped me to be able to overcome binging and purging. And that is 1st Corinthians 10:23, which is everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial because that really is that thinking process to say, yes, you can do that. But is it really beneficial? What is going to happen when you do that? You really do have the freedom to do whatever you want, but is what you’re about to do helpful or harmful.

Brenda (18:02):

And so I really do walk readers through kind of this thought process that we use with our elementary students actually in their reading curriculum, which is just thinking through “if- then” statements or “when-then” statements. You know, if I do this, then this will be the effect. You know, that basic cause and effect. We’ve lost the art of problem solving. And I think what I see in the farming culture is, and also in the Amish culture, which I do give this as an example, is that when you have a farm or when you’re part of a very values-based community where when you change what has what you’ve done throughout time, when you change something, there is going to be a shift of how that change affects cattle, your business, the longevity of something. You know, I’ve seen my father-in-Law have to think through those if-then statements of, if we stop the milking operation, how is that going to affect the future generation?

Brenda (19:13):

And I think in, you know, in generations past, we thought much more about how what I do is going to affect the next generation. And we don’t even think now, we don’t even have the instruction or the modeling to say what I do now, how’s that going to affect my next hour? You know, we have really lost that. So I really do try to help the reader walk through these principles that, again, they’re God’s principles, but we have completely taken them out of our culture. And because we don’t have a lot of that intergenerational interaction anymore that’s in person; most of it happens online. We don’t really have that grounded, calm person beside us who says, “Hey, you know what, let’s just stop and think about that for a little bit.” Because we, we tend to be more isolated with our thinking and more isolated with our decisions. And God really did intend us to live some of that out in community.

Terrie (20:23):

True. Yeah. I think that’s so important. That’s one of the things I talk about a lot. What I really believe is at the core of 21st century discipleship is connecting again generationally, you know, feeding into each other’s lives the truth, working through truth together, struggling with scripture together if we don’t understand, and answering those questions and not being afraid of questions. You know, I remember when I was young, I could ask my mom about a Bible verse. She didn’t feel threatened by that at all. And yet, I know some people have told me that they tried to ask a pastor something, and the pastor didn’t want them asking questions. And I’m like, when did we get there? You know, we’ve got to get back to God’s ideal of helping one another grow in our faith and know how to follow Christ.

Terrie (21:18):

And I love too that so much of what you’re talking about flows right with the fruit of the spirit and helps us to just follow Christ and grow more like him in our walk if we can get these things back into our lives. And I really do believe contentment is such an important one. That one just keeps coming back to my mind–that we’ve got to help disciple people and help people to understand how to be content. And yet we can’t do that if we’re not content. And I think even as an older mom, I struggle with that too. Am I really living a content and peaceful walk with God? Or am I striving, you know, in my daily walk. And I catch myself sometimes just tense, you know, because I’m trying to get too much done. I do my little goal sheet each Monday of what I need to do that week.

Terrie (22:15):

And if I’m not careful, I start realizing I’m all scrunched up, striving and working. And I’m not just walking in that peace of God and showing my kids and those around me that God is king of my life. Because at that moment I’m just, ah, you know, and we’ve just fallen into that so easily with our culture today. I just feel like, how do we just breathe? How do we just get back to that? And what does it mean to be truly content and to peacefully walk with God? I really think that’s something we have to be conscious of in our lives in order to teach the next generation. So how can we as Midlifers really grasp that to the point that we can then teach that to the next generation in our own lives? How can we do that?

Brenda (23:08):

Yeah. I think first of all is understanding that contentment was the first human struggle. I mean, discontentment is what brought about sin, because that was Eve’s first struggle. And so I think when I was writing that chapter and really realizing that discontentment is the one thing that always makes us think the what ifs or the if onlys. And we’re always looking for that one thing, that one experience, that one situation, that one response from someone that’s going to make us feel happy and known and loved and at peace. And so when we can recognize that what we have is the life that God’s given us today. And in fact what really prompted this was during the pandemic, a mentor of mine had forwarded an email to me. And in that newsletter was the question, what if today’s as good as it gets? And it was during one of the early days of the lockdown, and it just, it shipwrecked my thinking because I was stuck thinking, when are things going to get back to normal?

Brenda (24:18):

And God was really challenging me that if this is as good as it gets, then how are you going to live your life? Like what if this is it? And then Psalm 90 was where I kind of camped during that time. And Psalm 90 really tells us to teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. And I think that for midlifers or for anyone is really understanding that there are no guarantees and to really let go of the past and to even let go of the future in some ways, even though that sounds antithetical when I just said we need to start thinking about the effect of our decisions today. But when we can hold more loosely just the day in the life that God has given us today. And I know what is difficult is that when difficult things happen in our life, or when the life we’re living is not what we thought it would be, that was really what prompted my ministry that started over 10 years ago with the blog called Life Beyond the Picket Fence, is that the life I was living was not what I thought it was.

Brenda (25:28):

And I had done the formula. I had read all the Christian books. I had done the formula. But life was not panning out the way I thought it was. And so I think when we can maybe learn to sit with God, and to learn to not have to achieve anything, but we truly are developing this relationship with Jesus and letting go of control of what we think life should be about–who we think our children should be, what we think our marriage should be, what we think our life should be at this point in time. Because reality is that there are no guarantees. And if the pandemic taught me one thing, it was, we don’t really have control over what may happen. We can, we only have control over our own life and those around us. And if that includes our children, then that’s where our focus is, if that’s our community.

Brenda (26:24):

And you mentioned a couple things about that mentoring. And in the book, I talk about what I call milk house mentoring, which is kind of these moments that I had when I was a young wife and mother with my mother-in-Law. And we would feed calves together early in the morning when the guys were milking. We did it about twice a week. And those were the most sacred times for me because while we were doing just natural things of pouring milk in bottles and going and feeding calves and washing them out and washing out the milk house floor, we would talk about life. We would talk about kind of our struggles. Because we were side by side. My mother-in-law died 20 years ago, unexpectedly, when she was pretty young. And I was a young mom. And I have missed her presence in my life for the last 20 some years as I was raising my children.

Brenda (27:16):

And I just really think that we as women don’t have to think so hard about our influence. And we don’t have to think so hard about life. We really just need to be about living the life that God has created us to live every day. And being mindful that we have things that God has given us within the capacity of who he’s created us to be, to influence others. And it’s not through writing books, even though I’ve written books. It’s not through all these magical things that the world tells us we have to do. It really is about these day in and day out interactions that if we can become more content in who we are in the life God has given us in our place in life, then we will teach others naturally because they will see something in us that the culture does not have. And they will say, I want to be around that person more.

Terrie (28:15):

I agree a hundred percent. And I try to help moms too, because I’ve had young moms who’ve come, and they’re so distraught because they feel like they’ve failed in discipling their children. And I’m like, you’ve discipled your children from birth. The things we do, the way we live out our lives, we are teaching them. They are catching our faith day by day. And I know some have struggled because they became Christians later on in life. And I’m like, as long as you’re both still breathing, you’re still influencing that child, and just pray and keep going and live out your faith. And especially if you became a Christian later on, they’re going to see a change. They’re going to see the difference. And if you’ve got that contentment in the Lord and that peace that surpasses all understanding, it is desirable. You know, people want that.

Terrie (29:12):

I know one of my friends, her husband came to the Lord because they had gone through a really scary financial situation. He lost his job or something. I don’t quite remember the details. But she wasn’t worried. She just trusted God. She knew he was going to take care of them. And he is like, why aren’t you worried? What’s wrong with you? And so she just said, you know, I know God’s in control, and he’ll take care of us. And it made him open his eyes to the drastic change that had taken place in her life when she became a Christian and how genuine that peace was. And it made him want it. And I think as we seek to grow closer to Christ, then our influence then can help others draw closer to Christ. And that’s discipleship. You know, that’s what we need to be thinking about. Not trying to find a program, not trying to schedule more events into our days and weeks, but to find that walking with people and showing how we can walk with Christ and finding that peace in our lives as well. This is so good. I think we could talk a lot more about it, but I want to, I want you to be able to share about your ministry, about your other books, about your podcasts that you’re involved with, so our people know about those because I think they’re wonderful resources that will help many, especially moms out there who are trying to find that peace–to try to find that way to walk with Christ. So share some of those with us before we go today.

Brenda (30:53):

Sure. So I have two podcasts. One is called The Life Beyond the Picket Fence Podcast, and that airs twice monthly. And I usually interview someone who I have seen walk out a life of discipleship, really. That I have seen them walk through different situations, and we kind of talk through their journey that is a life beyond the picket fence image and how they kind of walk that out. That’s also the title of my blog. I’ve been writing brendayoder.com for about 10 years now. And because I’m writing books, there’re not quite as many how-tos there as there have been in past years. But I’ve got a whole library there of a lot of different topics. Mom topics, but then also life, faith, and family beyond the storybook image is what I write and speak about.

Brenda (31:39):

So they can also find my podcast that I co-host with Emelia Rhodes, the Midlife Moms podcast. And we just finished our fifth season, and we’ll be having a short break before summer. We’ll start re-recording in the summer because we both work full time. And then I have two books other than Uncomplicated. The other one is Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind, which is a book for the moms in the season of launching that are in between the full house and the Empty Nest. And it really is about all of the dynamics that go on when you have some that are leaving the nest, but you’re still parenting some at home. And then my other book is for moms, probably in the life stage right before that, which is called Balance Busyness and Not Doing It All, which is really a handbook of how to really tease out your priorities for your season of life while you’re parenting. How to say yes to things and how to say no to things.

Brenda (32:35):

How to figure out are you doing something, are you busy because you’re trying to avoid something? Or are you really living out what is most important right now? And then it also helps them to know just some practical tools, some practical household tips, but then also some ways to incorporate a quiet time with God and to make that a priority during your life. Because life is never going to not be busy. To me, busyness is our unimportant things that we fill our time with versus a full life that is really about living our priorities. And I’m very passionate about the difference between the two because we can be busy doing anything. But being, living a full life is where you know what your priorities are for your season, and you’re living those priorities, and you feel comfortable saying no to things. And you know, the value of building and margin and it’s a constant kind of shift. You have to constantly be going through some of those things with the Lord, what should I be about today, this week, this month, this season?

Terrie (33:47):

I love that. That reminded me. I have a Jewish friend who wrote an article about the Proverbs 31 chapter and we were talking about that and how we read that chapter and look at ourselves and think, I’m not doing it all. I’m not measuring up. And yet she said the original Hebrew of this, it’s the stages of life. This is not one person in one season of life. This is her whole span of life. And when you read it that way, oh my goodness, it’s so much better. It’s so much–you can say, okay, this is my time of life when I’m raising my children, this is my time of life where I’m working or whatever. And it just takes all that pressure away that I believe God never intended for us to have. And helps us see the beauty of those seasons that we’re walking through and knowing that each season is temporary and there are joys and there are sorrows.

Terrie (34:46):

And like you’ve talked about, there’s grief that we face as we’re moving into a new season of life. But you know, we’ve all said it to the moms with the toddlers that, hang on, I know it’s hard right now. It’s going to get better. They grow up. But we don’t always say that to the mom who’s looking at becoming an empty nester in a few years, and she’s worried about her teenager’s choices and what is she doing? And we don’t go to her and say, it’s going to be okay. You know, it’s a season of life. You will get through this, and it’s hard, it’s hard right now, but you’re going to get through this. And Wow. I think it’s so powerful for us to be able to say that. In your books pretty much, all three of them have that message through all of them it seems like. And I love that.

Brenda (35:34):

Yeah, they do. And I do actually–I have that same narrative that you just shared about the Proverbs 31 in all three of the books because we have this idea that this is the ideal when really it’s a woman’s story over her lifetime. Because where it says, you know, her children rise up and call her blessed, that her husband is respected at the city gates, and that’s really what happens when we come to the end of our life. There’s not one toddler or teenager who’s going to rise up and call his mom blessed. I don’t care how fabulous she is. That’s going to be probably our children when we are near our deathbed, when they have walked through their hard seasons of life and realize that their mom actually was pretty smart and that her mom really was doing things for her benefit. I’m so grateful that you shared that because that really is a perspective that has been absent, at least for those of us who became young moms. I believe during kind of the, the nineties and the early two thousands, there was a big socialization within the Christian community of this ideal Proverbs 31 woman. And I know for myself that I’m having to unravel that a little bit and find more of who God is calling me to be in each life stage, rather than what I perceive I should be doing or what it should look like.

Terrie (36:59):

Yes, so important. I feel like we’re going to help set some women free.

Brenda (37:06):

I hope so. I hope so.

Terrie (37:09):

Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. I’m really excited to share this with our listeners. I think what you’re sharing is so important, and so thank you.

Brenda (37:20):

Well, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it so much.

Terrie (37:23):

I’m so glad you joined us today, and I hope that this interview with Brenda blessed you and encouraged you in your walk with Christ. And I hope that it helped you just to take a breath and just know that you can be still in God’s presence and that what you are doing as you talk to other women and encourage other women is also a part of discipleship. I would love to have you join the conversation. We would love to have you comment on the blog and share your questions, share your concerns, share what you found to really help you as you’re talking to other women and encouraging them. We would love to hear from you. It helps us and it helps each other as we are sharing together. Our prayer is that we can obey Jesus’ command to make disciples as we reach and equip this generation of believers to reach and equip the next generation of believers with everyday discipleship every day.

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