Frybread and Mentorship

Living in Navajo country, I have been so eager to learn some of the customs and bond with some of the amazing, strong women.  One of the things that I’ve really been intrigued by is the making of frybread.  I’ve eaten it and looked up recipes online, but it just stayed in the elusive, “too difficult” category.

So when asked to make Navajo tacos for a fundraiser, I signed up hoping to get some mentorship in making the frybread that is the base for that regional favorite.  I was a smidge disappointed when assigned to shlopping cheese atop the almost-finished dish.  After my shift was over, I passed the ladies expertly making frybread.  To my delight, one of the women invited me over to teach me just how they stretch the dough to make it perfect for the frying process.  Score!

Learning to stretch the dough is easier when you have someone to correct when you are off course

I brought some of the frybread I had made home to my children, happily telling them that I had done this! Imagine my horror when my very-white 5th grader happily announced that he had volunteered me to make frybread dough for his class party!  So I looked up recipes online, rejecting the ones I knew for a fact were wrong, and humbly brought my dough to his class. As I was helping out with the party, a lovely Navajo teacher gave me more tips about stretching the dough and changing my recipe to be more authentic.

As she talked about not being as good at it as her grandmother, I thought of my own grandma and her expertise with pies.  Just as Navajo were mentored by older women to round and flatten their dough, I had watched her make pie-crust creation look easy. How I’ve often wished during my own pie disasters that I had her nearby, able to observe what I was doing and give me tips on how I could improve! Without her guidance, I often feel like I’m bumbling along, crossing my fingers and hoping that what I’ve done will be right.

Few directions of God are more targeted to women than the instruction towards godly mentorship.  Titus 2:3-5 gives a clear call to mentorship in feminine relationships.  Something I suspect is lacking in many women’s lives.

I think the primary reason why mentorship is not prevalent in our Christian circles is the distance and isolation in our ways of life.  Moving away from communities of origin is encouraged for almost any reason.  And so, unlike past generations, we don’t have our moms and grandmas in our lives, looking in and giving advice. Plus, the media gives the impression that any older woman giving input is nagging, so mentorship within family is hesitant.  Further, we are more likely to turn for guidance to people that are far away- experts on the internet or Bible study leaders on videos.  While those provide some value, insight without relationship is not what Titus 2 is talking about.

I’ve been exploring this concept in many of my conversations.  Why the lack of relationships between women at different stages of life? What has emerged is a fear of lacking value.  That if I approached her, I would just be an inconvenience.  I can relate to that.  I was afraid of bothering Navajo women with my desire to learn from them.  Even with neighbors or church friends, I don’t think I can visit unless I have cookies to add some actual value!  I have heard this fear from young women, older women, single women, and mothers with young kids.  And I’m pretty sure a larger sample size would reveal it in more categories and stages of life.

What is the answer, then?  Be brave. When a young woman courageously asked me to mentor her, I jumped at it!  Yes, it does take something for me to invite her into my family and listen and provide insight to her life, but it adds so much to mine! God repeats lessons HE has taught me over time as I speak them into her life.  And MAYBE I live vicariously a little as I listen to her tales of single-woman, globetrotting adventures.  Plus, she’s a lot of fun.

I’ve been trying to learn bravery from her example, to reach out to women outside my peer group.  To let younger women into my life to see how I love my husband and care for my children while maintaining my personhood.  To talk happily with working, single women whose stressors are so different than mine.  To glean from women with more experience living for Christ than I.  To foster women being in my life even though my mother is so far away. 

This is something I’m still working on, but it has such kingdom value!

Because more is being passed on than just working the dough.

One Reply to “Frybread and Mentorship”

  1. Love your point, especially your last sentence! Through my work life, I made personal relationships with so many women. I have had so many mentors for my personal life as well as professional.
    An aside, did your Mom tell you that Grandma Eileen made fry bread when we were growing up? She didn’t make the bread as big as the Indian Tacos (the Native people in my town make and sell them, so I know the deliciousness of the Indian Taco!) and we just put butter and honey or jelly on them. It was such a yummy treat!


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