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"I WILL HONOR CHRISTMAS IN MY HEART AND TRY TO KEEP IT ALL YEAR! (Charles Dickens)
Monday, July 8, 2019
Thursday, May 9, 2019
I took my friend Janet to Smicksburg to get plants for my garden…and a shopping list from others…my kids. “Mom, text me when you get to Lydia’s. See if she has sweet banana peppers or Amish Paste Tomatoes.” At $1.65 per six-pack, jah, I fill my back deck with orders from family and friends. And then Lydia’s flower arrangements…sigh…what a talent.
It was great as usual. Janet exhaled with utter satisfaction as we wandered around the windy roads. “They have something we don’t have. I feel so peaceful,” she said.
As usual, I agreed. It’s why I’m hooked on the Amish way of life. We visited Barb, an Amish mother of nine who also runs a greenhouse and her daughters and grandkids were all sitting around talking, and a young Amish boy on a pony came up. How much more of Little House on the Prairie could we take?
|Little House on the Prairie moment!|
We continued to mosey around, trying to find a new quilt shop, but instead saw a sign for cedar lawn furniture. We followed them and to a new shop, and to my surprise, it was the youngest brother (bruder) of a well-loved Amish family I write about. (I must change names to protect their privacy and culture. MOST Amish don’t want attention brought to them.)
As I talked to “Joe” about getting a new picnic table, he said he’d like to start reading my books because SO MANY LIES ABOUT THE AMISH ARE CIRCULATING! (Yes, I know I said that in all caps, which writers shouldn’t do, but I do mean to scream it out.)
You see, the Amish in Western Pennsylvania have been targeted by big name media to tell lies. Paid to be on shows that are utter nonsense. If they were any other people group, they’d sue, but of course they don’t believe in defending themselves. They trust God to do it, but I like to help. 😉
“Joe” told me the Amish in punxsutawney are particularly hurt, since some Ex-Amish who took the bait (money) to tell lies still hold their ground. Some are still making money selling slanderous tales. I don’t know why people are addicted to reality shows that demean people of any culture or race. Why do we need to look down on others?
One theory on why many crave to bash the Amish is very interesting. We want to pop their perfect, little world. It’s like saying, “Aha! I told you they were fakes!” Instead of looking within to change our lives to make them better, it’s easier to look down on others.
And sadly, there are a handful of Amish willing to exaggerate (lie) to get attention to give us that ‘aha moment.’ It’s heartbreaking to listen to people like “Joe” because of the shame placed on his culture. (Some tales are too salacious to write on this blog.)
Although they don’t believe in suing, they do want the record set straight. And that’s my mission as an author about these fine people. Many real Ex-Amish folks can give a truthful, fair account of their lives growing up Amish, but it’s not degrading enough to create a media mania.
Saturday, May 5, 2018
Tim and I spent the last day of April in Smicksburg. While visiting an Amish family, something extraordinary happened. Let me explain.
Little Andy, age ten, is the chatterbox of the family, and he had ants in his pants, excitement making him jump. “Do you know we had a half-day today because tomorrow is the school picnic? We walked home because we had a half day. It’s only a two-mile hike through the woods. And it’s so nice outside. I can’t wait for the school picnic! We have so much fun. So much to eat. We play games! The parents come to school for the whole day!”
I chuckled and asked what else they did at the picnic. He tilted his head and flung up his arms and repeated what he just said with more gusto. And he added, “There’s no school, and it’s the last day! We’re off for the summer!!!!!”
I understood that part. I lived for the last day of school when I was in elementary school. I chatted with the other kids and they came back to talking about the school picnic. You’d think they won a trip to Disneyland, I thought. And then it hit me. These children enjoyed simple things. A picnic with food and games. Community. Once again, I felt like I was transported out to the prairie and was talking to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The oldest son, Reuben, was thirteen and graduating. He seemed a little sad but went on to explain that he has an apprenticeship with a wood carver to satisfy the state’s requirements. Pennsylvania makes Amish children do a one-year vocational training after they finish eighth grade. Rueben will put in his one year, but he already had a job with his grandfather making sheds. He’ll be taking over the business someday. That transported me to Ben Walton who worked with his grandpa on Walton’s Mountain during the Great Depression.
So, what was extraordinary? Children content with simple things. Children not hooked to electronics. Children who had fun the old-fashioned way. Baseball and apple pie. I think I need to hang out with these kids more and learn from them. How easy it is to become discontent in our pleasure saturated culture.
We went back to the camp and reevaluated our lives.
Friday, February 17, 2017
A while back, Tim and I bought fifteen acres from an Amish friend in Smicksburg, PA. But there was a problem; we needed to use a road (a right of way or easement) through another Amish family’s property… and they didn’t like this. So much so, that when we went down the road to get to our land, there were rakes and pitchforks blocking our entry.
Then an Amish man, we’ll call him 'Eli' instead of his real name, came over on a cussing rant. I’ll admit, I can be feisty at times and wagged a finger, telling him, “I’m going to tell your bishop on you!”
So we went down the road to tell Amish friends what happened. “Who is his bishop?” we asked. Gulp. The Amish man who’d just cussed us out was the bishop. Our friends said, “Jah, you have a bad apple in every bushel. Even Amish have problems.”
After we were able to speak due to shock, we learned that no one, even a bishop, is above being corrected. A few Amish families got together and had the bishop over for a reconciliation dinner. We weren’t invited; they wanted to work on this bishop’s inappropriate behavior on their own.
We waited a few weeks to go up to our land and were met by the bishop with a smile and an extended hand. (No pitchfork in it). He humbly apologized and told us all he was going through as we walked our land. He ended up playing the harmonica for us on his front porch. A real Walton’s moment for me.
We asked our Amish friends about this reconciliation dinner. No details were given except that it was worked out. The Amish intrigue us to know end! It's in the past and worked out. They asked us to report any future problems, but "things were worked out".
We had to ask, “So problems are solved over food?” Well, there was more than one meal, but yes. One thing I’ve noticed having observed many Amish over thirty years is that they work differences out. And they expect to have problems since they’re human. The Amish are a Christian group who know they have a sin nature that needs fixing here and there. Not working out sin can lead to a ban or shunning, but that's another story.
“Now the deeds of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” Galatians 5: 19-21
Many see the Amish as beings so pious, it does them no justice. They work hard to maintain the peace and harmony we see when visiting Amish tourist places or shops. Millions from around the world visit Lancaster County to soak in their quaint and charming ways, but most don’t realize the hard work it takes to have their level of unity. (Thousands from around the world read this blog with no access to a Bible, so I’m putting the scriptures in from the World English Bible.)
What we usually see in the Amish is the fruit of the Holy Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
We’ve never had a problem again with this Amish bishop. I can’t help but wonder that if our country had reconciliations dinners, we wouldn’t be so divided. We are the United States of America. As usual, the Amish give me much to ponder.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
After thirty years, I’m still gleaning secrets to a simpler life from Amish friends. My husband and I are taking a road trip across America to learn more. Ever so thankful to have a husband who's partners in Amish hunting. ;) We love our Amish friends in Smicksburg, but we get a bit myopic, since they're only half hour away. So we're expanding our horizons.
As the Amish are now in 40-some states, hubby and I are getting ready to leave for three-weeks from Western Pennsylvania. Something deep within makes us seekers and lifelong learners of the Amish and Mennonites. I’ve wondered about their appeal and lately, I think they’re similar to St. Augustine and some of the Desert Fathers & Sisters who left a materialistic world in 300 A.D. to embrace simplicity and be off-the-grid. Today, all the buzz about tiny house living and modern day minimalism, are we at the breaking point? I think so. Tim and I are.
I also want to get back to the old-fashioned way of life. Both of my parents were first generation immigrants. My mom passed on some Italian sayings and my dad his Croatian. When I was a teen I was shocked to find that “cleanliness is next to godliness” and “charity begins at home” were not in the Bible. I checked “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’ was in there, and it’s not either.
So, I do understand the Amish with their sayings. They’re taught to their children as little nibbles of wisdom to steer them in life.
Regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow are twin thieves that rob us of the moment.
Live each short hour with God and the long years will take care of themselves.
I’m so blessed to have learned so much from the Amish. I hope to inspire and point not only to God in my writings, now to include non-fiction and a lot more blogging here. I yearn to help readers to walk a path a bit less chaotic. Granny Weaver, an elderly Amish woman character who finds her way in most of my books, knitting needles in tow, is a lover of Robert Frost. (The Amish love poetry.) She reads and ponders The Road Not Taken:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
As we head from Pennsylvania to New Mexico, we know there’s unrest in America. What path should we take? For answers, we hope to connect with and understand Native American culture as well. Having lived near Seneca Nation in Salamanca, New York for ten years, we admired how, despite present day opposition and prejudice, they aren't bitter, but give a warning: "Our country was taken from us. It can happen to the White Man." Somber words, but true. So intrigued by Natives, I hope to meet some that live near Amish so I can continue to combine both cultures like I do in my novels The Amish Doll and Plain Jane.
So, hopefully, you'll be seeing plenty of pictures of Amish across America along with Natives, two cultures dear to my heart.
|If you see us, give us a holler!|
Friday, April 29, 2016
I just got back from Lydia’s greenhouse and had to share something. I experienced Gelassenheit (quietly waiting while putting others first) in action like never before. This is personal, but I’ll share with ‘yinz’.
I cried my eyes out when talking to my Amish friends yesterday, right there in Lydia’s greenhouse. My youngest daughter, Kara, is moving thousands of miles away. Kara, my companion in ‘all things Amish’, has known Lydia since a young teen, but now she’s married with another baby on the way. Her husband, after battling brain cancer over the past 6 months, needs to be in an area where alternative medicine is more readily available.
I just stood there losing it, and Lydia listened, tearing up, helped me pick flowers for a ‘healing garden’. What I forgot all along was her husband pulling his beard, taking it all in. Oh, I felt so insensitive. After my meltdown, Lydia’s husband talked to me for a while about his first wife’s cancer. He accompanied her to Mexico fourteen times on the train to save the Amish community thousands of dollars on chemotherapy and alternative medicine. Alternative medicine had helped extend his first wife’s life. This man opened a painful chapter in is life to help me get a perspective shift. My dear son-in-law’s cancer was caught, contained and operable. And he needs alternative medicine. And I will live; his children from his first marriage all live just as far away.
Oh, what an emotional day at the Amish greenhouse, but let me tell you, many Amish are concerned for us stressed out Americans. And if you ever stop by a roadside stand, or visit a shop and feel like crying, go right ahead. They’ll listen and quietly wait for you to finish and just be there for you. It’s part of their Gelassenheit, a pause to listen and care for others. Yes, there are grouchy Amish. I’ll blog around Christmas about the Amish in New York that made wooden children’s toys that were meaner than spit, (we told our kids they were Santa’s elves…wink, wink) But it’s a rarity to find a rude Amish person. It’s not part of their upbringing and culture.
I had to create a C.S. Lewis book club into the Smicksburg Tales because I get so much out of his writings. Too profound not quote, so Jeb and Jonas meet to talk about Lewis’ teachings when the women knit. But Lewis is sounding mighty Amish to me lately. Interruptions are a part of Amish life, almost scheduled in. They’re never too busy to talk. Lydia’s husband (he has a name but says the internet is the devil and doesn’t want his name on it ;) could have kept on doing his accounting for their businesses, but he didn’t. He lived out a Lewis quote:
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending one day by day.”
Monday, April 25, 2016
“Music is my life,” was my mantra in high school, so starting college as a music major was a no-brainer. When I met my voice teacher, I was so embarrassed for him. He was an extreme stutterer; but when he sang, he was instantly cured. Oh, he was so inspirational. Research suggests there’s a brain overlap with music and speech. Music also has the ability to help dementia patients remember. Music is the last thing to decline in the brain. As a beginning music therapy major, I was floored.
Here’s a snippet of Kimberly Sena Moore Ph. D in Psychology Today’s article Memory through Choir?
“Let’s take choir, for instance. Think about some of the benefits that come from singing in a choir—there’s deep breathing involved (respiratory strength), vocalization (speech production), the need to focus on a given task (sustained attention), the challenge of learning new material (learning and memory), the pleasure derived from performing (emotional benefits, like pride), all within the context of a social group (socialization).”
Pretty impressive, huh? What most don’t realize is that singing is a staple of Amish culture. Singing at home, church, Singings (for youth to meet up) or singing in three-part harmony while working on our barn. It was the most heart-warming look into Amish comradery; I soaked in the beautiful German accapella (no harmonica in tow), closing my eyes and fantasizing once again that I was on the set of Little House on the Prairie.
And then I thought of the joy my kids brought to nursing homes as we tried to be the Von Trapp Family Singers. Patients were wheeled in or used their walkers to get to the lounge room. Tim and I strummed the guitars to slow songs like Kumbaya or Amazing Grace. After a few songs, the audience was so excited, they shouted out, “Play something faster.” So we did and some stood and others clapped their hands. The room was filled with laughter and joy and comradery. To be honest, I didn’t want to expose my kids, then four years old to nine, to the nursing home environment. But after that night, we went back faithfully once a month and my kids learned some valuable lessons from World War II Vets.
A benefit music plays in the Amish church services is the ability to connect with the writers of their hymn book, The Ausbund. The core of it is fifty-one songs written by Anabaptists while imprisoned between 1535 und 1540 because of their convictions. Some didn’t survive and many were martyred. A fresh respect for their ancestors and the courage to keep the faith, solidifies their beliefs.
"Alleluia" oil painting by Thomas Cooper Gotch