Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mary Ann Kinsinger of A Joyful Chaos blog and author of Adventures of Lily Lapp series shares an Amish Christmas memory

Mary Ann Kinsinger doesn’t live far from me in Western Pennsylvania, but it took Suzanne Woods Fisher, who Maryann co-wrote The Adventures of Lily Lapp with, to make the connection.  I was surprised that the author of the popular A Joyful Chaos blog lived in my backyard, and is now a friend.
I highly recommend you visit A Joyful Chaos to get an inside view of a real Amish family that’s as endearing as Little House on the Prairie. There’s a link to Mary Ann’s blog on the bottom of the page.


                  Christmas Memories  ~ A Joyful Chaos post

                                         December 10, 2009


I used to start thinking and planning for Christmas soon after school started each fall. My options for gifts were limited since we never had an allowance so anything I wanted to give I had to make myself.

I wasn't good at running our scroll saw in the shop like my brothers were so making wooden things were out of the question. I was nine and Christmas was fast approaching and the only thing I had ready was a little picture book I had made for Mahlon by sewing pieces of paper together and gluing pretty pictures in it that I had found in old Oriental Trading catalogs.

One evening as I was helping Mom unpack a new shipment of things and place them on our store shelves I had an idea. I asked her if I could have the empty box, after she granted me permission I took it upstairs where I carefully cut off a flap, and covered it with some old wall paper scraps. I then glued a plain sheet of paper in the middle and copied a poem about a mothers love onto it. There was still something lacking. I finally decided it still needs a pretty border. My teacher gave a sticker to anyone that got 100% in there lessons and I made up my mind to try extra hard to do my lessons carefully and use the stickers to create a border. It took quite awhile to save enough. Every evening I would run home from school with my hard earned stickers and carefully place them as a frame around the edges of the motto I was making for Mom.

I asked John to cut out some heart shaped pieces of wood and varnish them for me. I then painted a blue rose on the one and wrote Daddy on it. Then painted roses on the others and personalized them for John and David. I felt pleased with my efforts of creating gifts and hid them in a drawer until Christmas morning.


When Christmas morning arrived we were awake early but Mom and Daddy had told us to not get up until they called us. As the sun rose it seemed they would never be ready. Finally they called us and we went downstairs. The boys went out to the barn with Daddy to help with the chores while I helped Mom fix breakfast. We had our regular fried cornmeal mush with tomato gravy and eggs, and then oranges and a cold cereal for something special.

When Daddy and the boys came in from milking the cow and feeding all the animals, we all sat down for breakfast. After breakfast everyone helped with the dishes. And then Daddy got the Bible and read the Christmas story. It was the only day of the year that he would read to us so we all sat quietly and listened carefully. After he was done reading we children had to go back upstairs until they told us it was time to come down. We used to get the gifts we had made and put them in a grocery bag and sit on top of the stairs to try to listen what was happening in the kitchen.


When they called us we ran downstairs and at each of our places at the table was a pile of things covered with one of Mom's pretty kitchen towels. We uncovered the pile and found a plate filled with nuts to crack and a lot of different candy. The boys each got a new shirt and I had a new dress. We each had a little German songbook. We thanked them and then we noticed in the middle of the table was another covered pile. Daddy said that was for everyone to share. We uncovered it and found a pile of books. We were thrilled. We all loved reading and new books were something we all enjoyed.

John, David, and I gave the gifts we had made. Mom thanked me for the motto and hung it on her bedroom wall where it stayed until after I was married.

After we had cracked and eaten some of the nuts and read a chapter or two in our new books Daddy said slyly. I have a feeling we didn't find all our Christmas gifts yet. Why don't we all go down in the shop. We followed him downstairs and there in the lumber bin were three of the prettiest sleds I had ever seen. We hurriedly dressed ourselves in our warmest coats and went outside to try them out. We had a nice hill in the pasture behind the barn and for the rest of the afternoon we rode down that hill and trudged back up. The longer we played the longer the hill seemed when we had to pull our sleds back up but the ride down was so fun we kept on until we were too cold to continue.

We went inside and Mom opened the oven door in our Pioneer Maid cook stove and laid a thick towel on it. We pulled up chairs and rested our feet on it enjoying the delightful warmth that the oven poured over our feet. Mom popped some popcorn and peeled a bowlful of apples and we all sat around basking in the glow of happiness of having had another great Christmas.




Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Christmas story by Mennonite author Marsha Hubler, reminding us to keep Christ in Christmas

Very happy to share a Christmas story from Mennonite author, Marsha Hubler. She's the author of The Loves of Snyder County and Snyder County Quilting Bee.(Helping Hands Press)  She writes from experience since she lives in Sydney County, PA, among many Mennonites and Amish. Her love for horses led her to write the best-selling  Keystone Stables Series (Zonderkids) 
Here's her story along with life application questions on how to keep the real meaning of Christmas.

By Marsha Hubler

              “Mom, are you ready to help decorate?” Amber hurried into the living room and focused on her eighty-five-year-old mother sitting in a wheelchair and staring out the bow window. The woman didn’t answer.

 Carrying two plastic storage boxes packed to their limits with Christmas paraphernalia, Amber quickly placed the containers next to four others stacked in the center of the room and took a deep breath. Hands on hips, she studied the barren eight-foot artificial blue spruce that her husband Earl, the night before, had mounted in its favorite corner, the niche where it had displayed its splendor the last thirty holiday seasons.

 “We sure have our work cut out for us,” Amber said as she relaxed on the sofa next to her mother.

“We’re going to decorate the tree now.” Amber’s gaze focused on the frail likeness of the woman she had known, and loved, all her life. The woman who had brought her into the world, had loved her sacrificially, had introduced her to Jesus, had come to live with her ten years ago…who now had Alzheimer’s.

“What are you looking at?” Amber hoped this time her mother might focus enough on the question to give an answer.

“A bird,” her mother said convincingly. “It’s building a nest.”

Amber hunched next to the wheelchair and slipped her arm around her mother’s bony shoulders. “Where’s the bird, Mom?” she asked. “I don’t see it.”

“There!” her mother’s shaky voice said as she pointed her bony finger. “Way up in the top of that tree. Do you see it?”

“Yes, I see it. It’s very pretty.” Amber hated that she had lied to her mother once again, but the last six months had proven that trying to reason with the woman’s deteriorating mind was an exercise in futility. Amber glanced outside at the six inches of fresh snow and crystal icicles that sparkled with the noon day’s sun. It was that special time of year again when the house was transformed, both inside and out, into a palace of glitter by the season’s charm. The wind blew wisps of snow that only added to the beauty of God’s latest creation, a landscape garbed in a lacy robe of delicate white.

Amber gave her mother a gentle hug as they both stared out the window. Amber’s eyes moistened as memories of her childhood flooded her mind. She studied all the boxes…waiting to take her into those wonderful Christmases from the past…begging for one more glance.

“Well, we better get started!” Amber said, grabbing one of the boxes. Carefully she pried off the lid to the container labeled “Tree Ornaments” and found a set of  antique porcelain balls, the deepest of blues, which stirred one of her earliest memories as a child. Those years were so difficult when Dad had no time for God or us.

Amber picked up one of the balls and held it for her mother to see. “Mom, do you remember all these blue balls? Remember the year we bought that monstrous tree, the one Dad despised as soon as he wrestled it into the trunk of our old Chevy? He drove home in a huff and threw the tree in one of the corners in the den, leaving the decorating to the whims of two starry-eyed females, who somehow still found joy in the midst of such ugliness. Remember the coal and bucket—and how hard it was to balance that heavy pine? I thought that tree was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen because you and I had decorated it together.”

“Yes, I remember,” Mother said, her stare reaching far beyond the ball.

“This same blue ball also reminds me of the year Dad managed to remain sober. Somewhere you got the idea to have a “different” kind of tree, so the three of us hiked in the woods until we found just the right one—a maple, not too tall, barren of every leaf. After we dragged it home and Dad mounted it in a bucket, we wrapped each limb and every thin branch with white cotton. We thought we’d never complete the task! But, oh, how gorgeous it was when you and I dressed it in blue lights and blue Christmas balls. Do you remember all the friends and relatives who dropped by that year just to marvel at the sight?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“And, Mom, you’ll never guess what else I found as I prowled around the basement. That suede cowgirl jacket with all the fringe! Remember how excited I was to open my present that year? I had dreamed about that jacket for months.”

“You always loved horses, didn’t you?”

“Yes, and I still do.” Amber placed the ball back in its resting place and lifted out a small tattered, taped and re-taped cardboard box that held a special childhood memory.

“Mom, look what else I found—your miniature manger scene. Isn’t this the one you bought in 1950 when you opened your beauty shop, and from that first year on you always put this in your shop window at Christmastime? Would you believe that every piece is still intact?” Amber sat on the sofa and carefully searched through the box until she found the baby in his manger. She held up the piece for her mother to see. “Do you remember this?”

“Yes, I remember. That’s the baby Jesus.”

“And Jesus is our Savior too,” Amber said, walking to another container and opening the lid. Wrapped in white tissue paper, right on the top, rested a special ornament. Amber lifted out the ball, removed the paper, and went back to her mother’s side.

“Look, Mom, I found our favorite ornament of all—the one with the picture of our first Christmas together after Dad was saved—our first holiday as a real family. Do you remember the church service on Christmas Eve that the three of us sat together for the first time ever? Dad sang at the top of his lungs with a huge smile on his face. At last we could celebrate Christ’s birth as one.”

“Yes,” Mother said with glassy eyes. “I remember.”

“It’s hard to believe that Dad’s in heaven five years already, celebrating with Jesus, the one who made it all possible. Do you miss Dad at all?” Amber asked.

“Not too much,” her mother said.

“Well, I miss him at times like this. I sure could use his help today.”

“Yes, we sure could.”

Amber shifted the containers, searching for the one labeled “Candles.” She opened the box and pulled out a faded yellow plastic candle with a red bulb, its base cracked, the cord frayed and taped. That dilapidated old thing, more than anything else, reminded her of her family’s home so long ago, a home that radiated with a mother’s love. The spirit of past seasons had shone from that old light purer than any other. Now, as a beacon of wonder, it brought another flow of memories that reminded Amber of why this season was so special. It would be the last she’d share with her mom.

Amber wiped a stream of tears from her cheeks as she twisted on the red bulb and set it on the windowsill. “Mom, look at the pretty candle. You had also bought that back in the 50s, and you always placed it next to the manger scene in your shop. Do you remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” her mother said, her voice growing weary.

“We certainly have a lot of memories, don’t we?” Vivid pictures of past Christmases filled Amber’s heart and soul. She reflected again on her mother’s love and all the things she had done to honor the Savior’s birth and make Christmas so special for a little girl whose spirit had been so enriched then and now. One last time.  

Amber hunched beside her mother and caressed the woman’s wrinkled hands. In silence they stared at the candle.

 “I love that candle,” Mother finally said.

“I do too,” Amber said, tears trickling down her face. “I love you, Mom.”

“And I love you.”


With the obvious “war on Christmas” by the secular world every year, we Christians need to take a stand for righteousness, especially during the holiday season. Christmas is a wonderful time for us to “remember” traditions our parents have passed down or for us to establish and maintain our own customs for future generations. Proverbs 22:28 reminds us to “remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”  Rehearsing a tradition steeped with Godly principles during the Christmas season is the best gift any of us could receive from our family members who claim the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. And what better gift could we bestow on those who follow behind than to do the same, thus remembering that the true meaning of Christmas is Christ’s birth.

For those who find themselves in the role of caregiver, Jesus reminds us in Jude 22: “Of some have compassion, making the difference.” Although caregiving is an extremely strenuous job, the rewards from our heavenly Father are great: “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).

The days may grow long and weary, but the love shown will make a difference in the needy person’s life. And God will never forsake those requiring extra strength from above to face such a difficult task. Our Lord promises us with these encouraging words: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Run the race, fellow Christian. Pass on those precious traditions to those who come behind, and love that needy soul with a compassion that only Christ can give.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Amish Crossings: This year’s journey towards a peace filled Christm...

Amish Crossings: This year’s journey towards a peace filled Christm...: Last year I wrote about my visit with my Amish friend, Lydia, asking her about Christmas traditions. She just kept saying, “We just enjo...

This year’s journey towards a peace filled Christmas, heeding my Amish friend's advice.

Last year I wrote about my visit with my Amish friend, Lydia, asking her about Christmas traditions. She just kept saying, “We just enjoy spending time together,” and I wondered if she was too busy to talk, giving me details. But, no, that is the focus of an Amish Christmas, beside deep devotion to the real meaning of Christmas, Emmanuel, Christ with us.

I’ve reflected about this focus on holidays for a year now, and this year I’ve decided to do a few simple things. First of all, if the season is about Christ coming to earth, and since I love to read, I picked John Piper’s Desiring God as my treat to myself for Christmas. Yes, I bought a Christmas present for myself, for spiritual growth. This is going to be something I do every year.

Secondly, going to the Nutcracker with my husband is more of a deal than I thought. Last year we couldn’t go because I was sick. Well, I have bronchitis again this year, (yes I got burnt out, writing four books this past year) but I’m taking care of myself so we can go tomorrow. By that I mean I didn’t run myself into the ground and not go to the doctors. I saw the doc a few days ago and will be good to go tomorrow. So I planned ahead, making this event a priority. This very romantic tradition is important. Tim and I go out to eat, buy a nutcracker ornament for our tree, then enjoy the show.  If Christmas is about relationships, my husband is my first priority.  

The Amish tradition of First and Second Christmas has really taken root in my family and our extended family.  First Christmas is on December 25th and Second Christmas is the day after. In other words, we don’t have to kill ourselves, taking in all the food and fellowship on one day; we have the next day, too. I can’t tell you how helpful this is. No one feels guilty for not being somewhere on Christmas Day, as if love was measured by who spends that one day with whom.

 And then we have twelve days of Christmas to celebrate with family and friends. December 25th through January 6th, Old Christmas, is observed by the Amish, as well as many countries around the world.  The American culture is rush, rush, rush. When Tim and I went to Dominican Republic on a mission’s trip, the locals say, “Americans. They  neurotic!” I looked up some synonyms for neurotic and they are anxious, fearful, disturbed. Look around you and see if this doesn’t describe many Americas, and for what? The birth of Christ is something to be celebrated.

I’ll be blogging on more this month…time to take my medicine and cozy up to my John Piper book. ;)




Monday, December 3, 2012

Author Tricia Goyer shares an almost free Christmas gift idea, that will make lasting memories

I heard best-selling author, Tricia Goyer, on Amish Wisdom with Suzanne Woods Fisher, and am excited about her new blog and book, Memory Jar.  Tricia has a passion to not be Amish, but to incorporate what can be learned by these simple people into her own life It's the Christmas season here again at Amish Crossings, and I know my readers want advice on how to make it plain and simple.

Tricia, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'd love to! I'm a wife, mom of four, author, speaker, mentor to teenage mothers, and a radio host—but even more than that I'm an example of God's love and grace. I was a teen mom, and I had my first son at age seventeen. During my pregnancy I committed my life to God, and He's done amazing things. He brought me a wonderful husband and we had two more children together. Then we adopted a baby girl two years ago. I have 33 books in print, including four Amish novels. In addition to The Memory Jar, I've also written the Big Sky Amish Series: Beside Still Waters, Along Wooded Paths, and Beyond Hope's Valley.

I can’t wait to start reading your new blog.  Tell us how it came about, who’s involved, and what we can learn. 

 I started writing about the Amish three years ago. I was intrigued by them, but I never expected how much I'd be changed. Their beliefs and lifestyle have challenged me. I've worked to connect with friends more. I've build relationships in my local community. I look at life differently. Overall, I've embraced some of the Amish beliefs without becoming Amish. That's when I came up with the website: It's a lifestyle blog for those who want to become Amish … but not quite give up electricity, photographs and our cars! It shares ideas for simple living, recipes, family togetherness, and more!

Tricia, I thought the gift you gave to your friend, the memory jar, was one of the sweetest and most cost effective Christmas gift yet. Tell us about this gift and how it became the inspiration for your new book, The Memory Jar.

Years ago I was thinking about what I could give a friend. She didn't really “need” anything, yet she was very special to me. I got a jar and I wrote out 30 things that I appreciated about her. I picked 30 things so she could pick one for each day. Well, that jar sat on her window sill for a few years. It's amazing how much our appreciation can touch another's heart.

 How will you make this Christmas plain and simple, yet full of memories and fun?

 My friend Suzanne Woods Fisher mentioned simplifying gift giving by picking only four things for each of her children:

 Something you want.

Something you need.

Something to wear.

Something to read.

 My husband and I have decided to do this, and my Christmas shopping is 99% done! We used to go way overboard with gifts, but not this year. Not only are we spending less money, but we're really thoughtful about what four gifts we choose. I'm excited that we'll have less time opening gifts and more time together!

                                 Great advice! You can visit Tricia at







Saturday, December 1, 2012

Author Jerry Eicher, raised Amish, shares one of his favorite Christmas memories

I asked author Jerry Eicher to share one of his favorite Christmas memories, since he was raised Amish. It's so sweet that he chose a story while courting his wife, Tina. It tells me he's a man still in love...<3 Here it is for an inside look into an Amish Christmas.
                                                                    Dating Christmas
A blizzard moved in the day before Christmas that first year I was dating Tina. Our family slept in late and Mom served eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Not much was going on, and no visitors were arriving with the snowstorm outside. Dad came in from the barn and advised hunkering down until the driving snow subsided. We had no weather forecast, but we could make a guess--this storm appeared in no hurry to leave.
By the afternoon I had enough of things. I bundled up, made a dash for the barn and harnessed my horse Frosty. I would be visiting Tina’s house, storm or no storm. The wind bit my face as I hitched Frosty to the buggy. Frosty didn’t appear too fazed by things, so we set out. The snow was moving sideways across the road in the wild gusts, and the buggy tipped enough that I sat in the middle of the seat for balance.
I made the three mile drive, without passing any English vehicles on the road. I was apparently the only one insane enough to venture out. Snow drifts came high across the road in places, but we simply plunged through.
Tina was astonished to see me arrive, and I was showered with praise from her whole family for my daring. They seemed much better equipped to enjoy the day then we had been at home. I was invited to settle in. Homemade candy was everywhere in abundance, buckeyes, chocolates, rice candy, and Hershey bars. Bowls of popcorn sat on the kitchen table with hot chocolate to wash in down with.
I stayed as long as I dared. I wasn’t quite brave enough to travel the roads in the dark. Dust was falling when I arrived back home with no regrets, and put Frosty back up in the barn. My family thought I was crazy, or in love, which can past for the same thing I suppose. At least I hadn’t spent a boring afternoon at home.
For more stories by Jerry, visit his author page where he has short stories, poems, theology, and lots more. You can also see all the books he has to offer. Visit him at

The one on my TBR (to be read) list is Susanna's Christmas Wish. On my TBU list (to be used) list is the book he wrote with his wife, Tina, The Amish Family Cookbook.  Jerry's books can be bought online anywhere, or at Barnes and Nobles.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Do Knitting Circles who knit for the homeless make a difference? Kathi Macias stops by to talk about her new novel, Unexpected Christmas Hero.

 As we enter into the holiday season, I have a treat for readers of my blog. Heartfelt Christmas memories from people who grew up Amish, like Jerry Eicher and Maryann Kinsinger. Amish authors will be on, sharing with us all they’ve gleaned to have a simpler Christmas. I’ll also share about what the Vogel’s have learned about simplicity, sharing cost cutting Christmas presents, and being involved in charity work.
Today I have on Amish Crossings a very special friend, Kathi Macias. She writes about social issues to bring public awareness. Her books in The Freedom Series deal with human trafficking, so I wasn’t surprised that Kathi’s Christmas book hit a real nerve with me, too. Unexpected Christmas Hero intertwines the lives of a homeless single mother of two young children and a Vietnam Veteran. They keep passing by each other at shelters and church.

In my books, Amish Friends Knitting Circle, the women knit for the homeless in the USA. I knew knitting circles did this, but after reading Kathi’s book, I wondered if it really made a difference. So, to kick off the real reason for the Christmas Season, I thought of how we could give a gift to Jesus. And it’s in giving to others that we give to Him.
I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me! Matthew 25:40.

So, what can we learn about giving to the homeless from Kathi Macias? Let’s jump right into the interview.
Kathi, what prompted you to write Unexpected Christmas Hero?

I've been involved in homeless ministry off and on for many years, but it wasn't until someone in our family who had actually experienced it for a while challenged me to write about it that the story began to form. The more I began to research and write, the more involved I became. These people became real to me, as readers everywhere say happens to them as well.
 Is this book based on facts, like so many of your other books on social justice?

Loosely, yes. Many of the homeless are families with young children and also vets, so it was natural for me to weave the two together in this story.
Granny Weaver in my book, Amish Knitting Circle Series, knits for the homeless along with her circle. Knitting circles are springing up across America to do the same. What would you say to women who are knitting for charity? Is the need that great?

Yes, the need is so great! We can't begin to do enough, but we MUST do all we can. Each knitted cap or shawl or blanket can mean the difference of a homeless person surviving a frigid night. Every meal served is a gift from God to one of His beloved children. That He allows us to participate in delivering those gifts is such a great blessing!
 The Vietnam Veteran and the young mother of two children are portrayed in your book as if real people. Are they real people, making it a faction book (half fiction, half fiction)

They're not real people, as far as I know, but modeled after many like them. However, after the book was finished and in production, when the publisher sent the photographer out to find someone to pose as Rick (the homeless vet) for the book cover, he saw a man that looked so much like Rick that he was stunned. He approached the man and asked if he would consider posing for the cover, explaining to him what the book was about. The man, whose name is Willard Parker, readily agreed, sharing with the photographer his own amazing story. It seems Willard really is homeless and has been for quite some time. Over the years, while living on the streets, he became a Christian, but he also lost touch with his family. He is hoping and praying that having his picture on the cover will somehow enable him to reconnect with them, particularly his grown daughter. We are doing everything possible to make that happen, including posting his story on my Easy Writer blog and on social networks everywhere, talking about it on the radio, etc., so anything you and your readers can do to help would be very much appreciated.
What scriptures came alive to you as your research homelessness in America?

I thought of His feeding of the multitudes. Sometimes the need seems so overwhelming that we are tempted to give in to despair, but I believe that so long as we respond in obedience to the Savior's call to minister to others in His Name, He will provide what we need to do so.
 Besides knitting for the homeless, what is their greatest need?

Obviously shelter against the elements and food are at the top of the list. But one of the things that most helps them re-establish their lives and get off the streets is to provide a place they can go to shower and change into clean clothes and to prepare/print/update resumes so they can try to get a job. It is nearly impossible to get one without those basic necessities, as well as an address and/or phone number for prospective employers to contact the applicants. This is practical help that not only meets immediate needs but gives them long-term help and hope for a better life.

Oh, now I see why the homeless in your story were given cell phones by Karen. That’s a huge eye-opener. And to think that we could help find Willard Parker’s family by taking a good look at his picture on the cover of your book is exciting. Take a good look at his picture below.
If you’d like to get involved in a homeless shelter near you, or donate, and excellent resource is Feeding America. If you follow this link to a food bank locator, and put your zip code in, it’s shocking how close to home this problem is.

SUCH A WONDERFUL UPDATE TO THIS BLOG. Kathi Macias sent me this message:

Mr. Parker's oldest daughter, Amber, contacted me Wednesday afternoon. Someone showed her the book cover and she is thrilled! Now both grown daughters and their four children (between them) are looking forward to the reunion. We're working on details to make that happen now.

WHAT A HAPPY ENDING FOR ONE HOMELESS MAN! Hope this article inspires you to reach out and help others ;) Karen


Thursday, November 1, 2012

How UNrealist is Breaking Amish "reality" show, and where can I find a truly realistic view of Amish life?

I’ve been asked lately about all the Amish reality shows. And at first, I didn’t really know what people were talking about, since I don’t watch television. But someone gave me a link to watch Breaking Amish on YouTube, and wanted to know if I’d come across Amish as depicted in this show.  So I watched it, but before I “grade” it, I’d like to backtrack.  

I want to step back fifteen years ago, when Amish fiction became a genre of its own. Or maybe it started with The Witness, a movie where Harrison Ford falls in love with an Amish woman. It seemed like the answer to everyone’s problems was to become more like Amish. So tourism exploded in Amish communities, and along with it, new thoughts and temptations.

When my daughter and I went to visit an Amish tourist area once. People where dressed up as Amish and gave buggy rides. When the Amish we came across in stores didn’t seem true to their culture, I leaned toward one teenager and whispered, “You’re not Amish, are you? You just run the store?” She shook her head. “Yes, I am. But some of our ways are silly.” She went on to make fun of how young Amish get married, have so many children, etc. I’m sure if I asked her if I could take her picture, she’d pose.  I’d known many, many Amish families by this time, so she was such a rarity, my daughter walked out of the store, appalled.

This girl was like…one of the Amish girls on Breaking Amish.  I wonder how long it took to the makers of Breaking Amish to find this “needle in a haystack”.  Obviously, they have no respect for the Amish or their culture, and know they won’t sue, so they’re a free-for-all.  I think Kate, the beautiful Amish girl with dark hair, was the only one who acted Amish, and defended them while the others told bizarre stories. (A coincidence?  Don’t we like to see friction and a good fight?) The other ones I found super disgruntled with their heritage.  When was the last time you sat in a restaurant and heard a man DEMONIZE Amish men, saying they have sex with animals? Kate wanted to leave, and I cheered her on.

And why did they take these Amish boys to a strip club? One Amish guy walked out, the other said “I thought you were more of a man than this.”  Oh, and isn’t it so fun to watch people squirm? Isn’t this what our culture craves? And it’s a no-brainer why they took the Amish men (boys?) to a strip club. Sex sales and it’s all about the money. And people fighting sales too, so I’m sure they interviewed Amish youth and found someone like the girl in the shop we met. (And may I add, good-looking? That sells too.)

As I wrote this, I kept thinking of this scripture:

Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus 1:15 NLT

I find Kate to have a pure heart, so she has eyes to see the good in the Amish culture. As for the others, well, I hope they mature and some day come back on television and give a realistic view of Amish life. 
If you want to watch a documentary that portrays the Amish accurately, watch The American Experience: The Amish. If you follow the link below, it will take you to the show. If you watch this documentary, you'll see through these "reality" shows.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Downsizing into an Amish dawdyhaus, trying to live plain and simple.

The Amish have helped us remodel and add on to our little farmhouse for several years. They questioned why we were adding on, since our kids were grown. “They’re never leaving,” we replied. “Four young adults in their 20s with no spouses and not much hope.”

Well, fast forward to today. Yes, I believe God has a sense of humor, because we’re having our third wedding in 2 weeks and another in June. So, all four of our kids will have gotten married in three years.

So, we have a big house for just Tim and me. I have to say, we love it. But as I was writing Knit Together: Amish Knitting Novel, that is very semiautobiographical, we downsize, like Ginny and James. Well, we just did too, and moved into our “dawdyhaus or grandparent house.

The Amish take care of their aging parents in small houses either attached to the main house or built separately. They are adorable, plain and simple. Tim and I are also fascinated with the Tiny House Movement, where people are living in 300 square feet. It seems rather liberating and cozy.

Back to our story. When Tim and I went to a fantastic B&B last fall, a plan started to evolve in our minds. They have a common room, with couches and tables, and then the kitchen which was self-serve, and bedrooms. Why don’t we do this with our son and daughter-in-law? We’d have built in housecleaners. (We call them Mr. & Mrs. Clean) I was so sick of cleaning a big old farmhouse, and since the house isn’t an open floor plan and very long, we could section things off.

We’ll we did it. Tim and I now have four rooms: bedroom, living room, little “parlor” room, bath and laundry. Our son and wife have the rest of the house, and we have a middle room we share in common, that we call The Commons. We share the kitchen but eat in different areas, needing space and well defined boundaries. Tim and I eat in a little sunroom off the kitchen, and they eat in The Commons.

I recently saw on YouTube a plan for multigenerational living. Contractors are having a hard time selling McMansions, so they’re offering houses for three generations! The reasons customers are choosing to purchase are built-in babysitters and college age kids living at home so they can commute to college, making it affordable.

Our reasons for living in a little dawdyhaus are that our kids were raised to not be in debt. My son and wife can save money and pay cash for a home in a few years. When they leave, we can let another one of our kids take their place or help a family in need. We also like the coziness of it all.

I feel like I live in a B&B every day, now. Mr. and Mrs. Clean keep the kitchen and The Commons sparkling clean, and you hear muffled noise and laughter. Why laughter and joy? My daughter-in-law is having a baby girl in four weeks…and this little girl will have a built in babysitter ;)
A cute little dawdyhaus in Smicksburg, PA.

We have the right side (we deserve the new addition). Little sunroom on left is our comfy cozy eating area.
The rest is for son and his wife...and new baby on the way ;)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Author Sarah Price writes Amish fiction from her real-life experiences

It's a great honor to have Sarah Price on my blog today. Not only is she a great friend...but one of my favorite authors. You can tell that she deeply loves the Amish and respects their culture in her many books. Here's what Sarah has to say about why she writes Amish fiction.

The first time I was invited to an Amish canning party, I was twenty years old. Nearly twenty-five years later, I still feel the same rush of awe when I’m invited to attend birthday parties, celebrations, or work parties with my Amish friends. Each moment that I spend among the Amish opens my eyes to the spiritual goodness of their culture. I am blessed to have this unique relationship with the Amish. And this is something that I can share with my readers in the hopes of introducing a sense of Amish peace and tranquility that is too often lacking in our own lives.
The Amish move slowly throughout the day. They are not rushed or burdened with activities, work, or abundant commitments. There is no competition among the Amish, no petty grievances or jealous rages. Instead, they focus on the beauty of three yellow finches that visit the birdfeeder every evening, the bluebirds that nest in the birdhouse across the street on a telephone pole, or the growth of their crops. The Amish focus on the small victories of living each day and sharing that joy with their loved ones.
When I visit my Amish friends, I observe everything with a writer’s eye. I see the colors of the dresses hanging from the clothing line, the different shades of green in the growing cornfields, and the unspoken pride they take in planting spring flowerbeds and vegetable gardens. When a member of the community is sick, neighbors from both near and afar come to help that person’s family with chores, both inside and outside of the home.
The sense of spiritual well-being is so overwhelming. It leaves me breathless and humbled. During times of crisis, such as something as tragic as the Nickel Mines School shootings from 2006 or the less severe current rash of vandalism that has recently been spreading through my Amish friends’ community, the Amish demonstrate a true sense of Christian love for each other. Never is there talk of retribution or retaliation. Such a thought wouldn’t even cross their minds. Instead, they demonstrate the power of being a true believer in Jesus Christ. They work hard, they worship true, and they live life, the life that God has given to them, not the one that they wish they had.
Perhaps that’s the secret, the Amish peace: hard work, true worship and a life that is lived to the fullest. I’s the secret that I hope to capture and share in my books.

Sarah loves animals. Even has a pygmy pig named Daisy Doodle
Fields of Corn, the first book in The Amish of Lancaster series. Read it and you'll be hooked.

Visit Sarah at
or on Facebook at!/FansOfSarahPrice

Monday, September 17, 2012

Do Amish youth work too hard?

It never ceases to amaze me how the Amish treat their young teens like grown-ups. It reminds me of other cultures where boys are considered men at the age of 13. Some of you may chuckle at that, thinking of an immature middle school teen right now. But is the immaturity of some teens the American culture’s fault?

My dad left his home at 15 to join the CC Camps during the Great Depression to send money home to his mother and other siblings. When I see pictures of him in New Mexico building roads, he looks like a man. When I visit Amish settlements scattered across Western Pennsylvania, I see young teens driving huge hay wagons on main roads. I know a few of them aren’t even teenagers, being 12.  Their self-worth is so much higher than English youth, it sometimes takes me back. If parents aren't home when visiting a family business, a young son or daughter will come out and explain the business and clinch a sale. It amazes me.
One Amish family I know, depends on the income of their oldest daughter, who’s the local schoolteacher at 16. The whole family of 12 works at the vegetable stand, greenhouse, make crafts, just about anything to pitch in. When I see this young teacher, I think of my mom.  She did the same thing as a youth. She too lived through the Depression, and handed her paycheck over to the family when she got her first job as a shoe clerk. She told us about that job with such pride; she was a part of something bigger, a family. My grandma was a seamstress, and my mom did embroidery or other fabric arts to embellish dresses. I see this all the time in Amish country; mothers and daughters working on something to sell, whether a craft or jam.

I got my certification as a Montessori preschool teacher, and the approach to training children is similar to the Amish. As soon as a child can do something for themselves, or for the group, they’re required to do it. So, if a child can push a broom, they can sweep. It’s almost comical to see little three year olds with their pint-sized brooms clean-up after an activity. Cleanup is a part of the program. But I see this in Amish families all the time.

Getting back to teenagers, I really believe that as soon as they’re able to work, or contribute, it makes them feel needed and important, and less self-centered. When I see rebellion in a teenager, I wonder if he/she doesn't feel needed. Everyone wants to feel like a part of something bigger than them, whether it's a family, a church, a Girl Scout troop.
Since I have a world-wide audience to this blog, I wonder if some of you can let me know if teenagers are coddled in your country or made useful when age appropriate. Thank you!

These Amish "men" are between 12 - 15.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Do the Amish vote in presidential elections?

A few years, people met at my place to carpool to a Tea Party Rally. I had several Amish men on my back porch taking a break from building our barn, so I asked them another one of my 1001 questions. “Do you vote?”
Noah, the Amish man that I talk about often, took the lead. “If we need to.”

“Huh? If you need to?” I asked. “You always need to.”
Noah went on to explain that they’re well aware of political views that directly affect them, and will vote in those elections. But they want very little to do with the government.

For some reason, my son-in-law asked about the Bush Stimulus checks they’d received. Did it benefit them? Noah made us all faint when he said he refused to cash it, and so did everyone he knew who was Amish. He said, “If we take from the government, we’re tied to it.” They don’t want to be.
The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 gave married couples approximately $600.00, AND $300.00 per child. The Amish have large families, and some could have made out quite nicely. Of course, I pushed the envelope again, emphasizing how much they missed out on. Noah said, “We don’t need the government. We take care of our own.”

What a role model the Amish are! Families take care of each other. The church meets the needs in their congregation. Friends pull together to make work light.
A new fiction book will come out in October that makes us wonder what this country would be like if we had an Amish president. "Not a career politician, but someone with a little old-fashioned common sense, someone who's not afraid of rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty."
Old-fashion common sense to me means taking care of family and friends, not expecting the government to...not wanting the government to. I think  someone like the fictional Josiah Stoltzfus needs to president.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Amish friend, Smiley, and his secret to loss and tragedy

I was in quite a slump all weekend. My daughter has fibromyalgia and though grown and married, I still can’t stand to see her go through a flare-up. I cry, even inwardly shake my fist at God. Why? Why so much suffering in one person’s life.

So I go through the regular routine of thinking of people who are having a harder time. I thought of my friend with Parkinson’s, another with MS…no relief. Then I thought of loved ones who are struggling with organ transplants, to no avail. No relief. I am a mom hurting because of her daughter's pain.

I was digging quite a cavern of self-pity and anger so deep, I just felt like staying in bed and reading all day today. Believing God always goes before me, making my path straight or more bearable, I thought of what transpired over last week, and I thought of Smiley.

Smiley is an Amish man in his mid-thirties who should be cast in The Lord of the Rings as a very merry hobbit. He has a permanent smile etched in his face and laugh-lines around his eyes. What’s so inspirational about Smiley is that years ago, he and his wife survived a tragic house fire…some of his children did not.  I’m sure he grieved, but now he has a secret glint in his eyes, as if to say, “I know something you don’t. I’ve been through the refiner’s fire, and came out as pure gold.”

When I first met this awesome young man, I asked his why he was called Smiley. He just said he smiled a lot, he supposed. He was working on putting a new roof on our house, and another Amish fellow pulled me aside and told me his tragic story. As usual, I have 1001 questions, so I asked how he could still be so merry. Didn't he grieve? Don't the Amish believe in crying? etc. etc. etc. “We move forward, jah?” Ray said. I stood there, dumbfounded.
When taking Smiley home later that day, I told him I was so sorry to hear of his loss. Thinking he wouldn’t want to talk about it, he surprised me and opened up. He said that he sorely missed his "first family" but God has given him another one, and he moves on in life.

I saw Smiley last Friday at a fishing hole with three young sons, laughing and having a good time. He has moved on, and today, I will too.  My problems are so petty compared to his lose, but the lesson is the same. Keep looking forward, and instead of shaking the fist at God, open it and take His hand.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Laughing George talks about "An Amish Journey"

The Amish have many nicknames, since there are so many Levi Millers, Dan Weavers etc. I know a man who goes by Short Laughing Roman. He's short and, well, laughs a lot. George Loughmuller has a German heritage, given his last name, but goes by Laughing George. Can you guess why? Yes, he's a very happy soul, and he's trying to show in his continuing series, Amish Journey, that a family wrapped up in the fast paced, rat race American culture, you have to be intentional and make some radical decisions to have a simple life. I especially like George because he's not a spring chicken, starting his writing career while retired. He has deep insight into what really matters in life, and along with his usual humor, a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.

In An Amish Journey, a family with two teenagers mysteriously inherit a farm and end up living among the Amish. As you go through each short story, you'll be challenged. Could you do what this family is doing? Living totally off-the-grid, cold turkey?

Of course they go nuts at first, but then family relationships improve. I can't give it all away, but in the end, it certainly is more of a journey the audience takes, hence the name, Amish Journey. It's been quite popular, so George decided to write another series. Here's George in his own words about this new series, and his contact info.

An Amish Home. That’s what Allan has now. He found his path and so much goodness came into his life. My new stories are set in Karsten Field about eight to ten years after An Amish Journey. Allan is happily married with two young children. His oldest daughter, Alice, even has a family of her own. Life is good.

That doesn’t mean they don’t face any challenges. Sometimes, when life is that good, we need reminders. An Amish Home – Attainable is one of those reminders.

Karsten Field is suffering from a severe drought, something to which many readers can relate. However, having an independent, simple life could mean the end of Karsten Field. Without modern technology to save their crops, Allan and Ben Abrim worry about winter food shortages. They are in the presence of a metaphorical Goliath.

The story of David and Goliath inspired Attainable. A small Amish community is only as strong as its faith. A natural disaster could destroy everything they have. Escaping the drought seems to be unattainable. Although Allan has been set free, he still has plenty to learn and God is always teaching.

The big questions: If the people of Karsten Field are so faithful, why would God let them experience a drought? Why would He not send rain?

The answer is simple: No matter what comes before you, God will see you through it. That does not mean He will change weather patterns, mainly because His reward is not on earth. It doesn’t matter what happens to us here. Cancer, war, poverty are all people problems, not God problems. Bad things can and will happen to us in this life. God is not going to solve all of our problems for us, but He will be there to see us through them, as he did with David. God could have struck down Goliath or sent a flood. Instead, David had to stand up and face the giant. He was never alone, God was always with him.

God is in Karsten Field. Allan has to stand up and face his own giant.

If things seem impossible or insurmountable, Allan has to learn that everything is Attainable with God.

An Amish Home – The Flood is available now -

 An Amish Home – Attainable will be coming very soon!

 Get Set Free – An Amish Journey from the beginning -
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Where can I find books about the Amish…written by the Amish?

Even though I’ve known Amish folk for years, when I wrote Knit Together, I went to the source of the spring: books written by the Amish. I wanted to read for myself what baptismal candidates had to study before I had my English character, Joseph, contemplate being Amish. My agent, Joyce Hart, laughed at my concern for Joseph, reminding me he wasn’t real. But to me, her was, and had a strong walk with God. If he turned Amish, would he be bound by laws of man that only kill? I was surprised at how rich, inspirational, yet challenging, these books were to my own walk with God.

I bought The Dordrecht Confession of Faith for a dollar. One dollar. Since I was paying shipping, I figured I should get my bulk-rate worth. So I added to my chart, Devoted Christian’s Prayer Book, which is a hardcover which includes Rules of a Godly Life, which consists of 47 proverbs. I couldn’t resist buying 1001 Questions and Answers on the Christian Life, just to see what question people not familiar with the Amish would ask… to my shock, I learned a lot!
Devoted Christian’s Prayer Book

Then I saw that they had magazine! I love magazines, so I paid a year’s subscription to Family Life. The blurb read:

It contains articles on Christian living, parenting, and homemaking. It also contains editorials, letters from readers, medical advice, poems, recipes, and children’s stories.

To date, this magazine is my favorite, even topping Country Living Magazine. It really gives you an inside look into an Amish home. An article written by an Amish woman called, “I Married Money”, told of her husband’s addiction to work, keeping up appearances with Amish neighbors, and never being satisfied with what he had. It was a strong warning to unmarried women, since she felt there were hints of his love of money during their courtship.

A yearly subscription of Family Life is only $12.00.
Since I homeschooled my four kids, I was familiar with Pathway Publishing and Christian Light Publications. We used the Mennonite curriculum by CLP and my kids all read the Pathway Readers, books used in Amish schools. Since we lived by the Amish, I thought it would be a “novel” idea at first, but then I got hooked on Pathway Readers.  They are so interesting!

All the books mentioned can be bought online at Pathway Publishing. It’s run by the English, and I’m so glad. You used to have to write a check and order snail mail to Canada. Visit or Christian Light Publications at  I guarantee that once you start reading books or magazine written by the Amish, you’ll get the best education about their ways.
You can also buy historical fiction. A favorite author among the Amish and Mennonites is Christmas Carol Kaufman. Not Regina is not only well-written, but tells of the persecution of the Anabaptists.

The 1500s were stirring times in Europe. Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to a church door in Germany, exploding a powder keg of unrest that seethed for decades. Against this background, Regina Strahm found herself caught between two religious factions in Switzerland. Her parents repeatedly warned her against the Anabaptist heresy, but why then did Zwingli's official religion fail to satisfy? And why were the Anabaptists willing to die for their faith? Regina discovered why, and found a joy she had never before known.
If you've found a source to buy books written by the Amish, please share in a comment below.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Could you live without electricity like the Amish?

I’ve always wondered if I could live without electricity, like the Amish. Well, we lost our power for three days due to a thunderstorm: three long days. Yes, the days seemed lengthened without electricity. Time slowed down…as well as my mind.

After we got batteries for our flashlights, candles, etc. Tim and I looked at each other? Now what? But our son and daughter-in-law soon knocked on the back door, asking how we were (they live in back of us). We soon started chatting longer than usual. It reminded me of the Walton’s, and it was simply charming.
After an hour, they went back to their place. Tim and I read a lot at night, but we looked at each other: Our Kindles are dead! Did we have to read the old-fashioned way? Turning pages in a book is so….cumbersome. But I got out my Jan Karon book I’d been meaning to read, and by candlelight started  In the Company of Others: A Father Tim Novel . Karon helps us celebrate the simple things in life, so the book starts out with Father Tim and his wife Cynthia arriving at an inn in Ireland, and the power is off due to a storm. How ironic! They read by candlelight and talked into the night, relishing time together.

Karon always helps me see the charm in everyday life. So I looked for it over the next few days, as we lived without electricity. Without the distraction of the internet, (We don’t watch television, but I love watching things on YouTube or gabbing on Facebook) I closed my eyes to listen to the many birds at my birdfeeders. But I heard cows! I told my husband, and he said with a cocked eyebrow “There's cows down the road...” I’d never noticed them before. I see them all the time, but was thrilled to hear them moo. Then a rustling sound, a clanking. No way! I could always here the train whistle two miles away, but the boxcars? That was baffling because I love farm country and railroads, and to think that over the past 15 years I’d missed the sound of cows and the railroad. Tim said he hadn’t noticed how loud the crickets were. I hadn’t noticed them at all.

Over the next few nights, Tim and I lit all the candles we owned to make a brilliant light over our breakfast nook as we played 500 Rummy. Was it my imagination, or was it more fun? More romantic? (Tim had a winning streak, so I know for sure I need glasses…something else I noticed ;) And we talked, read Psalms out loud, talked about life. We were Father Tim and Cynthia.

We could have gone to stay at my sister’s place during this time, and I’m sure it would have been fun. But Tim and I lived “off-the-grid” for a reason. And it wasn’t to see if we could be like Marge and Joe in my fictional Amish Friends Knitting Circle Series No, we seriously needed to know if we could handle having a camp without electricity. We bought 15 acres of land in Smicksburg, PA, from an Amish friend, and hopefully next summer we’ll have a small cabin. These past three days helped us see that living without power makes time stand still, and who doesn’t want more time? We’ll be foregoing the electricity while at camp….and I really believe I could live without electricity like the Amish… as long as I had a place to charge my Kindle and laptop ;)