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.