"Then God said, 'Let the land sprout vegetation--every sort of seed-bearing plant and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.' And that is what happened."
~ Genesis 1:11
When I think back to growing up in Lancaster County, the month of August sparkles in my memory. My parents' huge, organic garden (before organic was even a thing!) and fruit trees, meant we were well-supplied with delicious fruits and produce. So, my younger sister, Barbara, and I helped by weeding, harvesting and selling some of the excess at our little roadside stand. There was sweet corn, fresh cut basil, patty pan squash, specialty eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, apples, hot and sweet peppers, and watermelon. A bountiful harvest toward summer's end, for sure. And plenty to can for the fall and winter months.
Anticipation (for those who sowed the seeds and the consumers who purchased the produce), was part of the arduous process, as was prayer. I remember cleaning the soil off the potatoes Dad would dig up—and even the bugs—both Barbara and I working happily alongside him in the hot sun, thanking God for another harvest. Ah, the fruits of our labor!
Our Amish friends and neighbors entrusted their crops to God, much as we did. They prayed for the right amount of rain and sunshine. And when drier summers came, or even drought, hail or floods, they continued to offer gratitude and never complained. "The Lord will supply our needs," they would often say, and they believed it. They were filled with hope for the next summer and the next...a wonderful-good way to live, and quite different from our modern society's way of thinking, jah?
Hope is an essential part of all our lives. It offers courage to manage daily stress, anxiety, and even helps us cope with difficulties. Hope guides us to believe and to trust, I know this firsthand. "The hope of the righteous is joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish." ~ Proverbs 10:28
I pray this month brings you the blessings of hope, anticipation and, perhaps, harvesting your own produce or visiting a nearby farmers' market.
1) THE WAIT is nearly over! In just 1 month, you'll be reading The Orchard! You may still pre-order at these retailer links:
3) LOOK AT this new Amish Cheer card Barbara and I created for you, friends! It's a versatile card and a bookmark/gift. Order yours at: www.amishcheer.com and FREE shipping when you spend $40.
Thanks for your ongoing interest in my novels and Amish-themed cards. You are truly the best reader-friends ever!
"Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone."
~ Romans 12:18
I remember my childhood fondly, growing up close to Amish farmland. Summers were lazy and fun—riding bikes with my sister, visiting with cousins, playing volleyball and Ping-Pong, picking sweet corn with my dad and sister, and harvesting oodles of tomatoes, berries, potatoes, and squash. The homegrown produce that made its way to Mother’s kitchen table was delicious, and my father’s beaming face was priceless as we sat down to say the mealtime blessing.
We always spent the Fourth of July with extended family and/or our church family. Kinfolk came together to share the fruits of their gardening labor in the form of casseroles and delicious desserts. (My mother loved making strawberry-rhubarb pie to share nearly every Fourth. The recipe is found on pg. 143 in The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook.)
Sharing with and caring for loved ones, extending empathy and encouragement, discussing plans for future get-togethers, enjoying time together while rejoicing in God’s goodness . . . these precious things still linger in my mind all these years later. As I look back on those idyllic summers, life seemed far less complicated, but of course, I was a young girl without family responsibilities and writing deadlines, though I was already secretly writing on my own! (And I did pick a lot of potato bugs and dig up dandelions for Dad, too, so it wasn’t all fun and games!).
Aside from the close relationships back in Lancaster County, the peace I experienced during my childhood summers is what I now cherish most in this busy phase of my life. A refrain from an old hymn we used to sing in my father’s church comes to mind as I reminisce with you today. “Oh, the peace that Jesus gives never dies: it always lives. Like the music of a psalm, like a glad, eternal calm, is the peace that Jesus gives. Is the peace that Jesus gives.” (Lyrics by Haldor Lillenas, 1885-1959).
Have a peaceful and happy Fourth of July . . . and all summer long!
1) I’m looking forward to the launch of my next novel, The Orchard, this September and enjoying promoting it, too. And writing my fall 2023 novel—set in beloved Hickory Hollow—is going well. The Heirloom features Ella Mae Zook, the Wise Woman you may recall from other books, and her Indiana Amish niece, Clara Bender. I can't wait for you to meet them and the rest of he cast of characters!
2) My sister, Barbara, and I have created two more unique cards for summer: In honor of our mother's birthday. "Birdhouse" is available to order now at www.amishcheer.com. "Watermelon" card will be available on July fifth.
Thanks very much for your enthusiasm for our Amish-themed card lines, friends, as well as for my novels. You are the best!
"As a deer gets thirsty for the streams of water, I truly am thirsty for You, my God."
~ Psalms 42:1
June is the month for strawberries! As a young girl, I enjoyed picking and eating them, sometimes right from the berry patch. And who doesn't love a delicious homemade shortcake drenched with glistening red strawberries and piled on top with oodles of real whipped cream! My mother enjoyed making this dessert when I was growing up, and we often celebrated her June 28th birthday with this special treat.
When I was young, June was also the month for books, the ones that were not required reading during the school year. I remember falling in love with the old classics (The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas and Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter immediately come to mind) at the historic public library in downtown Lancaster, where my mother often took me and my sister, Barbara, on Saturdays. Ah, the amazing smell of that grand place. Its high ceiling and ornate detailing initially commanded my attention, but only for a moment, because the books inside were always my priority.
Books rescued me when my mother was so ill with terminal cancer. They took me far away from the sadness, and fear, of losing her. And they gave me hope, especially when I saw myself in fictional characters who struggled with impending loss of one kind or another. Some books made me think about places I wanted to travel to when I grew up; others grounded me right where I was, encouraging me to see the beauty of Amish farmland in front of my nose. I learned that, what I was feeling, others felt, too: I was not alone. Books have such wonderful power!
My parents also taught me as a little child to love God's Word. The Old Testament showed me the stalwart and courageous, yet flawed, leaders of the faith who looked ahead to Christ's coming and to the Cross. And the New Testament taught me that Jesus knows and understands the things all of us grapple with, and that He loves us far beyond what we can ever comprehend.
When my father preached in his pulpit on Sundays, I took many notes—some of which I still have to this day, pressed into the pages of my very first Bible. God's Word assured me that I wasn't alone in my yearnings. No one was perfect: Others had sinned and needed God's saving grace, too. It taught me that my thirsty heart—like the deer longing for streams of water in Psalms 42:1 (my first-ever favorite verse)—could be fully satisfied in Christ.
June is also the month I was baptized in the vast Susquehanna River at the age of twelve. It was fitting that my pastor-father did the baptizing—on a Father's Day of truest joy!
I wish a very happy Father's Day to all the dads and to those who step in and take the role of a father in all the ways that matter.
1) I'm delighted to share that my upcoming novel, The Orchard, has gone to the printer for a September 6 release.
2) My return to Hickory Hollow—and Ella Mae Zook as a viewpoint character—has been so enjoyable as I write my Fall 2023 stand-alone novel, The Heirloom. Stay tuned for more tidbits about this.
3) "The Bridges of Lancaster County" Amish Cheer cards are ready for ordering, friends! There has been a strong interest in the idyllic covered bridges in my beloved Lancaster County, so now you can share these pretty cards with your friends and family. They are blank inside, allowing you to use them for many different occasions.
Also, two Father's Day cards are still available, but only through June 12. Don't miss out on these bright and cheerful greetings! Order at our secure website: amishcheer.com
As always, thanks so much for your interest in my novels and my Amish Cheer cards. I appreciate you very much, dear friends!
"Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord"
~ Ephesians 5:19
When I think of my dear mother—with the Lord seventeen years now—one of the first things that comes to my mind is her love for Jesus.
She often demonstrated that love in worship at the piano or while playing the organ in church. My mother also composed lyrical praise songs to our Lord, some of which I still remember to this day. She lived her life for Christ, extending herself to her family even when she was weak and suffering from terminal cancer. Softly, she sang her devotion to God in her sick bed and quoted Scriptures, viewing them as nourishment when her body rejected food.
As a little girl, I remember removing my shoes before going into her bedroom and tiptoeing, since even the least amount of sound caused her all the more pain, she was that ill. “Jane might live six months,” the surgeon told Daddy after performing the exploratory surgery that revealed a cancerous tumor with tendrils spread throughout her vital organs. My book The Sunroom chronicles our faith-filled journey of that time in a fictional way . . . with its true-to-life miracle ending.
One of the hymns that deeply touched Mother's heart during this challenging time was "Beautiful Savior." While she hoped for healing, she reached out to Jesus the Healer more because she loved His comforting presence. And the Great Physician honored her many prayers, as well as those of others who were interceding for her around the world. My mother lived to see her daughters grow up, and her grandchildren and two of the great-grands. She also celebrated her eighty-fourth birthday with all of us. Miraculously, cancer never returned!
In honor of my sweet, godly mother during this month we celebrate mothers, here are the lyrics to the hymn that spiritually buoyed her during her darkest days. May it strengthen and encourage you, as well.
Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature, Thou of God and man the Son, Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou my soul's glory, joy, and crown.
Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, Robed in the blooming garb of spring: Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, Who makes the woeful heart to sing.
Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight, And all the twinkling starry host: Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer than all the angels heaven can boast.
Beautiful Savior! Lord of all nations! Son of God and Son of Man! Glory and honor, praise, adoration, now and forevermore be Thine.
~Lyrics by Joseph A. Seiss
God's abundant blessings!
1) I am currently reviewing the final pages for The Orchard, my novel releasing this September 6. You may preorder at your favorite online stores, as well as anywhere books are sold. Some preorder links are below:
2) The first draft for The Heirloom, featuring Ella Mae Zook, Hickory Hollow's Wise Woman, is well on its way. I'm really enjoying Ella Mae's wit and wisdom—so much fun "visiting" with her and having peppermint tea again! This stand-alone novel releases Fall 2023.
3) Don't forget: Mother's Day is May 8. My uniquely handcrafted quilted easel card (Mother's Day 2022) and Box Garden card are perfect for the Amish enthusiasts on your Mother's Day card list, friends. My backstory features additional personal memories of my mother, Jane, with the Lord since 2006 . . . but never forgotten.