"You make me glad by Your deeds, O LORD, I sing for joy at the works of Your hands."
~ Psalm 92:4
Do you have a heart of giving, friend? Are you a giver or a Grinch, well . . . a getter?
Every year, when the season of Advent comes around, where do any of us stand in either category? Are we eager to do special things for family and friends, as well as those in need? Or do we actually dread Christmas?
I remember the Christmas I was a college sophomore in Kansas, and my parents couldn't afford to bring me home. I was very sad, and so was my family back in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—such a long distance away.
After a few days of moping and feeling very sorry for myself, I decided I should attempt to make the best of my circumstances. So, with a lump in my throat, I went with my uncle and aunt to visit my grandmother and another aunt in Lawrence, Kansas, where I was surprised to discover more of my father's relatives coming, my Chicago uncle and aunt were also spending Christmas there, along with their adorable baby girl.
Now, going backward even further in time, I had always been one of the young girls helping in the church nursery, playing on the floor with the toddlers and—when I was younger still—sitting in a rocking chair to hold the tiniest infants. Helping with the little ones was sheer delight, and I often wondered how many children I might have when I was grown and married.
So, during that bittersweet Christmas far from home, I offered to help with my dimple-cheeked baby cousin, and my grandma said she’d never seen me smile so much. I helped her, too, in the kitchen by peeling pounds upon pounds of potatoes, setting the long table, and drying mountains of dishes as more and more of my father’s relatives began to arrive for the big day.
Even now, all these decades later, I remember that very different Christmas, special because I opened and extended my giving heart.
Not surprisingly, I wasn’t nearly as disappointed as I thought I’d be even though I missed my dear parents and my close younger sister, Barbara. And when the time came to return home after the second semester, oh, what a reunion it was!
This Christmas, what if we, all of us, had a heart of giving, perhaps even sacrificially, seeking out someone in need of a friend to help make their life happier, if not joyful, at this sometimes depressing season for so many? Sharing the gift of salvation, the reason Jesus came to earth that long-ago Christmas.
Wishing you great joy for this Advent season and always,
1) I have completed the initial proofing for The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook, 20th-Anniversary Edition, coming Fall 2024. More information about the release date, beautiful cover, and where to preorder will be shared in the months ahead.
2) My handcrafted Christmas cards are flying off the shelves, friends. Choose from three exciting and new Christmas cards from my sister, Barbara, and me at: http://www.amishcheer.com
Have yourself a very Merry Christmas!
"For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer."
~ 1 Timothy 4:4-5
Recently Dave and I ventured out on a 30-day cross-country trip after a rather challenging summer. Along the way, we spent time with our precious twins and visited dear aunts and uncles we hadn't seen in years—one who turns 101 years old this January! Fond and happy memories were made with my wonderful cousins, too, some of whom seem more like siblings. I also had tea and delightful conversation with an Amish friend in Lancaster County, where I met with my helpful research consultants, as well. Dave enjoyed spending time with a college friend, the two of them playing piano and singing together, like old times. And in New England, Dave and I walked through brilliant leaves in woods and quaint little towns, ate delicious fresh seafood, and strolled along the rugged shoreline near Maine’s Nubble Lighthouse.
In short, we slowed down our days, slept deeply at night, and expanded our spare time to see and embrace God's creation everywhere. We lingered around the table listening to and sharing with some of our closest family members and friends. We encouraged each other and discussed the brevity of life here on earth, and also God’s purpose in our lives as we endeavor to make a difference for eternity. After our daily devotions, Dave and I thanked God for our health and His grace and direction. And we prayed for you, dear reader!
During the long drive back west toward home, we visited Dave’s childhood friend and his wife, as well as my long-time publishing friends. With gratitude, we sang songs of worship to pass the time in the car, sometimes with tears, ever grateful for this time of much-needed rest and refreshment from our Father’s hand.
As always, I enjoyed my Amish research in Lancaster County, grateful for the relaxed pace and looking forward to outlining another book soon.
When I was growing up, my pastor-father liked to have our family share around the Thanksgiving table the things we were most grateful for. All these years later, it is still a tradition in our home and my sister, Barbara’s, as well. Developing a thankful mindset fosters a focus on others and brings us happiness as a result.
Have you considered the many blessings in your life? One of my aunts will celebrate her 96th birthday this month, and she told me during our visit that she counts her blessings at night instead of sheep, praying for each family member until she falls asleep. I love this, don’t you? What a beautiful way to truly rest in the gifts our gracious Father bestows on us.
I’m sure you frequently reflect on the kindness and blessing of God in your life. We, too, set aside time to offer thanks during this season of Thanksgiving and always.
I pray your heart is filled with much gratitude for all He has done and is doing.
1) The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook, 20th-Anniversary Edition will release fall 2024. This very special edition includes never before published photos from the Lewis Family Collection, as well as additional Amish recipes for the modern cook, Amish sayings and wonderful-good kitchen tips!
2) It's not too early to order my handcrafted Christmas cards, new for 2023, friends. Order yours at http://www.amishcheer.com
Thanks very much for your thoughtful remarks about The Heirloom, my latest novel, as well as your reviews posted at Amazon.com adn GoodReads and BookBub. I truly appreciate you!
"I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers."
~ Philemon 1:4
Who do you run to with your joys and sorrows?
For the past many years, I have been blessed with cherished friendships near and far. My friendship with Martha was one of them. Often, she would call excited to share happy news or whatever was on her mind. I remember vividly the phone conversation about a fluffy puppy she and her husband had fallen in love with—they named him “Muffin,” or “Muffy” for short. The adorable pet liked to perch on the white ottoman in the dining room near the window, waiting for Martha and her husband’s return home.
I, too, enjoyed calling Martha or visiting with her in their beautiful home on the hill. I remember sitting in the breakfast nook overlooking their wide back yard rimmed with a row of newly planted pines, Pikes Peak framed in the windows. There, as young women, Martha and I sipped iced tea or pop and shared our goals and dreams, or things we’d learned from Scripture that week, or laughed over the humorous things that took place at the elementary school where I then taught K-6 general vocal music and 5th-grade creative writing. Martha was the school counselor, and her miniscule, pie-shaped office was directly across the hall from my spacious room built in the round. Between classes, I practiced my piano offertories for church while I waited for students to file in, and sometimes she stood silently in the back of the room, just listening.
From the first day I met Martha, we clicked. Our mutual love for Christ, classical music, and good books were the common bonds, and over time, we became prayer partners—she a newlywed, and I fresh out of college. I noticed almost immediately that Martha had the gift of a listening heart and, like Ella Mae in my Hickory Hollow novels, she rarely offered advice unless it was requested.
As I write this now, I think of Martha’s Homegoing, five months ago to the day, and I am grateful for our longtime friendship. Years ago, she appointed Dave and me to be her co-trustees since she’d had no siblings or children, and her husband was deceased. This week, after returning home from the closing of the sale of her house, I reached for my phone, eager to tell her about my day. Then I froze. “She’s gone,” I whispered, feeling sad all over again.
I had been so accustomed to the habit of sharing with her whatever was happening in my life that I’d forgotten she wasn’t there on the other end of the line. It wasn’t the first time, as I’d caught myself reaching for my phone to call my mother for years after she passed away. Still, the need to talk to Martha as always before was intense. I so longed to be able to tell her that the long weeks of meticulous sorting and cleaning and preparing her house to be listed were finally over, and a wonderful young couple with four darling children would soon make new memories in that beautiful house on the hill.
Sighing, I sat near my writing desk and began to pour out my heart to the One who is always there, our Lord Jesus. The ultimate listening heart, ready to receive our joyful news and our heartfelt cries—our dearest and best friend, “. . . who sticks closer than a brother,” Proverbs 18:24 declares.
During this amber autumn month of October, I look forward to connecting with longtime friends while making new ones and being a good listener like Martha. Like her, I also desire to point the lonely and hurting to our precious Savior and Friend who is unselfish, gracious, and kind. As it says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
1) By now you may have read The Heirloom and are looking for a Reading Group Guide for your book club. You may find it at this link: https://www.beverlylewis.com/books/reading-group-guides
2) Thanks very much for posting your reviews on Amazon.com, friends. This alerts other fiction readers to the launch of The Heirloom. Also, I'm delighted to read your special online notes sharing with me how Ella Mae’s backstory has touched your own life. Thanks, too, for all who joined me at the Facebook Launch Celebration last month—a very special time!
3) Also, in keeping with Pastor’s Appreciation Month, my sister and I have created a lovely new card to show your gratitude for the church leaders in your life. You may order that card and a variety of others here: http://www.amishcheer.com
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."
~ Romans 8:28
"Change is part of life," my mother often said . . . or was that Ella Mae, the Wise Woman of Hickory Hollow? Anyway, I recall that truth and have been pondering it as I write this blog.
Along that line, this past summer has been filled with more changes and adjustments than usual. New glasses (not a big deal, but still some adapting required) and my writing schedule was changed to accommodate the planning of my longtime friend Martha's service, as well as sorting through and selling her home. Dave and I also made the difficult decision to move to a new church, making new friends and keeping the old (one is silver; the other, gold). There was also the necessary purchase of a new car, for which a rocket scientist must have created the so-called “intuitive” technology. Seriously! Just trying to sync my phone to the car's “brain” scrambles mine. In retrospect, how much easier our old (too old) car was. But as we all know, things are constantly being upgraded—cars and phones—and on and on it goes.
Adjusting takes time and energy, especially if you’re not a 20-something or younger. Our granddaughter, for instance, always knows precisely what to do with technology involving cars or phones and streaming services, no instruction manual required.
Indeed, change is a part of life, and it’s challenging—I’ll put it right out there. As I look back over this summer, I also find myself looking heavenward with great gratitude for the steadfastness of our heavenly Father, who is constant and remains the same. Malachi 3:6 reads, “I am the LORD; I change not,” and James 1:17 reminds us that “He is the Father of lights with whom there is no change or variation.” I am so grateful for that truth!
God is also trustworthy. When we don’t understand why certain life-altering changes occur, He can be counted on to know what is best for us. In my brand-new novel, The Heirloom, Ella Mae Zook comes to experience this reality, too, as does her grandniece, Clara, when she comes to visit her in Hickory Hollow. There, Clara discovers what caused Ella Mae to be known as the Wise Woman—the tragedy that took place when Ella Mae was a teenager and other insights—even as Clara seeks the right path forward for her own future.
This month, as our precious children and grandchildren go back to school, we pray they will depend on the Lord as they adjust to the changes that will impact their lives, expected and unexpected. I'm thankful that God goes before us and with us every step of each day. What a wonderful heavenly Father!
Happy September, everyone!
1) On September 12, the wait for the release of The Heirloom will be over! If you haven't yet preordered, you can still receive the 40% discount and FREE shipping from Baker Book House before the release date.
Pre-Order your copy:
Baker Book House
Barnes & Noble
2) To celebrate the end of summer, we're revealing the "Sunflowers and Prayers" card. It's so cheery and the ideal card to lift the heart of someone you love who needs encouragement. Order yours here: http://www.amishcheer.com
3) Thanks for spreading the word of my new release, The Heirloom. It's a stand-alone novel, as well as the prequel to The Shunning. You can enjoy the story even if you haven't read The Shunning and its two sequels, The Confession and The Reckoning, however.