"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you." —Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
If I were to choose a word to characterize going forward this New Year, it would be "kindness."
Recently, I was struck by the fact that we rarely hear of compassionate deeds anymore in the news. Why is that? Wouldn't we much rather hear about the good things happening around us than the constant drip of negativity?
I know firsthand of people who are quietly sharing their time, energies, and resources to make a difference—with kindness. There is a young man who sets aside his own interests to help disabled students get to and from their fitness classes; a young woman who is assisting a suicidal teen to get the care she needs; and a special needs girl who is giving away all of her earnings from a recent Christmas art fair to help a family who lost everything in the recent tornadoes.
And, as you can imagine, there are also groups of Amish carpenters building new houses for residents in multiple states whose homes were destroyed in the historic storms.
Each of these kindhearted people is quietly performing a sacrificial act of kindness—unsung (and rather unknown) acts of mercy. There are many more just like them around the world, reaching out to others in need.
One of the most remarkable role models of kindness is Joseph in the Old Testament. After he was sold into slavery by his wicked brothers and rose in power, he demonstrated uncommon compassion to those same brothers who were hungry and desperate for food. Stop and think about it—would you or I be willing to be so generous given the circumstances?
When we are filled with Christ's love, our hearts expand to respond with kindness.
Blessing for the New Year 2022!
1) I'm happy to say that I've seen the mock-up for my September 2022 novel, The Orchard, and cannot wait to show you next month here on the blog. Also, my revisions are currently with my first editor for an overview, while I finish the synopsis for my 2023 novel. Lots of creativity is happening here!
2) I'm also delighted to reveal my new Amish Cheer Valentine cards! Amish Farm Critters come in a pack of five for only $10, and the wonderful Owl Easel card is $5 per card. These are available now at our secure website: www.AmishCheer.com Enjoy!
3) Finally, a great big thank-you to those who kindly sent Christmas greetings to me, and purchased The Beginning for family and friends. You are all just wonderful!
Happy New Year!
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger....” - Luke 2:7 (KJV)
Christmas is all about a baby—Baby Jesus, the Light of the world!
Ever since our three J's (Julie, Janie, and Jonathan) were old enough to listen to and act out the story of Christ's birth, they have been very aware that Jesus came to earth as a newborn baby.
After all, a baby has universal appeal, right? We're literally drawn to touch the dimpled hands and plump cheeks. A baby symbolizes the profound miracle of life. And Christ's coming as a baby also points us to the spiritual NEW life He offers to all who believe and receive. To think that our Lord—from the grandeur of heaven—was willing to put on the form of a helpless infant!
Our all-wise heavenly Father sent His Son to us in this way, because He knows the great significance of the family unit. A baby needs the love and guidance of a father and mother as well as the companionship of siblings and an extended family. Jesus' earthly family is a reminder of the family of God, which each of us can belong to by simply opening our hearts to the Holy Babe in the manger—our faithful and loving Savior.
My prayer this tender Advent Season is that you will know and embrace "how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is" for you. (Ephesians 3:18, NLT)
Dear Reader-Friend, I'm thrilled to announce two new Amish Cheer cards my sister and creative partner, Barbara, and I have ready for you:
1) "Amish Home Christmas" features an Old Order Amish kitchen in Lancaster County. May it bring cheer and encouragement to each person on your card list.
2) The "Sleigh Ride" pop-out card is ideal for slipping a gift card or check/cash into the secret "pocket" as a surprise for a family member or friend. Order at our secure website: www.AmishCheer.com www.amishcheer.com.
On the busy writing side of my life, I'm planning my novel for 2023—yes, that far ahead! Meanwhile, revisions for The Orchard, (releasing September 2022), are coming along nicely. I'm into the final third of that manuscript currently. Book cover reveal will be coming!
Finally, and most importantly, thank you very much for your kind and encouraging words, precious prayers, and friendship this past year. You are the best-ever readers an author could hope to have!
“Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our LORD Jesus Christ.” - Ephesians 5:20
I still remember singing the following Thanksgiving-themed song while in fifth grade, blending my shy voice with the other students. (Yes, we sang hymns in public school back then, and what a blessing it was.) Even to this day, I get goose pimples when hearing this song played or sung—it takes me right back to that sunlit classroom and our inspiring music teacher, Mr. Shaar.
This favorite Thanksgiving hymn of mine was written in 1864 and reminds me of hiking in the Rockies and in the New England mountains, of coming upon a dahlia farm in Camden, Maine quite unexpectedly, and the breathtaking, flaming reds of Connecticut trees against the bluest of blue skies...and our Creator's great love for us.
"For the Beauty of the Earth" (lyrics by Folliott S. Pierpoint, inspired by Ephesians 5:20)
For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the beauty of each hour, of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flow'r, sun and moon, and stars of light.
For the joy of human love, Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.
Perhaps you'll be singing this song sometime this month (with me), as we lift our voices across the miles.
With deep gratitude to our Lord for all things great and small! Why not be grateful all year long?
Dear reader, I'm delighted to share that my sister and partner, Barbara, and I have added two new cards to our Amish Cheer card line.
"Thankful Blessings" features an inspiring poem found in our Aunt Beulah Buchwalter's 1930s diary, which she started writing in at age 20. The poem is poignant and so timely for our present day. Barbara and I shed tears when we first read it.
The launch of "Amish Home Christmas" has been equally exciting, featuring an Amish kitchen in Ronks, PA (Lancaster County), which we pray brings cheer and encouragement to each person on your card list. Order at our secure website: www.amishcheer.com.
On the writing side of things, I have reached the half-way point for my revisions of The Orchard, my September 2022 stand-alone novel, set in beautiful and quaint Bird-in-Hand, PA, close to the location of the real Kauffman Fruit Farm. It is a compelling story from early 1970s when America's sons were caught up in the draft for the Vietnam War, Amish and non-Amish alike, creating strife for those who were unprepared to embrace conscientious objector status. Okay, that's all I'd better say about that for now. But I'm quite eager for you to read Ellie and Evan Hostetler's story journey, dear friends!
“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I. press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” - Philippians 3:13-14
During the past few days, while awaiting the editorial review of my current manuscript, The Orchard (coming in September 2022), I’ve enjoyed the process of sorting through closets and drawers, one of my fall cleaning rituals. Yes, you read that correctly—I do actually like this chore.
And while organizing each room, I’ve been thinking how nostalgic the autumn season has always been for me, and with that, what things from the past do I want to keep and what do I want to discard? My mother’s elegant cake stand is something I stared at for the longest time, knowing I could not relinquish it because of the lovely memories associated with it: the beautiful presentation of birthday cakes over the years. Also, there were the many small, black notebooks containing my father’s sermon outlines from the past. No, I could not get rid of those either.
But there were things that I had no trouble tossing—files of my early writings (unpublishable musings), little hankies from my childhood, Dave’s worn-out running shoes, an old comforter, and a Christmas tree that’s seen better days.
So, what is it about autumn that nudges us to deep-clean, downsize, and organize? Does the incentive come from looking ahead to the coming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, perhaps? Or is there a spiritual goal involved, as the scripture states above? If the latter is the motivation, are there things we've left undone or unsaid that need to be addressed? Is there lingering tension with family or friends that need to be discussed and forgiven?
We each know through experience that it is essential to shed the things from the past that encumber our spiritual walk, and by doing so, we’re less burdened for the journey ahead. If our focus is on the future and not the past, then embracing all that God has for us will keep our eyes on our Lord Jesus, the finisher (perfecter) of our faith.
Wishing you autumn blessings!
Thanks very much, dear readers, for your wonderful remarks about my recent novel, The Beginning and also for leaving your reviews on Goodreads, BookBub, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online sites. It’s an answer to my prayers that Susie Mast’s family saga has made a difference in your lives. Keep in mind that your reviews of this book will encourage others to read the book as well.
Now, some exciting news about my Amish Cheer cards. October is Pastor Appreciation month, friends! And what better way to show your appreciation for the ministers in your life than to give my new, handmade card, featuring a gentle sheep grazing in pasture. The inspiring excerpt on the back of card comes from my Amish Prayers book. There is also a little slot to tuck in some cash or a gift card inside the card. Order here:www.amishcheer.com.