"Her children bless her; her husband praises her: ‘Many women act competently, but you surpass them all!"
~ Proverbs 31:28-29
I am thankful to God for a loving and encouraging mother who believed in the power of prayer. Her godly role model has influenced my own relationships as a wife, mother, sister, and friend. She also passed along her cooking and baking skills to me, as well as my sister, Barbara, even when we very young. I still remember layering the large baking dish with ground beef, cut corn, and tomato slices for my mother's classic recipe of Dinner in a Dish, my little fingers daintily placing the bread crumbs on top.
Here is a favorite photo of my sister, our mother, and me in May of 1999, forty-two years after Mother’s diagnosis of inoperable ovarian cancer. (The surgeon said she might live less than six months, yet the Lord spared her life and gave her a healing miracle.) Yes, that was many years ago, and I’ve never forgotten the joy all the family brought to her (and Dad) on Mother’s Day and every other holiday we gathered for picnics or formal dinners, or just to be together playing Ping-Pong, carrom, board games, or croquet. I cherish the memories of honoring my parents at our many get-togethers both in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and here in Colorado.
Also, I am forever grateful to the birth mothers of our three J’s—Julie, Janie and Jonathan—for their precious gifts of sacrificial love. I have been blessed to love and nurture these children (all grown up!) as my very own.
To all the women longing for a child, I know keenly and understand the intense yearning and the seemingly endless waiting. Today, I am offering up a prayer that God will grant you the desire of your heart in His perfect timing and way.
Hoping this blossoming month of May is filled with blessings from Above,
1) Thankfully, I've had some time to catch up on reader mail, including snail mail, website-related email, and social media comments and private messaging. It's a joy to connect with my devoted fans. Thanks for your patience in awaiting a reply! Along with that, I’ve been keeping a daily journal of my thoughts about my friend Martha’s recent passing—and all that she shared with me over the years as a “big sister” in the Lord. Thanks so much for your prayers for all who love and miss her, especially during this time.
2) Have you had a chance to preorder my upcoming September novel, The Heirloom? If not, here are the retailer links:
3) Springtime attracts oodles of visitors to Amish country in both Lancaster County, PA and Holmes County, OH. Celebrate your memories of former trips or upcoming ones with my "Country Cheer" cards—8 for $12 pack of lovely notecards. Each card features my unique Amish trivia on the back to describe the photography by our good friend, Margie Hattaway. Shop here: www.amishcheer.com/all-occasion.
Have a truly wonderful celebration of Mother's Day, friends!
"Jesus was handed over to die for our sins. He was raised to life in order to make us right with God."
~ Romans 4:25
Christ's torturous death on the cross followed by His resurrection made our salvation possible. If He had stayed in the tomb, having no power over the grave, we would still be lost in our sins. His death was the truest of all sacrifices, and without God's life-giving miracle on full display that long-ago morning, there would be no redemption for us.
Every year since I was old enough to understand the biblical truth of Easter, I have tried to imagine quietly observing the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb—their reactions to what was happening before their very eyes. What were their thoughts? What did they say to each other?
We know from Scripture that a violent earthquake took place and an angel of the Lord came to roll back the stone and sat on it. The guards were terrified and shook and “became like dead men” as they witnessed God’s triumphal deed.
“He arose a victor from the dark domain” are the lyrics to part of the chorus of the stirring hymn “Up from the Grave He Arose.” Rarely have I sung this song without joyful tears welling up, my lip quivering so that I can only whisper the words. To think what God did for us in raising Jesus back to life!
My prayer this Easter and always is that you have embraced the truth—and great joy—of the Resurrection and have wholly placed your trust in Him, our precious Savior and Lord.
Hallelujah, He is risen!
1) In case you haven't seen the pretty cover for my September 2023 novel, The Heirloom, here it is.
2) Mother's Day is May 14 and our "Mother's Apron" card offers a whimsical tribute to the many moms who work at home in the kitchen. It's complete with my backstory of Ella Mae Zook's childhood memory of her own Old Order Amish Mamma. Also, a front pocket which doubles as an optional gift card holder. Find this unique card and many others at my secure website: www.amishcheer.com
3) I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the many fans who watched (or DVR'd) the premiere of the "Confession Musical Movie" on UP TV, Sunday, March 26. This movie will continue to stream on demand at UP Faith and Family. Enjoy! And a blessed Easter Season!
"God has made everything beautiful for its own time."
~ Ecclesiastes 3:11
When our daughter Julie was just a little girl, I taught her a sweet song and accompanied her on the piano when she sang it as a solo at church. The song was “Beautiful, Beautiful, Jesus Is beautiful,” and Julie was more than a little nervous that evening about singing it to such a large crowd.
I remember praying a simple, heartfelt prayer with her in the foyer of the church before the service, and God gave her the courage to sing it with tender expression—and perfect pitch, too. There were tears in the audience as people were touched by the important message of the song.
Someone might ask if we ought to go to the Lord with small requests in our everyday life. What do you think?
Honestly, I would answer that there is nothing our heavenly Father looks upon as unimportant when it comes to His children. We know from Scripture that there is no difficulty or problem too small (or large) for our Lord—no struggle too slight for you to share with Him in prayer. In fact, God invites each of us to share every aspect of our lives. His ear is always open; He never slumbers or sleeps. He is always listening. What a true blessing and comfort!
So then, whatever is on your heart, tell all of it to the Lord who made you, knows you, and understands.
Blessings for springtime and always,
1) You've been waiting for the cover reveal for my new novel, The Heirloom, releasing this September. And here it is!
2) In keeping with The Heirloom's story line, I've created a special pop-up card, “Ella Mae's Tea Cup,” with my sister, Barbara. You may order yours at www.amishcheer.com and use it for most any occasion, as you wish. The backstory is an excerpt from an Ella Mae scene in The Heirloom. A little sneak preview!
3) Well, I've nearly completed my review/edit of the Designed Pages (the final opportunity to see the story before it goes to one last proofreader). You may preorder your copy now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Baker Book House.
I am continually grateful to everyone who saw the movie version of The Confession Musical in theatres last month. For those who missed that grand event, you will have the opportunity to view it on Up Faith and Family TV this spring. Please stay tuned for more information.
"You have shown me the path to life, and You make me glad by being near to me."
~ Psalm 16:11
I was nine years old when I first began writing stories, around the time I learned of my maternal grandmother Ada’s excruciating shunning. Being ousted from her Plain church community and the only people she’d ever known was heartbreaking. Her father warned that if she removed her prayer covering and wore a gold wedding band—forbidden for them—she was never to darken the door of their home again. Eventually, this led to the bishop putting her “off church” permanently.
As a child, I had no way of comprehending what this shunning meant to Grandma Ada and to our family. Years later, as a young woman—and a budding novelist—I was curious about the Lancaster County Amish and Mennonite traditions and lesser-known practices like shunnings, and I began to conduct extensive research. It was at that time my now-famous Old Order Amish protagonist, Katie Lapp, was birthed in my heart. You see, Grandma Ada’s sadness planted the seeds for Katie Lapp and my series "The Heritage of Lancaster County", starting with the first book, The Shunning, and its sequels, The Confession and The Reckoning. And now, out of that has come The Confession Musical, which is showing in movie theaters across the country on Presidents’ Day, February 20—for one night only.
(Go to ConfessionMusicalMovie.com for tickets, theater locations, and times.)
When I think of what my grandmother endured, my heart is tender, knowing I am truly a recipient of her brave move to follow the Lord’s call on her life to become a minister’s wife. And I am certain I would not be writing stories set in Amish farmland otherwise, for nearly thirty years now. Ada’s love for her husband and her dedication to the Savior transformed half of our family tree and, decades later, set me on a path of writing what became a new sub-genre: Amish fiction.
I often think of the above verse of Psalm 16, thankful for its confirmation on my life. There surely are similar verses in God’s Word that have encouraged you, as well, dear reader-friend.
During this month of the celebration of love that is Valentine’s Day, let’s extend our gratitude to the precious Lover of our souls, our Lord Jesus Christ, and spread His love and the Good News of salvation in this dark and needy world.
1) Be sure to order your tickets at FathomEvents.com to see The Confession Musical, a movie based on my Katie Lapp’s journey. The epic drama, the flow of scenes, and the soaring music will have you clapping right along with the live audience. I laughed so hard during “What a Mess” and brushed tears away at “Where You Are,” a deeply touching showstopper sung by Katie Lapp; her Amish mamma, Rebecca Lapp; and her birth mother, Laura Mayfield. The song “My Heart Has Found a Home” will echo in your mind long after the credits, as will the toe-tapping opening and finale, “Something ’Bout a Life That’s Plain.”
For sure and for certain, you must see this movie musical to discover just how wonderful it is!
2) To celebrate the third anniversary of Amish Cheer Cards, my sister, Barbara, and I are giving away one FREE card per week this month with each $25 purchase. Here’s a peek at our first free card, available February 1-7. Enjoy! Also, thanks very much for your thoughtful appreciation of our handcrafted, Amish-themed cards, friends! Happy Valentine's Day!