"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!
"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
~ Psalm 16:11
I remember how happy I felt when we moved to a house that had a bona fide office where I could dream up my storylines without interruption and create my novels long into the night. The delight of having the space to set up my PC and arrange research books on shelves and have built-in files for book ideas and outlines, lists of titles, and so on (before the cloud and online resources) gave me a real boost.
But as the days and months passed and I settled into my little office, I realized all of that was merely happiness, not a lasting joy. Having a room to write in did not influence long-term contentment, spiritual or otherwise. On the other hand, joy came from my daily devotional time, writing letters of encouragement to struggling friends and family members, anticipating the coming of our first grandchild, and hearing from my readers, whose hearts were touched by my stories.
True, there was a great sense of happiness, too—something coming to fruition that I had longed for, but true joy far surpassed the happiness of having my first real writing room.
Happiness is fleeting—we all know that—and joy is eternal, a deep-down, satisfying contentment. Joy fills up one's heart to overflowing, whereas happiness brings only momentary pleasure.
So, for this year's word, I've chosen JOY. Joy at being a prayer partner for many reader-friends around the world, and joy in lifting my readers' hearts with the stories I write.
Will you join me this new year in embracing and striving for the joy our Lord promises His children?
Happy joyful New Year!
1) I'm looking forward to soon seeing the cover for my September 2023 novel, The Heirloom, set in Hickory Hollow and featuring Ella Mae Zook as one of the point-of-view characters. Also, there is a wonderful ebook deal for The Orchard—$1.99 starting January 1 and running through the end of the month. Find your discounted ecopy anywhere books are sold including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple/iBooks, and Google Books.
Also, the physical copy of The Orchard is available at your local Walmart and Hobby Lobby, and also online on their websites:
2) It's also a delight to reveal my new Amish Cheer card for the New Year—"Winter Wishes". Order yours for birthdays and most any occasion at my secure website: www.amishcheer.com
3) Thanks so much for giving my books such wonderful homes, dear friends. And, during this Christmas Season, for your thoughtful expressions of kindness and love. A very Happy New Year 2023 to you and your family.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
~ Luke 2:14
As I write this blog in my home office, twinkling lights nestled in soft, green boughs shine forth the joy of this blessed Advent season. Carols are playing somewhere in the house, and snow is in the forecast for later tonight. Oh, to have a white Christmas! It has been too many years since snow has fallen to blanket our region for Jesus' birthday.
I'm thinking now of past Christmases and embracing the joyful memories. Once again, I'm a wide-eyed little girl, thrilled to see Daddy bringing home a freshly cut tree on Christmas Eve for our small living room. All of us carefully place long, glittering strands of icicles on the branches. (Remember those?) Fast forward to my tenth Christmas, and I'm playing carols on the piano at home as my parents and sister, Barbara, sing "Angels We Have Heard on High" in four-part harmony with me, a tradition we kept for decades—even performing this lovely carol a cappella in church and elsewhere.
Years later, my own children—Julie, Janie and Jonathan—took turns placing the angel atop the tree while sitting on my husband's shoulders, creating new traditions to cherish. And my dad’s (Grandpa Herb to them) reading of the Gospel of Luke's account of the first Christmas in Bethlehem was another precious tradition. As we heard Dad read the names from the Scripture, all of us took turns holding up the tiny finger puppets my sister made representing Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, and the other memorable cast of that most Holy Night.
Of course, our children are grown now, as is our granddaughter (turning 23 soon), but the true meaning of Christmas continues to warm and soften our hearts, as does the sweetness of being together to celebrate Christ's birth. To think that the Creator God broke through the darkness to reach us, offering His wondrous Gift of Light embodied in a baby in a manger. The Christ Child, though sinless, grew up to carry the sins of the world in His own body on a cross . . . taking our place!
I have always loved these triumphant lyrics: “Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room. And heaven and nature sing!”
My prayer this Christmas is that we will know and bow our hearts in adoration of this Jesus, the Christ, who gave all to redeem us and bring us into sweet fellowship with our heavenly Father for all eternity.
1) Writing-wise, I have completed my work on the pre-galleys for The Heirloom, releasing in early September of 2023. I can hardly wait to reveal the beautiful cover, whenever it's ready. Also, if you'd like to give copies of The Orchard for Christmas, Baker Book House still has a wonderful deal going.
2) I have added a variety of lovely Christmas cards and gift cards at my secure website, www.amishcheer.com. Thanks very much for spreading cheer and lifting hearts through my unique and handcrafted cards. Barbara and I truly appreciate your encouragement and your business. Blessings for Christmas and the new year!
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
~ Galatians 5:22-23
A few days ago, I was sorting through old photos and letters when I came across a note written by my aunt Aleta after the publication of one of my first books. Her words were so encouraging and congratulatory! I had forgotten that I'd saved it, and the note was yet another reminder that Aleta has long been an encourager to me and to my family, as well as to countless others--family and otherwise.
I was privileged to live with her and her husband, Bob, for my freshman and sophomore years in college. During that time, Aleta taught me to sew some of my very best dresses and suits. She also typed out her most delicious recipes, which I still have in the original recipe box. For many years, Aleta was a first-grade teacher, and to this day, her long-since grown students and their families contact her with thoughtful notes of praise and gratitude. Her talents and interests are numerous, indeed!
Recently, Dave and I spent time with Aleta in her home, marveling again at her energy and positive outlook on life. We were delighted to take her to explore new places, out to eat, and even to tour a lovely historic chapel in a nearby town. We laughed and prayed together, and we reminisced and pored over her wonderful travelogue scrapbooks from her and Uncle Bob's world travels.
This month, Aleta will celebrate her 95th birthday, and it is evident to all who know and love her that the blessing of health certainly rests upon her. In prayer, she asks the Lord for specific guidance each morning--whether she should go out to run errands or wait for another day. Yes, God is very near and dear to Aleta, and the fruit of the Spirit are plentiful in her life. Long ago, she committed herself to walking by the Spirit’s leading, a wise choice for us all.
I rejoice in Aleta's attitude of gratitude and in her prayer life. She is grateful for everything, especially the miracles that make it possible for her to live independently at her “mature age,” as she calls it.
This Thanksgiving season, may we count our blessings, including the precious people who help mold our lives for Christ and His Kingdom. Paying attention to the important stories they share can enhance our lives as we listen with an open heart. Doing so while gathered around the Thanksgiving table this month might be a very good place to start.
Blessings abundant for Thanksgiving and always,
1) The edit for The Heirloom has begun, and my September 2023 novel is on track for release next fall! Ella Mae Zook and her courting-age niece Clara Bender offer up an endearing generational story--a prequel to The Shunning. More to come on this exciting novel!
All books on sale will be priced at 50% off with free shipping (U.S. only, while supplies last) now until November 28. I know many of you appreciate a good deal, and this is a great chance to purchase new books as gifts for family and friends.
3) NEW for this 2022 Christmas Season: My sister and partner at Amish Cheer cards, Barbara, and I have created "Light of the World," and "Christmas Cardinal." See interior and backstory for both cards, as well as the ordering information at our secure website: www.amishcheer.com
I am very thankful for your enthusiasm for my novel, The Orchard, putting it at the #1 spot last month. And thanks so much for your interest in my Amish-themed cards with my sister, Barbara. We have the most delightful customers! Blessings to all!