"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!
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
~ Ephesians 4:32
Acts of kindness are long remembered.
I'll never forget the day a helpful woman came over to my car outside the grocery store and offered to take the shopping cart back to its stall for me. She had obviously seen me putting my three-year-old daughter and nine-month-old twins into their respective car seats, not to mention lugging the groceries into the back. I was so grateful, I thanked God for sending an angel in human form to help me!
Many other unexpected kindnesses have happened to me over the years—and to you, too, I’m sure. During my junior year in college, while on a date at a nice restaurant with a fellow music student, I was surprised to learn that a gentleman and his wife at a nearby table had picked up the tab for our dinner. The waiter informed us after the benevolent couple had left, so there was no way to thank them. The generous gesture made me wonder what had inspired their random act of kindness. All the same, I was struck by it.
The verse in Ephesians 4 isn’t just a suggestion, is it? As believers in Christ, we are expected to be kind and compassionate to one another, as well as to everyone we meet. How much better our world would be if we all followed this verse daily!
You may recall that I chose kindness at the start of the new year as “my word” for 2022. With the bright and brisk autumn season upon us, let’s remember to be caring and kind to each other. There are so many ways to do that, if we just take a moment to think about it. Giving of our time and energy to someone in need of our companionship, or offering our assistance to get to and from a doctor appointment, for instance. Volunteering at a food pantry, buying groceries for a shut-in or sending encouragement cards are other ways. Or we might offer to wrap Christmas gifts for a friend or neighbor who is ill, or give a caregiver or a single mom a much-needed break by stepping into that person’s shoes for a few hours at a time. It really doesn't take much to make a difference in someone else’s life.
This month of October, I am truly grateful for your complimentary remarks about The Orchard, my latest novel set in Lancaster County Amish country. Your kind words have inspired my writerly heart, especially hearing how Ellie’s story journey has lifted your spirits and encouraged you to trust our heavenly Father for even the smallest things.
I'm presently working on revisions for The Heirloom, my fall 2023 stand-alone novel set in Amish Hickory Hollow and featuring Ella Mae Zook. Many of you have requested a look back into the Wise Woman's past, primarily her courting years, and I'm excited to say that what I've discovered is very intriguing! More on that later. Meanwhile, thanks very much for your keen interest in dear Ella Mae's life!
Now, for your autumn card-gifting, I have developed three new products with Barbara, my sister/artist. See more views of these new cards below at: www.amishcheer.com
1) "Scarecrow" 5X7 pop-out card with poem on back—for all ages.
2) "Harvest Home Blessing"—folk art style.
3) "Special Note of Thanks" in time for Ministers Appreciation Month (October).
Look for a new Thanksgiving 5X7 card coming in mid-October. I'll post the announcement on my Facebook page for your convenience. FREE SHIPPING continues for orders of $40 or more.
"Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom."
~ Psalm 90:12
In many ways, September is the new January. If you think about it, September offers us a chance to start over--a new school term, back to work after vacation, more time to tackle the goals we haven’t accomplished so far this year, or to start a fitness plan to trim up and slim down. Some of us make schedules for blogging or outlining a new book; others create spreadsheets for their company's goals or for the upcoming Christmas season.
Toward the end of this month, my Amish friends will be picking apples for baking, saucing and snacking. The women will be cleaning the house from top to bottom, tending to a variety of colorful mums, and sewing new dresses, capes, and aprons. The men will be busy with a third cutting of hay, baling and storing it for the winter.
Novelists like me build our work week around daily writing goals and deadlines, slipping in time to rest and reflect after completing another manuscript. Aside from writing, I also plan ahead for fall housecleaning and window washing, sort through closets, organize my office, and make gift and card lists for a head start on the holidays. As always, I also set aside precious time with the Lord each morning and/or evening.
Our Lord Jesus is the Giver of second chances. With great mercy, He picks us up in our frailty and discouragement. He extends forgiveness when we fail to follow His ways. And He mends our broken hearts and whispers divine peace.
In this month of autumn's amazing advent, I'm delighted for the release of my newest novel, The Orchard, set in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania—the heart of Amish farmland—during the Vietnam War. This story may be the most ambitious of my career to date, and I hope you are inspired and blessed by it.
If you don’t already have a copy set aside, you may still pre-order at these retailer links before September 6:
Thanks for your wonderful support and encouragement!
Wishing you a blessed autumn,
1) DON'T MISS my Online Launch Party, Tuesday, September, 6 at 7 Central Daylight Time. Exciting things will be happening, as well as giveaways, and I can't wait to join you there.
HERE'S THE link if you'd like to sign up: https://www.facebook.com/events/1992233670968364
2) DISCOUNT FOR MINISTRY: If you participate in your church's card ministry to shut-ins, I would be happy to offer a generous discount for my handmade, Amish-themed greeting cards.