“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."
- James 1:2-4
We're all anxious for a fresh start after the struggles and losses of 2020, aren't we?
Some of us are broken-hearted over the loss of family members and friends to Covid-19, as well as to other diseases. Some of us are beyond dismayed at the loss of jobs and of support people at the workplace, and some are absolutely devastated, having lost everything built throughout the span of a lifetime.
As the verse above reveals, we have grown in the face of enormously difficult circumstances, learning and attempting to take mini-steps of trust. Many people have shared with me how their hunger for Scripture has deepened this past year. Many have embraced earnest prayer as a daily routine. Others say they would not trade this Covid-19-saturated year for anything. Why? Because they have experienced the presence of our Lord Jesus at every turn and come to depend wholly on Him.
I've been thinking: what if we could carry what we've learned into 2021? If so, would patience and compassion rise and rule? And, yes, trust, that most challenging of characteristics. When we can't see the future no matter how hard we try—through the dense fog of Covid-19 or any other formidable crisis—who can we turn to? Who do we most trust to lead us through the haze and maze of it all?
Isaiah 26:3-4 presents the resounding answer, actually a gift for the New Year and each new morning: "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You! Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD God is the eternal Rock."
I am so thankful for that Rock!
Abundant joy for the New Year,
Valentine's Giveaway from Amish Cheer! Many of you have requested new Amish Cheer cards for the New Year. So, I'm offering 2 FREE Valentine cards (your choice from the NEW "Valentine Barnyard" cards) with one or more other orders of 5-pack purchases, including the NEW "Hearts Bouquet" card. This offer is good January 1 through February 7, 2021. Order here: www.amishcheer.com
My revisions for The Beginning, releasing in September 2021, are nearly complete now, and I'll begin brainstorming my 2022 novel next month. Both are stand-alone novels set in Lancaster County's Amish farmland. The Beginning takes place in beloved Hickory Hollow, featuring Ella Mae Zook (the Wise Woman, as you may recall).
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
- Luke 2:7
Do you collect special Christmas ornaments and other items for your home?
Last week between writing stints, and while sorting through decorations, I discovered that we own seven nativity sets. Seven! And every size and style.
There is also a collection of angels, snowmen and reindeer!
Perhaps, like you, I set out the nativities first, often before the tree and the wreaths are hung. And as I do, I sing: "When blossoms flowered 'mid the snows upon a winter night. Was born the Child, the Christmas rose, the King of Love and Light," from "Gesu Bambino," one of my all-time favorite Christmas carols (original lyrics are Italian). It is a special time, even a reverent one. And I am once again awestruck by our heavenly Father's lavish love in sending His Son to this dark and sinful planet, to each of us whose hearts are open to receive this best-ever gift.
So, the nativity sets we carefully place in strategic spots in our homes are a mere reenactment of that tender, yet miraculous moment in all of history. A precious reminder and loving symbol of what we carry deep in our hearts all year long.
Wishing you a blessed Advent Season,
Here's a special offer for you from Amish Cheer One FREE "Snow Globe Nativity" card with any purchase of "Sleigh Ride" cards through Saturday, 12/12/20 at 11 PM Central Time when this offer expires. The "Snow Globe Nativity" card folds flat for mailing convenience, all handcrafted by my sister, Barbara, and me. Enjoy! Shop at: www.amishcheer.com
I am also very busy revising my Fall 2021 novel, The Beginning, currently, while making notes for future novels set in Amish country. Thanks very much for being such wonderfully devoted readers, so encouraging, and just plain sweet, too. My best wishes for this Christmas, and always!
“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine…Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
- Deuteronomy 11:18-20a
I still remember my mother’s morning ritual when I was growing up—of waking with a prayer on her lips, of reading the scripture from her thin, black New Testament, of cooking eggs or oatmeal while singing a hymn or worship song; and after breakfast, kissing my sister, Barbara, and me good-bye, before we left to walk to school. Daddy was usually occupied with his pastoral work early mornings, so it was my mother’s ritual that I observed. And one that I, too, have embraced through the years.
So, this morning while preparing my breakfast tea, I accidently dropped a favorite pottery mug. Stunned at seeing the shattered pieces, I carefully cleaned up the mess and realized that I have been enjoying a large cup of hot tea every morning for decades. Another one of my mother’s morning customs passed down to me. That first taste of tea, along with soft worship music, makes the day come alive for me. My senses are awakened, and my heart is wide open to God’s plan for my writing day. And I find myself counting blessings, among them my faithful readers. After publishing for twenty-seven years, I am humbled and honored that you continue to follow me on this journey! How blessed I am by your prayerful support and encouraging remarks about The Stone Wall, my latest novel. Most of all, I’m grateful that you openly share your prayer needs with me, and be assured that I lift each one to our heavenly Father.
During this month of gratitude, and always, I count the divine gifts of forgiveness and salvation at the top of my list of unmerited blessings. And for the precious family God certainly hand-picked for me, when I dreaded not having children, as well as the longtime friendships through the years (some since childhood).
There are also the small graces. A bluebird perched near my office window just now, peeping in as if to remind me, “God sees…He cares,” and the pine breezes that whisper, “He is with you…He is for you,” and the thoughtful fans who write, “I pray each day as you create your stories.”
I also count the blessing of living in America, where believers can gather to worship, where people can vote freely, and where cherished morning rituals can still be passed down from one generation to the next.
May this special month be one of rejoicing in God’s goodness and providence. Thanksgiving blessings!
On the book-writing side of things, I’m working through revisions for The Beginning and enjoying the process of breathing even more life into the characters I’ve come to know so well. Story people such as Ella Mae Zook (the “Wise Woman”), Bishop John and Mary Beiler, and a new cast of characters, too. Watch for the cover reveal in a few months—I think you’ll love what we’re creating!
“You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; The river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, For so You have prepared it.
You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth.
You crown the year with Your goodness, And Your paths drip with abundance.
They drop on the pastures of the wilderness, And the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothes with flocks; The valleys also are covered with grain; They shout for joy, they also sing."
- Psalm 65:9-13
Have you ever wondered why grass and trees are green, and the sky and ocean are blue? The colors green and blue are restful to the eye and bring a sense of tranquility...and even hope.
Recently, Dave and I traveled to Colorado's high country in search of aspen gold...and a little time away from work. Our first glimpse of golden brilliance was in Woodland Park, and then higher, on Highway 67, toward Cripple Creek.
Aspens quaking in the breeze created a unique sight, one that was restful and calming, and we marveled at God's handiwork as we hiked into the woodlands at 9,000 feet above sea level. Taking a momentary respite can be a tranquil balm to all of us. Walking in nature while communing with our Savior is refreshing and invigorating, and something many of us often crave.
Nature's beauty reveals important aspects about our heavenly Father. He is caring and loving, all-powerful, in charge of this planet, and full of divine glory. My body and spirt were renewed while surrounded by the warm rays of the sun, the glistening white bark of the aspens, and the resplendent gold leaves everywhere. And as I walked, my heart embraced the peace.
This autumn season, as nature sings the glory of our great God, let's honor Him with the praise due to His name, and take time to rededicate our lives to His purpose.
A blessed and inspiring October to you!
Also, I have, at this writing, completed my first draft of the Fall 2021 novel, The Beginning, a standalone novel set in Hickory Hollow, (Ella Mae Zook, the "Wise Woman," is featured). I am also busy making notes for my Fall 2022 novel and promoting my latest novel, The Stone Wall, as well as answering reader-mail, of course.