"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."
~ Romans 8:28
"Change is part of life," my mother often said . . . or was that Ella Mae, the Wise Woman of Hickory Hollow? Anyway, I recall that truth and have been pondering it as I write this blog.
Along that line, this past summer has been filled with more changes and adjustments than usual. New glasses (not a big deal, but still some adapting required) and my writing schedule was changed to accommodate the planning of my longtime friend Martha's service, as well as sorting through and selling her home. Dave and I also made the difficult decision to move to a new church, making new friends and keeping the old (one is silver; the other, gold). There was also the necessary purchase of a new car, for which a rocket scientist must have created the so-called “intuitive” technology. Seriously! Just trying to sync my phone to the car's “brain” scrambles mine. In retrospect, how much easier our old (too old) car was. But as we all know, things are constantly being upgraded—cars and phones—and on and on it goes.
Adjusting takes time and energy, especially if you’re not a 20-something or younger. Our granddaughter, for instance, always knows precisely what to do with technology involving cars or phones and streaming services, no instruction manual required.
Indeed, change is a part of life, and it’s challenging—I’ll put it right out there. As I look back over this summer, I also find myself looking heavenward with great gratitude for the steadfastness of our heavenly Father, who is constant and remains the same. Malachi 3:6 reads, “I am the LORD; I change not,” and James 1:17 reminds us that “He is the Father of lights with whom there is no change or variation.” I am so grateful for that truth!
God is also trustworthy. When we don’t understand why certain life-altering changes occur, He can be counted on to know what is best for us. In my brand-new novel, The Heirloom, Ella Mae Zook comes to experience this reality, too, as does her grandniece, Clara, when she comes to visit her in Hickory Hollow. There, Clara discovers what caused Ella Mae to be known as the Wise Woman—the tragedy that took place when Ella Mae was a teenager and other insights—even as Clara seeks the right path forward for her own future.
This month, as our precious children and grandchildren go back to school, we pray they will depend on the Lord as they adjust to the changes that will impact their lives, expected and unexpected. I'm thankful that God goes before us and with us every step of each day. What a wonderful heavenly Father!
Happy September, everyone!
1) On September 12, the wait for the release of The Heirloom will be over! If you haven't yet preordered, you can still receive the 40% discount and FREE shipping from Baker Book House before the release date.
Pre-Order your copy:
Baker Book House
Barnes & Noble
2) To celebrate the end of summer, we're revealing the "Sunflowers and Prayers" card. It's so cheery and the ideal card to lift the heart of someone you love who needs encouragement. Order yours here: http://www.amishcheer.com
3) Thanks for spreading the word of my new release, The Heirloom. It's a stand-alone novel, as well as the prequel to The Shunning. You can enjoy the story even if you haven't read The Shunning and its two sequels, The Confession and The Reckoning, however.
"In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."
~ Ephesians 3:12
I've often been asked, "Do the Amish celebrate the Fourth of July?" So, it is timely to address that question in this blog.
In general, the Amish don't typically observe the holiday. However, it is up to the individual family as to whether or not they will participate in actually celebrating. Many of my Amish friends do attend parades (especially in Holmes County, Ohio) and some even set off fireworks or watch them from their porches, and/or enjoy a picnic with their family.
Amish businessmen (and women) often will close their shops for the Fourth to have a "vacation" day or even take off the entire week. Others wouldn't think of doing that.
I remember seeing young Amish women tending roadside stands on the Fourth of July, selling donuts and other pastries to help tourists "celebrate" the holiday.
Remember, too, that Pennsylvania Amish adhere more often to tradition (the Old Ways), while Amish in the Midwest are typically more progressive.
Celebrating in a variety of ways can indirectly demonstrate appreciation for America's birthday and the freedoms it affords. But most Amish I know believe they are sojourners on this earth, simply passing through on their way to heaven. So, they do not embrace or get involved with the government or its secular holidays. They do, however, celebrate Thanksgiving, (wedding season in Lancaster County and other Plain communities), Christmas, Second Christmas (only in certain communities) and New Year's Day. Also, it is quite the norm for Amish in a church district to celebrate Good Friday (a day of fasting and prayer), Easter, Easter Monday, Pentecost Sunday, Whitmonday (day after Pentecost) and Ascension Day.
You may certainly have personal experiences with the Amish, regarding the Fourth celebrations, that are similar or different from this blog, which I would love to see. Do feel free to comment on my Facebook page and I'll respond.
Now, I'd like to wish you a very safe and happy celebration of our God-given freedoms this Fourth of July, dear friends!
1) I'm already promoting The Heirloom and loving it—less than 3 months till release date: September 12.
Little by little, I'll continue to share photos and give you more tidbits on what Ella Mae Zook (the Wise Woman) is up to in this heartwarming prequel to The Shunning. (However, you don't have to have read that book and its two sequels to fall happily into the Amish community of Hickory Hollow. The Heirloom can be very much enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.)
2) My sister, Barbara, and I are offering 2 new summertime cards this month: "Strawberry Jam" and "Summer Blessing." These Amish-related cards won't last long, so order yours today at: http://www.amishcheer.com (I love that tire swing, by the way! A reminder of happy, summertime hours of my childhood.)
3) I really appreciate your daily comments on my Facebook page, your lovely remarks (and questions about Amish life) via PMs, and your faithful prayers, especially now as Dave and I prepare my longtime friend's—Martha's—home for sale. You are all so very thoughtful and kind.
"A righteous person lives on the basis of his integrity. Blessed are his children after he is gone."
~ Proverbs 20:7
My father taught me honesty by example. I remember walking with him to the corner grocery store when I was little, and the clerk gave him a quarter too much in change. What did Dad do? Kindly, he pointed out the mistake and gave the quarter back. Dad also taught my sister and me to memorize Bible verses by reciting a new verse or two with us before we left for school. Soon, we had the third chapter of John learned “by heart,” and our school friends waiting for us there in the kitchen learned it, too.
My pastor-father wasn’t a perfect parent, but really, is there a parenting guide for each individual child born into a family? What works with one child might not for the next. I do know that Dad did his best and trusted the Lord for the rest. His and my mother’s goal was to love my sister and me dearly, and bring us up in the faith.
My husband, Dave, also emulated God’s grace and love in parenting our now-grown children—Julie, Janie, and Jonathan—and our granddaughter, Ariel. He was the kind of dad who got down on the floor to build Lego towers with our kiddos and who helped Julie memorize the multiplication tables by associating the numbers with mnemonics. He took all three kids on hikes on mountain trails and neighbor-hood greenways, and he worked daily with Janie and Jonathan to help them learn to read at a 5th-grade reading level when their special ed teacher insisted they would never learn to read at all!
Dave doesn’t mind driving nineteen hours from Kentucky back to Colorado to safely bring home a large painting of Janie’s. He’ll talk with Jonathan for an hour or longer on Zoom or FaceTime, and he happily loans his sleek white Mustang to Ariel to take her pups out for a spin and a treat at Dutch Bros. Yes, he is a giver of his time and energy to his family.
I know I’m a very blessed—and most grateful—wife and mother.
This month, as we celebrate fathers, we are also mindful of the best and highest example of lovingkindness from our heavenly Father. How thankful I am for God’s amazing love and grace toward His children!
Blessings for sunny June, and always,
1) Work has begun on a very special project coming in 2024. More on that soon!
I pray you have a delightful month ahead, enjoying the sunshine and the beauty of nature. Thanks so much for your kind words and loving support, dear friends!
"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!