A few years ago, my husband and I entered an Amish schoolhouse in Indiana, where I’d gone to speak about my books. Knowing that the children were outside playing during recess, I went to one of the windows inside the entryway and looked out. I was engrossed in watching some of the children play baseball, until a young Amish boy stepped up to me. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m watching the ballgame,” I replied.
“You shouldn’t be looking out that window.”
His brows puckered. “Because this is the boys’ side of the room.”
At first, I was a bit put off by the young boy’s bold statement. What difference did it make which window, on which side of the room, I’d chosen to look out? After a few minutes of reflection, however, I realized that this was the Amish way, and that, as a visitor, I should be respectful and understanding, rather than sensitive to my own needs. I moved over to the girls’ side of the entryway, even though there was no ballgame going on outside that window.
This incident made me think about the need to do some self-reflection concerning my spiritual life. It’s important to spend time in self-reflection every day and ask God if I’m in the place He wants me to be, rather than trying to do things my own way. One of the questions I’ve asked myself this week during my time of meditation is, “Do my actions match the words I speak?” What question during self-reflection do you have for God today?
Traveling down the road in our rented car sometime ago, I was surprised to see an elderly Amish woman struggling to get her horse out of a ditch and back on the road. Before my husband had a chance to respond to the situation, our Amish friend who sat in the backseat shouted, “Please, stop the car; I need to help that woman!” My husband had barely stopped the car when our friend jumped out and raced over to the horse and buggy. Having grown up around horses, she wasn’t afraid, and quickly had the horse under control so the elderly woman could get back in her buggy. Watching the situation unfold, I thought of the Bible verse that reminds us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means helping when we see a need.
It’s easy to find a reason not to get involved—indifference, busyness, or fear. Life for the Amish isn’t about seeing if they can get ahead of their neighbors, but seeing if they can help their neighbors.
As we seek to follow the Lord, we should look for opportunities to help our neighbors. We may be the only Jesus they’ll ever see. Is there something you might do to help one of your neighbors this week?
With all of the negative things going on in our world right now, it’s easy to become depressed and allow our minds to be filled with negative thoughts. However, the Bible clearly states in Philippians 4:8 that we are to think on positive things: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8.
One thing that became clear to me when we began making friends with the Amish was their positive outlook on life. Not only do our Amish friends enjoy telling jokes and sharing stories, but they like to focus on the beauty of God’s creation. I’ve noticed that most Amish gardens are abundant with colorful flowers. Bird houses and feeders can also be found in their yards. Observing the beauty of flowers and watching the birds at the feeders is not only enjoyable, but it fills our minds with positive thoughts.
In order to be happy and keep from having negative thoughts, it helps if we can focus on the positive things around us. Watching flowers bloom and trees bud; listening to the birds sing, gazing at a beautiful sunset, giving someone a hug–these are just a few of the things that brings joy to me and fills my mind with positive thoughts.
If we don’t think positive thoughts, we can easily become negative, cynical, and depressed. What are some things you do during difficult times to maintain a positive attitude? Take a few moments to write down several things you appreciate about your surroundings. Make a list of things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. When you do, your heart will feel a little lighter. Your outlook will be a little brighter.
In my novel, “The Hope of Spring,” part three of The Discovery Saga, Meredith Stoltzfus is trying to piece her life back together. She’s just weeks away from her baby being born, and is nearly out of money, yet she looks to God to provide a way. Just as we look forward to the hope of spring each year, Meredith looks forward to her baby’s arrival and the hope that this precious new life will bring.
There is something about seeing the trees bud, flowers bloom, and grass grow green, that gives me a sense of hope each spring. Even the birds singing sweetly in our yard seem excited about the new season, as they, too, celebrate the hope of spring.
What do you like best about springtime, and what hope does it bring?
“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:24
Every time my husband and I have been invited into an Amish home for supper, we’ve enjoyed the light banter, joke-telling, and laughter that accompanied the meal. Our dear Amish friends are full of good humor and often look for things to laugh about.
Having grown up in a house where laughter was scarce, I find it very refreshing to be with people who like to laugh and have a good time. In fact, I often look for things to laugh about, knowing that laugher is not only good for me emotionally, but physically as well.
There are times when I might not feel like laughing, but if I remind myself to look around, there’s always something to smile about—a frisky pet, singing birds, flowers in bloom, children at play.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs 17:22 that a merry heart is good medicine. Just like the birds who like to sing in my yard, our Amish friends know how to share their joy with others. A joyful heart is truly pleasing to the Lord, and it’s an added benefit to know that it’s good for me, too.
What are some ways you have found to lift your spirits and give yourself a joyful heart?
Before leaving on a recent trip, my husband and I went to lunch with some friends we’ve known for a good many years. As we shared a meal and visited, I was reminded of the importance of friendship. Not only have we spent many hours visiting with these friends over time, but we’ve helped each other during times of need, and lifted one another up in prayer.
Then, more recently, while my husband and I were on our trip, we ran into some of Amish friends from Indiana. Spending the day with them, and sharing a meal, we and had a great time visting these special friends and getting caught up on one another’s lives. That afternoon I shared a prayer request with my Amish friend, and she shared one with me. It’s a comfort and a blessing to know that we have special friends–Amish and English–whom we can count on for support.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs 17:17 that a friend loveth at all times. How thankful I am for all of my friends. Have you done something for one of your friends lately? Has one of them done something special for you?
Having recently visited Hawaii, I was impressed by the Hawaiin culture and the traditions that have been passed from generation to generation. Many of the Hawaiin people are talented artists, making jewelry with beads, shells and various types of seeds. Some do wood carving, and some people make beautiful quilts and wall hangings.
In many ways the Hawaiin people remind me of my Amish friends, whose culture is based on the traditions and values of their forefathers. The Amish are also talented at their crafts, many of which include woodworking and quilt making.
In my own family, we have certain traditions that have been passed down from our parents and grandparents. It is these traditions that have molded and shaped us into who we are. My husband’s heritage is German, and on my mother’s side, I also have a German heritage. One particular tradition for me is making stuffed cabbage rolls, which my mother called “Galoushka”. Whenever I fix stuffed cabbage rolls I think about all the times my mother made it for our family when I was a girl. I also made sure to teach our daughter how to make the cabbage rolls so she could continue with our family tradition.
What traditions do you have in your family? How have those traditions impacted your life?
When Meredith, the heroine in my upcoming Discovery series, was faced with hard times, several friends and family members offered her acts of kindness, which helped get Meredith through some great difficulties.
During the holiday season, my husband, Richard, sent one of his cousins a copy of his photography book, “A Portrait of Amish Life,” along with one of his 2013 Amish Country Calendars. Little did he know that the same day the gifts arrived was the anniversary of the death of his cousin’s father, and she was feeling down. She called and told Richard that the unexpected gift lifted her spirits and helped get her through the day.
We may never know what impact our acts of kindness have had on someone’s life. That’s why it’s important to think of others–especially during the holidays. What acts of kindness have you done for someone recently? Or what acts of kindness were done to you?
For the last few weeks I’ve been decorating the inside of our home for Christmas, while my husband puts decorations and lights on the outside of the house. The decorations, Christmas cards, and gifts I’ve wrapped have brought back many Christmas memories from the past.
One of my favorite Christmas memories as a young girl is the year I was chosen to play the part of Mary in our church Christmas pageant. I can still remember the joy I felt that evening when the choir sang “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, All is bright.”
Whenever I see a nativity scene, I’m in awe of God’s love. Isn’t it wonderful to know that He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to earth as a baby? Jesus, the Savior of the world, was crucified for the redemption of our sins so that we may have eternal life. What better gift could anyone receive?
What is your favorite Christmas memory, and how did it impact your life?
Today is my birthday, and to start off the day I decided to reflect on some of the other birthdays I’ve had over the years. When I was a young girl, there were family parties, with cake, ice cream, cards, and presents. During my teenage years I had pajama parties, skating parties, and dinner parties with some of my friends. When I got married and had children of my own, it was back to family parties again. When our son was born, just 4 days after my 20th birthday, I realized I had received a most special birthday present. Since that time, Richard Jr. and I have celebrated many of our birthdays together.
Thinking back to a few of my birthdays, I am reminded of the birthday surprise I received a few years ago, that was secretly planned by my husband and I daughter–a limo ride to a fancy restaurant. On another occasion, some of the women from our church planned a surprise party in my honor. Then there have been numerous dinners out, bouquets of flowers, and phone calls from loved ones and close friends.
The special memories I have from all of the parties and surprises in the past are not about the good food we ate, or the cards and gifts I received. The memories that warm my heart are about the special times I’ve spent with family and friends. No gift can compare to the pleasure of being with the people I love, and no cake, ice cream, or other goodies, can equal the way my heart fills with love when I’m with those who mean so very much to me. Thank you, family and friends, for all the good times, and the many things you do to make my life complete. I love you all so very much!
Now it’s your turn. What special birthday memories would you like to share?