Wanda’s Journal

The Power of Forgiveness

In my current work in progress, I deal in part with the topic of forgiveness. One thing I have learned over the years is that without forgiveness there is no emotional or spiritual healing. Even our physical bodies can be affected when we hold grudges or harbor ill feelings towards someone who has wronged us.

On October 2, 2006, a terrible tragedy that shocked the world occurred in a small Pennsylvania Amish community. An English man, who lived and worked in the area, entered an Amish schoolhouse and shot ten girls. Five were killed and five were seriously injured. Everyone in the community, the children’s families most of all, were stunned and deeply wounded by this senseless, unbelievable act. Instead of anger and retribution, however, the families of the dead and injured chose to forgive the man who had done the evil deed. A few days after the attack I was asked by a reporter if it was true that the Amish would really forgive the shooter, and if so, how could that be? I replied: “It is true that the Amish will forgive the man, but this kind of forgiveness only comes from God.”
The Amish community not only forgave the shooter, but they raised money to help the man’s wife and children through the ordeal. As surprising as it might have seemed to the world, half of the mourners at the gunman’s funeral were Amish. The Amish knew they had a choice to make. They could either harbor resentment or choose to forgive. They knew that without forgiveness, their hearts would never heal.
Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there something you need to seek forgiveness for? Why not do that today?

Grandma’s Quilt

My fascination with quilts began when my mother gave me the old patchwork quilt her mother had made over 90 years ago. As a child, I loved touching the oddly shaped velveteen patches, scattered among colorful cotton and pieces of woolen material. When my daughter got married I passed the quilt on to her. Although none of us had the privilege of meeting my grandmother, since she died when my mother was a girl, her legacy lives on through that beautiful patchwork quilt.

A lot of effort goes into making quilts, and the quilts I now have in my home give me a sense of joy and peace. I’ve mentioned them in several of my Amish-themed novels because I know how important quilts are to my Amish friends.

Do you own something special that was passed on to you from a family member? How has having that item affected your life?

Amish Values

In a recent interview I was asked what draws me to the Amish. My answer was that I am drawn to their strong, Christian values. Since my husband and I have many Amish friends, and have been able to spend a good deal of time with them, I’ve had the opportunity to observe these values. For my Amish friends, God comes first, and then their relationship with family. I have seen our Amish friends make sacrifices to help family members. I have witnessed the close fellowship and strong ties they have with family, which is something I think we all need and should cherish.

Now it’s your turn to answer the interviewer’s question: What draws you to the Amish?

Friends

On March 3, 2015 the first book in my new Prairie State Friends series will be published. I chose to write this series because I know the value of friendship. I appreciate the friends I’ve been blessed with, some whom I have known since I was a girl. Others are newer friends, but all are equally special. Some friends live near me, while others reside in other parts of the country. No matter where my friends live, I know I can count on them, if only to pray when I have a need.

A true friend is loyal, loving, encouraging, compassionate, understanding, and so much more. Those are the attributes of the three special friends in my 3-book series set in the Amish community of Arthur, Illinois.

In Proverbs 17:17 it says “A friend loveth at all times.” In the Book of John, chapter 15:12 we are told, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Is there a special friend in your life you wish to thank this week? What are some ways we can show our love and appreciation to our friends?

The Opposite of Worry

In my Simple Life devotional book, I share a story entitled “Going Nowhere.” It’s about a woman named Sylvia who worries all the time. Sylvia’s daughter reminds her that worrying will not prevent something from happening. She told her mother that “Worry is like rocking in a chair. It gives you something to do, but it never goes anywhere.”

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) offers a good alternative to worry. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

With worry comes stress, and stress can cause us to become sick. It’s like a vicious cycle. Prayer and faith are the opposite of worry; they bring the peace of God that help us relax and give our troubles to Him. There’s an old saying that’s helpful to remember whenever we begin to worry: “When worry knocks at the door, send faith to answer it, and you’ll find no one is there.”

Is there something or someone you’re worried about? Ask God to fill your heart and mind with peace as you give your concerns to Him.

The Best Gift

Another Christmas has passed, and all the gifts have been opened and probably put away by now. Some of my readers have asked me if the Amish give their family and friends gifts for Christmas or birthdays. The answer is yes, most do exchange gifts. However, while the Amish may buy some of their gifts, many are homemade. Did you receive any gifts that were made by the gift-giver? Did you give any gifts to others that were made by you? There’s something special and gratifying about making a gift with your own hands; although it can also be fun to shop for gifts, too.

However, the focus of this journal entry is not about the gifts we receive or have given to others. The gift I’d like to talk about is the one God gave to each of us when He sent His Son, Jesus to earth as a baby. God’s gift was not just for one individual, but to all people living then, or who would live in the future. God’s gift was for you and for me. All we have to do to receive that gift is to acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Savior, and believe on His name. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the word; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:16 & 17. Now, that is truly the best gift of all!

How Long Has it Been?

On my way home from a recent trip, I observed a sightless woman who was on the same plane. An airline employee helped her board, and when we landed another person assisted her to baggage claim, making sure she was seated. Just before the attendant walked away, I heard the sightless woman say that her daughter was coming to pick her up. Nearly twenty minutes went by, as we waited for our luggage, and no one had come to pick up the woman, who now was beginning to fidget. I scanned the faces of those in the area, hoping that one of them might be this woman’s daughter, but no one seemed to notice her. “Can I help you?” I asked. “Is there someone I can call?” She smiled up at me and said, “Thank you; I appreciate that.” She gave me her daughter’s phone number, and as I was getting ready to make the call, another woman, whom I’d seen walking around the area, stepped up to me and said, “There’s no need for that, I’m her daughter.” Looking at the blind woman, she said, “It’s been so long since I’ve seen you, Mom; I didn’t recognize you.” The older woman gave a nod. “Yes, it’s been a very long time.”

Relieved that the woman was no longer alone, I said goodbye and joined my family, waiting for me in the car. But as I walked away, I couldn’t stop thinking about the daughter’s words: “It’s been so long. I didn’t recognize you.” I don’t know the reason this mother and daughter had not seen each other for such a long time, but it reminded me of how important it is to keep in touch with our family and friends. Sometimes, due to circumstances, we aren’t able to see our loved ones as often as we like, but we can still keep in touch by other means. I am grateful that I stayed with the blind woman until her daughter arrived, and it did my heart good to see the joy on their faces as they hugged. Is there someone in your life you haven’t seen or talked to in awhile? Is there a way you can reach out to them soon?

WORDS

Recently someone said something very hurtful to me, and I felt the sting of it for several days. Remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me?” Well, they may not hurt in a physical sense, but unkind words can hurt emotionally. Words, whether spoken in kindness or with malice, can never be taken back. A kind word can heal and bless, but an unkind word causes strife and stress. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Another scripture, found in Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

It’s sometimes hard to know what to say and when to say it, but God will help us use the right words when we speak to others, if we just ask. Have you spoken words of encouragement to someone this week? Has someone said something meaningful or helpful to you? The Lord wants us to speak the truth, while seeking peace through our words

Habits

On a recent trip to Ohio, at the hotel where we stayed, the soap dish was place on the right-hand side of the sink. In our bathroom at home, it’s on the left side. I could have moved the hotel’s soap dish to the left side, but there wasn’t much room for it there, so I left it on the right side. After a few days, I got used to where it was, and didn’t think much about it until we returned home. The first time I went to use the soap, I reached to the right and quickly discovered that the soap wasn’t there–it was on the left, just as it had always been. What had happened was that in the two weeks I was gone, I had developed a habit of reaching to the right for the soap and would need to readjust my thinking.

Habits occur when we do things over and over, but when we stop doing them, even for a short time, the habit is broken. There are good habits, like brushing our teeth or washing our hands. Also going to church, reading the Bible, and praying are good habits. However, in order to maintain those habits, we need to continually do them. If we stop doing a good habit for any length of time, it soon is no longer a habit.

Some people also develop what most would consider bad habits, like smoking, biting one’s fingernails, or using foul language. Some habits, while not actually bad, can be annoying: tapping one’s foot, whistling, or popping your fingers. There are, of course, many other good, bad, and annoying habits I haven’t mentioned.

The thing about habits is that they can either improve one’s life or make it more difficult. The habit of going to church, reading the Bible, and praying, are all things every Christian needs to do. However, when those habits are broken, then our spiritual life and focus on God becomes diminished. What habits in your life have made you a better person? Are there some habits you need to break?

True Friendship

My heart is breaking right now, for I just learned that one of my special “English” friends has an incurable cancer. I would ask that you join me with prayers on her behalf, as well as for her dear husband. I found it especially touching to learn that a group of their Amish friends recently came to pay a call on them, even bringing a meal along. Before the Amish women left my friends’ home, they gathered around the wife who is ill, to give her a hug and a kiss, which let her know just how much they cared.

As I reflected on this, and said a prayer for them myself, I was reminded of how important it is for each of us to be sensitive to other’s needs — to pray for them and let them know how much we love them through our words and deeds. It seems that we often get too busy doing so many “things” that we sometimes forget to spend time with our friends or let them know how much we care.

None of us knows how long we have to live on this earth, which is why we need to live each day as if it’s our last.
Is there someone you know who needs a touch from God today? They can receive that touch by your act of love and kindness.

“Heavenly Father, may my heart always be sensitive to others in need, and may they see the love of Christ living in me. Amen.”