Wanda’s Journal

Hymns of Old

Growing up, I learned many hymns, such as “The Old Rugged Cross,” “In the Garden,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Victory in Jesus.” The words to the songs spoke to my heart, just as the passages of Scripture I had committed to memory. The Bible verses, as well as the hymns, helped me survive a dysfunctional home life during my growing up years. In my adult life, scriptures, hymns, and choruses have sustained me through some difficult situations along the way.

Many of the hymns in the Amish Ausbund, as well as those hymns found in other denomination’s church hymnals, were written to help us understand the beliefs and suffering of those who wrote the hymns of old. These songs are a reminder of their faith, and were often written during times of suffering. They were also written to help us understand God and follow His ways.

The next time you sing a hymn, try to visualize the time period it was written, and the condition in which the writer of the hymn lived. Think about a favorite hymn and what it personally means to you.

Hochmut

In my upcoming children’s book, “Humble Pie,” which will be published in October, I deal with the topic of learning to be humble. The goal of every Amish church member is to be a humble person, not full of hochmut (pride). Everyone in the Amish community knows his or her place in life and must choose to be content with that. The Bible teaches us to be clothed with humility. That means we are to wear it all the time so that others may see Christ living in us. Humility isn’t just about not bragging; it’s about being willing to do the most menial tasks. It’s about serving others and thereby serving the Lord, without needing any recognition. The gentle humble spirit I’ve seen in my Amish friends encourages me to wear the clothes of humility, too. “Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, then to divide the spoil with the proud.” Proverbs 16:19. What are your thoughts on the topic of humility? Do you think there is ever a time when it’s okay to brag?

Sacrifices

A few months ago, my husband and I were in Sarasota, Florida, visiting with some of our dear Amish friends who had come there for a vacation. They’d only been there a few days when they got a call from home, saying someone new in their church district had passed away unexpectedly. This Amish couple, as well as the others who were with them, set aside the plans they’d made for the rest of their vacation. They quickly secured a ride home so they could be there for the funeral, and to offer comfort to the man’s grieving widow and children. I thought about their sacrifice and wondered how many of us “Englishers” would give up our vacation to return home for the funeral of someone we didn’t know that well.

One of the things I admire most about my Amish friends is their dedication to God and the love they show to others whenever there is a need. While they might not evangelize, hand out tracks, or go door-to-door, sharing the Good News, they are living, by example, the way our Lord wants each of us to live. Their lives, and the sacrifices they make for others, are a true testimony of their devotion to God.

I’ve done some soul-searching since our trip to Florida, and have asked myself what sacrificies I have made recently that would let others see the love of Jesus shining in me. How about you? Is there a way you can witness to others about Jesus by making some sacrificies this week?

Serenity

It’s our human nature to want everything to go perfectly, and in our own way. Unfortunately, that’s not reality. In order to feel a sense of peace, we must learn to accept the things that are out of our control, while praying for God’s will in all things.

The popular “Serenity Prayer,” is a good reminder, and in my opinion, one that everybody should memorize. It goes like this:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I don’t know if my Amish friends have memorized that prayer, but I do know that from what I have witnessed, they “live” the Serenity Prayer. When a tragedy occurs, they grieve, just as we would do, but they accept it as God’s will, knowing that it’s out of their control, and that in the end, He will use it to His glory.

Is there something in your life you are concerned about or stressing over? If you’re not able to change it, have you accepted it as God’s will? If it’s a situation you can change, do you have the courage to do it? Have you asked God for the wisdom to know whether your situation is something that can be changed or if it’s something you need to accept?

What are some ways we can discern God’s will and know whether to accept or try to change our situation?

Gifts and Talents

I am sure you have heard the term, “use it or lose it.” That can apply to several things, but I’m thinking especially about our talents that we have been gifted with. As an author, I write almost every day, so that keeps my creativity flowing and my skills honed. I enjoy writing, which is a motivating factor in getting me to write regularly. But I also write to share my knowledge with others and to let them know through the stories I create that God loves them and is there to help through any of life’s trials and situations.

Recently, I was asked to use my skills as a ventriloquist, doing a video routine with my ventriloquist figure, Randy Right. Since I don’t do ventriloquism on a daily basis, I needed to practice before doing the routine. You can see that video trailer on my Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wanda-E-Brunstetter/119136496242

The video has been well-received, and several people have asked me to do more routines with Randy in the future. I sometimes use Randy or one of my other ventriloquist puppets when I speak at schools and various functions. But in order to do it well, I’ll want to keep practicing and perfecting my skill as a ventriloquist. I want both my ventriloquism and writing to honor God and show others the way to Him.

What gift or talent have you been blessed with and how are you using it to bring glory to God?

Helping Our Neighbors

On one of our trips to Indiana, we were traveling down the road in our rental car when suddenly we saw 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 have have done to help one of your neighbors this week?

The Right Time, The Right Place

The other day my husband and I were out running some errands. At one of the stops, he took some time to visit with someone, while I sat and waited. Knowing we needed to get going so we could get the rest of our errands run, I began to get fidgety. Nearly thirty minutes later, he finally stopped talking and said it was time for us to move on. Our next stop was the grocery store, where we purchased a few things and mailed some letters. Hurrying towards the door, all I could think about was getting home, fixing some lunch, and getting back to work on my recent novel. However, God had other plans. Just as we were nearing the door, a woman we hadn’t seen in a long time, approached us. In a few short words she told us about some difficulties she and her family had been going through, and we were able to offer her counsel. Heading out the door twenty minutes later, after inviting her to church and saying that we would be praying for her situation, a sudden thought came to me. If my husband hadn’t taken so long talking to the person he’d met at our first stop of the morning, we would have been done with our shopping and home by now. And if that had happened, we would have missed the opportunity to speak with the lady who needed to share her story with us. We were definitely at the right place, at the right time, but only because we’d been delayed.

Have you ever been in a situation similar to mine, where you wished you didn’t have to wait for someone, and then later found out that because you were late, you met someone who needed you to listen? Or perhaps, in being late, you were spared from an accident of some sort.

As this new year begins, I’m asking the Lord to give me more patience and help me to remember that having to wait on someone or being late isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, like it happened for us, that extra half hour delay turned out to be a blessing.

Courage and Patience

During one of our visits to an Amish schoolhouse in Indiana, my husband made some twisty balloon animals for the children. Since Richard has been blowing up balloons for a good many years, his lungs are strong and he rarely uses a pump. The children were impressed at how easy he made it look, and several of the boys wanted to try blowing up a balloon. After a few attempts, all except one of the red-faced boys gave up. The determined boy had a bit more patience than the others. He continued trying to blow up the balloon, until he ran out of air and passed out for a few seconds. Undaunted, and unhurt, he picked himself up and continued blowing until his balloon was fully inflated.
Seeing the patience of this young boy made me think of how easily some people give up when they’re faced with a challenge. Sometimes we give up praying because we don’t receive an answer quickly enough. God wants us to wait patiently for Him, and He wants us to pray and continually seek to do His will.
Are you faced with a challenge today that seems un-daunting? Ask the Lord for the courage and strength to keep going. Ask Him for an attitude of patience as you wait for answers from Him.

The Power of Words

I’m often asked how I knew I wanted to become an author. It all began when I was in the second grade and my teacher asked the class to draw a picture of a moth. Knowing I couldn’t draw well, I wrote a about a poem to go with my picture. After class my teacher called me up to her desk and pointing to the poem, she said, “Wanda, I think you have a talent for writing.” From that moment on, a seed was planted. It wasn’t until I was married and my two children were in school that I became serious about writing. After taking a writing course for short stories and articles, I submitted my first story, which was eventually published with a Mennonite Sunday school children’s take-home paper. For the next several years I wrote stories, articles, poems, and puppet plays published with numerous Christian publishers. Then, after taking another writing course, I submitted my first novel, “A Merry Heart,” to Barbour Publishing’s Heartsong Presents Bookclub and it was accepted. Since that time I have written more than 60 books, which includes novels, novellas, devotionals, cookbooks, and children’s books. I enjoy using my ability to write and consider it to be a ministry, as I often hear from readers that something they have read in one of my books has helped them through a difficult time or helped them in some way. I believe that everyone has been blessed with a special talent or gift. What talent do you have and how are you using it to serve the Lord?

Simple Living

During a recent radio interview, I talked about some ways we can simplify our lives and try living a little more like the Amish do. Here are a few suggestions:

The Amish travel mostly by horse and buggy. They also walk many places, and some ride bikes or scooters. Whenever I ride in an Amish buggy I notice so many things around me. Why not take a leisurely walk in the country, or even a stroll around your neighborhood? It’s amazing how many things you’ll see when you walk instead of ride in a car. The fresh air and exercise is good for you, too.

At every Amish gathering I’ve been to, there has been a lot of visiting going on. For the Amish, simple living involves spending time with their family and friends. Try visiting with a friend or family member, without the distraction of TV or radio in the background. You’ll be surprised at how much more enjoyable the conversation will be.

One thing I’ve noticed about most of my Amish friends is that they like to read. Many have often said that they enjoy reading because it takes them to places they’ve not been able to visit. Reading is also a good way to relax. When you read one of my novels, I hope you will allow yourself to be drawn into the lives of my Amish characters.

What are some things from the Amish way of life that you have incorporated in your own life?