Wanda’s Journal

Amish Life

My husband grew up in a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania. Getting to know my Mennonite relatives gave me a sense of yearning for the simpler life. When one of our Mennonite friends introduced us to an Amish man he worked with, my desire went deeper. When I discovered that my great-great grandparents were part of the Anabaptist faith, I realized why I had such a deep yearning to know the Plain People. It wasn’t long after that and we began making friends with many Amish families in several communities across the country.

Back in 1996, I decided to write Amish-themed novels so my readers would have a better understanding of the Amish people and their way of life. What have you learned about the Amish from reading my novels, devotionals, and cookbooks? Have you put any of the Amish ways into practice in your own life?

Forgiveness

In my upcoming novel, The Restoration, the third book of the Prairie State Friends series, Priscilla Herschberger finds herself pursued by Elam, a childhood friend from her community. David, an outsider, raised in the modern world, also takes an interest in Priscilla. Elam would do almost anything to convince Priscilla that David would never fit into the Amish way. When flames of jealousy rage out of control, Priscilla must decide if she will forgive the person who has hurtfully wronged her.

As the year 2016 begins, many people will make one or more New Year’s resolutions. For some, it might involve forgiveness. In Matthew 6:14 (NIV) it says: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Wouldn’t this New Year be a good opportunity to forgive someone who has hurt you by something they have said or done?

When we forgive those who have wronged us, our relationship is often strengthened, or a new friendship can take place. How has someone hurting you affected your life. If you forgave that person, how did it make you feel?

Songs of Praise

The Amish use no instruments to accompany their singing during church, yet whenever I hear them lift their voices in song I know they’re offering praises to God. 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 the songwriter’s faith, and were often written during times of suffering, although many of the hymns are songs of praise.
God likes it when we praise Him. In Luke 19:40 Jesus told the Pharisees who had rebuked the people for praising Him, that if the people didn’t praise Him, the stones would cry out. Songs that glorify God can reach the deepest level of our hearts. What better way for us to praise God than through singing songs of praise?
One of my favorite hymns is The Old Rugged Cross. What are some of your favorite hymns? In what way do the words of the hymns speak to your heart? 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 the praise it offers to God when we sing songs to Him. Think about the joy it brings to you.

Thankful Thoughts

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am reminded of the importance of being thankful. The trials we face on our earthly journey can sometimes tear us down, make us feel depressed, and cause negative thinking. Ephesians 5:20 reminds us to give thanks in all things unto God. While we may not feel thankful for the trials we face, we can offer thanks for the knowledge that God is always with us, helping us, and guiding us every day. He hears our prayers and understands our pain.
Negative thinking tears a person down, but giving praise, honor and thanks to the Lord lifts our spirits. Despite any unpleasant situations we may face, there is always something to be thankful for.
Today, as I sit at my computer, looking out my office window, I am thankful for the much-needed rain we have received this week. I’m also thankful for my family, whom I love so dearly. Most of all, I’m thankful that God loves me and always hears my prayers. What are you thankful for today?

The Joy of Helping

The Amish don’t have insurance, so when they get sick, lose a house or a barn, or someone in the family dies, they must rely on financial support from others. Often this is accomplished through a community benefit auction. My husband and I have attended several benefit auctions, and it’s always heart-warming to see the large crowd of Amish who come out in support of others in their community with a financial need.
In our world we hear a lot about ways to become rich so we can provide for our own needs. But the Bible clearly teaches that a Christian’s life should not be all about money. It should be about the richness of our relationship with the Lord. It should be about the joy of helping others with a need. Realizing the value of people we care about is more important than all the riches in the world. Acquiring worldly treasures won’t bring us happiness, and love is never afraid of giving too much. Is there someone you know who could use some help? Is there a way you or your church can help that person with food, clothing, or financial support?

Prayer Changes Things

The Amish pray before and after each meal, and many times throughout the day. They also pray several times during their church services. My husband and I witnessed this firsthand during an Amish wedding, and also when we attended an Amish church service. When it was time for prayer, everyone went down on their knees. It wasn’t a padded, carpeted floor we knelt on, either. It was a hard, cold, cement floor. I found it to be a very humbling experience.

In I Thessalonians 5:17 we are told to pray without ceasing. Although some prayers might not be answered in the way we would like, God answers according to His will. We should never quit praying, for there’s power in prayer. Each time we pray our faith will be strengthened. Whenever we pray God always hears. When we see Him answering our prayers and meeting our needs, our faith will be strengthened, and our hearts will be filled with gratitude.

Remember that prayer is nothing more than making your requests known to God. Just as a flower reaches for the sun, we should reach out to God and let His Son bathe our souls. Is there someone you know who needs prayer today? Would you include me and my family in your prayers — for good health, wisdom, strength, and the ability to discern God’s will in all things? If you have a prayer request, feel to share it so others can pray for you as well.

PATIENCE PAYS OFF

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.

No Greater Gift

In August, my novel, The Gift, will be published.
It’s book 2 in my Prairie State Friends series,
and continues with the stories involving the friendship
of Elaine, Leah, and Priscilla. While this is a
fiction novel, it’s based on true-to-life
experiences involving long-lasting friendships
and how the Amish respond to one another.

There’s no greater gift than having a close friend.
It’s good to know you can count on them.
With a dear friend you can laugh and cry,
Knowing they won’t judge or ask why.
A friend gives and accepts advice,
There’s no greater gift than a friend for life.
A friend sticks closer than a brother,
Friends are always there for each other.
In the Bible we are told,
The gift of friendship is worth more than gold.

How has a special friend enriched your life?

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?