Wanda’s Journal

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.”

Two Little Words

Two little words that we teach our children are “Thank you.” They’re important words, because they let someone know that something kind or special they have done or said is appreciated. If we do something a good deed for someone, and they don’t say thank you, we might assume that they either didn’t like what we did, or didn’t appreciate it, and that can be hurtful.

One thing I’ve noticed about my Amish friends, is their appreciative attitude. Whenever I, or someone else, does them a kindness, they always remember to say thank you.

As I was reflecting on this, I thought about our relationship to God. How often do we remember to tell Him thank you? In
I Thessalonians 5:18 it says, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Psalms 100, verses 4 & 5, reminds us to: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good, his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” God wants His people to be grateful, too.

Is there someone you need to thank today? If it’s God, He’s only a prayer away.

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.