Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Questions and Curiosities?

I've received a few questions about the Amish, so rather than answer them singly, I thought I'd answer them in a post on this blog and on my Work in Progress blog on Thursday.

So many are curious about the Amish. Even the world of television regularly contacts the folks I know who are ex-Amish. The TV people realize that they can't get close to the Amish, so the ex-Amish are the next best thing for answers and program topics.

If you have more questions or are curious about any other thing you may have heard or wonder about the Amish, feel free to post your questions here or on my Work in Progress blog. I'll gather the questions and answer them the best I can on Thursday.

See you Thursday! And thanks! This gives me practice for the time when I write my presentation for speaking to groups later this summer.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Kapps and Colors: Are They Amish?

When I first met my husband's family, he had invited me to go along to the (local) Yoder family reunion. I distinctly remember being nervous about what I wore. I wasn't sure what would be deemed appropriate among a group of Amish and Mennonites, so I spent several minutes trying on clothes until I was satisfied that I would be comfortable and modest. I ended up wearing slacks because my husband assured me it would be OK; after all, his sister and sisters-in-law would be wearing slacks. They were not Amish, but they were accepted in their English garb, so I felt it would be OK for me to be, too.

When we pulled into the lane leading to the park where the family was meeting, I saw row upon row of Amish buggies with their horse partners patiently waiting at their posts, munching from their feedbags. The horses turned their brown eyes to watch when we slowly maneuvered our car among them.

As we walked to the pavilion, a bucolic and distinctly old world scene spread out in front of me. Ladies in white aprons and pastel colored dresses reclined on blankets or sat calmly in folding chairs while their barefoot children ran around between them. Men with beards and white or blue shirts talked and laughed amongst themselves, and I noticed right away that the men and women were separated into groups. Uh oh...now where would I go? I certainly was not going to leave Arlen's side, so I stuck close as he meandered in and out of his family groups, greeting and smiling and introducing me to people who all looked alike!

We made our way to the kitchen so we could drop off my contribution for dinner: Kasekuchen (German Cheesecake). I had a moment of shear panic when I saw all that wonderful Amish food on the tables. What was I thinking?! I was among some of the best cooks in the world! I prayed that my cake would pass muster.

It turned out to be the first of many lovely reunion days. Over the last 12 years, I've learned a lot about my Amish in-laws, but some things still remain fuzzy. Even though my husband has told me numerous times which kapp's strings represent which Amish or conservative Mennonite group, I still get confused. And when I saw my Amish cousins dressed for church for the first time, it shocked me how black and white their outfits were. I was used to seeing them in their everyday pastel dresses. Somehow, in their black capes, they looked more "Amish" to me.

Now that I have been involved in the Old Order or Swartzentruber groups of ex-Amish, I've come to see how unusual my husband's friendly family are. Since most of the Yoders are New Order or Beachy Amish, they are not prone to shunning those who have left their church. I just took for granted that all Amish groups would be as accepting. Not so.

Many, if not all, of my new ex-Amish friends from the Old Order group of Amish are shunned. Many receive letters of reprimand regularly from their families. The letters are often full of dire predictions that they are on the path straight to hell, and until they return to their Amish fold, they will be lost to Satan. Many of these ex-Amish are sad and lonely that their families can't be happy for them that they have received Christ...are living in grace...are being baptised and getting married and having children ...all without their Amish families around to give them support. No grandparents to snuggle the children close. No dads to walk them down the aisle on their wedding day. No moms to offer advice when days get tough. This is the price they pay to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

This aspect of some Amish communities slipped beneath my radar. I just assumed, like many Englishers, that all Amish were the same. And though I have one foot in both Amish worlds, the Old Order and the New Order, I still have difficulty keeping the differences between these groups in order.

Now, when I attend a Yoder reunion, I appreciate more the New Order emphasis on preaching the gospel and allowing family choices. Though many of the Yoder Amish families I know would probably prefer that their loved ones never leave the Amish fold, they at least accept those who do. Knowing that they want their loved ones FIRST to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, makes all the difference in how they view family members who choose to leave.

I still get the kapp strings confused (solid strings or broken strings), but I know the Yoders accept me just the way I am. What a blessing!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Thank you to all of you who entered the Sara Groves "Tell Me What You Know" CD giveaway. It was such fun to read your comments and such fun to have you help me celebrate my one year blogger-versary!

My hubby came in for a short break from working outside, so I prevailed upon him to pull a name out of a hat. Are you ready? Here is the name he drew:


Woot!! (To quote one of Sara's favorite sayings-LOL) Congratulations, Sara!!! I'll contact you ASAP and arrange for you to receive your CD!

Again, I appreciate the participation from all of you in this giveaway. And, I most appreciate your comments and loving support of my blog this past year! Nothing made me happier than to have the opportunity to read your comments. Writers want and need feedback, and you were so faithful to provide that for me.

So, here's to another year of blogging! Can't wait to see where God leads next!

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's My Blogger-versary!: Friday Fiction: Two Singing Sisters

One year ago today, I posted my very first post on this blog! It was Friday Fiction that day, too. Today, in celebration, I'm posting my very FIRST writing attempt for the Faithwriter's Writing Challenge in the spring of 2007.

It came about because I felt the NEED to begin writing again, and it was my Jubilee year (50th birthday year-LOL!). I had made a list of things I wanted to do that year, and entering a writing contest was on that list. I found FW the morning the contest ended, and wrote the story in an hour. It showed, believe me. So here's my edited version and I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for helping me celebrate a good year of blogging!

For more great fiction, Sherri is hosting at A Candid Thought.

Two Singing Sisters
By Dee Yoder

This has to be the place," my sister said as we pulled into the vast parking lot.

My sister was driving because she does all the driving and I do all the bookings. We sing. We sing in nursing homes. Some people think that’s funny. When we first started our joint venture, our husbands laughed out loud when we told them our idea.

My husband asked, “How will you make any money doing that?” He emphasized that.

We tried to give them the entire picture, but they kept hooting it up and making jokes, so we quit trying.

I think my husband thought the idea was finished until the day I told him he needed to be home on time because we had our first singing gig. He smiled as he asked me the details. I think he thought it was cute.

“We’ve been invited to sing at the Annadale Center.

“Uh huh.” That’s all he said as he absent-mindedly picked up the mail.

“They’ll pay us, too.”

“Good, good.” It sounded like he was patting the top of my head. That bugged me.

“Well, will you be home on time Thursday or not?” I persisted.

“Sure, honey.” He tossed the mail back into the place he picked it up from and walked away. I knew that unless he checked his palm pilot, he wouldn’t have a clue as to his Thursday schedule. Which meant he didn’t think it would pan out. But it did pan out.

We were scared to death that first gig. After we had sung two songs, we realized the residents were the best audience we could ever have. They were pretty much captive, they were starved for live entertainment, and really didn’t mind when we goofed.They were enthusiastic, and appeared to enjoy every song, every minute.

Our first pay was minuscule, but to us it represented more than mere money. We had finally put action to one of our many income-producing schemes. I came up with the name "Two Singing Sisters" off the top of my head. But it’s perfect for our act. It tells the residents exactly who we are and what to expect. Nothing fancy. Two sisters...who sing.

We were at Annadale for three months when someone there told someone at another nursing home about us and, voila, another gig.

At our second venue, we let the front desk know we had arrived and were led to a large, community room. The residents were lined up at tables. Most were sitting with their mouths open and appeared to be sleeping.

We started with a show tune. No one moved or acknowledged our presence. Even the nursing staff appeared too busy to listen as they hurried to do their duties. After three more songs, some of the residents began to sing with us. Slowly, they mouthed the words they remembered. A couple of residents made requests. They smiled.

We finished our set and they clapped for us. We were packing up our CD’s when a man with a white-haired buzz-cut ambled up. He looked confused.

“Do you know where Amy is?” he asked.

“No, I’m sorry sir, I don’t.” answered my sister.

“She was just here; she said she’d be right back.” He was insistent. We continued packing.

He touched my arm, gently, and his gesture was sad. I turned to face him. Life had slowed for him, nearly stopped. I felt disrespectful ignoring his polite interference with my busy schedule.

“Do you know where I live?” he asked. I patted his arm.

“You live right here.” I answered brightly.

He looked at me and blinked. He shook his head. “No, this isn’t my house.”

He continued to look at me like I was lying to him on purpose and he was trying to figure out why.

He put down his head and shuffled away. My heart broke for him and all the others,and for my future, too. Why did we have to travel this ruthless route to heaven?

Suddenly, I realized Two Singing Sisters was more than another weird scheme to make money. We’re a small part of a big plan; His plan that I’m interpreting on my way toward eternity.

“Sir,” I called, “Can I sit and talk with you?”

He nodded politely. I smiled.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

I received the "Honest Scrap" award from Catrina Bradley. (Thanks, Cat!) So I'm supposed to list ten HONEST things about myself...hmmm. Lemme think...OK. Here are ten:

1. I'm a night owl. People are seriously prejudiced against night owls. Are they just jealous?! If I had my way, the world wouldn't start until at LEAST 10 AM.

2. I often get bored in church. It's the format that kills me. (Notice: I did not say that GOD bores me--there IS a difference!) I honestly admire and respect people who love church. I've been trying to figure out how to be like them all of my life.

3. I really dislike white "chocolate". Please! It is NOT real chocolate, in my humble opinion. It is slimy vanilla candy.

4. I was raised Pentecostal--and I don't think I'm too abnormal. Am I?

5. The ex-Amish inspire me with their work ethic and their ability to adapt. They never give up.

6. As hard as I try, I just can't keep up with Facebook! I get easily confused and simply ignore many requests--oh dear. I'm so sorry to those of you who send me many requests.

7. If my hubby is gone for the night, I suddenly "hear" a bazillion weird noises in my house. I'm on hyper-alert mode on those nights. Good thing he is rarely gone at night.

8. My son is an amazingly caring and sweet young man. He hasn't had a single rebellious teen year yet. (I'm always wondering if that will happen someday--overnight!)

9. I eat broccoli, but I really don't like it. Unless it is slathered in cheese sauce. I think that ruins its nutritional value, right?

10. I have always felt a presence of God. Even as a child. I have the most trouble understanding those who say they never thought of God until their spiritual eyes were opened at some point. I sometimes try to imagine what that feels like...I ask a lot of nosey questions of people who tell me that...but I just can't imagine it. And, I talk Him all day long. But, I wouldn't call it a formal prayer. I even ask Him things out loud. Maybe I AM abnormal. OK. I am.

So, did any of my honest answers surprise you? Here are the blogs I'd like to honor with this award:

Yvonne Blake at My Back Door: Yvonne is a great advisor and she has MANY tips and good stories on her blog.

Patty Wysong at Patterings: Peej is as honest as they come, and her posts about being a mom and wife are always fun and thought-provoking to read.

Pat Guy at Pat's Porch: Pat has a MOST refreshing blog--and the background music is soothing and dreamy.

Josh Janoski at Just Joshing: Josh is funny and VERY honest. (And he happens to be planning an up-coming wedding, too.)

Sara Harricahran at Fiction Fusion: Sara is the most imaginative and creative and prolific writer I know! She delights with her sci-fi and fantasy fiction.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One Year Blogger-versary Giveaway!

I'll be celebrating my one year blogger-versary this Friday! Wow. It's been a good year! I'd like to honor a favorite post theme of mine through the past year: Sunday Praise and Worship. (The sad thing is, I've decided to stop doing that feature since I'm not as sure of copyright laws regarding the various playlists anymore--but let's not think about that now!)

One of the most popular artist that I featured for Sunday Praise and Worship was Sara Groves. I've decided to give away her "Tell Me What You Know" CD. If you're a Sara Groves fan, just leave a comment on this post to enter the giveaway. (Be sure I also can reach you by email or on your blog--in case you win!)

I'll announce the winner on my blog on Saturday, June 27th, so be sure to enter soon!

Thanks for reading my blog and for giving me so many wonderful comments on my posts this past year! May God bless all of you, Friends. Your support has meant the world to me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Idefinable Beauty, Art, and Music: the Soul of God?

Being a writer often means that people say to me, "You're so creative." But I have always been a lover of music and art, too, and the creativity with those forms of expression sometimes leaves me speechless.

I have my own theory that creative parts of people are absolute mirrors of the Soul of our Creator. There is something indefinable about the creative arts that points me to God. Even those who don't acknowledge God have a piece of themselves that they can't explain or define. They struggle with words to put it into perspective. We all know that creative music, art, words, are totally separate in feeling from science and the technical forms of human endeavors.

But what is it? It is so different, that it can bring emotion to the surface of even the most hardened scientist!

But what is it? It is so different, that it can soothe even the most troubled spirit!

But what is it? It is so different, that when we encounter it, we sometimes can't even speak; its beauty is so awe-inspiring!

But what is it? It is our connection to God. It's that first breath from God's lungs breathed into Adam: passed down through his children, and their children, and it never dilutes in its intensity from one generation to the next. It is that desire to know God...to be near Him...to feel His presence.

The severance of man from God through sin has been keenly felt in every human soul. We have that indefinable urge to create and to KNOW...something. But what is it?

It is GOD!

When I hear music, my soul immediately recognizes something ancient from my past.
When I see art, my soul longs for a tie to something that seems shrouded in mystery.
When I read stirring words, my soul wants to leap across the dark divide and settle into the Heart of God.

My Creator. And yours.

Creativity is proof that we are CREATED in the image of God.

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20, The Holy Bible, NIV

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Romans 8:18-24, The Holy Bible, NIV

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation–if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.

This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant." Colossians 1:15-23, The Hold Bible, NIV

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mysterious Nature

For the second summer in a row, we have window boxes under our front windows. Last year, the summer was so hot and dry, it was all we could do to keep up with the watering. It was such a chore that my husband is planning to devise a watering system for those boxes this year.

I love looking at the flowers in them, but last year, the flowers I chose were so finicky, they were wilting in half a day. Earlier this spring, I couldn't wait for REAL summer flowers so I went ahead and planted pansies in the boxes. Well, you know how fragile those things are...they were gonners in no time.

Two weeks ago, I finally got around to digging those wilted things out of the boxes and planting them with GLORIOUS, wildly-pink geraniums and long, flowing white vines that complimented the geraniums beautifully. My window boxes FINALLY looked complete and gorgeous. Until today.

I went out to water them (AGAIN), and what do you think I found? SOMETHING mysterious had destroyed the long, flowing white vines out of TWO window boxes! The vines were too high from the ground to be eaten by rabbits, and it seemed that if it were nesting birds (who have been known to pick the coconut grass out from between the iron boxes), they would have carried the destroyed vines off with them.

But no. To add insult to injury, the long, flowing white vines lay in a pile on the ground beneath the window boxes. They looked so beautiful. And limp. Acckkk!

Sigh. Did I mention that I LOVE my window boxes?! And I love them so much, that I plan to put two more on the ledge of the picture window. I hope I remember how happy it makes me to look out my windows, framed in lovely summer flowers, the next time something contrary or mysterious happens to those boxes. And when my hubby gets around to creating that splendid watering system, I KNOW my happiness will increase ten-fold!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Fiction: Nosey Parker

Welcome to Friday Fiction! My story today is the second one I ever wrote in Beginner's for the FaithWriters Writing Challenge...way back in 2007. Needless to say, I had to do some editing in format to get it presentable, but it's a fun story. I hope you enjoy it! For more great fiction, go to Karlene's Heart and Soul blog.

Nosey Parker

By Dee Yoder

In 1966, we moved to Walnut Street and lived beside Nosey Parker. When I asked Mom why he had a name like that, she said that people who were nosey, and into other people’s business all the time, were called “nosey parkers”. Well, Ok, but I then wanted to know what his real name was.

The next time I went outside, I made sure I hung around the fence that divided Nosey’s house from ours and waited. Pretty soon he banged out the back door. He spied me right away and came on over.

“You a new girl around here, huh?”


“Where’d you come from?”


“Why’d you guys move here to Ohio?”

“My Dad got a new job down at the National Balloon Factory.”

“Huh.” He pushed the toe of his Red Ball Jets through the square hole in the chicken wire fence. He looked up at me eyes squinted from the sun. “You want to be in my club?”

“Who’s in it?”

“Buncha boys and me.”

“Just boys?”

“Right now, unless you join, then there’ll be one girl.” He smiled.


“Now, we like to solve mysteries. Do you think you can do that?”

“What do I have to do?”

“Well, we just hang around and when we see a mysterious event, we check on it and figure it out. Will you be afraid to go out at night?”

“No sir, I’m no fraidy cat.”

“I’ll come get you after supper then.” He waved and walked back into his yard.

After supper, I waited impatiently by the front door. Soon it got to be around 10:00 and it was bedtime. I begged Mom for more time, it was summer after all, and she said,”Well, all right but just fifteen minutes now, and I mean it.”

Right after that, came Nosey Parker. As we went to the backyard, I asked him what his real name was and he told me Arthur Campbell, Jr.

“Why in the world do you let people call you Nosey Parker then?”

“Oh,” he waved his hand, “that’s my detective name.”

Made sense to me. He walked to the next yard and suddenly dropped down in the bushes by the neighbor’s patio.

“What’re you doing?”

“Shh. I have to hear what this boy is saying. You gotta get down here, too if you’re gonna help me.”

We knelt there in the grass for a good ten minutes and I was starting to get worried about my Mom calling me to come in the middle of our investigation.

Soon, he whispered, “Did you hear him? He told his sister that book was his but I know it belongs to David Miller. I knew it!”

We angled backwards, crabwise, to my yard, then stood and ran to the back porch.

“Tomorrow my buddies and me will watch him after school, and when we see him get in someone’s locker, we’ll nab him!” he smacked his palms together like he was catching a mosquito.

Next day at school, I looked for Nosey but he was busy with his friends and only gave me a smile and wave.

At home, I hurried into my play clothes and ran outside to wait for Nosey Parker. I saw his father drive in with Nosey in the backseat. They got out and Nosey glanced my way, quietly made the Ok sign, and followed his Dad in the house. I stood by the fence until my own bedtime. Just as I turned to go in for the night, Nosey poked his head out his bedroom window.

“We got him!” he whispered excitedly.

“What happened?” I whispered back.

“Got in a little trouble, but that boy won’t be stealing from nobody else, I just bet!” He grinned. “Ready for a new mystery tomorrow?”

“If you have one.”

“Oh, I’ll find one and then we’ll just have the whole summer to figure it out.”

Inside I heard his Mom call to him to get to sleep. He grinned again and slipped away.

That was a golden summer. Late nights with Nosey and sometimes his friends...sneaking around solving mysteries all over the place...it was real and important. If only the grownups knew the good we were doing for our town, I imagined, they’d realize what a great detective Nosey Parker was. A good detective is always nosey.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday, Monday...

I have a love/hate relationship with Mondays. I like getting back to my "normal" schedule, but I also dislike my husband going back to work, the notion that things have to be done within a set time, and just the awareness that the world is back in busy mode.

Not that weekends aren't busy, too. In fact, sometimes, more tasks fill my family's weekends than through the week, but it seems more relaxed. We do the "other" stuff that we've been putting off: yard work, gardening, shopping, and laundry. But the tasks are mundane and we can do them together.

On Monday, we go our separate ways, and it sometimes seems like a long time until dinner when we rejoin at the table. I like that time of day. We can talk over our days and group our little family once again, and we can even squeeze in a little fun once in a while now that summer's long days give us more hours.

So, it's Monday. Another week. Another month. A new season. May God bring your family together at the end of this Monday and bless your dinner table tonight with laughter, smiles, and joy.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:14-19, The Holy Bible, NIV