Monday, December 19, 2011

Why Did They Cry?

I finished reading Naomi Mullet Stutzman's book, A Basketful of Broken Dishes, tonight. Several passages gave me food for thought, but one in particular really struck me.

Her mother had died and she and her siblings were discussing with their father memories they had of their mom. Naomi brought up the story of how her mother was given a basket of broken dishes which had belonged to Naomi's Amish grandmother. I won't reveal that conversation in its entirety so I don't spoil the mystery of those dishes, but one thing her dad said gave me an enormous aha! moment.

As Naomi's sister lamented over her mother's Amish sisters's reasons for crying at the casket of Naomi's mom, her father explained:

"Actually, they might have cried because they were sad that their sister was not Amish when she died."

I re-read the sentence to be sure I understood and then put the book down as I thought through the statement. They weren't crying because they would miss her. They weren't crying because they felt guilty for shunning her all those years. They weren't crying because of lost opportunities to know their sister. It was that she wasn't Amish when she died.

Yes. It made sense.

To many Amish, knowing a former-Amish had died outside of the church meant no salvation was possible. Several Amish communities believe if you are born Amish, you MUST die Amish in order to go to heaven. No amount of good works after you leave the Amish fold will help you. No grace from Christ's shed blood alone will help you. You are condemned as soon as your foot leaves the threshold of your Amish home to venture forth into the sinful English world. Unless you return to the Amish and make a confession, and rejoin, you are doomed to hell.

So many reproving letters have been sent to wayward former-Amish in which parents and other family members beg their children to return home. If threats don't work, some resort to promises. If promises don't work, some Amish families resort to more threats, fear tactics, shunning for life, and other means to try to persuade the doomed loved one to return.

I have always struggled to understand the mentality of this kind of thinking, but as I pondered Naomi's father's explanation, it suddenly made sense. To the Amish, a former-Amish person is a dead man walking. Death row is a certainty. The die is cast. The judgment is made. The severity of the coming punishment cries out for desperate measures to be taken in order to snatch, pull, coerce and shame the former Amish to be former no more.

The complexity of these relationships built and formed by the hands of religious man-made rules can't be stressed enough. There is nothing simple about being Amish and there is nothing simple about being former-Amish. In each, the devout Amish and the seemingly condemned former-Amish, a host of cultural demands and spiritual guilt wrestle daily.

The families suffer. The wayward one suffers. The community suffers. And in light of Christ's sacrifice for all sin, I am forced to ask why?

Why do they not understand the Gift?

We'll celebrate Christ's birth soon. We'll celebrate because we know His birth led to His path to the cross. Our "dead men walking" souls were released from death row when He died and rose again.

No more guilt. No more condemnation. No more hopeless attempts for perfection.

We don't have to be Amish. We don't have to be Baptist. We don't have to Presbyterian. We don't have to be anything but washed in grace.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Join Me at Jewels of Encouragement Today!

I'm posting at Jewels of Encouragement today. What is the best gift you ever received? Take a minute to read what mine was. And, what was the best gift ever given?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

We Have a Winner!

My son drew the winning name from the entries for The Spirit of Christmas book, and the winner is...Mary S.!!

Mary, please let me know where you'd like the book mailed and I will get it to you right away.

Thanks for participating, everyone! And later this month, I will be giving away Naomi Stutzman's Amish book, A Basketful of Broken Dishes. Watch for that! You won't want to miss this true-life Amish story.

Congratulations, Mary S. Merry Early Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Meet Linda Glaz: Author of Polar Bear Plunge

I've had the privilege of working with author and literary agent Linda Glaz when she helped me edit my Amish fiction book, The Miting. I then met her this past summer at the Faithwriters conference in Livonia, Michigan. She is, without a doubt, one of my favorite writing friends. She's direct, honest and filled with a wonderful sense of humor. She's also the author of the newly released book Polar Bear Plunge from White Rose Publishing.

Linda shared this about her life and her writing:

I’m a wife and mother of three. I balance being a child of God while also being older than God. Hmmm, scary, but almost true. I’ve been blessed to have had an amazing life so far: Air Force meteorologist during Vietnam era, teaching karate and self-defense along with soccer for 25+ years. I sing and direct in church and community theatre musicals where this little old lady sounds more like the guys than the gals. Also scary, but true. I work in a physical therapy clinic three days a week to earn money to keep my writing afloat. My writing life is a 24/7 proposition. When not writing my own stories, I am an agent for Hartline Literary Agency. I wear so many different hats I’m surprised I wasn’t invited to the Royal wedding. Blessings to everyone, may your writing dreams all come true.

It's exciting to have a new book published and Linda's book, Polar Bear Plunge, is a great read. Here's a peek inside the story:

Striving to put meaning back into her life after her husband’s death, Aleni Callan immerses herself in hospital work. Angry with God, she finds herself even angrier, when hero, Brice Taylor, author of The Human Shield, arrives in the Emergency Room with a concussion and hypothermia after participating in the Polar Bear Plunge. Aleni wants nothing to do with a man who willingly takes chances with his life.

Brice doesn’t understood how God could bring him through being a captive in Iraq, when he failed his troops so miserably. Writing about his escape brings fame he would rather avoid. And by meeting widow, Aleni Callan, his feelings of failure only increase.

Megan Callan with the help of her three-year-old grandson, Ty, scheme to bring Aleni and Brice together. And while the best laid plans often go awry, Megan isn’t one to accept no.


Sounds like a wonderful book to have on hand for the coming winter reading season. And a great gift for Christmas. In fact, the Kindle edition is available for 99 cents at Amazon.com through the month of December! Can't beat that for a bargain!

Congratulations, Linda, on your new book!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Thursday Drawing: The Spirit of Christmas!

Don't forget to enter the drawing for a free Christmas book, The Spirit of Christmas! I'll be drawing the winning name from comments left here so add a comment and get in on the chance to receive this cozy Christmas treat.

Did you know there are only 20 more days until Christmas? What shopping adventure have you had? Is there an elusive gift you still have to find?

Thinking we would have plenty of time to shop, we have been driving our son (who is still learning to drive) to his first quarter of college classes 15 miles one way. On Mondays and Wednesdays, he also has night classes. We thought "No problem! We'll have time to get our shopping finished while we wait for his class to let out. It'll be great! We'll be done with Christmas by October."

Wrong.

The class has let out early nearly 3/4 of the time, so instead of leisurely shopping sprees, we've done a lot of hanging out in the little college town at the drug stores or the only grocery. Let's say this: the choice is very limited. When we have chosen to drive back to the major shopping area about 20 minutes away, it never fails...the class lets out early and we end up making a mad dash to the checkout.

Suffice it to say we have more than half of our shopping yet to do. Our son will not be the only one glad to have this quarter over with. His last finals are this week.

Maybe I'll have time to do the Christmas gift-buying thing now. Maybe.

But if you need another gift or two, leave a comment. Maybe a lovely book will be mailed right to your door--no shopping--no fuss.

And watch this blog for tomorrow's great deal on another fabulous book by Linda Glaz.

Stay warm!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Child of Christmas

Tonight we drove to my mom's house and picked her up to take her with us as we looked at Christmas lights. We scouted streets and neighborhoods well known for "good" displays and chatted about times past.

As we drove through neighborhoods I have known since I was a young girl, memories returned of long summer days and crisp autumn nights. Childhood friends and bullies houses still stood, unaware of the emotions each pulled from my heart as we cruised by.

I had a sense of time travel--zipping backward to the years my memory was most active and fertile. Sights, sounds, smells, and feelings strongly wrapped among places and buildings and homes. On a few streets, Christmas decorations from ages ago still blink along-side modern LEDs and inflatable snow globes. The older citizens own the former and the younger citizens own the latter, yet they celebrate with equal enthusiasm.

As someone who normally eschews gaudy, I can't get enough of it this time of year. I don't really care anymore what color, style or design the lights create, I'm just childishly happy to see them.

I remember the last time we took my ninety-something-years-old grandmother out with us to see the lights. It was bitter cold. She was frail. Very fragile. I worried she would not be able to safely come along. But she wanted to go!

We bundled her up and carefully pulled the van as close to her apartment complex sidewalk as possible, venturing onto the concrete even, to shorten her walk on the snowy path.

I can still see her huddled low in the front seat--her shoulders hunched, body leaning precariously forward, ears encased in her favorite scarf. As we drove slowly through the tunnel of changing lights at our town's fairground Christmas display, her eyes shone as the colorful reflections lit her cheeks. She was plagued with cataracts, but she could still see the lights and she could still feel the emotions of Christmas.

She was always the first one to want to check her stocking on Christmas morning. The delight of opening gifts and eating a special Christmas dinner never waned with her. The story of the Christ child's birth remained magical and breath-taking.

She left her lonely apartment each Christmas eve to sleep at our house so she could wake Christmas morning with us as we ran to the family room to see what Santa brought. And she loved the thrill of games and family and noise. She gave her grandchildren a dollar in a card and repeated the same thing each year: "I couldn't give you much, but here's a little something."

One year, she gave me a favorite old dress she used to wear in the thirties. Another year, her apron, which I still wear as I prepare meals. That apron brings her alongside me as I cook and bake and care for my family, just as she did all those long years ago when she was young.

I am a child of Christmas like my grandmother, too.

After we took my mom back home, my hubby went in the attic space to bring down some Christmas lights for her, and while they worked, I browsed the garage. I stumbled across my dad's bowling ball bag. Immediatley, all the days and nights of seeing him and my mom bowl flooded my mind: the smokey alleys, the loud chatter, the fried food and the gaudy Christmas lights among the tinsel swags and garlands.

I unzipped the bag. There was Dad's dark blue ball, neatly resting on its little stand, just as though he had used it yesterday. I put my fingers in the holes drilled especially to fit his hand. I spun it, a tiny bit, and there was his name: Ray.

Something turned over in my heart. "Can I have this?"

Mom glanced my way. "Dad's old bowling ball?"

I nodded.

"Sure."

I told her how I remembered the day they got their professional bowling balls: names on and everything. The ball bag under the tree...a Christmas gift.

I plan to spiff up the bag and put a big red bow on it and place it ever so carefully under our tree. And I pray I will always be a child of Christmas, even when I'm ninety-three.



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Makeover Complete!

I've wanted to makeover my blog for quite some time, so when my friend, Patty Wysong, offered to help, I jumped at the chance. She did a fabulous job! I think this new look is very me.

I'm excited to offer a book giveaway, too. Just leave a comment on this post, and you'll be entered to win a beautiful Christmas book, The Spirit of Christmas, by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson. This is a collection of inspiring true stories.

My writing friend, Cindy Thomson, has an autographed story in this book, also. Her contribution, along with many others, will certainly bring Christmas spirit to your house this year.

In the forward by Debbie Macomber, she writes "You're going to love this book...The minute you start reading the first story, you'll find yourself unable to put the book down."

Don't hesitate to jump in on this fun Christmas giveaway! Please be sure to leave an email address where you can be contacted should you win the drawing.

I'll draw the winning name one week from today on December 8. Good luck!

So what do you think? Is the blog makeover a success? Please contact Patty if you'd like her to makeover your blog. I can guarantee she will work wonders for you, too!



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Faithwriters Member Showcase: My Short Story: 364 Days to Go

I'm honored to be featured on the Faithwriters Member Showcase this week with my short story "364 Days to Go". If you'd like to read it, click here.

Hope you enjoy reading it!


Dee's News: the Former Amish Newsletter

One of the writing projects I have is gathering information for Dee's News--the former Amish newsletter. It has been a privilege to get to know my former Amish friends, from near and far, through Dee's News. I love reporting their life experiences and the joys, and sometimes sorrows, of life through this newsletter. It's a great way to keep in touch!

I'm already gathering news for the January issue, so if you have anything you'd like to contribute, just go to the tab on my blog here that says Contact. Click and send me an email.

In the meantime, click here to read the November 2011 issue of Dee's News.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

And the Winner is...

Thanks for leaving comments on the Her Safari post! The winner of the Starbucks Coffee Gift Card is...Rae! Congrats! Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Curious About the Amish? Read This Review!

I just read an awesome review by Tim Challies of Ira Wagler's book, Growing Up Amish. If you are curious about the Amish, I highly recommend you read Tim's review AND Ira Wagler's book! Both bring insights into this lifestyle that are awesome and rare.To read both, just click the red links on their names. To buy Ira's book, just click the red link of his title.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Her Safari by Lisa Mikitarian: A Great Book!

Les, our driver has just pulled the bus up to Dee Yoder's Blog in Ohio, our next stop on the blog tour for Her Safari, by Lisa Mikitarian. Mari’s cranking out the caramel macchiatos as fast as her machine will allow. The caffeine is perking up the gang. We have the latest scoop from Lisa, herself!

First let me tell you about this wonderful collection of short stories: HER SAFARI - Snapshots Along the Way
Life is a mix of love, humor, faith, ingenuity, and tragedy—sometimes all in the same day! No matter how different we are as individuals, our lives are made up of seasons, circumstances, and turning points. In Her Safari, you'll find women of varying ages and backgrounds—each at a life juncture—some more critical than others.

Among them is a single woman who distrusts men, yet flirts with her doctor while under the influence of Percocet; a wife who considers divorcing her husband over Christmas décor; and a widow who's ready for bridge but not community living.

Despite their differences, whatever leg of the safari these women are on, and however successful they are in navigating the conflict in their lives, one thing becomes clear—most are genuinely doing the best they can. This captivating collection makes a wonderful gift for women of all ages.

On this stop of the blog tour, I thought it would be fun to find out what’s currently happening in Lisa’s writing cave where you will also find her dog, Dorian Gray, playing the role of Lisa’s muse.

If you haven’t visited Lisa and Maddie’s Connecting Now blog, you are in for a real treat.
Lisa talks about Connecting Now:
"It’s an offbeat advice blog called Connecting Now. My publisher told me I had to have a blog, so I thought long and hard about something I could keep up and enjoy. I didn’t feel under pressure to have all the right answers because one—it’s offbeat, and two—the Readers chime in.
While at the Faithwriter’s conference, I asked my oldest, Madeline, if she would sub for me on the blog. She did; everyone loved her, and when I returned, the masses demanded she stay—especially Timmy Boyle. The rest is, as they say, history. The blog is approaching its second birthday, and looking back, there’s no way I could have kept it up without her.

People write to us about all sorts of things—some utterly ridiculous (we love those), and some profoundly serious—we love those, too, though a few have been heartbreaking. Often our Readers have better advice than we have—and we’re a-okay with that because the blog reflects our belief that no man is an island, that God created us in communion for a reason—to help one another out."

Her Safari is a huge success and Lisa gracefully reveals what we can look forward to in the near future:

Lisa and Maddie
 “Heart of my heart.”~Lisa Mikitarian

"Maddie and I are currently editing our novel The Devil to Pay. It’s set in a time where a DNA scan can tell parents about their child’s complete genetic make-up in utero. That scan is referred to as the Projections. The Projections include a four-gene combination which predicts the likelihood of a person accepting the Creator.

The story opens with the main character discovering she’s pregnant and that her own Projections are a complete forgery bought by her parents. The novel asks questions like: Can we ever thwart the will of God? How much knowledge about ourselves is too much?

I’d also like to put together one more collection of short stories from the male perspective called That’s What He Said. For some weird reason, I love writing from the male POV."

Thank you, Lisa. Can’t wait to read The Devil’s Play and That’s What He Said.

How can you order Her Safari, by Lisa Mikitarian? To purchase Her Safari, click here. Remember to check out the fabulous gift basket available. Lisa has partnered with Heart of God International Ministries, so that they’ll receive the proceeds from books bought on their behalf. If you wish to benefit HGIM with your purchase, there’s a special button on the Her Safari publishers site at the check out (HGIM).

ADDED BONUS!! FREE COFFEE!!
If you leave a comment on this blog post, you are automatically entered to win a $5 Starbucks card! Check back—The winner will be drawn and announced on October 27th.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Posting at Jewels of Encouragement Today!

I'm posting today at Jewels of Encouragement! I hope you get the chance to pop over and read, and get a sneak peak at who I used to be. ( ;

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

God Looks at the Heart

A couple of years ago, we were privileged to witness the first of several weddings of two of our former-Amish friends. The bride was beautiful and the groom was handsome. They began their service with their pastor asking the wedding guests to give the bride and groom the best present ever: a heart that is turned to Jesus!

It was very unusual, but very touching, since this couple knew there would be many former-Amish friends attending the wedding who needed to hear the gospel and may not have not yet given their heart to the Lord.

It's funny, but when I saw the bride, gorgeous and shining in her white satin with sprinkles of sequins and bows, I thought about how I'd not recognized her once when I saw her in her Amish clothing. She looked so different. My brain super-imposed more than just clothing on her and I didn't recognize the person hidden beneath the Amish Ordnung's rules of dress.

One former-Amish friend said since she has been wearing her Englisher clothes, she walks among her Amish neighbors at farmer's markets and they don't even know her. While she shops, she is careful not speak to the Amish vendors too much for fear they will recognize the hint of Pennsylvania Dutch accent that still remains in her speech. But it is evident her outward change in appearance has shadowed her true identity to those who used to know her.

When we look first at the outward garb of people, we often see what our brain thinks it will see: Amish clothing brings images of purity and simplicity. The more I know the former Amish, the more I realize the Amish world is often complicated and filled with layer-upon-layer of issues that sometimes create chaos in this simple seeming lifestyle.

We have to learn to not let the outwardly appearance of order and plain living in this multifaceted culture blind us to the needs of the people who are donning the apparel. The Amish are humans beings with all the foibles and troubles the human race encompasses. Their souls ache for unity with their Maker, just as any person's soul does.

The best thing we can do for the Amish is to support them in prayer and be a friend when they are in need. As Believers let's be open to offering the bread of life and living water for parched Amish souls, just the same as we would to anyone else who shows signs of spiritual hunger and thirst.

We need to remind ourselves of God's words to us about judging others (good or bad) only by appearance:

1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”


John 7:24
"Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." (Jesus' advice to the Jews with Him at the Temple)


Galatians 2:6
As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message.


Colossians 2:23
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.


And finally, let's consider how our Lord Jesus, the Coming Messiah, was described in Isaiah 53:2:


He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

Nothing in His appearance that we should desire him. That speaks volumes about human ability (or lack thereof) to know the heart, the soul, the spirit, and even the deity of our Savior, simply by outward appearance alone.

Let's purpose to see each person as God sees them: souls that need to be reconciled to Him. Let's open our eyes to what may lie behind the simple dress of the Amish and be willing to bring the Good News to them, as we would to any neighbor or friend.


Monday, October 3, 2011

My Heart's Dee-Light!

The name of my blog fits right in with the title of my post today because I'm thinking of a group of people who ARE my heart's delight: my former Amish friends. They are truly a treasure.

I smile when I hear about their accomplishments. I cry when I hear they're sad or feeling rejected. I cheer when one of them goes after a big dream, and I want to hug them all when I see how stoic they are in the face of much trouble.

There is nothing that pleases my heart more than when one of my friends makes me laugh--makes me proud--makes me know Who made them.

To all my former Amish friends: you inspire me! What a blessing to have each one of you in my life! Here are just a few of them:




Friday, September 9, 2011

Give Me Joy!

Please
Can't we smile?
Does holiness mean
Dour
Sour
Barely alive
Hour
by
hour?

Why show
Flat unaffected
Wasted
Faces
Straight mouths
No lilt
No tilt
No lips that shout "Glory!"

Where's the joy of salvation
Where's the happy to be alive
Glad to know the Lord
Bliss to have the angels
Sitting on our shoulders
Joy of Christianity?

See the God of heaven
Bounding over the hills of Home!
Full of vigor!
Full of Strength!
Full of joy!

We are
Too serious for words
Dark podiums
Dark faces
No sparkle
No hope
No...joy.

Let me outta here!
Give me joy!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Meet Ira Wagler, Author of "Growing Up Amish: A Memoir"

Ira Wagler, like many former Amish, had a story to tell about his journey with his heritage. He always knew he had a desire and ability to write his personal story, but even he was happily surprised with how his book came to be published. The result, his book: Growing Up Amish: A Memoir.

In a recent phone interview with me, Ira shared he was compelled to write about his growing up years as an Amish young man when his “world imploded” in 2007. He began with a blog. Over the course of time, his writings were noticed by a friend which led to a meeting with an editor at Tyndale House Publishers. One thing led to another, and he was offered a contract.

Ira is no stranger to literature and writing. He earned a degree in English, but his inspiration for writing comes from reading classic books from authors such as Thomas Wolf. He later went to law school and earned his law degree.

Ira acknowledges that “having the right people around me, helped me be published.” He feels he received his gift of writing from his father, who was a contributing writer to the Amish magazine, Family Life, but he feels his sensitive heart comes from his mother. He dedicated his book to her.

One of the most surprising aspects of being published, Ira states, is the “absolute professionalism of Tyndale House.” He is especially grateful to his editor, Carol Traver, who was able to keep Ira’s writing voice intact, while offering edits that made his story stronger.

There are three particular sections of his book he found difficult to write, but are powerful elements of his personal journey: his older brother’s accident, his younger brother’s leave-taking from home, and his relationship with an Amish young lady. All three incidents had a profound impact on his life and carries emotional memories he will always retain.

He is satisfied with the results in his book and feels the story is told with a balance of both the difficult and positive aspects of growing up Amish. He made a concerted effort to tell his story with fairness, and yet still bring out the strong emotional elements of each situation he describes.

When asked if he had any advice to others who have left their Amish culture behind, he offered confidence that with the work ethic instilled in the Amish, he knows any former Amish will be able to apply that urge to work toward anything they are willing to try. He said that he entered college “scared to death”, but he was able to succeed. He entered law school just to “see if I could do it”.

When asked if he is planning to write another book, he replied “the market will decide that”, but he wouldn’t mind writing a sequel and/or a novel.

His writing routine is anything but routine (which gives hope to a routine-less writer like me!). He thinks he works best under deadline pressures.

Advice to writers? “Just write! Just produce!”

And that is just what he's done. Beautifully. I highly recommend his book to those who enjoy Amish stories or to anyone who wants to read an incredibly honest and touching account of his journey.


Ira’s book can be purchased at:

MAP Ministry: (419) 962-1515
PO Box 128
Savannah, OH 44874
OR:

Amazon.com

Here’s a sample from Ira’s book:

“One fateful, starless, April night, I got up at 2:00 a.m. in the pitch black darkness, left a scribbled note under my pillow, and walked away—all my earthly belongings stuffed in a little black duffel bag.

Seventeen years old, bound for a vast new world. In my eager mind, the great shining vistas of distant horizons gleamed and beckoned. A world that would fulfill the deep yearning, the nebulous shifting dreams of a hungry, driven youth. And it would be mine, all of it, to pluck from the forbidden tree and taste and eat.

I could not know that night of the long hard road that stretched before me.”