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 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."


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.


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!