Sunday, September 27, 2015

Amish Babies

        Over the years, it has been common practice for Amish families to not mention that a baby is on the way. My wife and I have been close friends with an Amish couple for a long time. When we were having babies (we are past that stage now) it was something we talked about. The woman warned us that her mother would not like it if she new that we discussed pregnancy... that was just not a topic to be discussed. Of course, me and my big mouth, I forgot and said something one time. We were visiting and Grandma lived in a little house that was attached to the big farm house. She stopped in and talked with us for a few minutes and I was looking for a conversation piece. I mentioned, "It looks like your daughter will be going to the hospital any day now." She gave a blank expression and asked, "What?" I immediately knew I had blown it and fumbled with words to try and recover. Fortunately, she played dumb and let me off the hook.

        My wife's grandparents were Mennonites who lived in the heart of Amish country. Their Amish neighbors used to stop by often and borrow things or use the phone. Grandpa was not a hired driver, but all of his Amish neighbors knew they could stop in at any time of the night for a "baby run." When it was getting close to delivery time, they would stop in and warn him that they would be needing a driver coming up soon.

       One night my wife's grandparents woke to the sound of an Amishman's voice calling up their stairway. "Alvie, my wife is ready to go to the hospital now." Grandpa called down, "Okay, I'll be over as soon as I can get dressed!" He hurried downstairs, but the Amishman had gone on back home to help his wife out of the house. Grandpa drove to his Amish neighbor's, the one who had stopped by a few days before to arrange a ride, and everything was dark. Nobody seemed to be coming out of the house, so he knocked on the door. Grandpa asked, "Didn't you just stop in my home a few minutes ago, looking for a ride to the hospital?"
          "Not tonight!"
          "Well, someone did," Grandpa explained, "and whoever they are, they are waiting for me!"  His Amish neighbors discussed which other Amish couple might possibly need to go on a "baby run" soon, and sent Grandpa down the road. As he pulled into that drive he found an Amish couple anxiously awaiting his arrival. Apparently, the man had just assumed that Grandpa would recognize his voice and know why he stopped in, even though he hadn't made previous arrangements.

  Our whole family has enjoyed the retelling of this story many times.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

We, like Sheep

 Sheep are so peaceful to watch. They look so soft and harmless as they float like clouds, grazing on green pastures. Sheep are not known for biting, kicking, or clawing, and are rather defenseless when a wolf or coyote gets in among them.
 My grandpa used to ask me, "If you have ten sheep in a pasture and one gets out, how many do you have?"

I was proud that I knew the answer, "Nine!"

He corrected me gently, "Nope, if one sheep gets out they all follow. The answer is zero."
The Bible says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray." Isaiah 53

We, like sheep, follow others to our own destruction. We look for greener pastures, even when we have all we need. We butt and push other sheep in our efforts to get what we want for ourselves. We tromp mud into clear streams of water, in order to get there ahead of other sheep. Sheep are harmless to other creatures but seem to have a knack for bullying each other and leading other sheep astray.

If you, like all of us other sheep, have lost your way, call out to the "Good Shepherd" Jesus Christ, He will bring you back into his fold and lead you beside still waters.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Horse Drawn Communities

Who would have ever thought, that in 2015 we would still have hundreds of horse drawn communities in the USA?

People often ask, "Why is everyone so fascinated with the Amish?" or "Why are there so many Amish novels?"

All you need to do is actually spend a little time visiting in one of these communities and you will have those questions answered.

First of all: In order to function and survive as a horse drawn community, there must be a very close knit group of extremely devoted people. Otherwise it would fall apart at the first streak of bad weather.

 Next: Horses are not that easy to use as your main source of transportation. Unless you have a lot of experience and patience it will end in disaster.

Another thing: The community must be living within close proximity with each other. You can only trot so many miles in one day.
My theory on why Amish are so successful surviving in this lifestyle:

Our Amish American's are not people who reverted back to old ways, they are a group that were living this way in the 1800's and just haven't changed much.

There is something special about this lifestyle. There are plenty of plain groups that have left "horse-power" behind, and many of those groups have kept old-fashioned values.

Nonetheless, horse drawn communities have a closeness and simpleness that can't be duplicated.

 There is something wonderful and intriguing about Amish life. Use of the horse seems to be central to keeping life slower paced, and somehow maintaining an old-fashioned existence.

My blogs give a glimpse into this world, however, if you really want to "feel" it you need to see it first hand.

I hope my novels are the next best thing to being there. Give Under the Heavens a try!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Easy as Pie

 I never knew my wife's grandmother, but I have benefited from her cooking and baking skills all of my married life.

Grandma Katie Kinsinger grew up Amish and became a Mennonite when she and John got married in 1918. Her daughters learned how to put on a great meal and back it up with amazing deserts.
  My wife didn't polish her skills until after we were married. Fortunately, her mother Ruby and Aunt Mildred were more than willing to share their secrets with her when she was ready to learn.

Mildred, Ruby, and my wife Shari, all three have had the ability to make pies that melt in your mouth. And the crust is never left on the plate. I don't know how, but their crust is so good you could eat it without filling!

Mildred and Ruby, have both gone to be with their Lord. As two of my favorite people I've ever known, I named and modeled characters in the Amish Horses Book Series after them.
 They, all three, have always taken extra care to make their pies beautiful, even though they know that we are going to devour these works of art.

They, all three, also are famous for apologizing about every item they bake. "Oh, did I put too much salt in that?" or "Sorry, the crust is a little crumbly." or "Oh dear, is it overdone?" Meanwhile, we are all perfectly quiet... unwilling to stop eating long enough to answer their ridiculous questions.
My wife often puts crumb topping on one pie, because like her mother and aunt before her, she is worried that someone may not like her two-crust pie. Oh well, I will clean up whatever is left over either way!

As far as I can tell, the only thing easy about pie is eating it. And that is VERY easy!
 Oh, by the way, don't bother to ask for the recipe, they are old family secrets. You young girls may have a chance to get in on it if you marry my son or one of my grandsons.