Wanda’s Journal

Christmas in Amish Country

At Christmastime there are no decorated trees or blinking lights adorning Amish people’s homes. They do, however, make special cookies and candies as part of the holiday activity. Some Amish will string the Christmas cards they receive around a room in their home, or may set out some candles and greenery. On Christmas Eve, the school children put on a program for their friends and family at the schoolhouse, where they share poems, recitations, and songs. The scholars will often exchange gifts with others in their class. On Christmas morning, the Amish gather with their families for devotions, and then the children open their gifts. In the afternoon the Amish get together for a big family meal. If Christmas Day falls near the end of the week, some church districts will hold their services on Christmas morning instead of the usual Sunday service.

Below is a recipe for a delicious dip that can be served during the holidays. One of my Amish friends shared it with me. It’s delicious, and I hope you will enjoy it too.

CREAMY CUCUMBER DIP

1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons salad dressing
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 medium cucumber, chopped
¼ cup green pepper, chopped
1 round tablespoon onion, chopped

In a mix bowl stir together the cream cheese, sour cream, salad dressing, and Worcestershire sauce. Add the cucumber, green pepper and onion. Refrigerate for two hours before serving. Serve with your favorite crackers.

What is your favorite Christmas recipe?

Thanksgiving in Amish Country

Thanksgiving is a time when Amish people celebrate with their family, and sometimes friends and neighbors.
While there are many different Amish communities, most celebrate Thanksgiving in a similar way.
After sharing a big meal with all the traditional trimmings, Amish families may play games and engage in conversation. There is no TV to sit and watch, like many English people do, and no one communicates with others via text or social media.

Some of my readers have asked if the Amish do devotions on Thanksgiving Day. I can’t say whether all Amish people do, but those I know personally do their devotions daily. They want to express their gratitude to God for all He has given them, and by reading their Bible and praying, they draw closer to Him.

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving at your house? What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving Day foods?

Keeping True

One of the things I most admire about the Amish way of life is the dedication they have for keeping true to their faith. While the Amish and other Plain groups would be the first to admit they aren’t perfect, their modest way of life and deep faith in God provides us with a model of how we might simplify our own lives in order to live better, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The Amish way of life offers us ideas on how to live a slower-paced, satisfying life, with less dependence on modern things, and more emphasis on God, family, and friends.
I’ve had many personal experiences with the Amish since I began writing. Our time spent together has not only drawn me closer to the people I’ve come to know and love, but it’s given me a deeper understanding and appreciation of God’s amazing love. My Amish friends have inspired me to live my life a little more simple, while keeping true to the things that have eternal value.

Humility

A few weeks ago, four of our dear Amish friends came by train to visit our home. They stayed with us for five days, and we wished they could have stayed longer. In addition to their humor and pleasant attitudes, I couldn’t help but notice their humbly spirits. Instead of concentrating on themselves, they looked to the needs of others.

The Amish culture is embedded in the German word “Gellassenheit,” which means yielding to a higher authority and becoming a humble person. 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 humility and willingness to help I saw in my Amish friends encouraged me to wear the clothes of humility, too.

Do you have friends or family members who appear humble? How does it make you feel when you spend time with them? What are some ways we can practice “Gellassenheit?”

Amish Quilts

One of the most striking things about an Amish quilt is the use of color. Even though particular colors and color combinations have changed over the years, there’s a sensibility that has lasted over time.

A “Quilting Bee” is usually an all-day occasion, and it’s a time when Amish women get together to quilt and visit. A typical quilting involves anywhere from six to twelve women. The women who sit around all four sides of the quilting frame begin at the outer edge and work toward the center as far as they’re able to reach. When the women working along the top and bottom of the frame have all quilted to their maximum stretch, the clamps at the four corners of the frame are released and the finished sections of the quilt are rolled onto the wood until the un-quilted surface is brought to the edge. For hard-working Amish women, a day of quilting with friends is often seen as a time to refresh and relax.

The Amish not only make quilts for their homes, to give to others, and to sell, but they often make quilts that will be auctioned off at local benefit auctions to help others in need. This is a gift of their time, and in giving, a demonstration of their love for others. An Amish quilt expresses the hard work and determination that all Americans have shown throughout history. Owning an Amish quilt has a special meaning, reminding us that ever since the beginning of their church, the Amish people’s priorities are still the same—God first, and family second.

Do you make anything special to give to charity or someone you know in need?

Contentment

During one of our visits with Amish friends, I observed their children playing together. They weren’t bored and didn’t complain because there was nothing to do. They found enjoyment in simple things like reading, playing a game of ball, petting their dog, riding their bicycles, swinging, and swimming in the pond. They didn’t need a computer or some electronic game in order to have fun. They laughed and talked together and didn’t send text messages in order to communicate.
In our fast-paced electronic age many “English” people don’t take the time to enjoy the simple things life has to offer. We rush from place to place, hurry to complete our tasks, and find that our lives are full of stress and worry. We’ve become exhausted and discontent because we don’t spend enough quality time with our family and friends. Many people strive so hard to get ahead that they don’t see what’s right beside them. Material things don’t bring true happiness, nor do they bring lasting contentment. When we look around at the beauty God created, and find joy in being with those we love, our discontent fades and appreciation sets in.
What are some things you do that bring contentment? Are your children or grandchildren doing things that require electricity or batteries, or do they play simply, much like Amish children do? How can we help the youth of today find contentment in simple things?

Disappointments

In my upcoming novel, The Blessing, Heidi Troyer is faced with an unexpected disappointment. In order to cope, she chooses to teach another cooking class, which she hopes will help to take her mind off the situation.

Life is full of disappointments, but with God’s help we can navigate our way through them. Sometimes the things that disappoint us can turn out to be a blessing.

A favorite verse, found in Psalm 147:3 says: “God healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.”

What are some ways you deal with disappointments? How do you keep from letting them pull you down?

Decisions

In my co-authored upcoming novel, The Farmers’ Market Mishap, Elma is faced with some difficult decisions. The love of a man tugs her in one direction, but her responsibilities to her sister, as well as her grandparents’ store, pull her in another, making it difficult to choose.

Sometimes, when we are faced with a decision that could not only affect our life, but someone else’s, we sacrifice our own needs. Other times we might follow our heart, but then live with guilt, believing that we have let one of our friends or family members down.

Have you ever been faced with a decision that could affect someone else’s life, and wondered if it would be better to do what you think is best for them, rather than follow your own desires? What are some things we can do to help us make right decisions when it might affect someone else’s life, as well as our own? When it is it alright to make a sacrifice for others, and when is be okay for us to do what we feel is best for ourselves?

A Simple Life

In my novel, The Seekers, which is book 1 in the Amish Cooking Class series, five people from various walks of life come to Heidi Troyer’s home to learn how to make some traditional Amish recipes. One of these people was Loretta, who was seeking a simpler life for herself, as well as her two children. In addition to learning to cook some Amish dishes, Loretta found other ways to simplify, such as gardening, and hanging her clothes on the line.

Do you long for a simpler life? What are some things you have done to simplify? What are the benefits of living a simple life? Why do you think the Amish have continued throughout the years to keep their simple lifestyle?

Christian Example

Every year I receive many letters and e-mails from readers who say they’ve been influenced in some way by the stories in my books depicting the Amish way of life. In our modern world, where too much emphasis is placed on “things,” many people are searching for something that will offer them a slower pace and help them focus on the important things in life. The Amish and other Plain People have set an example for that, which is why I believe so many people are fascinated with and drawn to their way of life.
Just as the Amish have given us an example for living more simply, every Christian should set an example to the world, showing others a Godly way of life. Letting our light shine so that the world may see our good works will bring glory to God. Remember as you go about your day that you may be the only Jesus some of your friends, neighbors, and family will ever see. What we say and what we do is how we show others that Christ lives in us. We should all want to make a difference in other people’s lives. What are some ways that you might set an example for Christianity this week?