Friday, August 29, 2014


Here is Part Four in the series on Amish Religious Traditions from the informative Amish News based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Today the post deals with the traditions of Amish Communion and Foot Washing.  Remember, this article deals with the traditions carried on by the Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania area.  Other Amish districts may have differing communion traditions.

For those of the Amish faith, communion is an important religious service, held only twice a year --- in the spring and fall. The actual communion service is not necessarily held on a Sunday. As is the Amish custom, religious services are held in the home, not in a church building. The geographic area where the Amish live is divided into church districts for this purpose.

At a church service two weeks prior to communion, there is a "Council Meeting." Only baptized members attend this meeting and the communion service. The rules of the church and other matters are discussed. Scriptural passages from the Old and New Testaments as they relate to the Amish are explained.

On the day of the communion service itself, the congregation again gathers at a member’s home. Commonly, men sit in one room and women in another.

Hymn singing begins the service as the preachers and bishops leave to discuss who sill be giving the sermons. The second hymn sung is always the same (#131), "Das Loblied," or "hymn of praise." The hymns are sung in German, with no organ or musical accompaniment. Singing is in unison with no harmonizing. The singing may go on for more than 30 minutes.

There is a short opening sermon, followed by a longer second sermon, lasting about two hours. During this and continuing into the main sermon, a few people leave off and on to eat. Since this service lasts well past noon, this is the way that everyone eats without taking time for a break.

At some point in the main sermon, which takes about three hours, two deacons leave to get the wine and a large, round loaf of bread. The bread, wrapped in a white cloth, is uncovered and cut before the congregation. While all stand, each member receives a piece of bread, starting with the bishops and preachers, the other men, and finally the women. Upon receiving the bread, each person puts it in his mouth, genuflects, and sits down to eat it. The congregation then rises again to receive the wine. The wine is poured into a cup, and each person takes a swallow, genuflects, and is again seated.

Buckets for the footwashing are now brought in. Shoes and socks are removed. One man stoops over, washes, and dries the feet of the other man sitting in the chair. The two then switch places. The men exchange these words, "The Lord be with us. Amen, in peace." They give each other the "holy kiss" and then return to their seats. This continues until each man has had his feet washed at the chair. Women follow the same procedure in their room. More singing then concludes the service.

Afterwards, as the congregation leaves to go home, the men slip some money into the hands of the deacon. It is only at the two communion services that an "offering" is given. The deacon quickly slips the money into his pocket. This money is used for any emergency or special need that might arise among the members.

Thus, in many ways, the rituals and sharing that comprise the communion service confirm the bonds of faith and community that are so important in Amish society.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


The other day I got tired of the same old things we have for dinner and decided to try something new and filled with flavors.  As I have explained before, I’m trying to lose some weight before my daughter’s wedding in November.  I have found that food with lots of flavor keeps me satisfied with a smaller portion.   Well this recipe has lots of flavor and my husband couldn’t stop praising this dish.  There is a little heat in this recipe but I don’t find it over the top in spiciness.  Hopefully your family will love it as much as we do!

Shrimp and sauce marinating in a Ziploc bag

Corn and onion sautéing in olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat

Tomatoes and green chilies added to corn and onions

Sweet, Spicy Shrimp and Salsa over Rice


Marinated Shrimp:
10 ounce bag of frozen large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off
1 tablespoon of Frank’s Red Hot Sweet Chili sauce
3 tablespoons of olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
4 cloves of garlic, minced

Corn and Tomato Salsa:
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup diced onion
1 cup frozen corn
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies drained
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

1 bag of Success Rice


In a bowl, combine the sweet chili sauce, olive oil, sugar, salt, and garlic.  Add the shrimp to the bowl and stir to coat all the shrimp.  Pour the shrimp and sauce into a large Ziploc bag and place in the refrigerator while you make the salsa.

Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the diced onion and frozen corn, saute for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the drained tomatoes and chilies, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.  Remove the salsa from the dutch oven to a bowl.  Add the lime juice, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Cover the bowl with aluminum foil to hold the heat in and set aside.

While cooking the salsa, boil water for your rice, then cook the rice following package directions.

Return the dutch oven to your stove and reheat the pan over medium high heat.  Add all the contents of the Ziploc bag to the dutch oven.  Lay the shrimp out in a single layer and cook for 2 ½ minutes per side.

Layer your plate with rice, then shrimp, and top with the corn & tomato salsa.

This makes 3 servings – 2 for my husband and 1 for me.  Excluding the rice, the calorie count is approximately 310 per serving.  Adapted from a recipe found on Pinterest by Kevin and Amanda, see the link here.

Monday, August 25, 2014


The following article I found on Money Saving Mom.  It is a guest post by a very smart woman, Abby Winstead, who blogs at Mother on a Mission.  If you are looking for some inspiration to save money and make smarter choices, Abby has got you covered!


When my husband and I got married nearly five years ago, we were gifted nearly everything we needed for our new home together.

One item we didn’t get, however, was a laundry hamper. It wasn’t a necessity because my husband still had his red mesh fold-up hamper left over from college, but it was something I really wanted.
Soon after our wedding, I made a trip to Target (armed with gift cards and a 20% off coupon) to purchase some remaining items from our registry. I began to fill my cart with things we needed: dish towels, shower curtain hooks, a broom, and dust pan.

When I reached the aisle of pretty woven laundry hampers, I was shocked. The cheapest basket on the shelf was $35; some cost upwards of $60. Until then, I’d just assumed I would purchase one. But then I had an ‘a-ha moment’ right there in Target.

Here are 3 things I learned:

I don’t need to impress anyone else.

I didn’t need a new laundry hamper. The one we already had was in adequate condition. I wanted one because they are pretty, and because it seemed to be necessary if I wanted to rid our bedroom of that dorm room feeling.

In reality, no one besides my husband and I would see the hamper, and my husband could care less what sort of device we used to store our dirty clothes.

I don’t always need what I want.
I really wanted a hamper. Maybe, for me, it was a big step in transitioning between childhood and adulthood.
Instead, I took another big step that day: thinking practically. I was a full-time student and full-time preschool teacher, and my husband was making a measly salary as a teacher at a private Christian school.
As much as I wanted to get rid of that old mesh hamper, it just wasn’t practical. Gone were the carefree college days when my spending decisions affected only myself. I had to think as a wife, and that meant putting aside my frivolous want in favor of our needs as a couple.

My frugality paid off with unexpected rewards.

Now, six years into our marriage, we still have that red mesh hamper — and I still plan to replace it one day!
For now, though, it’s still doing its job. My three-year-old son loves to help with the laundry, including returning that red hamper to our room after I’ve emptied it into the washing machine. It’s a simple thing, but I love watching him run down the hall, dragging it behind him — something he couldn’t do with a fancy hamper.
It’s funny to think how vital that new hamper seemed six years ago. Standing in the aisle at Target, I was pained by the decision to go without. But, since then, my life has been pretty unaffected by the absence of a pretty basket.
Now, when I’m debating purchases, I often ask myself if the item I’m about to buy will significantly improve my life, or the life of an immediate family member. If the answer is no, I usually don’t make the purchase.

I’ve learned that I only “need” as much as I think I do.
Abby is a wife, a mother of two, a high school teacher, and a wannabe game show contestant. She blogs at Mother on a Mission about getting crazy in the kitchen, her parenting (mis)adventures, and her baby steps toward creating a frugal, happy household. Abby’s mission is to be the mom — and make this world the kind of place — her children deserve.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Here is Part Three in the series on Amish Religious Traditions from the informative Amish News based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Today the post deals with the traditions of Amish Baptism.

For the Amish, and others of the Anabaptist tradition, the act of joining the church through baptism has great importance. Over 400 years ago, their ancestors in Europe were often tortured and killed because of their belief in adult baptism. Anabaptist means "re-baptizer." These people were so-named because, although they had been baptized as infants in the State Church, they believed that one became a Christian only by a conscious decision as an adult. A book called the Martyrs Mirror describes the terrible sufferings thousands of Anabaptists endured at the hands of other Christians because of this belief.

It is precisely because you join the church as an adult that you are expected to live up to your commitment and to the rules of the faith. If you do not, church discipline will follow.

Teenagers who feel they are ready to join the church begin the process by attending special instruction classes beforehand. There are usually nine of these, and they take place during regular church services. They study the Dordrecht Confession of Faith of 1632, which outlines the basic beliefs the Amish strive to uphold today. At a service prior to the baptisms, the congregation is asked if they will accept the applicants as brothers and sisters.

The baptism itself is part of a regular church service, normally two worship services prior to the autumn communion. After the service begins, the applicants are asked to leave the congregation for a few minutes. In private, they are reminded that they are making a promise for life. If they are uncertain as to this decision, now is the time to reconsider and turn back. Indeed, sometimes one or two of the applicants decides he is not really ready to become a church member. The boys are also asked to accept the possibility of becoming a minister, should the lot ever fall on one of them. When the applicants return, they often keep their heads bowed through part of the service.

After the hymns and sermons, the young people kneel. They are reminded that this is a promise to God, witnessed by those at the church service. Each is asked four questions, signaling their commitment to join the church. Then the prayer coverings are removed from the head of each girl, and the bishop raises each applicant’s head. He is assisted by the deacon who holds a wooden bucket. With a cup, the deacon pours some water from the bucket into the bishop’s hands and onto each applicant’s head three times, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The hand of each applicant is taken and they are helped to their feet as the bishop, in the Pennsylvania German dialect, says these words... "In the name of the Lord and the Church, we extend to you the hand of fellowship. Rise up, and be a faithful member of the church" The boys are greeted as members with the Holy Kiss. The girls receive this blessing from the deacon’s wife.

This is an emotional experience and tears are not uncommon for the applicants and others in the congregation. While some of these young people may have "sowed some wild oats" prior to their joining the church, the seriousness of the moment must be clear. Now they are members of this congregation, have promised to abide by its rules, will marry in the faith, and assume the duties that the church may ask of them, such as becoming a minister. The consequences of straying from this path are also clear, with shunning and excommunication the most severe discipline for those who stray from the ways of the faith. Like their forefathers, they have made a commitment, but they will also receive much in return from the community of the faithful of which they have become members.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


 I read a very interesting article by author, Susan Meissner, about the need to respect our Amish friends views on photography.  The article is reposted below and oh, how I can identify with what Susan is saying.  I remember being in Holmes County thinking about how much I wanted to take the picture of the beautiful, fresh faced Amish waitress at Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen.  But I didn't take those pictures.  It just felt wrong to do that when I knew that was against their beliefs.  This article originally was posted at Amish Wisdom and I thank them for granting permission to reprint this timely article.  You can read the original article on Amish Wisdom at this LINK and see additional appropriate photographs there as well.

Respecting the Amish view regarding photography
By Susan Meissner

I enjoy very much taking pictures when I travel, especially of people who are different from me. I love catching people of another culture in a moment of ordinariness, as they are just going about the routine of their day. During the research weekend I spent last summer in Lancaster County at a working dairy farm, I was time and time again stunned by the beauty of the Amish human landscape, not just at the farm where I stayed but in every Amish home I went to. It was difficult at times not to point my camera at the people and instead train the lens on other things, but I kept to the promise I made to myself that I wouldn’t take a picture of an Amish person unless I got permission. 

It is no secret that the Amish as a whole want to be remembered for the kind of people they are and the example they leave behind, and not by their physical appearance. They have made it politely clear that they do not want to be photographed.

Even with this directive widely known, I noticed that plenty of other tourists took pictures of Amish people anyway, as though they didn’t care that the culture they were visiting has respectfully asked not to have their picture taken.

If you travel to Amish country, you may have the some urge as I did to take photos of the darling Amish children walking their pony or playing in their yard, or the couple in the courting buggy out for a Sunday stroll, or an Amish father and his little boy at an auction, standing side-by-side, with matching clothes and hats and suspenders. But I would encourage you not to give in to that impulse just because others are doing so.

I spent a day with an Amish blacksmith in research for THE AMISH BLACKSMITH, and I asked him if I could photograph him while I asked him questions and took notes. He said yes, for which I was very grateful.  But had he said no, I would have honored his request.

This doesn’t mean you won’t have very many photos of your Amish trip. Not by a long shot. I took more than a hundred photos, only a few of them with people in them, and they are among the prettiest travel photos I have. If you truly want to remember what the Amish people looked like, there are wonderful pictorial books that you can purchase at the local museums and bookstores.  

Whether you travel to Amish country as tourist or a researcher, the best way to enjoy your trip is to be among its people, talking with them, eating with them, enjoying their company, and respecting what they hold dear.  This, in turn, will endear you to them. There are plenty of beautiful un-peopled views to remember your trip by.

Susan Meissner is the award-winning author of sixteen novels, including A Fall of Marigolds, named to BookList’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction for 2014. Her latest book is The Amish Blacksmith, co-written with Mindy Starns Clark, is the second installment in The Men of Lancaster County series. A RITA and Christy award finalist, Susan is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. She is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she's not writing novels, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church.

Visit Susan at her website: on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at

Purchase Susan’s books here:


Monday, August 18, 2014


Emma Miller, author of the popular and engaging Hannah’s Daughter’s series, has turned to the Amish mystery genre with Plain Murder (Kensington Publishing).  Plain Murder does not disappoint; it has plenty of mystery, romance, and Amish culture within its pages to more than satisfy readers.

The protagonist, Rachel Mast, left her Amish family while in Rumspringa to get her degrees, including an MBA at Wharton.  She went on to work in corporate America, but after 15 years away from her conservative Old Order Amish roots, she has come back to live in Stone Mill, Pennsylvania.  Rachel finds herself with one foot in the Englischer world and one foot in her old Amish community.  Rachel has used all her savings and retirement funds to buy and restore an old home and turn it into a bed & breakfast and gift shop in Stone Mill.

The story begins with Rachel’s Amish cousin, Mary Aaron Hostetler, running into the bed & breakfast looking for Rachel’s help.  The body of Willie O’Day, a tight fisted Englischer businessman has been found on Mary Aaron’s father’s farm.  Willie had been missing for eight months, but it turns out he had been buried on Aaron Hostetler’s land all that time.  Everyone in the community knew that Aaron Hostetler and Willie O’Day feuded back and forth for years.  But no one could believe that an Amish man would kill an Englischer.

Aaron Hostetler is a stubborn man and strictly follows the Ordnung.  He doesn’t want an attorney to help him defend himself when the police question him.  Rachel feels it is her duty to help her uncle clear his name and she begins snooping around to find out all she can about Willie’s last day.  Rachel has some extra help from her friend Evan who is a police officer in Stone Mill.  The author provides many likely suspects and plenty of clues, some real and some red herrings, as readers follow Rachel all over town looking for the real murderer.

If readers are looking for a cozy murder mystery with a generous dose of Amish as well, Plain Murder is the book to read.  This book is totally entertaining and figuring out who did it is not as easy as readers may think.  Emma Miller’s follow up to Plain Murder will be Plain Killing, set to be published on December 30, 2014.  Readers will want to be first in line to read Emma’s next Amish mystery.  Plain Murder was published December 31, 2013.




Friday, August 15, 2014


Here is Part Two in the series on Amish Religious Traditions from the informative Amish News based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Today the post deals with the traditions of Amish Songs.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to attend an Amish church service can rarely forget the power and simple beauty of Amish hymns, the sound created by 150 people packed into the rooms of a house singing from their special hymnal, the AUSBUND.

Well over 400 years old, the AUSBUND is one of the most famous and important books to the Amish. First published in German in 1564, shortly after the Reformation, it is reputed to be the oldest Protestant hymnal in continuous use. With hymns added over the years, editions today contain nearly 900 pages!

The AUSBUND is important for many reasons. First and foremost is the religious heritage that it preserves. The core of the hymnbook consists of about 50 hymns written mostly by 16th century German Anabaptists, many imprisoned in castle dungeons for their religious beliefs.. These forefathers of the Amish and Mennonites, Anabaptists ("re-baptizers") were so named because they practiced adult rather than infant baptism. Because of their beliefs in the separation of church and state, and pacifism, they were considered radicals and heretics. These Christians, hunted down by both Protestants and Catholics, were usually imprisoned if they did not recant their beliefs. Thousands were tortured and put to death.

As author Paul M. Yoder notes, since many of the hymns were penned by men awaiting the death sentence, "the dominant tone found in most of them is one of great sorrow, deep loneliness, or protest against the world of wickedness which was putting forth every effort to crush the righteous."

The length of some hymns is astonishing. The longest has 35 stanzas of 13 lines each. The second hymn sung is always the same (#131), "Das Loblied," or "hymn of praise." The hymns are sung in German, with no organ or musical accompaniment. Singing is in unison with no harmonizing. It may take as long as fifteen minutes to do three stanzas, and for this reason entire hymns are not always sung. Most of the melodies originated in sacred or secular folk songs and Gregorian chants of the times.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Amish singing is the fact that the hymnal contains no musical notation. These melodies have simply been remembered and passed down from generation to generation!

Being as certain men in the congregation have natural musical talent, they come to learn the melodies over the years and may emerge as one of the song leaders or "vorsingers." When a hymn is sung, one of these men will lead it, and he begins singing each line. Everyone joins in with the second syllable and finishes the line. Amish visiting other states often note the subtle differences in melody, or the varying speeds with which the hymns are sung, a result of the hymns being changed and embellished over hundreds of years.

It seems only fitting to close with some words from one of the martyr hymns...

We alone, a little flock,
The few who still remain,
Are exiles wandering through the land
In sorrow and in pain...
We wander in the forests dark,
With dogs upon our track;
And like the captive, silent lamb
Men bring us, prisoners, back.
They point to us, amid the throng,
And with their taunts offend,
And long to let the sharpened ax
On heretics descend.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Today Adina Senft, author of many Amish novels, answers our questions about the writing of Herb of Grace.  If you haven't already read the book review, here is the LINK.

Where did your inspiration for HERB OF GRACE come from?

When I was writing the Amish Quilt trilogy, the main character’s mother in the first book is a Dokterfraa, or herbal healer. I didn’t delve into her work very much in those books, but she did pass in and out with her packets of herbal teas. Then, I went to a conference on medicine and technology in the Amish community at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania and had my eyes opened to the extent of the practice, especially among women. So then of course I had to track down some of these ladies, and saw how they worked out of their homes and gardens. After that, it was just a matter of paring down what I had learned and working it into the story.

What intrigues you most about your character, Sarah Yoder?

She’s human … she’s flawed … and she takes her lumps and gets back up again. Like many of us, she sincerely believes that when she reaches out to help someone, she’s doing the right thing. But sometimes she has to wait just a moment and reach out to God instead, to make sure that her motivations are the right ones. This aspect of her character sometimes gets her into trouble … but that makes for an interesting story, I think.

What was the writing process like for this book? Did you have to do a lot of research?

Oh yes. Lots and lots of research. I took a six-week herbal medicine class, which served to show me the extent of what I didn’t know! It also showed me the wealth of medicine I have growing in my backyard. The local herbalists have been very kind and willing to diagnose my imaginary people and prescribe treatments for them. I’ve made up tinctures and teas and tried them on myself. And of course, my research trips to Lancaster County every summer are an education in themselves. An interesting side note—the young Amish mother who reads my manuscripts for accuracy tried one of the cures in Herb of Grace and was delighted to find that it worked!

Why do you think this book is different than other Amish fiction books out there?

Funny you should say that—just this spring and summer there has been a marked increase in books about Amish herbalists! But I think what might make the Healing Grace series different is that I use real recipes in the text, so that a person could make up their own cures if they were so inclined—after speaking with their doctor, of course. And then there’s the spiritual theme going on behind the herb used in the title that informs the books. For instance, Herb of Grace is the title of the first book, and it’s also the country name for rue, a bitter, astringent herb used in very small amounts for digestive problems. And as we know, rue is also a verb meaning to be sorry for something. So the character that Sarah Yoder is treating with herb of grace is deeply sorry and ashamed of something he did in the past … and for that, only the Great Physician has the cure.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Herb of Grace by Adina Senft (FaithWords) is a genuine must read for those who love Amish fiction.  Readers will not be able to put this book down until finished, it is just that great and filled with honest characterization.  The Amish authenticity in the writing is much appreciated.  It is evident that Adina has spent time around the Plain People.  As the last page is completed, readers will be clamoring for the next book in the series, Keys of Heaven.

This interesting tale begins with Sarah Yoder, a 38 year old Old Order Amish widow, still missing her husband who died five years earlier and worried, as usual, about finances.  Sarah counts on her 17 year-old stepson, Simon to hand over half his paycheck to keep the household going.  Her 14 year-old son, Caleb, is trying hard to find odd jobs to do to help out as well.  Sarah grows vegetables for their dinner table and herbs to sell at the Willow Creek Amish Market on Saturdays.  But Sarah has not been able to pay her in-laws the mortgage payment in six months.

Ruth Lehman, is the Dokterfraa, an herbal healer whose informal practice encompassed most of the Amish district.  Ruth thinks Sarah should take over part of her practice and make more money than Sarah had been earning at the Amish market.  Sarah doesn’t have the belief in herself to take on being a Dokterfraa.  Ruth asks Sarah to pray about it.  Sarah finds many issues to pray about throughout the book.

Next door to Sarah, Henry Byler, age 42, has just moved in after inheriting the house and land from his Aunt Sadie.  Henry grew up Amish but moved away to Denver before his baptism, and drifted away from his religion to become an Englischer.  Although there were plenty of other relatives to leave her property to, Henry assumed Aunt Sadie wanted him to come back to his roots.  Henry has a talent as a potter, but needs to find work somewhere if he is going to stay in Willow Creek.  And he comes to realize he would like some company too, but who?

In a separate storyline, Sarah’s stepson, Simon is being pursued by pretty little Priscilla.  Priscilla is trying every trick in the book, but Simon seems content to just maintain their friendship.  Simon’s best friend, Joe, however, is sweet on Priscilla and asking her to ride in his courting buggy.  But all Priscilla can think about is Simon.  The author truly knows how to write teenage romance, it feels real and authentic.

Herb of Grace is filled with spiritual insights and multilayered storylines.  At times readers will be chuckling and other times, misty eyed as the book unfolds.  The characters for the most part are endearing and completely relatable.  Herb of Grace is a five star recommended book; it will be published August 5, 2014.
Adina Senft





Saturday, August 9, 2014


When I started this blog back in March, I had no idea what I was doing or the time commitment involved.  As time has past, it has become more and more difficult to produce six postings a week.  As a result, I plan on posting less frequently.  Many thanks to all readers who have been faithfully reading and commenting on my posts.  I appreciate you and ask God to send blessings to you all!

Friday, August 8, 2014


For the next few weeks I will be posting articles on Amish Religious Traditions.  These wonderfully informative articles are from Amish News.  Amish News is based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and serves the visitors to Lancaster County.  They are a great resource for information on their Amish neighbors.

Swartzentruber Amish attending Sunday services in Ashland County, Ohio, thanks to AmishAmerica

Amish church services are held every other Sunday. The geographic area where the Amish live is divided into church districts for this purpose. Since church services are held in homes, not in a church building, each family normally hosts church about once a year.

As people arrive, someone may be in charge of taking the horses to the barn. People tend to congregate by age and gender, young boys often in the barn, women in the house, etc. When church begins, women are usually seated in one area, and men in another. Seating is on backless benches, which each district owns and transports from house to house in a bench wagon. There are more comfortable chairs for some of the older members and the ministers.

Worship begins at about 8:00 a.m. and usually lasts over three hours. Hymns are sung from the AUSBUND, a special hymnal used by the Amish.  There are usually three to seven preachers and bishops at a service. These men retire to a room during the singing to decide who will be preaching the two sermons that day.

Around 8:30 a.m., the first sermon begins. Since people may be seated in different rooms, the ministers may move about somewhat as they preach. Some ministers present their message in a sort of chanting, sing-song manner, in the Pennsylvania German dialect, with Scriptures in High German. It is not unusual for much emotion to be shown, and tears are not uncommon. The pitch and tone of the voice vary for emphasis. As in any church, different preachers have different styles. This first sermon may last about thirty minutes.

Scriptures are read and they kneel for silent prayer prior to the main sermon. This sermon is longer, sometimes over an hour. Ministers often quote a passage from Scripture and then talk about it. Sermons are not written in advance. It is quite amazing that these "untrained" clergy can deliver such powerful, emotional messages to their congregations. Leading a right life in the eyes of the Lord, resurrection, and the idea of "judge not that ye be not judged" are some common themes. Some also like to preach from the Old Testament.

After the main sermon, the other ministers usually make short statements that add to or emphasize what has been heard. There is about another half hour of prayer and singing. The Amish have a booklet outlining the hymns and Scriptures to be used at each service. Readings from the New Testament chapters of Matthew predominate, with Luke and John rounding out the year.

During the service, a wide range of responses are noted, as at a church service anywhere. Some people may be dozing off, others shaking their heads in agreement. Children behave remarkably well. Mothers often bring Cheerios, candy, a toy animal wrapped in a hanky, or a picture book. Sometimes a child walks from his mother in one room to his father in the other. Noisy children are usually disciplined. After the service concludes, the rooms are cleared of people and some of the benches are now converted into tables so that a light lunch can be served.

Because there may be over 150 people, men and women eat in shifts, oldest through youngest, usually in separate rooms,. Each place setting usually has a knife, cup, and saucer, with a glass of water. The meal may consist of coffee, bread, "church spread" (a combination of peanut butter and marshmallow), jam, apple butter, red beets, pickles, cheese, and sometimes snitz (dried apple) pie. A silent prayer is given before and after eating.

Afterwards, there is time for socializing among the adults. Children might play outside or in the barn. People stay into the afternoon, but dairy farmers must soon return home to milk the cows.
The Amish church service is an act of worship, a preservation of tradition, a renewal of faith, and an affirmation of community.

Thursday, August 7, 2014



Amber Stockton’s newest release is in the Quilts of Love series and is titled, A Grand Design (Abingdon).  This fun to read, sweet confection, runs deeper than your usual Christian romance novel.  Travel buffs will appreciate the setting of The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  The vivid descriptions of The Grand Hotel and island will surely boost Michigan tourism.

The protagonist, 29 year old Alyssa of Grand Rapids is tired of watching all her friends and co-workers get engaged, have wedding showers, and marry, while she is standing still.  Alyssa does not have a boyfriend and hasn’t dated in many years.  On a dare, Alyssa enters a Brides Magazine contest to win an all-expense paid two week vacation for two to The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  Surprisingly, Alyssa wins the contest!

Alyssa calls her life-long best friend Libby, who is fun, flirty, and very vivacious, to go on the free trip.  Libby happily accepts.  Next Alyssa calls her grandma who lives on Mackinac Island to let grandma know she will be coming up to Mackinac Island to visit for two weeks.  Alyssa’s grandma is thrilled as she has not seen Alyssa in 14 years.  In the past, Alyssa and her father would come up to Mackinac every summer to visit grandma, but the year after Alyssa’s father died was the last time Alyssa visited her grandma.

As soon as Alyssa and Libby arrive at the dock of the lake, two handsome men, Scott and Ben, employees of The Grand Hotel, appear in a boat to take the girls over to the island.  Ben immediately starts flirting with Libby, and she flirts right back.  Alyssa wishes she could just let go of her cautiousness and be glib too, but she just isn’t that type of girl.  Scott appears disgusted by Ben’s showing off and over familiarity with Libby, but at the same time, Scott can’t seem to keep his eyes off of Alyssa.

Alyssa and Libby meet with Alyssa’s grandma and she explains a project that she wants them to do.  She wants the girls to look up her old quilting friends and pick up from each one a quilted block that will be joined together with the other blocks to form an heirloom quilt.  Grandma contacts Scott to provide transportation for Alyssa and Libby as they visit each of grandma’s old quilting friends.  And suddenly a friendship, or could it be a romance, is brewing between Scott and Alyssa.  Can Alyssa get over her reticence and begin a relationship with a man?  Will Scott figure out why Alyssa has such an obvious problem with men?

A Grand Design contains the best elements of a Christian romance novel.  It is a delicious read filled with spiritual content, effective characterization, interesting mystery, and wholesome humor.  Amber Stockton has much to offer in this stand-alone novel that is a part of the Quilts of Love series.  A Grand Design will be published August 19, 2014.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Nothing is better than a pan of homemade Lasagna.  It is so delicious, easy to serve, everyone loves it - provided you get the right proportion of noodles, to meat, to cheese.  This recipe will give your family the lasagna of their dreams, it is comfort food at its best!
Brown your ground chuck, onions, and garlic.

Mix together the ricotta cheese, egg, and parmesan.

Here is the browned ground chuck plus bottle of spaghetti sauce.

This is the mixed ricotta, egg, and parmesan ready to layer.

The layered lasagna noodles, meat sauce, ricotta mixture, and mozzarella cheese is ready for the oven.
1.25 pounds ground chuck, at least 80%/20%
24 ounces jar of spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup of diced onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 egg
16 ounces of low fat ricotta
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
6 pieces of "no boil" lasagna noodles
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Brown ground chuck and break down into small pieces, add the onion and garlic and cook until the meat is no longer pink.  Drain as much grease as possible.  Add the jar of spaghetti sauce to the meat mixture, stir well, and take off of the heat. 

In a bowl, mix together the egg, ricotta cheese, and parmesan cheese.

In a 7 inch by 11 inch glass pan, spoon enough meat sauce to cover the bottom of the glass pan.  Fit 3 "no boil" lasagna noodles across the glass pan, then layer half of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles.  Spoon half of the meat mixture on top of the ricotta, then sprinkle one cup of the shredded mozzarella cheese.  Start the next layer with 3 "no boil" lasagna noodles, the last half of the ricotta mixture, then the last half of the meat mixture, and finally the rest of the shredded mozzarella cheese should be sprinkled on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until bubbly and browning on top.  Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


This sweet book, The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman is a perfect read for a cold, wintery afternoon or a hot, sultry day.  I shed a few tears, but they were tears of joy and happiness while reading it.  Vannetta takes us into the lives of two sisters-in-law, both young, married at the same time, and now both pregnant with their first children.  Annie is only a few months along, while her sister-in-law, Leah is carrying twins and having some physical and emotional difficulties.

Leah’s husband, Adam doesn’t understand what Leah is going through or how her pregnancy hormones and weight gain are affecting her moods and feelings.  Adam withdraws within himself, which further depresses Leah.   With Leah and Adam being so young, and lacking good communication skills, their marriage begins to deteriorate.

Annie during her rumschpringe, left the Amish community, to go to college and become a nurse.  The storyline of Annie returning after receiving her nursing degree is told in A Simple Amish Christmas.  It would be nice to read A Simple Amish Christmas first, and it was a great book, but is definitely not necessary. The Christmas Quilt can stand alone and it is totally understandable.  With Annie’s nursing background, she is able to help Leah when medical complications crop up during her pregnancy. 

We discover there are many ways to help a friend during a difficult pregnancy.  While Annie is quilting a baby comforter for Leah’s twins, she begins to tell Leah stories to comfort her.  Each story has a theme: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

This story is the perfect read for every woman who is pregnant, who wants to get pregnant, or who was ever pregnant.  We all can identify with Leah’s feelings of inadequacy and unattractiveness.  Annie’s stories remind Leah of what is truly important.  This beautifully written tale will wrap you in a warm quilt of God’s love and His healing words.

Monday, August 4, 2014


Question:  What do the Amish, Native Americans, Quakers, Colonial, Civil War, WWII era, as well as contemporary women have in common?  They all have an interest in quilting.  The Quilts of Love (Abingdon Press) series of novels are being published with the common theme of quilting, believing that each quilt has a story to tell.  The series will encompass many different genres including light mystery, historical and contemporary romance, and Quaker and Amish themes. 

The Quilts of Love series eventually will encompass 25 beautifully written books by 25 unique and established authors.  The last book in the series will be released in January, 2015.  The books can be read in any order and contain their own characters and distinctive story.  The striking book covers for this series were created by Faceout Studio, a well-known firm in Christian publishing, and depict exquisite, colorful quilts.  Each cover is truly a work of art.

Quilts come in all different patterns and styles as do The Quilts of Love novels.  For example, in A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare, a Native American woman is quilting a Lakota Star for her son.  While in Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin, a group of World War II era women are quilting a patchwork quilt while they nervously wait for their men to come home from the war.

Vannetta Chapman, author of The Christmas Quilt, stated that the theme of quilting did not get in the way of telling her story as she wrote about a nine patch quilt and focused on the nine fruits of the spirit found in Galatians in the bible.  Each square of the nine patch quilt is represented by a comforting story told to an at-risk pregnant woman illustrating love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Vannetta is a beginning quilter and depends on experienced quilters to read her manuscripts and point out any problems in the quilting area.  Authors were not required to be quilters but needed to be familiar with the art of quilting.  An emphasis is put on the story behind the quilt.

The main character in Barbara Cameron’s novel, Scraps of Evidence, is a detective who quilts as a hobby and uses quilting as a way to help her solve a crime through her aunt’s old story quilt. Scraps of Evidence combines the twists and turns of a cozy thriller with quilting and sparks of a new romance for an irresistible book.  Barbara has sewn a quilt herself many years ago as well as sewing clothes for her two children, before she started writing books.  These days Barbara settles for reading quilting magazines to satisfy that creative urge since her time is filled writing best-selling Amish novels.

Quilts and quilting, besides being an art and craft, are used in a variety of ways in these novels to convey love, family ties, hope for the future, remembrance of the past, and God’s message of love for us.  For more information, the publisher sponsors a website at with material on all previous published books in addition to the upcoming novels in the series.


Saturday, August 2, 2014



Today I emailed my daughter a "To-Do before the I DO list" with 45 items on it for her upcoming wedding, which is now less than 100 days away.  I will be looking for ideas on how to reduce stress in the coming weeks.  I want to be a confident and relaxed mother of the bride and I want my daughter to have a fun and blessed day with her new husband.  The key to all that is organization ahead of time, thus the To-Do list.

Meanwhile, when I need to relax, nothing is better than reading a good Christian novel with a happy ending.  Do any of you use reading to relax?  Now let's see what is on the calendar for next week!

MONDAY:  An article on the Quilts of Love series.

TUESDAY:  A book review of The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman, part of the Quilts of Love series.

WEDNESDAY:  This week's recipe is for Homemade Lasagna.  This is a simple to make recipe but so delicious and much better than any frozen lasagna.

THURSDAY:  A book review of A Grand Design by Amber Stockton, part of the Quilts of Love series.

FRIDAY:  This post details Amish Religious Traditions - Church Services.

Friday, August 1, 2014


Here is an interesting topic for today, Amish Dating Customs.  This fascinating article came from  I highly recommend that you go to this website as it has many, many interesting articles about the Amish.

Amish Dating Customs

Amish dating customs provide young Amish adults with a means of finding a lifelong partner while following the rules of the church.
In the outside world teenagers mix with the opposite sex on a daily basis during high school. Many go on to college or tech school where they can dip into a large pool of likely dating candidates.

Amish children also mix socially in school but there are a few major differences.
  • Amish schooling ends with the completion of the 8th grade so this source of daily socializing between the young boys and girls ends after the age 14 or 15.
  • Most Amish schools have on thirty to thirty-five students. This means that they are probably in school with a bunch of siblings and cousins. So the pickings are rather slim.
  • Amish kids can’t just jump in the car and head to the mall, sporting events or high school dances to find potential dating material.

So how do these kids find dates? Amish dating customs get the job done.

Customs differ

The Amish, like we outsiders, are not a monolithic society. Differences between individual districts can be varied and complex.
Assuming that all Amish practice the same dating customs would be like assuming that all “English” love NASCAR, classical music, and aerobic workouts.

Acknowledging that there are many variations, let’s take a look at some Amish dating customs.

The Setup

Amish courtship traditionally begins at age 16 for the boys and age 14-15 for the girls.
To find someone to date you have to go where the action is. The Amish socialize at functions like visits, frolics, and church. Since everyone goes to Church every other week, it is makes sense for the older kids to stay late to mix and match.
So on Sunday evening at the same house where church service was held earlier in the day, after the adults have left, Amish kids meet for Sunday night singing.

The Sunday night singing is not meant for devotion. The songs of worship are faster and more energetic than the slowly chanted songs of the morning church service.

The boys and girls sit at a long table facing each other. There is plenty of time between songs to talk and socialize. The singing lasts until around ten o’clock.

The group will then hang around for an hour or two after singing with the unattached boys and girls sizing each other up as likely partners.
Dating Begins

If a couple hits it off, the Amish dating process with the boy asking the girl if he can drive her home. At her house they will go in and visit. At that late hour, the household will be sleeping so they have plenty of privacy. They may sit up long into the night getting to know each other. The boy makes the long buggy trip home in the wee hours of the morning.

If both are willing, the couple starts going steady.
Amish meet for church every other weekend. On the weekend when there is no church, the couple usually dates on Saturday night. That way they can see each other every week.
Either party can quit the relationship at any time. Just as in the outside world, it might take someone several tries to find a lifelong partner.
The more conservative couples practice traditional Amish dating customs. They date in their buggies and drink hot chocolate or sodas. They focus on group and outdoor activities sometimes with their parents.
Couples from more progressive churches that have drifted more toward the modern world might go into town for the evening. Maybe they will get a bite to eat or just hang out together and enjoy each others company.
The most daring couples might change into English clothes, get into a car and head for a party where they can sample worldly temptations. This group is a very small minority.

Bed Courtship

Some Amish dating relationships start out with a different twist.
In the Amish districts that sanction bed courtship, the boy asks the girl if he can take her home. If she consents, they drive to her home. They immediately go upstairs and get into her bed fully clothed, where they are expected to talk all night without touching.
Bed courtship is practiced only by the ultra-conservative churches. The parents rely on the church teachings to prevent hanky-panky.

This custom is also known as bundling which the dictionary defines as sleeping in the same bed with somebody while both are fully dressed.
Bundling has biblical roots. It is not an Amish invention. The custom was practiced in Europe for centuries before immigrants introduced it to the American colonies.
In the past, the practical reason for bed courting was comfort. When homes were heated by fireplaces and had hard wooden furniture, the bed was the warmest, most comfortable place to socialize. As fireplaces and hard wooden chairs were replaced by central heating and comfortable sitting rooms, bundling faded (almost entirely) from the scene.

Clinging to Tradition

It is interesting to note that the vast majority of Amish society condemns the practice of bed courtship. It seems strange that only the strictest Amish congregations still sanction it.
In ultra-conservative groups like the Swartzentruber Amish or the Nebraska Amish, homes are still heated by wood stoves and furnished with plain furniture with no upholstering. So in these households, the old reasons for bed courtship remain.

It is an old custom and these ultra-conservative churches stubbornly cling to old traditions. They believe that any change weakens their church and threatens their eternal souls. No wonder they encourage the old Amish dating customs.

And the Beat Goes On

The Amish population just keeps on growing at a robust rate. Much of this growth can be attributed to the ability of the church to promote marriages within the faith.

Since their beginning, the Amish have developed customs aimed at protecting and prolonging the church. They have managed to keep their identity and thrive in an ever-changing world.  Amish dating customs play a major role in the continuing survival and growth of the Amish society.