The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

Amish Mailboxes

The mailboxes of my grandpa & great-grandfather (across the street from each other) in beautiful Churchtown, PA

“…I longed to know him again, the lonely writer of those letters who never heard of such things as e-mails, twitter and who lived in an age not so long ago, but that might as well belong to another era. It is one where the mailman still played the troubadour of sorts for star-crossed lovers, and not what he is now: The carrier of bills and junk mail.” – Andrew Lamb

I grew up in a little town in Texas, far away from my Amish grandparents in Lancaster County, PA. We rarely spoke on the phone. And only saw each other a handful of times per year. There was no Facebook, Skype,  or even email. But I felt beautifully connected with them thanks to the treasures called letters that were often delivered to our mailbox at the end of our long country lane.

There’s something incredibly special about opening the mailbox and discovering an envelope addressed to one’s self. I’m nearly forty years old and I still get every bit as excited to receive a handwritten letter now, as I did when I was six years old.

I’m not alone in my sentiments. We all love getting a letter in the mail. A little note, a lengthy letter or anything in-between brings joy to anyone – anywhere, at any time!

Both of my Amish grandmothers were wonderful letter writers. They filled their stationery with things like news of the weather, family updates, local happenings, celebrations, unusual tidbits of information, and what was happening in the garden, or on the farm. I particularly love this letter my mother saved – written by my Grandma Esh in the form of a poem, and sent to her children and grandchildren in the family “Circle Letter”:

Grandma's Letter

Grandma's Letter 2

So what makes a good letter? I love this explanation:

“What makes a good letter? For me, a good letter is personal and personalized. A good letter takes time to write. The thing about writing a letter is that no one can multitask while doing so, unlike e-mails or telephone calls. A letter represents undivided attention and is precious as a consequence. Oh yes, a good letter is handwritten, not a cut-and-pasted, global searched-and-replaced bit of faux intimacy. It need not be written on fancy stationary or an expensive card — the three letters I have been cherishing were written on plain notebook paper! And a good letter is one that required the writer to find a stamp and an envelope and a postbox!” – Christopher Peterson, Ph.D.

In this age of sterile, digital correspondence, I think it’s time we all pick up a bona-fide pen and paper, to script a few meaningful words to those we hold dear, just as our grandmothers did for us in days gone by. I daresay it will bring some well-received sunshine to someone’s day!

~ Justina Dee

This is a post from the series I’m sharing called “31 Lessons from My Amish Family. Click here to read more! 

Interesting Links:

Scholars Mourn the Lost Art of Letterwriting

The Wall Street Journal on Letterwriting

The Joy of Receiving a Letter – written by a Postman in 1886

Emily Post on Letterwriting

 

Ten Unique Items Found in an Amish Household

Last week I shared some unusual foods found in Amish homes, and today I’m listing (in no particular order) some interesting items commonly found in Amish homes. Each of these items takes me on a walk down nostalgia lane!

Amish Foot Stool

Amish Foot Stool | by Amish Furniture Factory

1.  A “Mummy Schtool” is a small foot stool my grandparents kept in the general area of the kitchen. (“Mummy” is the affectionate nickname given to Grandmothers  -or “Grussmommies”.) Since grandmas often needed help reaching into high cupboards, the stool was kept nearby. Somewhere along the line of Amish history, any small stool in the kitchen was given this title.

Dutch Blitz

Dutch Blitz | Photo by Lehmans

2. Dutch Blitz is a card game often found in Amish homes. It gets so intense that chairs are taken away from around the table being used, so that players can stand up. I have great memories of playing this game with my cousins for hours on end! Be sure to click on the video link to see how the game is played.

Amish Hope Chest

Amish Hope Chest | by Amish Furniture Factory

3. A Hope Chest is given to Amish girls as they become young women. Items like handmade quilts, special dishes given as Christmas gifts, silverware, and treasured family linens are stored inside, to someday be used in their own household after they are married.

Inside Amish House

Photo by Amish Farm & House, Lancaster PA

4. Green Window Shades – My sister reminded me of this uniquely Amish household item. There were no curtains in traditional Amish houses, but instead many used green utilitarian roller shades such seen as the photo. It’s a signature sign of an Old Order Amish home.

Vintage Tupperware Tumbler | Photo from Ebay

Vintage Tupperware Tumbler | Photo from Ebay

5. Community Cup – My father came from a family of 14 children. Imagine for a moment the buildup of dirty dishes if each child used a clean cup every time they got a drink of water! Instead, Amish homes typically have a cup sitting at the kitchen sink (the one at Grussmommy’s house looked kind of like the one in the photo), and everyone shared that cup between meals. At mealtime each person had their own water-glass, but the rest of the day you simply filled up the designated cup, and then rinsed it out after use.

Good's Store, East Earl PA

Good’s Store East Earl, PA | Photo by Lancaster Online

6. Hardware or Feed Store Calendar – Some of the most interesting places to shop in Lancaster County, PA. are Amish & Mennonite general or hardware stores. One of my favorites is “Good’s Store” in East Earl. Every year these stores print calendars, usually depicting nature scenes with Bible verses. I can’t remember visiting an Amish home that didn’t have one hanging in a useful spot.

Amish Family Record

Jacob & Annie Glick Family Record | Artist David Hoke, circa 1930’s

7. Beautiful Family Records such as these are another item often found in Amish homes. As they do not have photographs, this is a special way of remembering and displaying loved ones. This photo shows my grandmother Barbara Glick’s family. (See her name right there on the bottom?)

8. The Amish people were making Scrap Books for years before the craze hit American craft stores. As children we always enjoyed going to the drawer or cupboard where our grandmothers stored them, sitting down with the scrap books and gently leafing through the pages. Their scrapbooks contained postcards, cards, newspaper clippings and other memorebelia.

Amish Drawing Salve

Amish Draw Salve | from Vermont Country Store

9. Drawing Salve was in both Grussmommy & Grandma’s medicine cabinets. When we had an insect sting, a splinter or small wound, they would first clean the area and then apply the salve. Of course it always felt much better after their TLC!

Amber Teething Necklace

Baby Teething Necklace | Photo by Amber Artisans

10. Amish babies are often seen playing with a string of colorful Beads. Recently “teething necklaces” such as the one pictured above have been making waves in the natural wellness scene. I smiled when I first saw them, when I realized that Amish mothers have used them to comfort their teething babies for generations.

If you think of something I have not put on this list, I’d love for you to take time to comment below! Thank you for following along with my Amish Family blogging project. It’s truly an honor to have you read the posts.

~ Justina Dee

This is number 16 in my “31 Lessons I Learned From My Amish Family” blogging series. Click here to read more! 

Link:

Video demonstrating a family game of Dutch Blitz

Wellness Mama’s Drawing Salve Recipe

Note: I am not affiliated in any way with companies or individuals whose links I’ve provided, and am not receiving compensation for featuring their products here, and their views may not reflect my own. 

 

Life Without Electricity, Cars & Phone {How DO the Amish Do It?}

It’s remarkable to think that only one hundred year ago most people lived like the Amish do now – with no electricity, cars or telephone. Did you ever think about the fact that my Amish relatives didn’t appear so “quaint” back then? Things started to look a lot different between the Amish way of life and mainstream American culture in the early 1900’s, when the Amish people decided they would not join the power grid.

Spending time with my grandparents was an adventure, and I’d like to give you a peek into the way they lived without the things we feel are essential to everyday life!

The Amish and Technology

Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

There’s a secret I want you to know and it’s this: the Amish people are full of ingenuity, creativity and enterprise, and they are certainly not living in the dark ages. Spend a day with them and you’ll realize there’s nothing lacking in their lives. Many of them use things such as wind and solar technology to power their daily living.

The Amish & Minimalism

Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

If you were to make your way around the home of my Amish grandparents here are some of the things you’d see: (Note – there are many more advanced non-electric product options now available for most of these items, I’m just sharing the way I remember things at my Grussdaudy’s house.)

In the main living area was Grussmommy’s treadle sewing machine. These days there are much more advanced versions of non-electric sewing machines on the market for seamstresses! There were no light switches & fixtures, but instead gas lamps hanging from the ceiling, and glass kerosene lamps that were carried from room to room at night. We also used flashlights & battery-powered lanterns. There was no vacuum cleaner, but as their house had no carpet but only area rugs, a broom & dustpan, and good rug-shakings outside did the trick! My grandparents obviously had no TV, but instead entertained themselves and kept up to date with the news through books and newspapers.

“Simplicity is complex. It’s never simple to keep things simple. Simple solutions require the most advanced thinking.” ~ Richie Norton

My grandparents had a gas refrigerator in the kitchen. There was no microwave, so planning meals ahead of time was always important. My Grussmommy used a handheld egg beater instead of a Kitchen Aid, and a potato ricer when mashing potatoes. There was no blender to be found in her kitchen, but a lack of such things never prevented her from preparing delicious meals! When making breakfast, toast was made in the oven, not a toaster. As my Grandparent’s home was in the Northeast, they had a cold cellar which provided cool storage space for vegetables, cheese, eggs and canned goods. I think my cupboards which are filled with all the gadgets and small appliances found in most modern kitchens would benefit greatly from paring back & minimizing things – and I sure wish I has a cold cellar like hers.

“We go on multiplying our conveniences only to multiply ous cares. We increase our possessions only to the enlargement of our anxieties.” ~ Anna C. Brackett

When grandchildren came to visit, there were plenty of toys to play with. Lincoln Logs, building blocks, small farm animals and games like “Dutch Blitz” & “Uno”. There were coloring books & crayons, puzzles, storybooks, and (the favorite for all of us), the marble roller, which provided hours of entertainment.

My grandparents used an old-fashioned style push-reel lawnmower, and hand-held “trimmers” for all the edging. And in Grussdaudy’s wood shop were compressed air and a diesel engine to power his tools. My grandfather  had a “phone shanty” outside the wood shop, away from the house, used for business calls, occasional communication with family outside the area, and of course emergencies.  And of course there was the horse and buggy for transportation. Trips away from home were always intentional and needed. You can draw the obvious conclusion that this forces families to interact more than the average “modern” household.

As we live outside of Houston, there is much talk of preparedness every year during hurricane season . The year “Ike” hit, we were without power for over a week. I was amazed at all the survival skills I “inherited” from my grandparents, and was again reminded what a treasure it is to know how to run a household without the usual niceties. I’ve always been thankful for the way my Amish grandparents demonstrated the ability to not only survive without depending on the grid as most of us do, but (through their hard work and ingenuity) live well and thrive, in both their home and business. So just how did my Amish grandparents live without electricity, phones and cars? I would say they did just fine! As the matter of fact, at times I wish I’d have the courage to do things a little more like them.

~ Justina Dee

This is post 15 of a 31 day series I’m blogging about my Amish family. Click here to read more!

Interesting Links:

Lehman’s Online Amish Store

Huffington Post: Myths About the Amish, by Kraybill

A difference between how Amish & “Minimites” use technology

DayOStar – an Amish-owned lighting company

The Amish & Technology

Amish Enterprise

Off Grid News post on the Amish

The Iowa Source – “Sustainable Amish”

 

The Gift of Song from my Amish Family

A copy of the Amish hymnal called the "Ausbund", printed in 1835.

A family copy of the Amish hymnal called the “Ausbund”, printed in 1835. The Ausbund is used to this day in the Old Order Amish Church services.

Singing is an integral part of my Amish family, and evokes some of the most powerful memories of times with them through the years. Science shows us that music has a profound effect on us both physically & emotionally. I can attest to those findings, and I’m sure you can as well! In contrast to songs of American pop culture defining my musical memory, the songs my family taught me are rooted in Biblical truth and melodies of praise.

“Music is one area where the Amish work at holding back the wild horses of modernity and secularism by carefully selecting the texts and tunes that nurture godliness, kindness and mutuality. I argue that music serves as one of the scaffoldings by which the Amish build and maintain boundaries and healthy community structures.” D. Rose Elder

The beauty of my Amish family’s musical heritage is its simplicity. The only things required were people, their voices, and their willingness to sing. There were no instruments, no sound equipment and no special venues. The only objects added at times are a songbook and a pitch pipe. But most Amish and Mennonite people have a large repertoire of hymns in their memory, and can sing for hours with no help from lyrics on a page.

Grandma had songs for all times of the day. There was “Good Morning Sunshine” when we woke up, “When We All Work Together” while doing chores, “Building Up the Temple” while playing with the babies…and the list goes on and on. We still sing a mealtime blessing learned at Grandpa & Grandma’s house, in our home today: “God is great and God is good, and we thank Him for our food, By His hand we all are fed, give us Lord our daily bread, Amen”. In addition to singing, I smile when I think of my musical Amish Grussmommy playing her harmonica, and the way my Grandma filled the house with her whistling all through the day.

My grandparents were fond of many songs, but there were some particular favorites for each of them. Grussdaudy’s was “Amazing Grace”, and Grussomommy especially loved the German hymn “Gott Ist Die Liebe”. The lyrics of “One Day at a Time” were very special to my Grandpa, and I remember my Grandma often singing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”.

When extended family meets (on both my father and my mother’s sides), singing is always a part of the gathering. One of my favorite songs during family reunions is “Come and Dine”, which we all sing together at meal time. And the singing over the holiday seasons is truly a generational treasure! Grussmommy loved to sing with her sisters. How I wish we had videos of those special times.

In addition to singing as a family, the Amish and Mennonite community has a social culture built around song. I have fond memories of Sunday evening “Singings” with my parent’s friends, where we joined in a home and beautiful acapella harmonies filled the room.

Inside the Ausbund

Inside the Ausbund – Page 770 is always the second song sung in the Old Order Amish Church Service.

As a child, I had the immense privilege of visiting both my Old Order Amish and New Order Amish grandparent’s churches. When I reflect on the singing during those services, I am overcome with emotion. There’s something very special and so sacred about being surrounded by believers, immersed in a room filled with the voices of men, women and children of all generations, reverently singing praises to their King, with all “worldly” distractions removed from the environment. It’s a communal experience where you feel part of something bigger and more important than just yourself, but at the same time it’s very personal. Ah, the deep and meaningful simplicity of voices united in song! It is a treasure for the ages.

From my Amish family, I learned the power of music and song. First, it is a gift from our Creator, and singing praises to Him is something He designed for us to do. It brings joy to Him and to us! It reminds us of His promises, His faithfulness and His goodness in our lives. Second, it brings together families and communities, powerfully uniting them with meaning, purpose and sweet traditions. My heart floods with gratefulness to God for the gift of song He has given me.

~ Justina Dee

This is post 13 of a 31 day series I’m sharing about my Amish family. Thank you for following along!

Links:

Johns Hopkins University “Why the Amish Sing”

Portion of book by D. Rose Elder, about Amish Singing

Ending clip (from a full length video), with the song Gott Ist Die Liebe

Come and Dine

 

10 Interesting Amish Foods

A trip to the grocery store | www.LydiaGlick.com | #write31days #31AmishDays

A Trip to the Grocery Store | Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

Nearly everyone’s heard of Shoofly Pie. But unless you’ve been around Amish & Mennonites, chances are you may not know about these foods commonly found on their kitchen tables. I’ve linked each food to a website with a matching recipe. I also thought this would be a great time to highlight some adorable photos of Amish children walking to school with their lunch boxes in hand, by Lancaster County, PA street photographer Julie Lea Waldron. Enjoy!

1. Stewed Crackers is a comfort food requiring three simple ingredients, that my grandmothers would whip together in a few minutes time.

2. Schmierkase or “Cup Cheese” is a soft, spreadable cheese which resembles Brie. It has strong roots in the Mennonite and Amish culture with recipes dating back to the 1600’s. It was always a treat when my grandmothers or mother made it!

3. Peanut Butter Spread was our favorite thing to dip crunchy apples into. It’s a common condiment in Amish households, and often served at church meals.

Amish Schoolboys

Amish Schoolboys | Photo Credit, Julie Lea Waldron

4. Milk and Toast – an old fashioned breakfast recipe, and a go to favorite in our family when we were under the weather.

5. Schnitz Pie was my Grandma’s specialty. She dried the apples on screens placed in the hot attic, then cooked them with sugar and cinnamon. She baked the mixture in her delectable pie crust, and on special occasions she served them in her antique pie plates.

6. Coffee Soup was a favorite of my Grandpa’s. He loved to make a bowl of it for us grandchildren.

Watching the Schoolbus

Watching the School Bus | Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

7. Baked Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast foods of all time. Hearty and wholesome, and always a crowd pleaser. In our family, my brother Isaac is best at making it. It’s easy to put together, but best if made the night before.

8. Fried Cornmeal Mush – My Grussmommy was the master of this Amish breakfast fave which is a cousin of Italian Fried Polenta. She made it the perfect thickness, and fried it in her cast iron skillet until it was perfectly crispy on the outside and still soft in the middle. We like it best with ketchup or maple syrup.

Walking to School

Walking to School | Photo Credit, Julie Lea Waldron

9. Indiana Salad was often served on holidays at my Grandma’s house. It’s a triple layer jello salad that my brother Jonas especially loves.

…and finally,

10. Meadow Tea is to the Amish what Sweet Tea is to the Southerner. It is my favorite beverage hands down, and just a sip quickly takes me to my happy place.

I’d love for any of my readers to share your favorite Amish & Mennonite influenced foods in the comment section below! Wishing you happy times in the kitchen,

~ Justina Dee

If you had a fun time with this post, you’ll enjoy reading “10 Unique Items Found In An Amish Household!”

This is post number twelve of my #write31days challenge, where I’m sharing things I learned from my Amish family. Thanks for following along! Click here to read more.

 

Work Ethic & Resourcefulness {Lessons from my Amish Family}

Amish Children | www.lydiaglick.com | #write31days #31AmishDays

Industry is learned at an early age. | Photo Credit Kathryn Dienner

If there’s one valuable life skill I learned from my grandparents it’s that a person’s worth is not determined by their success as it is commonly measured by the world, but rather, their value to society should instead be judged in more meaningful ways.

Abraham Lincoln said “Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing”. There is a perception of the Amish community in today’s pop culture that is built around “reality” television shows. In these portrayals, my relatives are cast as naïve, ignorant and foolish. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to take you beyond the mythical shadow of the Amish people which has permeated our TV screens and the internet, to the “tree” with deep roots of character that I love and appreciate.

Sunrise over the farm |www.lydiaglick.com | #write31days #31AmishDays

Sunrise over the farm | Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

As the sun rises over an Amish household, there has already been much activity. My Grussdaudy & Grussmommy were always up early, preparing for the day. I remember when I spent the night at their house and set the (obnoxiously loud, tick-tocking) Big Ben alarm clock which sat on the little nightstand by the antique guest bed in which I was sleeping, for 6:30 AM. I was so excited to wake up early and help Grussmommy make breakfast for Grussdaudy before he headed out to his wood shop. But when I woke up and made my way down the stairs, Grussmommy was washing dishes and Grussdaudy was already out the door!

As the day progressed, there was never a lack of activity. My grandfathers worked diligently at their respective businesses – Grussdaudy in cabinet making, and Grandpa on his farm and other enterprises. They took the responsibility of caring for their families very seriously.

Washday

Washday

When I was at either of their homes, I usually spent most of the day helping my grandmothers. (Or better stated, I liked to believe I was helping them, and my Grandmothers were gracious enough to let me think it.) One of the chores I helped Grussmommy with was washing clothes. We used an old-fashioned wringer washer, and then used clothespins stored in her homemade bag to hang the clean clothes on the line to dry. Grussmommy was a small woman, slender and sweet as could be, but very robust. Three things I loved most about her were the gentle smile which constantly graced her face, her kind blue eyes, and her small but strong hands that continuously stayed busy.

Working Amish Farm |www.lydiaglck.com | write31days #31AmishDays

Industrious Homestead – a Working Amish Farm                     | Photo Credit Julie Lea Wladorn

My Grandma loved working outdoors, and we spent countless hours working together in the garden, the yard, or doing projects around the farm. The Amish take great pleasure in creating beautiful grounds, and neither of my grandmothers were an exception to the rule.

Working in the garden

Working in the garden | Photo credit Julie Lea Waldron

Both my grandmothers were extremely active, with not an ounce of laziness to be found in their body! They found deep satisfaction in loving and serving their family and community well, and seemed never to tire of cooking, cleaning, gardening, canning, preserving, organizing, sewing, quilting, caring for those in need…well the list goes on and on! Both of them were talented seamstresses. Grussmommy’s sewing machine was an old fashioned treadle variety, powered by the steady movement of her feet. What beautiful, practical skills my grandmothers possessed! I remember wishing there was a way to download the wealth of knowledge and life skills they carried, from their brain to mine.

My Great Uncle and Great Aunt raking leaves

My Great Uncle and Great Aunt | Photo Credit Kathryn Dienner

My grandparents were extremely resourceful, and did things the “green” way before anyone ever made it the cool thing to do. Grussmommy was the master of repurposing things. I remember the way she washed plastic bread bags, and propped them up to dry and use again. All my grandparents stayed active until well advanced in years, and didn’t like to sit still during the week for any great length of time when there was work to be done.

Amish Produce Roadside Stand

Amish Produce Roadside Stand |  Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldrom

The Amish are an industrious group of people. You can find small family enterprises scattered all over the counties where they live. My personal favorites are the roadside produce stands, where they sell delicious home-grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, flowers and fresh farm eggs. Their roadside businesses are a true treasure to the locals.

Sign

Updating the Produce Sign | Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

“If a man is called a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and Earth will pause to say, Here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. It expresses the way my Amish family handled their responsibilities. They worked hard. They persevered. They were industrious, cheerful and never idle. They displayed self control and diligence. They were resilient. And they lived their lives well, taking great satisfaction in doing whatever they set their hand to with all their might, and to the best of their ability. They had an outstanding work ethic.

Amish Couple | www.LydiaGlick.com | #write31days #31AmishDays

Amish Couple | Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

You many never have heard of my grandparents before reading this blog post. They were humble, quiet people who never took the spotlight on any stage. But their lives were engrained with the stuff that matters. Honor, respect, courage, love, humility, peace, incredible resourcefulness and character. They could lay their head on their pillow at night knowing they had done their jobs well.

Wagon Ride | Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

Wagon Ride | Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

 “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” ~Albert Einstein

My Amish family taught me lessons of Character and Integrity : the kind of skills that never go out of style and never fail to bring true success.

~ Justina Dee

Thank you for joining me on the #Write31Days challenge, where I’m sharing things I’ve learned from my Amish family. You can read other posts in my series by clicking here. 

Links:

CNN Money – Why Amish Businesses Don’t Fail

PSFK – America’s Most Successful Business Model? Try the Amish.

Sun Sentinel – Amish Farmer’s Success “At a time when leading agricultural economists have declared the small commercial family farm a relic, Lancaster County`s 1,200 Amish farm families are thriving.”

The Christian Century – Amish ex-farmers have business tips for CEOs :
There’s more to it than making a bundle of money

And a few more quotes, just because I love them:

“The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability as opposed to resilience and hard work, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.” ~ Joshua Waitzkin

“To achieve what 1% of the worlds population has (Financial Freedom), you must be willing to do what only 1% dare to do..hard work and perseverance of highest order.”
~ Manoj Arora

“Thank God every morning when you get up, that you have something to do that day which must be done, whether you like it or not.  Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle never know.”  ~Charles Kingsley

“Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.” ~Sam Ewing

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” ~Margaret Thatcher

The Habit of Prayer {31 Lessons From My Amish Family}

 

The Lord's Prayer in Deutsch Photo Credit, Kathryn Dienner

The Lord’s Prayer in Deutsch
Photo Credit, Kathryn Dienner

“Prayer is a moment of incarnation – God with us. God involved in the details of my life.” ~ Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life

My sister and I were sharing memories of our grandparent’s prayer habits today. After we conversed I was utterly overwhelmed by this priceless fact: As grandchildren, our most precious and vivid memories of our dear grandparents are the habits of prayer they humbly and beautifully displayed to us day in and day out. God was at the center of every part of their lives.

They prayed in the morning. They prayed before and after meals. They prayed during evening devotions, and again before bed. They prayed when times were good, and they also prayed through the most difficult seasons imaginable. Prayer was such an integral part of their daily routine I cannot even imagine trying to describe their lives without it.

When meal time came at Grussdaudy & Grussmommy’s house, we joined around the table and reverently bowed our heads in silent prayer, giving thanks to God for His provision. Grussdaudy sat in a beautiful old wooden chair on rollers placed at the head of the long handcrafted table, with sweet Grussmommy seated to his right.  Us grandchildren were lined up on wooden benches along each side. The Old Order Amish pray silently before and after their meals. We knew the prayer was over and we could lift our heads by the squeak that came from Grussdaudy’s chair as he leaned back.

As my maternal grandparents were New Order Amish, they spoke the mealtime blessing aloud. My sister recalls Grandpa’s dear & familiar prayer.

“Grandpa’s mealtime prayer, as I remember, always started out with, “Our kind, righteous, eternal heavenly Father…, we come before you this… (morning, noon, evening…) hour. We thank you for your many blessings…We thank you for Jesus…We thank you for the cross. We thank you for this here food that is set before us. We…ask that you would bless it and bless… the hands that…have prepared it. In Jesus’ name we pray,  Amen.”

The memory of my grandfathers leading their families in prayer throughout the day is so strong and dear to us that it literally brought my sister and I to tears while reminiscing.

I remember walking by Grussdaudy & Grussmommy’s open bedroom door at bedtime, and seeing the sillouette of them side by side, kneeling in prayer at their bed. What a powerful picture of humility and reverence it burned onto my heart. My sister shared; “I also vividly remember Grandma and Grandpa praying together on their knees that all of their children and grandchildren would follow the Lord”.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
Psalm 16:6 (NASB)

Thank you Lord for praying grandparents. Their legacy of faith is the greatest treasure any grandchild could ever ask for. You have blessed me indeed!

My grandparents taught me what it looks like to live a life with the habit of powerful, continual, grateful, humble and beautiful prayer. May we all display such constant light and truth, and leave an impression of Jesus on the memory of those who walk through life beside us.

~ Justina Dee

This is post number eleven of a series I’m sharing called “31 Lessons From My Amish Family”. Click here to read more. 

Links: 

Müde Bin Ich, Geh’ Zur Ruh
Translation by Margaret Loewen Reimer

Müde bin ich, geh’ zur Ruh, (Weary now, I go to rest,)
Schliesse meine Augen zu. (Close my eyes in slumber blest.)
Vater, lass die Augen dein (Father, may Thy watchful eye)
Über meinem Bette sein. (Guard the bed on which I lie.) Amen

My mother taught this German prayer to us as children, and I’ve done the same with my daughters. Saying the prayer is one of our favorite bedtime traditions. Click here to read a beautiful piece on the history of this traditional German children’s prayer. Three additional verses can be found as you scroll down to page six of the document. Here’s a video link to the prayer: 

Click here to hear The Lord’s Prayer in High German, as my Amish Grandfather prayed in closing of the family’s evening devotions. 

Books in the Amish Home

The soft glow of the gas lamp spilled into the room. It was a bitter cold winter night. Moonlight glistened on the fresh snow outside. But my grandparent’s living room was cozy and warm with love. And I was happy and content. Because as the day came to an end, it was time to open the pages of comfortable and familiar books  – or equally as wonderful, fill the evening with the adventure of an intriguing new read.

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.                                       ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sitting on the landing of Grussdaudy & Grussmommy’s stairs, was the bookshelf. As a young girl my favorites were the illustrated children’s Bible story books found there. When I grew older I was fond of reading their historical fiction collections. The selection of books found in the guest room of my other grandparent’s house never disappointed anyone searching for something to read. There were children’s story books, classic young readers, devotionals and many more. As a teenager, my favorite book from their shelf was called “Christy“.

Family Life Magazine

In addition to books, my grandparents read the Budget (“a weekly newspaper written for and by members of the Amish, Amish Mennonite, Beachy Amish, and Mennonite communities from 1890 to the present.” – The Budget) and Family Life Magazine (” it contains articles on Christian living, parenting, and homemaking. It also contains editorials, letters from Amish readers, medical advice, poems, recipes, and children’s stories.” – Scroll Christian Publishing.) My Grandpa read Lancaster’s Intelligencer Journal newspaper every day, and often shared stories from The Guidepost with us.

The Ausbund

At the heart of every Amish home’s book collection you can find a German family Bible and the Ausbund (the oldest hymnal in continuous use in the world, with hymns dating back to 1525). Many also have a copy of Martyr’s Mirror. (“In 1660, Dutch Mennonite Thieleman J. van Braght published this immense and beautifully crafted collection of the stories and testimonies of Christian martyrs from the preceding seventeen centuries, focusing mostly on Anabaptists, or Christians who practiced nonresistance.”)

Something magnificent happens when you remove television from the environment of a home. Instead of families staring blankly at a box, you find them engaged in things like mindful activities, nourishing conversations and reading. I have to agree with Jane Austen when she says,

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book!”                     ~ Jane Austen

I cherish this lesson from my Amish family: Reading a bonafide book with exquisite pages you turn in your hand is not a lost art. It nourishes the soul, stretches the imagination and trains the mind. We should all devise a plan of action and set aside some time in our busy lives where we sit down in a comfortable room with our family, and allow the wondrous words on the pages of books to come alive in our homes.

~ Justina Dee

Thank you for joining me on this #write31days project, as I share lessons I’ve learned from my Amish family! You can read more of my posts on the Amish way of life by clicking here.

Link:

Wall Street Journal’s Article: Amish Newspapers Thrive in Digital Age

Read Martyr’s Mirror Online Here

 

The Choice to Forgive {Lessons from My Amish Family}

Dirk Willems (died 16 May 1569) (also spelled Durk Willems) was a Dutch martyred Anabaptist who is most famous for escaping from prison, turning around to rescue his pursuer—who had fallen through thin ice while chasing Willems—to then be recaptured, tortured and killed for his faith. | Wiki

Dirk Willems (died 16 May 1569) (also spelled Durk Willems) was a Dutch martyred Anabaptist who is most famous for escaping from prison, turning around to rescue his pursuer—who had fallen through thin ice while chasing Willems—to then be recaptured, tortured and killed for his faith. | Wiki

As I live in a western society that breathes, practices and preaches personal rights and justice, sometimes it’s hard for me to fathom modeling a life of forgiveness in the way Jesus commands:

“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14

“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25 – (ESV)
But there’s a countercultural model in America, and it was best demonstrated after the horrific Nickel Mines shootings in a once innocent little one-room schoolhouse, where gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and shot ten girls (aged 6–13), killing five of them. In the days, weeks, months and now years that followed, Amish families who were the very victims of the tragic shootings of those sweet little school girls not only spoke words of forgiveness, but demonstrated it, by loving the shooter’s mother, widow and children – and (gasp!) even attending his funeral as an extension of grace to his family only days after burying their own daughters.
Nickel Mines School | Image via NY Daily News

Nickel Mines School | Image via NY Daily News

Nickel Mines School | Image via NY Daily News

Nickel Mines School | Image via NY Daily News

Imagine growing up in a home, and among peers in your church, school and community where forgiveness is practiced and taught, instead of personal rights. Extending grace is the choice made instead of seeking revenge. Meekness is sought after and more highly esteemed than force. When this is the culture of a people, choosing to forgive naturally becomes their reaction in a time such as the Nickel Mines shootings, as it is a collective reflex of their trained character and nature.

“I would say the difference here with the Amish is that this is part of their cultural DNA. They aren’t individualistic like other Americans are, so the burden doesn’t fall so much on the individual to forgive, although individuals obviously are part of the process. But this is more built into the cultural rhythms and the cultural DNA of the Amish community. It’s just the way we live and the way we’re expected to respond in the face of hostility.” ~ Donald Kraybill

I saw this kind of forgiveness demonstrated in my Grandpa Esh’s life. (You can read his story by clicking here.) Instead of being angry and bitter as a result of tragedy – seeking revenge, compensation and justice for being robbed of the ability to walk and function as a normal man, he chose to forgive and move on with life.

I also experienced it in the thousand little ways my family handled things. I’ve watched typical (and great!) American parents who distract their child who is hurt by running into something such as a chair say something like, “what a horrible, bad, awful chair that is for hurting you!”. You would never hear an Amish parent say anything of the kind. Instead, they would simply make sure their child is okay, and quietly move on, placing no blame on the chair or anything else for that matter.

The manner in which the Amish people extend grace in the face of evil seems so unnatural, and could be viewed as forgiving too easily, or even a sign of inner weakness. Typically we want justice in the face of personal tragedy, and revenge when we’re treated unfairly. In the above referenced article Donald Kraybill goes on to explain, “…for the Amish, who bring their own religious resources to bear on injustice, the preferred way to live on with meaning and hope is to offer forgiveness—and offer it quickly. That offer, including the willingness to forego vengeance, does not undo the tragedy or pardon the wrong. It does, however, constitute a first step toward a future that is more hopeful, and potentially less violent, than it would otherwise be.”

In my Amish family and among the Anabaptist culture, there is a longstanding heritage of choosing to forgive. It was first modeled by Jesus as he forgave the very people who crucified Him. I grew up hearing the accounts from Martyr’s Mirror – where believers who were being tortured in horrific manners, and burned at stake for their faith, chose to forgive those men who were inflicting the unspeakable atrocities upon them.

Children walking to their new schoolhouse called "New Hope School" | image via Seattle Times

Children walking to their rebuilt schoolhouse called “New Hope School”  Image via Seattle Times

“In a world where faith often justifies and magnifies revenge, and in a nation where some Christians use scripture to fuel retaliation, the Amish response was indeed a surprise. Regardless of the details of the Nickel Mines story, one message rings clear: religion was not used to justify rage and revenge but to inspire goodness, forgiveness, and grace. And that is the big lesson for the rest of us regardless of our faith or nationality.” – Donald Kraybill

Obviously we may not all agree with the Amish and Mennonite theology on pacifism and their views on culture. But their beautiful practice of forgiveness is an undeniable beacon and shining example of grace to all of us. I consider myself incredibly blessed to learn from them, and to call them my family.

~ Justina Dee

This is a post from a series I’m sharing about my Amish family. Click here to read more.

Reference: Christianity Today’s “Amish Grace & the Rest of Us” The Amish response to the Nickel Mines shootings wasn’t just plain Christianity. Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher/ SEPTEMBER 17, 2007

Links:

Nickel Mines Legacy – Forgive First | Pittsburgh Post Gazette 

The Culture of Forgiveness 

A Sabbath Pause

 

Sabbath Rest | www.lydiaglick.com | #write31days #31AmishDays

Sabbath Rest ~ Photo credit Julie Lea Waldron ~ Lancaster County, PA

Stop. Your life needs pause.

Rest.

This day is given to you.

Reflect on what is Lovely.

~

Inhale, exhale. Breathe.

Deep.

Your soul cannot survive without His love.

He is your Sustainer.

~

Unplug your ears to hear

Heaven.

The swells of the universe

Rejoicing in our Creator.

~

Lift up your eyes and see

Jesus.

The One who calls you His own.

Repose here in His presence.

~

He is our Sabbath rest.

~

As a child I didn’t fully appreciate Sundays at my Amish grandparent’s home. Frankly, I thought it was a bit boring. Of course being there was fun, and Sunday’s family dinner was always delicious. But things were very quiet, and that’s not very exciting for any child. On Saturday, provisions were made in anticipation of the day of rest. After church and the meal (the Amish do not eat at restaurants or go shopping on Sundays), the house was calm and peaceful. There were no football games blaring from a television. There was no music to distract. Just books to read, and conversation & fellowship with family and community. Yes, we children played outside, but upon entering the house you could feel there was a reverence for this holy day. Now I understand. My Amish family knew what it meant to rest on the Sabbath. And it was good. We should all take time to pause and be still on this blessed day. ~ Justina Dee

 This post is part of a series called 31 Lessons I Learned From My Amish Family. Click here to read more. 

Links:

Wise words regarding the Sabbath:

Tim Keller – The Sabbath 

Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy, by John Piper

Practical ways to observe the Sabbath, by John Piper