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

 

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

 

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

 

A Sense of Community {Lessons From My Amish Family}

Community #LydiaGlick.com #write31days #31AmishDays

Photo Credit Julie Lea Waldron

Community is a buzz word these days. But in spite of all the discourse, it’s rare to find groups of people who live in fellowship with each other for a lifetime, let alone multiple generations.

“Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don’t talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.” ― Jean Vanier

At the very core of the Amish people is their sense of communal values. Sociologist Donald Kraybill says; “All of their daily practices are shaped and formed by their religious beliefs. Very few of us will ever become Amish, but I think we can learn some things from them regardless of our religious background. And I think some of the most important things are a sense of community, a sense of family, and the sense in which our daily practice shapes our religious outlook.”

The Amish and Mennonite people don’t simply talk when it comes to helping and supporting their brothers & sisters within their community. They’re entirely committed to being there for each other when challenging times arise, or when disaster strikes. They have a profound respect for others, and demonstrate what it looks like to live by the Golden Rule. One of the Amish customs I most admire is the way they care for their aging family members.

“Where there is not community, trust, respect and ethical behavior are difficult for the young to learn and for the old to maintain.” ― Robert Greenleaf

A most dynamic display of this strength in the Amish community is the barn raising. In case you haven’t yet seen it, here’s a video so you can understand how extraordinary it truly is!

Another way the Amish-Mennonites foster the sense of community is through their quilting. LancasterPA.com says “Amish women of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country have been creating exquisite Amish quilts since the mid-1800′s (and some believe even earlier). Amish quilts are an expression of frugality. They not only serve a practical, functional purpose, but serve as a form of entertainment as well. Many times groups of Amish and Mennonite women gather for a quilting bee. The bee is a form of socialization and relaxation for these women. It’s a time when they can get together to visit and “catch up” with one another.

Although it’s not an AMISH quilt making video,  I believe the link provided below expresses the gracious story of how Amish and Mennonite women join hands to share love and beauty in tangible ways, while cultivating the culture of community.

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. 

~ Justina Dee

 

Links:

Sociologist Don Kraybill discusses “The Amish Way”

Read more about how Amish beliefs shape their community

Read more about Amish quilts at LancasterPA.com

 

The Mennonite Game

The generations gather at the family reunion

The generations gather at our family reunion

One of my favorite things about being born into a family with Amish-Mennonite roots is the deep appreciation of family history and belonging which you are given. As a young child with Anabaptist ancestors,  you quickly learn there are two things of great importance.

The family reunion

Aunts at the family reunion

Lesson one – your family genealogy. My father is a brilliant steward of our family’s history and stories. One year he purchased the most recent edition of something we call “The Fisher Book”. (A record with thousands of Amish-Mennonite relatives.) My little brother was so excited to find his name in the new printing of the “Fisher Book” that he circled the text in dark black ink – not something you typically do in a very expensive and significant ancestral document. I’m sure someday his descendants will enjoy seeing the mark he made on history!

Reminiscing at the family reunion

Reminiscing at the family reunion

After you gain a basic understanding of your family line, you learn a second critical skill – how to play the Mennonite game. This quote explains the activity nicely.

The goal of this game is to see how quickly two Mennonites, meeting each other for the first time can get to know each other’s family ancestry and establish how many of each other’s relatives they know. While some participants may play this game reluctantly due to peer pressure, others seem to play for the sheer fun and challenge of it. In any case participants likely believe that knowing something of another person’s familial ancestry helps to understand that person better. – Bruno Dyck

Game time at the family reunion

Game time at the family reunion

When two people of Amish-Mennonite descent meet, this phenomenon never fails to surface. I don’t often have the opportunity to play it as I’ve lived in Texas (which is well outside of “Amish country”) for most of my life. But I love brushing up on my skills any time I’m around someone who may be related to me.

I’m closing this post with a video that sums up the Mennonite game perfectly. It may not be particularly interesting if you have no experience with Amish or Mennonite culture. But if in fact you do know about this “game”, I can assure you that you’ll be laughing in a matter of seconds.

Click here to read more posts related to lessons I’ve learned from my Amish family, in my #write31days project.

Links:

Playing The Mennonite Game 

Exploring Congregational Clans by Bruno Dyck