Book Pick–The Amish Groom by Meissner and Clark

Reading Amish fiction is not a priority genre for me, but I do enjoy an occasional glance into the balanced community life in which the characters live. I’m drawn to the quiet and simple pastoral settings of the stories as well as to the characters striving to remain free of the clutters our busy culture imposes. I expected more of that kind of story when I picked up The Amish Groom by Susan Meissner and Mindy Stearns Clark, only to be pleasantly surprised by a storyline completely different from the norm.

The main character, Tyler Anderson, was born in Germany to an Amish woman who had left her family and church community to marry a military officer deployed overseas. In Amish society both actions would make her an outcast. When Tyler’s mother dies six years later, his father is desperate to find someone to care for his young son, so he drops him off at the stateside home of his wife’s Amish parents, who raise him.

Coming of age, Tyler is torn between his love for his Amish community and his need to discover who he is outside of the life his grandparents gave him. His father remarried, had another son who is Tyler’s half brother, but never reclaimed Tyler for his own. These actions leave Tyler confused, and more than a little hurt, never understanding why his father abandoned him all those years before. When an opportunity arises to help him discover the answers he seeks, Tyler jumps at the chance, only to find there are other lives in need of healing beside his own.

If you like Amish fiction, you’ll enjoy this tale with an unusual twist. Meissner and Clark have created a story which completely draws you into its center and keeps you there until the end. Published by Harvest House Publishers, the novel is available at your local bookstore and online.

On Another Note: By visiting your local bookstore, you help keep bookstores open and necessary. Bookstore owners need our support. Bookstores are in danger of going the way of the dinosaur without our involvement.

Finding Hope in Hot Pink

With half of the nation imprisoned beneath a layer of snow and ice, I feel guilty reporting about what I found in my yard this week—a dozen camellia blossoms—already opened and blooming hot pink in the winter sun.

I say winter because we’re still in February, which is amazing, considering past seasons in Oregon this time of year would be drenched in a deluge and the flowers ruined.

The unseasonable temperatures are a delightful reprieve and the early flowers a wonder. Scores of daffodils bloom around the yard, the crocus have come and gone, and now with the onset of the camellia, I’m thinking of summer.

Summer? That won’t happen until June—four months hence.

 I remind myself that this time last year, we were the ones stuck under a layer of severe weather. Our trees, coated with ice, were snapping off, our power was out, and our streets were too slick to be safe. I remember my neighbor warming his 4-wheel drive to take us all out to a nearby restaurant so we could enjoy a hot meal. We slipped and slid in snow rutted by earlier travelers, the ice spraying from the tires. We ate in watchful haste, the restaurant’s lights flickering, their electricity threatening to fold at any minute. Once back home, I remember watching a movie on my laptop because its battery provided the only power source in the house, and that for only two hours.

In Ecclesiastes 7:14 (NIV) I find great comfort in what Solomon has written: “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.” God must have known we would try to manage things on our own, so keeping us guessing about what’s ahead makes us more dependent upon him.

Last year, I would never have imagined that I’d be capturing pictures of camellias this February instead of broken trees and downed power lines. But God knew. I believe he sent the flowers early this year to remind me just who is in charge of the universe. Knowing this, I have hope—and so should  you. Be warm, wherever you are.

Love That Never Fails

Today, while waiting at an intersection near the university where I live, I studied the faces of the people in the crosswalk. A handful jogged by on their way to the popular running path our city boasts. Others were students, backpacks in place, hurrying to their next class.

One young man stood out from the crowd. Hair in need of a cut and baggy jeans clinging to his hips, he crossed the street on his skateboard. In his teeth he carried a long-stemmed, red rose. The red bloom dangled from its stem, jiggling with each push of his foot on the pavement. I wondered if the person for whom the rose was intended would fully appreciate the gesture when he arrived. I doubted there would be much of the flower left. But then, maybe he’s one of those alone on this day and the flower was for him.

Expressions of love will be shared by many this Valentine’s day—dinners out, flowers, candy, and sentimental cards. Those with significant others in their lives will no doubt revel in the knowledge that they are special to someone.

But there are those who, through no fault of their own, despise the annual event. For whatever reason, they are alone. Some never found a person with whom they could share their life. For others, illness has isolated them. For some, death has taken their loved one, or divorce has destroyed their family. The day may seem endless to these forgotten souls—they can’t wait for it to end.

Jesus came to be a friend to the homeless, a companion to the needy, a comfort to those who mourn. His short time on earth testified to the love of an eternal Father who understood the kinds of pain and loneliness life here can bring.

In John 14:1-3 (NKJV) Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Whatever your state this Valentine’s Day I wish you the joys of God’s love. While others here may have failed you, He never will.


The Man Who Grew Plastic Flowers

This week we said goodbye to a long time neighbor. He’d lived for years next to my husband’s family and then when we purchased the family home he became my neighbor as well.

I met him the first time at our wedding reception. He really liked cake. During the early years of our marriage, I sometimes fixed him plates of cookies at Christmas. When his health turned, he could no longer eat them.

He lived as a recluse, keeping to himself, interacting with few, but fiercely independent. He loved the color redrefreshing the trim on his house, garage door and wooden fence every summer.

Conversations with him were strained. He tied his reality to the television news. Whether a tornado touched down in Kansas or a hurricane hit Florida, he’d worry about the aftereffects, comment on its outcome.

He worked as a groundskeeper at a local cemetery. Bouquets of fresh flowers wilted, but the plastic arrangements had to be removed. Rather than trashing them, he planted them around the perimeter of his yard.

As advancing age claimed his strength and the police withdrew his license to drive, he’d pull his wheeled cart to the grocery store, dressed in a yellow rain slicker. My husband and I worried about safety, his slow, mincing shuffle limiting his mobility. Offers of a ride were refused.

His brother from California kept close tabs on him. As his health deteriorated, the brother asked if we’d mind mowing the yard. We were glad to have something to do. When a tree hit his roof, my husband removed the limb.

Sitting in his memorial service this week, I learned of his travelsto the Grand Canyon, Texas, California. He decorated his home with pictures of beloved locomotives. His collection of 45 rpm records numbered fifteen hundred.

 I was stunned. How could I learn more about this man in a fifteen minute eulogy than I had discovered living next to him for nearly forty years? In Luke 10:27 (NIV) we are told, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself.” Had we done that?

 At the close of the service, grace-filled scripture about eternal life in Christ was read. The Lord’s Prayer was recited. More things I never knew, but which gave me hope. Someday I may very well be greeted by my neighbor as I enter heaven. I’ll tell him then what a great neighbor he was.