Random Inspirations

Welcome to my blog, full of fun inspirations and insights on writing, self-publishing, and more!

Book Excerpt from Amish Redemption

This week, I’m excited to bring you another excerpt from my upcoming eBook, Amish Redemption. It’s the final book of the Amish Friendships series, and full of challenges for our young friends Miriam and Abram.

Missed the first excerpt? Check it out here on the blog. And, as always, I’d love to hear what you think of the book so far. 🙂

Beautiful autumn in Amish country. Photo courtesy of branhamphoto.com

Beautiful autumn in Amish country. Photo courtesy of branhamphoto.com

Chapter Two: Abram

After I settle the horses in the barn for the night, I brace myself to head back outside into the cold. Even on drafty evenings like these, the barn always seems to carry a warmth of its own, from the animals and the soft hay lining the floors and walls.

I cringe when I step back outside and a blast of frigid air hits me. I usually love that chill that tells me winter is on the way, but I suppose that lately I’ve felt so frozen out by the people in our community that I just want to feel warm all the time.

I frown as I unload the groceries from the English market and carry them toward the haus. Everything cost nearly twice as much as it does at Samuel’s General Store. But I’ve had to stop shopping at the Amish stores ever since my fraa and I were placed in the Bann.

I still think that our punishment was unfair. When the scraggly runaway teen showed up at our haus one day, we took him in and let him earn his keep by working for us. He hid who he really was, telling us that his name was Lee, but it wasn’t long until I figured out that he was actually Levi, Minister Eichler’s long-lost son.

Levi asked Miriam and me to keep his secret until he was ready to talk to his parents, and we did. The only problem was that the Eichlers found out that he was here before he’d had a chance to talk to them. Instead of being angry with their son, they blamed everything on us for lying and keeping his secret, and we ended up Meidung.

Now it’s up to us to pick up the pieces. We talked to the bishop, and he told us there’s much to do before we can come back to the fold.

It’s just not right that Miriam and I were shunned, while Levi was allowed back into his parents’ haus and barely punished. As an unbaptized youth, he was given a bit more leeway. I hope that he returns to Ohio soon to see Sadie, the girl he was courting before he ran away. He compromised Sadie, and now she’s expecting a bobbel.

I think of my own bobblin, one born and one on the way, and shake my head. I try to tell myself that I should forgive Levi entirely, but I just can’t. I don’t think he’s a man of character. If I were in his place, I would be back in Ohio faster than a shot, waiting for the miracle of my bobbel’s birth.

But who am I to judge other people? Only Herr Gott can do that. Sighing, I heave the grocery bags upwards and drag myself inside to see my fraa.

I’m greeted by the smell of roast beef and buttery mashed potatoes, two of my favorite things. As Miriam rushes downstairs to help me unload the groceries, and then prepares plates for me, Henry, and herself—last as usual—I look at the rounded swell of her belly, and realize that the bobbel is not far away.

“How was your day, liebchen?” I ask, kissing her.

Gut,” she says in a falsely-bright voice. She plops down in her seat and begins feeding Henry mashed potatoes. “I redd up the haus, and played with Henry. We made cookies and pies, and went for a short walk outside.”

I can hear the strain in her voice; I know that she’s missing the time spent with friends, family, and neighbors, just as I am. Although Miriam doesn’t have many close friends, she’s always been actively involved in the community, taking Henry to play with other children and attending quilting circles. Now she can’t do any of that.

“That sounds nice,” I say without any enthusiasm, taking a mouthful of roast beef. “My day was gut, too. I gave one tour, and then shopped with the Englischers.”

A strangled sob escapes from Miriam’s throat, and Henry and I both stare at her. I’m horrified to see that her eyes are bright with tears.

“Let’s not lie to ourselves anymore,” she says. “My day was baremlich, and yours was, too. All the days will be like that until we’re back in the fold.”

I hop out of my seat and throw my arms around my fraa. “Everything will be all right,” I whisper into her hair, and I feel her relax into my arms.

I can only hope that I’m right, and not lying, both to Miriam and to myself.

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New Book Excerpt From Amish Redemption

I’m excited to announce that Book 4 of the Amish Friendships seriesAmish Redemption, will be coming out in early October! Young couple Abram and Miriam have been shunned after their idea to help out a runaway teen backfires. The road to redemption is a long one; they must prove to the elders that they’re truly repentant for lying about the youth’s identity. Can they find their way back into the fold before the birth of their new baby?

Until the release date, I’ll be posting free excerpts every week. So here’s the first one… Hope you enjoy!

Amish country is so beautiful in the fall! Photo courtesy of akronlife.com

Amish country is so beautiful in the fall! Photo courtesy of akronlife.com

Chapter One: Miriam

Hurrying upstairs with a basket of freshly-washed diapers in one hand and my one year-old son Henry in the other, I hear Abram’s buggy pulling into the driveway before I can see it. The horses whinny and the rubber wheels crackle over the gravel as I hear him shouting, “Yah.”

Setting down the basket, I yank aside the curtains and peer out the window, my breath puffing out and making little clouds on the glass. I rub them away with my free hand, flinching at the chill on my fingertips as I gaze at my mann. He tugs his coat tightly around his sturdy, stocky chest, and then unhitches the horses, leading them around back to the barn. As he trundles past, I notice that his teeth are chattering.

There’s no doubt about it: winter is coming, and so is the new bobbel.

Henry had become calmer as he’d grown inside me, but this little one kicks and twirls more energetically than ever, as though it can’t wait to get out and see the world.

I reckon the bobbel will arrive in about three weeks. This was what the midwife had told me—before we were shunned, that is. Now she can’t tell me anything. She’s Amish, which means that she can’t examine people in the Bann—or deliver their bobblin—unless she’s willing to risk Meidung herself. My maemm and schweschders are forbidden from helping out with the birthing, too. How baremlich that our innocent, unborn bobbel is being punished.

I drop my head into my hand, suddenly exhausted as I think of my family’s problems. Ever since we’ve been Meidung, we’ve had so many.

We can’t do business with anyone Amish, which is harder than it sounds in our small community. Samuel’s General Store is off-limits, and so is Stoltzfus Bakery. Today, Abram had to drive all the way to the English store in Volant to pick up food and necessities. English stores are much more expensive than Amish ones, and we certainly don’t have the money to spare.

Abram’s buggy tour business had been booming before the Meidung, but he had to let his employees go, since they’re Amish and can’t work for a shunned man. Now he’s short-staffed, and had to cut down the number of tours he runs. We also shut down my bed and breakfast, but that hadn’t been doing very well, anyway. Still, the amount of money coming in every week has slowed from a steady flow to a pathetic trickle.

Now I turn around and slog away from the cold window, squeezing Henry tight and inhaling the warm, sweet scent of his scalp. At moments like these, it comes in handy to count my blessings. I may be shunned, but I still have a beautiful bobbel and another on the way. I have a mann who loves me, and since he’s Meidung too, we can still talk to each other and even sleep together. And we already talked to the elders about the steps we will have to take toward repentance. Bishop Herschberger said that there will be a long road of reflection and prayer ahead, after which we must make a formal confession.

I just hope the road to redemption doesn’t take more than three weeks to travel. I remember how I’d struggled to give birth to Henry. My heart sinks as the harsh truth hits me: I don’t have the money to have this bobbel in a fancy English hospital, nor do I have the strength or knowledge to bring him or her into the world alone.

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Back-to-School Reflections

The back-to-school season always brings a big smile to my face–and not only because our neighborhood pool is blissfully empty for quiet daytime swims with my baby girl. 😉

I adore seeing cute little kids with freshly-pressed clothes and large, earnest eyes, clutching brand-new backpacks and notebooks as they head off for a day full of learning. I also get a kick out of the middle- and high-schoolers, many of whom are trying out new looks and identities. To many of them, the beginning of the school year is a blank slate, one in which they can be anything they want to be–and to me, that’s both endearing and inspiring.

This post might seem a bit late, considering that the kids have been back for a few weeks now, but the school year is still fresh and new. Throughout September, I often find myself reminiscing about first days of school past, and I also feel more inclined to learn new things and teach others as well. And just today, I had a weird craving for an apple, just like one you’d find on the stereotypical teacher’s desk! I guess there are worse foods to crave. 😉

I guess these are enough books to last me through my September learning renaissance. ;)

I guess these are enough books to last me through my September learning renaissance. 😉

This September, I’ve been visiting the library frequently, not only to expose Xaviana to new books and fun activities like Baby Rhyme Time, but also to quest for new reading material of my own. In the process, I discovered two authors that I loooove. Suzanne Woods Fisher writes Amish fiction that combines everything I look for in a good book: excitement, adventure, romance, and faith. I also fell in love with The Lost Girls of Rome by Italian author Donato Carrisi, because I’m a huge fan of suspenseful crime dramas.

I’ve also been playing teacher for Xaviana, who is almost 11 months old and has entered this amazing phase in which she seems to learn something new every day. When we’re not playing, exercising, and climbing on everything, we do a lot of reading. I read all her books in our at home “library” every day–about 15 board books throughout the day and 3 bedtime stories at night. We also have the Bright Baby board book with colors, numbers, ABC’s, shapes, and opposites, and we go through it daily. She’s an eager little pupil, and can now tell me what cows, cats, and sheep say, show me “up” and “down” with her arms, differentiate between her “small” and “big” toy balls, and fit the elusive shapes in the correct holes of her puzzle. She loves reading time, and smiles at her favorite books, especially I Love You Through and Through, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and If Animals Kissed Good Night. Playing school has never been so much fun!

Readers out there, do you find yourself going through your own personal renaissance during the back-to-school season, even if you’re not heading back to the classroom? I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections!

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Reflections on a Month of Love

This summer was truly the “summer of love” among my friends and family; Antonio and I found ourselves invited to 5 weddings, and were able to make 3 of them. Incredibly, all of the weddings took place in August, so three out of four weekends this past month included wedding festivities!

To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than a couple in love, especially a couple just starting their lives together, full of hope and expectations for the future. It’s why all the books I write feature young people in love–and it’s also why I adore weddings.

I can’t help it: I’m a hopeless romantic, and now that I’m married, I often find myself reliving my own special day at other people’s weddings. My eyes always prickle with tears of joy as I watch the bride walk down the aisle and see her face full of happiness and anticipation. Then I shift my gaze to the groom, and marvel at the way his face lights up when the music swells and he admires his wife-to-be. I remember the way I felt as I took that joyous walk, which just intensifies the experience.

My favorite part of weddings–besides being part of the love, of course–is the way that each celebration reflects the couple’s personalities and the things they hold most dear. With that in mind, here are my reflections on the three weddings I attended this past month.

  1. Wedding #1: Small and Intimate – We kicked off the month with the destination wedding of our friends Carlo and Samar, traveling to the stunning red mesas of New Mexico. The bride and groom had planned a “white wedding” at a resort in Santa Fe, and Antonio and I were entranced not only by the beauty of the landscape and venue, but by the charming outdoor ceremony, delicious sit-down dinner, and incredibly fun group of about 30 guests. After dinner, we all went nuts dancing, and closed out the night with karaoke. We had ample time to chat with the bride, groom, and other attendees, and by the conclusion of the weekend, I’d made many new friends. Small weddings are amazing in this way; I really felt like everyone celebrated together instead of just sticking in their own little groups. IMG_0650
  2. Wedding #2: All-out Festival – Nabil and Salam’s wedding took place in Lebanon, and was a huge, traditional wedding that reminded me of a Lebanese festival. The day began with a gorgeous outdoor lunch of about 350 people, and then the guests all followed Nabil to Salam’s mountain village, where the ceremony took place. The reception was held in a castle with breathtaking views of the city of Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea. A sumptuous buffet was set up, and guests danced into the wee hours of the morning to a variety of music, but mostly Lebanese songs. As the bride and groom danced and cut the cake, huge sparklers erupted. The lights were brilliant and dazzling, but they were nothing compared to the spark in the couple’s eyes when they looked at each other. IMG_0877
  3. Wedding #3: Getting the Party Started – Eddy and Maya’s wedding also took place in Lebanon, and began with a touching ceremony in a beautiful old church, full of speeches by family and friends, as well as a sermon in Arabic. The reception was held at an amazing outdoor venue called Swan Lake. Sure enough, there was a shimmering lake with real swans, and down below, tables and a dance floor were set up. The venue sat atop a mountain, and the views of the city and sea were a sight to behold. The buffet was delicious, but the best part was the dancing. The bride and groom are a high-energy couple who love to party, and their arrival was punctuated with dance music, after which many of the guests stormed the dance floor. Antonio and I danced all night, reveling in the fun, club-like atmosphere and enjoying every moment with the bride and groom. IMG_1017

Writing about these weddings and reliving the happy memories has been such a treat for me. Readers out there, was this summer full of weddings for you, too? Do you love weddings as much as I do? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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