Monday, April 11, 2011

Beside Still Waters

I’ll confess that before reading Tricia Goyer’s Beside Still Waters I had read only one Amish novel. I’d also read an Amish devotional/recipe book. I read Tricia’s book because I love everything she writes. Beside Still Waters was no exception. In fact, I think I’ll read more Amish fiction.

Through the story of Maranna Sommer, we see both the beauty and the burdens of Amish life. At nineteen, Marianna is still in the season of life known as rumschpringe, when she must decide whether to commit to the Amish faith or join the world. She is sure that she has her future figured out--she will get baptized into the faith and marry Aaron Zook. Haunted by a tragedy that took place the night she was born, Marianna’s parents decide to leave the memories behind, and the pain of seeing their oldest son choose “Englisch” ways, and move to Montana. Marianna reluctantly joins them “temporarily.” She quickly discovers a community far different from what she grew up with—and a man who opens her eyes to what it really means to have a relationship with God.

I felt like I got a true taste of what a young Amish woman must struggle with, trying to maintain a simple life while surrounded by draws like music, television, phones, and cars. Marianna wants to obey God, but also feels the daily scrutiny of being judged by how early you get the laundry on the line and whether or not your clothing is stitched correctly. The benefits of growing up without the distractions of technology (Marianna is skilled at quilting, baking, and running a household like a grown woman) are mixed with the possible danger of shunning all things worldly (emergency strikes, there is a phone in the barn, but phones are forbidden). Her life-long battle with guilt and feeling unloved reflect the lies that so easily consume us until God finally allows us to see the truth.

I had no idea what to expect, having read so little in this particular genre, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In fact, I’m looking forward to Book 2. Thanks to B&H Publishing for providing me with a copy of Beside Still Waters to review.

Click here to watch the book trailers.

To buy the book

To celebrate the release of the first book in the Big Sky Amish series Tricia is giving away 10 copies of Beside Still Waters and a pair of super cute antique Amish salt & pepper shakers. Details at Tricia’s blog, It's Real Life.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Who's Your Buddy?

This week I’m preparing for a big writer’s conference, where I coordinate a program call The Buddy System. Basically, I match those who have never attended this amazing but often overwhelming conference before, with someone who has. Each year I receive comments like . . .

“My buddy was perfect for me. We have so much in common!”

“The first-timer that you assigned me lives in the same town that I’m about to move to. How did you know?”

Some shared the same life challenges or health problems. Others just hit it off in a way that they didn’t expect.

The cool thing is that I don’t ask any questions about likes and dislikes, health problems, or even where they live. I ask for their name, e-mail address, writing interests, and conference goals. Then I pray as I make assignments. So in many ways,
God chooses each first-timer’s buddy.

I assigned a first-timer to myself a few years ago without know much about her. She has become a precious friend. As it turns out, she is also friends with one of my cousins.

This has become my yearly reminder of God’s hand in our relationships. He knows who He wants us to meet, encourage, and gain from. But, we also need to put ourselves out there and be willing to connect with people. First-timers must sign up for the Buddy System just as we need to leave our homes and get involved in activities in order to make friends.

Think of some people that God has brought into your life through circumstances that left you pleasantly blown away. Thank Him for loving you enough to be actively involved in your everyday life, including choosing your buddies.