Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Homespun - Lorilee Craker

About the Book:

In the pages of  Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women in Their Own Words Amish and Plain Mennonite women swap stories and spin yarns while the reader sits in. The book’s editor, Lorilee Craker, bestselling author of Money Secrets of the Amish, collected these personal writings and authentic perspectives on life, hospitality, home, grief, joy, and walks with God from Anabaptist women’s periodicals. Among the stories shared are essays penned by well-loved Amish and Mennonite writers such as Sherry Gore, Linda Byler, Lovina Eicher, Dorcas Smucker, and Sheila Petre.

Craker, who describes herself as a simple Mennonite girl from the prairies, grew up in Manitoba where the Mennonite community was large. Her mother’s family came from Ukraine in the 1870’s and were pioneers who homesteaded on the prairies. Her father’s family arrived in Canada after World War II when they fled Stalin and his holocaust. She knew from early on there were lots of different kinds of Mennonite stories, but she never realized there was anything “different” about the way she grew up until she arrived in Chicago for college. “Everyone seemed to think that being Amish or Old Order Mennonite and being my kind of Mennonite were one and the same. This assumption led to lots of explanations on my part about the difference between my modern Mennonite upbringing (‘like Baptist, with a German accent and special foods’) and those other related subcultures.”

Explaining the differences would eventually lead to Craker to writing her first book on the Amish where she learned for all the differences, there were many more similarities than she expected there to be. While visiting the Amish, she found a peace and gentleness that reminded her of home. As she compiled the stories for Homespun, those same feelings and many more came to the surface. “These narratives stirred different emotions in me. My heart ached for Ervina Yoder as she described what it was like for her to be the mother of a longed-for but stillborn baby. I was inspired and encouraged by Danielle Beiler’s trust in God as her provider, and I giggled at Mary Yoder’s secondhand testimony of an Amish man whose pants were just too stretchy. Other essays enthused my soul, and I came away feeling as if I had just been to church. My cup had been filled.”

My Thoughts: 
The stories in this book are divided into six sections: Welcome, Abide, Testimony, Wonder, Kindred and Beloved. While I enjoyed most of the stories in this collection, the one that spoke to me most was, Stories Rustling in the Branches. I too, love to record family stories, and know you sometimes have to dig for them, or simply listen. As Gertrude Schlabach puts it: "When we have the opportunity, we should take part in family reunions. If we listen closely, we'll hear stories rustling in the branches."


In exchange for an honest review, publicist, Audra Jennings provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Göttliche Gröβe - inspiration from my time in Banff

 While in Banff for a conference, (read more here, if you missed it) I enjoyed walking along this beautiful trail along the Bow River, right behind our hotel. When I came home I was inspired to write a German poem about it, which I then used as a sample poem in my Grades 6-8 German class. The poem describes what I see along the way, green water, mountains, pine trees, blooming bushes... It ends with words of gratitude, and a few lines of a fitting hymn that came to mind: 

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee. 
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Göttliche Gröβe

Ein schmaler Wanderweg
Schlängelt sich neben dem breiten Bow Fluβ,
Grűn, glänzend, ruhig.
Ein Gänsepaar gleitet geműtlich umher.

Auf der anderen Seite des Fluβes,
Ragen riesige Berge –
Grau, zerklűftet, majestätisch –
den hell blauen Himmel empor.
Im Schatten des Berges
Dunkelgrűne Fichten und Kiefern, dicht an dicht –
zapfentragende Schildwachen
stattlich, standhaft, schlank.

Buntblűhende Bűsche
Parfűmieren die feuchte Luft.
Eine leichte Brise mischt
 angenehmer Blűtenduft mit Fichtengeruch und
erfűllt entzűckend Luft und Nase.
Kiefernhäher zwitschern in ihrem Versteck
In den schattenreichen Nadelbäumen.

Schweigend, andächtig, dankbar
Schlendere ich mich ruhig dahin,
  diesen herrlichen Sommerabend-Spaziergang
In Banff, Alberta geniessen zu dűrfen!
Dann jauchst mein Herz dir groβer Herrscher zu,
Wie groβ bist du! Wie groβ bist du!

Monday, 17 September 2018

A Growing Family of Books by Amish, Mennonite and Hutterite Writers

The Plainspoken Series by Herald  Press is growing. The newest title is Gathering of Sisters, written by Darla Weaver. I've been given the opportunity, by Herald Press to read Darla's book, and to endorse it:  
Gathering of Sisters is all about maintaining strong family bonds. In this fast-paced world we're living in, the author's family takes time to meet with extended family on a weekly basis, thus passing on the importance of family gatherings to the next generation. The children of these sisters have a book full of
precious memories: three generations sharing 
work,play, meals, smiles and tears undoubtedly strengthened by their common faith.  
All of these titles, since they belong to the same family, and I gladly sing their praises, are now on my keeper shelf.  They're available on Amazon and the Herald Press website.

People keep asking me when I'm publishing another book. The answer is still the same: the dream is always there, but, at the moment, I have no idea when or if there will be a second book. It's encouraging though, that readers are looking for more. My sincere appreciation for your support and for your sweet messages.




Saturday, 8 September 2018

Traveling to Beautiful Banff, Alberta

I always relish opportunities to visit different parts of the world. Therefore, when my sister-in-law, Karen, a teacher at our school, casually asked us, 'How would you like to go to a Gordon Neufeld conference?' one of my first thoughts was Carpe Diem, seize the moment. Both, my sister and I were interested,  so it was during that morning tea break that our plans were set in motion. Our community generously supported our venture.
Thus, the last week in July found us traveling to Banff, Alberta. Along the way we made many special memories - at least a suitcase full.

We traveled by car, and visited old friends along the way, and made new ones as well. First we stayed overnight at Hodgeville, a Dariusleut Colony in Saskatchewan. (For those of you who don't know, Hutterites are divided into three different conferences, Dariusleut, Lehrerleut and Schmiedeleut, which I'm part of. For more on this click here. )We’ve been friends with that family for many years, and appreciated the chance to visit them and getting to know other people on that colony. We got a tour of their colony, including their book shop, which was a treat to browse in, and a bonus to see my book, Hutterite Diaries on one of the shelves

Judy's tasty breakfast spread
Our next stop was at the home of my dear friend, Judy, near Lethbridge. I was so excited about visiting Judy, and meeting her face-to-face! She’s the author of the cook book, At Home in the Kitchen. (She also has a blog, with the same title where she posted recipes from her book, although she doesn’t post anymore. That’s how I ‘met’ Judy. I stumbled upon her blog some years ago.) We soon saw firsthand that her book has the perfect title, as she’s an excellent cook, a gracious hostess, and definitely is at home in the kitchen. The Stromboli and mixed salad she served us for supper was scrumptious! For dessert we had jellyroll cake, topped with ice-cream. 
In the evening Judy took us for a visit with her friends at Old Elm, a Lehrerleut Colony in the area. I’d never visited a Lehrerleut colony before. Our hosts, Jack and Judy and their family treated us like old friends. After serving a delicious snack they gave us a tour of their colony, which happens to be 100 years old this year. It was one of the first colonies established in Canada, when the Hutterites first came here in 1918. 

Before we left the next morning, Judith prepared a lovely breakfast of quiche, fresh fruit and muffins. An extra-ordinary send-off! Although the visit was too short, it was definitely sweet. Judy, being the loving motherly soul she is, packed us each a piece of her homemade Saskatoon pie for the road. What a treat to have it as a yummy snack at one of our rest stops!

Finally, we arrived in beautiful Banff, a gorgeous location to host a conference! After settling into our hotel, we opted for more sightseeing, this time, taking a gondola to a mountaintop.

View from atop a mountain

Besides enjoying the grand view from this vantage point, we were treated to a concert by a local musician. That was an unexpected bonus! Listening to this guy's music, with the mountains as a back drop was definitely a unique experience I wouldn't have wanted to miss. I would have liked to add a video here, but for whatever reason, I was unable to do so. No problems adding pictures, though.

Trail along the Bow River

Behind our hotel, along the Bow River there’s a beautiful walking trail, lined with shrubs, pines, rocks and majestic mountains on the other side of the river. We took every opportunity to walk this scenic trail. One evening, we (my sister, Elma and my friend, Serena) met a Japanese family. They asked if they could take a picture of us. A bit perplexed, we agreed and then asked them what they’ll tell their friends about this photo. “You’re like the sisters from The Sound of Music.” One of the ladies replied. After we explained who we really are, we continued our walk, chuckling. I felt like mimicking Maria von Trapp walking and singing, The Hills were alive with the sound of muuuuusic.  

Oh yes, the conference! (:

DR. Gordon Neufeld
It’s a long way to travel for a conference, but it was well worth it. Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a great speaker and certainly left us with a lot of food for thought.  He lives in British Columbia, Canada and is a well-known psychologist, author and speaker. He travels extensively all over Canada, the United States and Europe doing conferences. The three-day intensive workshop we attended was, The Science of Emotion:

There is much focus today on children’s emotions. Constructs like emotional intelligence, emotional self-regulation, emotional well-being and emotional social learning are being bandied about like never before. Emotion, long dismissed as a nuisance factor, is now confirmed to be at the core of development and well-being. Yet little is being taught about the nature of emotion or the implications for parenting and teaching and treatment. In this 5-hour DVD, Dr. Neufeld does a brilliant job of putting the pieces together to make sense of emotion, revealing the emotional roots of many behavioral problems, and clarifying the challenges for parents, teachers and helping professionals.

To make sense of emotion is to make sense of us all. This material is absolutely foundational to an understanding of human nature. While the focus is on children and youth, the material applies across ages and relationships. – Neufeld Institute

I’d heard a lot about Dr. Neufeld, and was looking forward to taking in one of his conferences or workshops. It was an amazing conference, and left me inspired and with plenty of food for thought as we start a new school year.

At the conference, the organizers had Dr. Neufeld’s books and CD’s for sale. We were considering buying some, as we looked at them during one of the breaks. I especially wanted the book, Hold on to Your Kids. Glimpsing through it, I saw that it had much of what we’re learning at the conference, but in greater detail. “We have all the books and CD’s at our school,” one of our friends informed us. “If you’d like, you may borrow them.” Since registering and traveling to the conference already cost plenty, we graciously accepted her offer. 

On the way home, we stayed with friends at Airdrie, Alberta. After a delicious barbecue supper, we decided there’s still time to do some shopping at my favourite second hand shop, Value Village in Calgary. One of the areas I always check out at Value Village, is the books. Browsing from one shelf to the next, and not finding anything of interest, I ambled past the parenting section and two turquoise-green spines, with the title in orange caught my eye. I stopped to take a closer look and saw two excellent copies of Hold on to Your Kids, for six dollars! I was grateful to the person who donated these Neufeld books, worth twenty-two dollars, and grabbed them both, one for Karen, and one for myself! Needless to say, this has been part of my summer reading. 

I’ll sign off with other scenes I captured on this wonderful trip:

Gardens in front of Parks Canada Admin Building in Banff

Taken from the trail along Bow River, heading towards Parks Canada Building