Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be Amish? Would you like to take a peek into their private community? Join me as I take you for a walk through a day in the lives of ten Amish women from Willow Springs in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania.
Your listing to the Buggy Talk Podcast where some of your favorite authors, friends, and guests, explore the simpler side of life. Here’s your host Amish fiction author Tracy Fredrychowski.
The following transcript is a shortened version of the original recording.
Hey there. Welcome to another episode of buggy talk. I’m your host Tracy Fredrychowski. Each week I’ll bring you the story behind the stories along with the storytellers. Perhaps even some weeks. I’ll invite some of your favorite characters to come to life and join us right here on Buggy Talk. For this week’s episode, I’ll be talking about my collection of short stories that introduce you to the Amish Women of Lawrence County.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be Amish?
Would you like to take a peek into their private community? Come join me as I take you for a walk through a day in the lives of 10 Amish women from Willow Springs in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania.
Some will discover new love, one will battle some health issues. Others will need to forgive and many will find who they are in Christ, but what binds them all together is their desire to serve God, love their families, and support their community. By loving their neighbors, just as God instructs them to do. Before I talk more about the Amish women of Lawrence County, I have something I want to share with you.
Do you find yourself in a season where you’re looking for ways to slow down and simplify your life?
If so, I encourage you to look to the Amish for inspiration. The way they live is no secret. We English have everything they have at our fingertips. Oh, we have to do is look for it. If you find their way of life appealing, I have 10 things you can do to bring some Amish values into your life.
Starting with practicing gratitude. You know, being humble is a big step to living a quieter, simpler life. In today’s world, many of us want to be the center of attention. We want to stand out in a crowd and we want to be heard, but finding peace and serenity starts with being silent. Listen to those around you. Avoid gossip, stay clear of bragging, and by all means, avoid being too showy.
Tip number two, establish peace. It may be hard for many of us to find peace in a world so full of news and electronics and the constant connection to the outside world, but finding ways to add periods of calm to your life should be the ultimate goal every day. Start by turning off the television practice yoga, learn meditation, read a book and just reject all forms of outside noise.
Tip number three, how about living on less? How many things in your life do you have the add no value if you’re like me. Many of our homes are filled with consumer driven products that just clutter our spaces. I know for a fact when I started reading my home of all those things that just took up space and didn’t add any meaning to my life, I found a true freedom from owning less.
Tip number four, provide for yourself. Have you ever stopped and thought about what would happen if we couldn’t go to the store? Finding ways to live a more self sufficient lifestyle is a big part of living a simpler life. Being able to raise vegetables so your own clothes, conserve energy, and even baking bread are just a few ways to learn to take care of yourself.
Step number five, work hard. Don’t be afraid of hard work and take pride in it. Discover the feeling of satisfaction from putting in a hard day’s work, whether you sit at a desk or get your hands dirty. Do your best and commend others who do a good job around you.
Step number six, be modest. Just like you. I like to look nice and feel good about myself, but being obsessed with the latest fashion or spending hundreds of dollars on beauty products only leaves me feeling dissatisfied with my true appearance. When choosing your clothing, look for flattering styles that aren’t too tight, too revealing, or too flashy. We can wear comfortable clothes while still being stylish and presentable. Keep accessories to a minimum and be as true to your natural appearance as possible.
Tip number seven. Appreciate the outdoors. Adding some form of outdoor activity to our lives like a walk or stroll in a park or even a few minutes. Pulling weeds are great ways to restore our mental health and gain an appreciation of just being outside.
Number eight, seek community. Do you know who your neighbors are? Build relationships with those around you. Gladly. Lynn. Tools, trade babysitting. Go out of your way to help them in times of need. Who knows? Many of our neighbors might just be lonely and feel isolated. Take the time to introduce yourself and be friendly.
Number nine, build family ties. In today’s modern world, broken families are the normal. Take a stand and stop that cycle. Spend time working on your family. Make a point to sit down to meals together. Reach out to elderly family members and build simple family traditions.
And number 10 and the one that the Amish do really well is rely on God. The most important values we can learn from the Amish is to put our faith in the Lord. And remember, we are not God’s children only on Sundays. Make an effort to slow down.
And when we do, we’ll be able to hear God’s message more clearly. Whether you’re at home, in the car or out shopping. Act with compassion. Be loving and kind and put others before yourself. Changing the way you live starts with you. By making a few of these small changes, you will find yourself slowing down and living a more sustainable life just like the Amish do.
Okay. Those were my top tips for slowing down and approaching a simpler side of life. Let’s move back into the Amish Women of Lawrence County.
In this collection of 10 short stories, you’re going to meet 10 of my favorite characters that call Lawrence County home. If you’re new to me or want to get a feel for my writing style, I invite you to go to my website at tracyfredrychwoski.com I know that’s a really long name, but all you need to do is go to Google, do a search on the Amish Women of Lawrence County, and you’ll find it all over.
Go ahead and go to my website, Ttracyfredrychwoski.com and download the Amish Women of Lawrence County for absolutely free. Now, I’m going to do something a little different this week to give you a taste of what you have in store. When you grab a copy of this collection.
I want to read you one of my favorite stories about Barbara Miller, so here goes enjoy Barbara.
That was just one of the 10 stories she’ll get to enjoy in the Amish women of Lawrence County. Don’t forget, you can grab a free copy of it on my website at Tracy <inaudible> dot com you can plan on hearing more about Barbara and Joseph Miller in one of my future books. I plan to make each of these short stories into full novels, but what these stories really do is introduce you to many of the characters I write about.
“Most of all, have a true love for each other. Love covers many sins.“
-1 Peter 4:8
The sun was shining, the trees were starting to show signs of spring, and everyone Teena and Lizzy Fisher passed had smiles on their faces enjoying the first warm day of the season All around they both agreed it was a perfect day for a trip to the dry goods store to set their plan in motion.
It had been weeks since they’d cornered their neighbor Barbara Miller at church hoping to talk some sense into the young widow. The two older spinster sisters were dead set against her leaving Willow Springs to move to Sugarcreek to marry a man she’d never met. They knew it was her day to work the counter at Shetler’s Grocery, and they couldn’t get there fast enough to put step two into action.
Lizzy clicked her tongue and gently slapped the reins on Belle. “I know if we can get the two of them together, Barbara will see that Joseph has changed,” she said. “He’s not that same lanky know-it-all boy that left home five years ago to give the English world a try. I’ve talked to his mamm, and he’s all set on taking his kneeling vow and joining the church. He’s been helping his datt at the harness shop until he finds a farm to buy of his own.”
Teena turned in her seat as they passed the Miller farm. “I understand that there’s no way Barbara can take care of that big house and farm all by herself, but selling it and moving away from her family is crazy,” she replied. “Especially when Joseph has made it clear, he wants to buy the farm and allow her and the kinner to live there. It sounds like a perfect solution. I don’t understand what happened between the two of them that she won’t even consider his offer.”
Lizzy shook her head and gave a half-laugh. “She was pretty adamant that she had no desire to let him buy the farm. I tried to explain to her that she could rent out her farmland like we do if she were worried about how she was going to support herself. All I know is whatever it is between them has to be dealt with. He’s her brother-in-law, and there is no reason she shouldn’t take him up on his offer. These kids don’t know a good thing when it’s staring them in the face and if we have to step in the middle of it, then so be it. That’s what we’ll do.”
Teena unlatched her oversized black purse, dug the screwdriver out and held it up. “Do you think it will work? I brought the screwdriver like you said and left word with Joseph’s mamm that we’re having trouble with the harness on Belle. I told her to have Joseph meet us at ten o’clock at Shetler’s.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t know that Barbara just took a job at the store and as long as we get there first, he’ll come in looking for us, and we can go about forcing them to talk.”
As they rounded the bend in the road, Lizzy slapped the reins to hurry Belle along. She kept her eyes on the parking lot ahead.
“Oh good, he’s not there yet.”
Once they tethered their buggy to the hitching post, the women wasted no time getting down and heading up the stairs of the store. They stopped for only a second as Lizzy took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and pushed the heavy door open. Leaning into Teena, she whispered, “If we have anything to do about it, we’re not letting Barbara ruin a good thing.”
“Good morning,” Barbara said. She was filling bags of pretzels at the counter.
“Well, hello to you as well,” replied Teena. “It’s a beautiful spring day, ja?”
“We have a few things on our list today,” Lizzy began, “but I think we are just going to look at the fabric before we get started filling our list, if that’s okay with you.”
She pulled her sister’s sleeve and headed to the table near the window that displayed twenty or so different bolts of fabric, all in various shades of blue and purple.
Seeing them studying the cloth, Barbara hollered over her shoulder as she carried another bucket of pretzels from the back room. “We just got in a few bolts of our new tan color that the Ministers approved. We can’t keep it in stock. Everyone wants to make a new dress before summer.”
Teena reached down and picked up a bolt of the new fabric. “It sure is a pretty color for sure and certain. I bet the young girls are all going crazy over it.” She ran her fingers over the material. “Not sure either of us wants to spend time making new dresses when we’ll be so busy making cinnamon rolls for the Benefit Auction,” she continued. “Thanks for sharing your recipe with us. We made them last week and loved them. We decided to make them and sell them at the auction.”
Movement from outside the window caught her eye. Seeing Joseph pull into the parking lot, Teena grabbed Lizzy’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze as she tilted her head toward the window.
Lizzy cleared her throat and started to rummage through her purse, looking for her list. Once she found it, she held it up and took her time reading it, trying to stall for time as she waited for Joseph to come inside. “Since we’re making so many batches of cinnamon rolls, we have a few things we need.”
Just as she was about to start reading from her list, the bell above the door rang, and Joseph walked in. He took off his straw hat, ducking his head as he came through the door. It only took a few seconds for both women to sense there was more to what was going on between Barbara and Joseph just by the way she looked at him when he noticed her at the counter.
Barbara quickly turned away from Joseph’s towering presence, busying herself with the pretzels. Turning back to Lizzy and Teena, she was just starting to ask for their list when he spoke up.
“I hear one of you ladies is having trouble with your harness. If you tell me what the problem is, I’ll get out of your way and see if I can’t get it fixed while you’re shopping.”
Fumbling over her words, Lizzy looked down at her list and then over at Teena silently telling her it was time to put their plan in motion.
“Before looking at our harness, can you help Barbara get two fifty-pound bags of flour out of the back room and loaded into our buggy?”
With noticeable force Barbara closed the lid on the bucket of pretzels and cleared her throat. “I can do that myself,” she said curtly. “I don’t need his help.”
Turning to Barbara, Joseph answered sharply, “I’m sure you can, but since I’m here, I can do it.”
Knowing she wasn’t going to get rid of him until she showed him where the flour was, Barbara headed to the back room, motioning him to follow.
Teena reached into her purse and took out the screwdriver. Lizzy grabbed her arm and followed them to the back room. As soon as they were sure both of them were in the back of the stockroom, Lizzy closed the door, flipped the hasp over the latch and slid the long screwdriver through the hole to secure it in place, locking the storeroom door from the outside.
It happened all too fast. The door closed, the hasp flipped, and the room turned black.
“Oh my! What’s going on? Teena? Lizzy? Why did you shut the door on us?” Barbara’s voice was panicked. “It’s dark in here. Open the door so we can see!”
On the other side of the door, Teena hollered back. “No, we’re not going to open the door until you and Joseph talk. You’re not making sense by not letting him help you with the farm. Even if it takes you all day, we’re not going anywhere. So you best start talking. Joseph, she’s planning on taking your nephews to Sugarcreek to marry some old man she doesn’t even know just so they have a datt.”
“Teena, stop! That’s none of your business, and I’m sure Joseph couldn’t care less what I am planning to do. It’s none of his concern anyway. Now, you both open this door right this minute!”
As Barbara tried to walk past Joseph in the dark, toward the door, she ran smack into him, falling backward. In one swift movement, he wrapped his arms around her, steadying her and keeping her from falling into the storage shelves.
She was shocked at her body’s response to his touch. How could just a few seconds erase five years of heartache and disappointment? In the darkness of the room and without being able to see in his eyes, she let Joseph pull her into his embrace. He wrapped his arms around her tighter, pulling her into his chest with his large hands.
She tried to push him away, but he just held her closer.
“You have it all wrong,” Joseph said as Barbara tried to wiggle out of his embrace. “I do care about what you’re doing, and I don’t want you to take my nephews away from here. They have family here and so do you if you would just let us help.”
Barbara had built a wall around herself trying to keep him from seeing her true feelings ever since he moved back to Willow Springs. The last five years had been hard on her. First losing him to the English world and then losing John in a farming accident, leaving her to raise Charles and Johnny by herself. For a few seconds, she let her guard down and let him hold her.
Still holding her close, he rested his chin on the top of her head. “Will you ever trust me again? I know I hurt you by leaving, but you have to believe I wanted to come back to you,” he pleaded. “By the time I got my head on straight and realized that the life I was looking for was here all along, you had married John.”
Pushing her arms down and breaking the hold he had on her, Barbara stepped back and away from him.
“John was the only friend I had when you left,” she said in an irritated voice. “He always looked up to you, and you hurt us both. He lost his brother and his best friend when you took off, leaving us all behind. One minute you and I were planning on getting married, and the next minute, I was facing life alone. John was there for me, and it only made sense for me to marry him when he asked. I still loved you, and even though he knew I would never love him as I loved you, he accepted that and wanted to take care of me anyway. Little did you know that he loved you so much he wanted to take care of me for you.”
“I can’t change what happened in the past, and if I could, I would have never left you,” Joseph said. “All I can do now is help you keep the farm John worked so hard to build. I don’t expect you to welcome me back with open arms and I am not asking for anything else than to work my brother’s farm. Please don’t run off to Sugarcreek. Please stay here and let me prove to you that I’ve changed.”
Barbara didn’t say a word. She walked past him toward the door. Grabbing the latch and finding it still locked, she reached up and banged on the door.
“Lizzy, you open this door right this minute! I know what the two of you are up to, and it won’t work!”
“What are you talking about?” Joseph’s voice was puzzled.
“Those two old busybodies have been trying to talk me out of going to Sugarcreek for weeks. They’ve been talking you up and begging me to reconsider your offer. They think I’m unreasonable in not letting you buy the farm, but, as I see it, I am just protecting myself.”
Joseph reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her close as he whispered in her ear. “I’m never going to give up on you, Barbie. You can continue to fight me as long as you want, but I’m praying Gott will answer my prayers, and you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Just then the door swung open, and Lizzy and Teena stood smiling as they witnessed their plan in action. Just as quickly Joseph released Barbara, but it was going to take her longer to break the hold he still had on her heart. As she looked up into his eyes, she couldn’t help but want to give him another chance, but how could she? Broken promises were all she could see. No, she wouldn’t do it.
Every day for weeks she’d been praying Gott would show her what He wanted her to do. Did He want her to go to Sugarcreek or did He want her to stay in Willow Springs? Was this the answer she was hoping to hear from Him?
Pushing her way past Joseph and out the stockroom door, Barbara gave a stern look to the women standing at the door.
“You two never stop, do you?”
Lizzy and Teena followed her back to the counter just as Joseph swung two bags of flour over his shoulder and headed out the door. The air was even thicker than it was when Joseph first got there, but they felt they had made progress.
“So, are you going to let him buy the farm?” Teena whispered.
“Ten minutes locked in a stockroom changed nothing,” Barbara replied. “But I promise I will think about it and take it to Gott before I make any hasty decisions.”
Watching him duck through the door with one hundred pounds of flour over his shoulder, and him calling her Barbie, his nickname for her, made her cheeks flush. Why does he have such a hold on me? Barbara looked down at the list Teena had placed on the counter in front of her.
“You two are something else,” she scolded the women. “I can’t believe you locked us in the stockroom. What if Mr. Shetler had come in to check on the store while you had us locked away. I can’t afford to lose this job, and you both know that.”
Grabbing a box from under the counter, she started placing the items from Teena’s list in it. “I think for meddling into my business you need to make a big donation to the Sunshine Box by the front door,” she told them. “Mary Bricker could use our help since she lost her husband last month. She doesn’t have any family in Willow Springs and is relying on help from the community until her grandson gets here to help her. What can I add to your bill that you can add to the box?”
Teena and Lizzy looked at each other at the same time. “Whatever you think she needs,” they said in unison.
Handing each of them a box of crackers, bag of sugar, and laundry soap, Barbara motioned them to the Sunshine Box while she finished ringing up their order.
“Now the two of you listen to me. I don’t want you meddling in my business anymore, and you keep that screwdriver at home the next time you come in. You better be glad I’m not inclined to tell the Bishop of your shenanigans here today.”
Without saying a word, Lizzy and Teena each lifted a box off the counter and left without looking back.
Closing the door behind them, they both started to snicker as soon as they were on the porch, out of hearing distance of Barbara’s fury.
Leaning in closer to Lizzy, Teena whispered, “I think we made her mad, but I don’t care if it means we got them talking for a few minutes. Did you see the way her face flushed when he walked in the store? In my book that can only mean one thing. She still has feelings for him, and hopefully, our little lockup game helped that along a little bit.”
Barbara stood at the window, looking out at Joseph as he worked on the harness. His hair was starting to grow out to an acceptable Amish length, and it was curling up at the ends around the straw hat he wore tight on his head. Had she ever stopped loving him? Could she open her heart and let him back into her life? What was it Gott was trying to tell her?
She closed her eyes and leaned her head on the cold glass, asking Him to show her what He wanted her to do. When she opened her eyes, she saw a bookmark lying on the floor. It had fallen from the shelf to the left of the window.
The bookmark had a message.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
As if the whole world had instantly been lifted from her shoulders, she knew what Gott wanted her to do. She opened the door and hollered for Joseph to come back inside when he was done fixing Belle’s harness.
All of my stories take place in the fictitious town of Willow Springs, so after you’ve read a few, you’ll get to know the surroundings and all the Amish families that reside in this close-knit old order Amish community.
Well, that wraps up this week’s episode.
Next week we’ll have award-winning Amish fiction author Jennifer Beckstrand as one of our guests. You might know her from the Petersheim Brothers, maybe The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill and my favorite, The Honeybee Sister Series.
Until then, I encourage you to look for ways to slow down and enjoy an uncomplicated life.
A few years back. I bought a calendar in Holmes County and it had some wonderful ways we can model ourselves after the Amish that I just have to end by sharing with you.
If you admire their faith, strengthen yours.
If you admire their sense of commitment, deepen yours.
If you admire their quality merchandise, make quality.
If you admire their humility, be humble.
If you admire their unselfishness, put others first.
If you admire their honesty, be honest.
If you admire their willingness to help others in need, help the needy.
If you admire their land stewardship, take care of yours.
If you admire their deep character in enduring values, live them.
See you next week on the Buggy Talk.