Update: Mary of Westfield, New York won the set of autographed books. Congratulations, Mary!
The Harvest of Grace made the New York Times and USA Today best seller lists, so as a thank you celebration (THANK YOU!), I’m offering a chance for two people to win a complete autographed set of Ada’s House.
I’m so grateful for my loyal reader friends, many of whom constantly help spread the news about my novels or my latest release. It’d be great and I’d really appreciate it if you’d click on one of the social network icons — Facebook, Google+, Twitter. Or share about this giveaway wherever you connect with people online. There is no better help or compliment to an author than for readers to share about a book with loved ones, friends, and coworkers.
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below.
And since we often want to know “the story behind the story,” I share an account below of where the ideas for the Ada’s House novels came from. Hope you enjoy ~
One sunny spring day, my husband and I were welcomed into the home of an Old Order Amish woman. Her old brick farmhouse was filled with her people. They talked among themselves in their “native” language, Pennsylvania Dutch, but when they spoke to us, they used English.
The home was built in the early eighteen hundreds, and in its long history, electricity had never been installed. One cookstove burned wood and was used mostly in the cool months. The other stove ran on natural gas, the propane tank sitting in the backyard.
A pleasant May breeze flowed through the open kitchen window, making the broad, green leaves on the trees outside dance; yellow sunlight splashed about the room, playing a game of tag with the shadows. The sweet aroma of freshly baked cookies filled the air, but an earthy smell passed through occasionally, bringing in the scent of the freshly tilled garden. Looking out the window, I could see horses grazing, patiently waiting for their owners to take them home.
An elderly Amish man approached me, one I’d been getting to know for several years over a number of visits to his community. He’d seemed a bit shy in the past, perhaps leery of this Englischer woman who writes stories about his culture. This time he wanted to talk. He began telling me of his family roots, the long journey his ancestors endured to break free of the persecution happening in their home country. He shared about the first Plain folks to arrive in America in the early seventeen hundreds and many fascinating historical highlights that his people had passed down generation after generation. Then he told stories he had witnessed firsthand, and that led to talking about my favorite subject—the struggles of Amish young people in the twenty-first century.
Ideas for new stories churned within me and characters started to form. When a novel idea sparks it’s always exciting, but I was unsure if he’d mind our conversation becoming book fodder. With a friendship at that tender stage, I didn’t feel comfortable asking permission.
His daughter-in-law pulled a pan of homemade chocolate-chip cookies out of the oven. She loaded up a plate with the baked goodies and slid the pan into the sink. My gentleman friend had become caught up in another conversation, one I couldn’t understand a word of, so I went to the sink to wash some dishes. That’s one thing in an Amish household that always needs doing, and I could do it without instructions from my hosts.
A few of the Amish women asked me questions and we began talking about things we had in common—attending church, coping with teenaged children, and the joys of trusting God. Could I trust Him to remove the story ideas that were begging for me to write them? Or was it possible He’d open the doors to allow me to use them? A writer is always tempted to borrow from conversations or observations, but integrity dictates that private conversations remain private.
While I passed a clean dish to an Amish woman to dry and put away, my elderly Old Order Amish friend came alongside me again. He looked out of place, having left the circle of men and woven through the crowd of women gathered near the sink.
Thinking he wanted something out of the cabinet, I asked, “May I get you a glass or a fresh plate?”
He shrugged. “I suppose so.”
Something appeared to be on his mind. He was the patriarch of this gathering, honored and distinguished by everyone. I was an outsider, a fact I couldn’t forget no matter how kind everyone was. I pulled a clean glass from the cabinet and with his permission, filled it with ice water for him. After I passed the glass to him, I returned to washing dishes.
When I turned back to him, he asked if I thought I could use any part of our conversation while writing a book. My heart thumped wildly at the gift he was offering me. Did he understand what he’d just done for me…and for you? His smile and nod communicated that he fully understood.
He said he trusted me, and I assured him I’d do my best to nurture the seeds he had planted in my imagination. Could I do them justice? But I warned him, giving him an out if he wanted it, that some people might not like my interpretation. After all, fiction is really an author’s interpretation of life.
He told me, “Trust God.”
I felt overwhelmed and blessed.
Three book ideas came from our conversation. I shared the first story in The Hope of Refuge and another in the second Ada’s House novel, The Bridge of Peace. But the events closest to this man’s heart, the ones that would be the hardest to portray, were the ones that had affected him and the community of Amish farmers of which he was a part. Those unforgettable events pointed him toward perseverance, hope, and an unbending trust in his heavenly Father. That’s the story you’ll find in The Harvest of Grace.