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, except for my husband and me. 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 seemed a bit shy in the past, perhaps leery of this Englisch woman, one who writes stories of 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 right now, in the twenty-first century.
Ideas for new stories began to churn 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 will always be tempted to borrow from conversations or observations, but integrity dictates that private conversations remain private.
While passing 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. That’s all fiction is really, an author’s interpretation of story ideas—whether the seeds of those ideas are based in make believe or real events.
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, the second is in The Bridge of Peace, and the third is found in The Harvest of Grace. All of the stories were close to this man’s heart, and I knew it’d be difficult to portray how much each event affected the community. But with his encouragement nudging me onward, I wrote the Ada’s House novels.
With the holidays coming up, my publisher thought readers may enjoy having those three separate novels that came out a few years ago combined into an omnibus, making a nice gift for the reader in your life. The omnibus, titled Hope Crossing, gives readers three full-length novels in one book for a new lower price. You can purchase the book format for about fifteen dollars and the e-book format for about eight dollars.
For a chance to win one of THREE autographed copies of Hope Crossing, please leave a comment/reply below.
If you are reading about this giveaway anywhere other than my (Cindy’s) website, such as on Facebook, in an email, or on Goodreads, please hop on over to the website by clicking here: https://www.cindywoodsmall.com/2014/11/05/hope-crossing-giveaway/, and then leave a comment at the bottom of the post under the words “Leave a Reply.”
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Only comments left on my website will be entered into the giveaway.
The deadline for this giveaway is Wednesday, November 26th, at noon Eastern Time. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and will be contacted privately.
As always, please remember that all of my giveaways are limited to US residents only. Please visit my giveaway rules and FAQ page for a complete explanation of the terms and conditions of this giveaway.
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