By Rosalind Lauer
In the past year or so I’ve been one of the lucky ones. I’ve been able to shelter in place with a roof over my head and plenty to eat. I miss my kids, my brothers and sisters, and my good friends, but I hold tight to the knowledge that they are out there – somewhere! — and most are safe.
My heart aches for those we lost and those who are struggling through this difficult time. And our front-line workers are true heroes! In comparison, it may seem petty to bemoan the depression, boredom and anxiety suffered by those stuck at home. Still, every person’s experience is real and worth our empathy.
For me, the year of sheltering in place became a year of escape.
In the past year my days were spent putting finishing touches on An Amish Homecoming, writing the manuscript for the second Joyful River novel, An Amish Bride, and writing the opening chapters to the third manuscript. It was my year to escape to Amish country and spend my time sewing a patchwork quilt of charming stories of love, family and personal growth.
What a pleasure to be able to steal away to my office each day to spend quiet hours with a group of people who are good and kind and decent. People who work hard but play hard too. Folks who live close to the earth and find joy and contentment in every season and sunset. The residents of Joyful River have helped me take a moment to appreciate blue skies, diamonds of sunlight shimmering on the water, and even the droplets of rain that wriggle their way down the window glass. Most of all, their love of family and community was a source of hope and comfort. For me the interaction among these characters reinforced the need for kindness, and the power of love.
As I wove the story, I tried to imagine what how the three Sullivan girls would feel throughout their “homecoming” to the Lancaster County dairy farm run by the Amish half of the family. I relished the humor and sorrow of being a fish out of water. I dug into Serena’s moments of bubbly conversation and willful rebellion when faced with adjusting to a culture so unlike her social whirl back in Philadelphia. Serena is far more outspoken than I’ve ever been, and I enjoyed having her assert her opinion with the force of an October wind gust.
Among the Amish characters, I worried alongside Essie when the young man she loved began to slip through her fingers in his choice to fulfill his commitment to family. I was awed by the grace that overcame Collette when an injury upended her independence and forced her to rely on the charity of her church community. And I was encouraged by the undercurrent of love that ran through families and church groups. Not even the stoic, widower bishop was immune to the tug of romance. Oh, the joy of seeing a strong, stern, stubborn man fall in love!
The character of Miriam, an Amish mother and homemaker in her late thirties, was my rock, my inspiration, my source of loving encouragement in a very discouraging time. I feel as though we laughed together. She shared my worries about my older children navigating adulthood. She pushed for positive solutions and set small plans in motion to lead her family and friends to joy and contentment. Since Miriam plays the role of an occasional narrator in all three books, I enjoyed the chance to touch base with her throughout the story. As an author and mastermind of the story, I could trust in Miriam, sure that she would makes sure that my characters worked things out. Her faith in the goodness of folks is contagious.
At this point you might be thinking, “Has this writer gone nuts? Laughing and crying with her imaginary friends?” Well…yes. Isn’t it wonderful that, during difficult times, our imagination can transport us to places that bring us comfort and joy?
If I’ve done my job well, you, too, will be chuckling and crying along with Miriam as she works to keep her large family fed, clothed, happy, and focused on sharing God’s love each and every day. Life is too short to pass without meaningful relationships and deep emotion. I wish you laughter, hope, and love with the important people in your life, and I hope you see these essential parts of life reflected in the good folks of Joyful River.
Inspirational author Rosalind Lauer debuts on the Kensington list with a new series filled with small-town coziness. An Amish Homecoming introduces readers to the patchwork quilt of life and love in the Pennsylvania Amish community of Joyful River, where new beginnings and old ways meet with faith, hope, and compassion…
Essie Lapp’s birthday is doubly blessed. There’s a delicious meal to savor with her family, and the sweet gift of time spent with her beau, Harlan. Over two years they’ve forged a bond as strong and hopeful as a tree reaching for the sky. To practical-minded Essie, there’s comfort in knowing exactly what her future will bring. Yet Gott has his plan, and it soon turns her family’s world upside down…
Essie’s widowed English uncle has brought his troubled teenage daughters back to their mother’s Amish community, convinced it’s the fresh start they need. Essie strives to welcome her cousins, but adapting to plain living won’t be easy, even if the rewards are great. As cultures clash and hearts collide, Essie feels the first stirrings of doubt about Harlan’s commitment to her. Yet as the seasons change, and the heat of summer gives way to crisp, ripe autumn, this homecoming might mean a bountiful beginning…