Today, we have a guest post by Kelly Irvin. She is the author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest House Publishing. With much research on those, she tells us about the fiction and reality to the Amish and where the two meet. And she’s giving away a copy of one of her books to one person leaving a comment.
I’ve been writing Amish fiction for almost five years now and people frequently ask me how I decided to go down that road. I admit to having a fascination, like my readers, with a way of life that is far removed from what most of us live. While I have tremendous respect for the hard work and the focus on family and faith exhibited by most Amish people, I don’t idealize how they live. In my fiction, I try to honestly portray the challenges of living “off the grid,” while examining the benefits of doing so.
I often see comments from folks who say they wish they could “be Amish.” Let’s take a moment to visualize what that means. Stand in your house and look around. Now imagine that everything you own that requires electricity is gone. No microwave. No washer and dryer. No central air and heat. No computers. No TVs. Nothing that has to be charged with a wall socket. I don’t know about you, but I’m not giving up my laptop!
With ingenuity the Amish have retrofitted appliances such as wringer machines to run on propane. As a child I washed clothes for a family of seven using a wringer wash machine so I can vouch for the fact that washing clothes this way is only a few steps above doing them by hand. People wax nostalgic about hanging clothes on the line outside. They smell so good! I wonder if they’ve ever had to do it in the winter in sub freezing weather, then bring in the pants, towels and shirts, stiff as a board, to finish drying on a gas stove? Having done this, I’m not so excited about the prospect of line drying clothes.
All this is to say I’m truly impressed and respectful of how hard the Amish choose to work. They choose not to buy into the world’s attitude of let’s find the easiest way to accomplish these tasks. Let’s make everything disposable. Let’s not cook from scratch. It’s much easier to buy it frozen and heat it in the microwave. They choose to do the backbreaking work of planting gardens, weeding, reaping, and canning their fruits and vegetables. Think about the heat in a kitchen in mid-July with no air conditioning. This is something else I experienced as a child and it was like cooking in a sauna. They sew their own clothes on treadle sewing machines. Some even make their own soap. All this to keep themselves apart from a world they don’t judge but neither do they care to participate in.
They are willing to adjust to the world around them for purposes of survival. Individual districts have a set of rules, called an ordnung. They have meetings a few times a year when changes are discussed and voted on by church members. This can lead to phones being permitted in businesses or the use of computers in businesses. They recognize a need to make these adjustments in order to provide for their families, something harder and harder to do through family farming.
Amish children leave formal education behind after the eighth grade. They then learn what they need to know from their parents in a form of vocational education.
A particular prohibition that I find hard to imagine is no musical instruments. They believe playing instruments calls attention to the individual. It can lead to pride and a boastful attitude, in their estimation. I examined this idea in A Plain Love Song, the last installment in the New Hope Amish series. My heroine, Adah Knepp, has to decide whether her dream of writing songs and performing is more important to her than her faith and family. She can’t have both. It’s such a different world view from the “American Idol,” and “The Voice,” way of looking at success and following our dreams at whatever the cost.
While I might not agree with the Amish view on musical instruments or education, I respect the willingness to commit to a way of life that puts faith and family ahead of personal success. The world could use more selflessness. On that, I think we can all agree.
JIM: A Plain Love Song, released July 1. Kelly is giving away a copy FREE to one of those leaving a comment. So, leave a short comment and maybe you’ll get a great book on the Amish.
Kelly has started on a new Amish series, the Bee County series which will be published by Zondervan/Harper Collins. Leave a comment on what you think about Amish life and maybe get a free book. Thanks.