Good morning, afternoon, and evening to you, depending on when you read this. I don't want to kill the Christmas mood, but first I really wanted to give you all a little health update, since it's been a while and now things are changing again. I had a doctor's appointment last week and because of some issues he has now put me on iron. Since it's a little pricey, I just got it so I haven't started it until today lol! Anyway, he had some concerns that he wanted me to run by my rheumatologist, who I saw yesterday. So I did so and they are both completely positive that my Carpal Tunnel is back. Yes, again already. THIS is my post from August of 2009 when I had Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery on both wrists. I have no clue why or how it's possible though, so that's the frustrating part to me. I'm going back to see my doctor, the surgeon who did the surgery before, but I can't get in until January 24. So we're at a standstill, and still have lots of numbness :/, until then.
My other piece of news from yesterday was that, as many of you know, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), the reason I was seeing my rheumatologist lol....So with RA you can get secondary diseases and one of them is something called Fibromyalgia. Turns out I have that. So I was put onto a new medication to try for that. Fibro is known for causing widespread pain. You always feel achey all over your body. My rheumy is quite positive that this could be the problem we haven't figured out yet. He took me off all my RA medications, however, because he wants a "drug holiday". I'm seeing him again in about a month and we'll review and see whether I should go back on Methotrexate or try something new too.
There, I just wanted to catch you all up. It's tough to hear so close to Christmas, but I guess it's good to maybe get some answers? Anyway, now we'll move onto the real star of this post, lol...regretfully, due to her busy schedule, CIndy Woodsmall could not actually be here today. Instead, she sent some things for us to enjoy. Let's gather around the fire everyone *ushers everyone closer, pulls out my magic bag*
*whips a book out of bag* This is a very special book : ) Cindy wrote Blind Hope as a fictionalized true story. So without further ado, here's Cindy's story.
By Cindy Woodsmall
©Copyright. All rights Reserved.
I’d like to share with you a fictionalized account of a true story.
Years ago an Amish man and his wife spent their days struggling against poverty. They had four children under the age of five. Even with both Dad and Mom doing all they could, they were barely able to keep food on the table and a roof over the family’s heads.
Then the man’s wife became sick. As she grew weaker, she could no longer take care of the baby while her husband worked. After weeks of prayer, they knew what they needed to do. There was a suitable Amish family in the district who needed the love of a baby to ease their own recent loss.
With tears of sorrow and sacrifice, the couple agreed to relinquish their six-month-old daughter to their care.
While the other children waited in the horse-drawn carriage, the dad helped his wife carry their precious infant to the front doorstep, where the grateful couple waited with both anticipation and compassion. The infant cooed blissfully as she was passed from one woman’s arms to the other’s.
The mothers embraced, gently pressing the baby girl between them. “When your health returns,” the neighbor said, “we will bring her back to you.”
But the mother did not get well. Some months after this painful parting, she passed away.
As the bereaved father struggled through his grief, he continued working hard to keep his three older children fed, clothed, and housed.
After more than five years slipped by, the youngest one began attending school with all her siblings in the one-room schoolhouse. That year, as Thanksgiving drew close, the older children approached their dad and asked if the youngest could return home to live and if they could all be together in time for Christmas.
They’d seen her on church Sundays and eaten the district-wide meal with her after those services, but bringing her home had not been possible. “I would love nothing more,” he said. “But I don’t make enough money to provide for her.”
His children gathered around. “We can all help,” the eldest said. She fingered the sleeve of her frayed coat, which was already too small for her. “This could last one more winter. And I don’t need a new pair of gloves for Christmas like I asked for. I can patch the ones I have.”
Her sister took Dad’s hand. “I can alter Mom’s old dresses instead of getting new material to make clothes for next year.”
“And I’ll eat only one slice of bread at dinner instead of three,” the young boy said. The family laughed.
Touched by his children’s sacrificial offers, the father thought of more ideas for making extra money. “With a bit more help from you girls, we could expand the garden so we will have more produce to sell during the summer months.”
He turned to his son. “If you could help me add stalls to the barn, we can rent parts of the building to our neighbors. They’re looking for space to raise their new calves.”
The children eagerly agreed to the plans. Their hearts soared with hope.
The father and his excited children clambered into the carriage and headed for the home of the couple who’d been taking care of their baby sister. When the horse stopped at the front gate, they saw the young girl playing in the yard. Even though the dad spent time with her on church Sundays and at district-wide events, she seemed like such a big girl that day. In spite of holding her a couple of times each month since giving her to this family, the father’s heart ached over the years he’d missed with his littlest daughter. He wondered how she and her new parents would feel about her returning to her family.
The couple emerged from the house and embraced the father and his children. The woman called to the little girl, and she came toward them.
“She will be thrilled to be going home with you,” the woman said. “We’ve always told her this day would come.”
After the dad asked his little girl if she’d like to come to his home to live, she jumped into his arms. The older children surrounded them.
The father told the couple about the plans they had made that would help them provide for the youngest one. Both families rejoiced over the little girl returning home.
In the days that followed, the father and his children continued to fight against poverty, but in the midst of it they bonded with one another and found joy in the little things life offered. A beautiful sunrise, building snowmen, walking together to school and to the home where church would be held, sledding down the backyard hill, silently praying at the dinner table, always knowing they had each other.
A week before Christmas the dad received a hundred dollars in the mail. None of the family knew who the money came from, but they each had ideas for how it could be spent.
“Food,” suggested the son, smacking his lips and rubbing his belly.
“New winter clothing,” the middle daughter said, her eyes aglow.
“Perhaps,” added the oldest girl, “we could get fresh prayer Kapps so we’re not dishonoring God by wearing tattered ones.”
The father turned to his youngest girl, who had so recently been reunited with them. “I think we should let her decide.” He brought the little one onto his lap. “What do you think we should do with the money?”
Her face lit up with a bright smile. “I think we should help someone who is poor.”
The family looked at one another. Didn’t she realize they were poor?
After a moment, the oldest daughter mentioned a non-Amish man who lived down the road. “He is more poor than anybody I know. I’ve heard that he doesn’t have any family either.”
They all heartily agreed to take every penny of that hundred dollars to the man.
They rode in a carriage to the old man’s house. Dad knocked on the door. After several moments, it creaked open.
“Merry Christmas,” the father said as he handed him the cash.
The old man’s body shook and tears soon rolled down his face.
He invited them into his home, walking stiffly. He told them he’d injured his back at work months ago, and he was unable to return to his job for a while. “I’m afraid I have nothing to offer you in return.” The old man sat with a groan. “This winter has been the worst of them all. I’ve been sitting here alone, thinking that no one cared about me. Not even God.”
The old man looked into each of his visitors’ eyes. “Because of what you’ve given me, I’ll be able to keep food on the table until I return to work. I don’t know how to thank you.”
After helping the old man with a few jobs around the house and yard, the family hugged him and said good-bye. As they rode home in their horse-drawn buggy, they held hands and sang carols, basking in the warmth of Christmas joy.
A few years have passed since then, and the dad and children continue to work hard, but poverty has released its awful grip, leaving few signs behind that it had once lived with them. Perhaps the true spirit of the Christmas season is most often found inside of hope that does not have to see help to know it is coming. Blind hope has the power to get us through our toughest times and it continually nudges us onward until we can embrace a better tomorrow.
Wasn't that touching? Even though I know she won't see it, I really want to thank Cindy for allowing me to post that. I knew you all would just love it!
*pulls out another book* Now this book, you've probably seen before.
Here's the first chapter as a teaser for you ; )
The aroma of fresh-baked bread, shepherd’s pie, and steamed vegetables filled Lizzy’s house, mingling with the sweet smell of baked desserts. In the hearth a bank of embers kept a small fire burning, removing the nip that clung to the early-April air.
The noise of conversations rose and fell around Lizzy’s kitchen table as her brother and his large family talked easily throughout the meal. His grown and almost-grown children filled the sides of her fourteen-foot table, and his grandchildren either sat in their mothers’ laps or in highchairs.
Nearly four decades ago her oldest brother had put effort into finding an Amish bride. When Stephen found the right girl, he married her. He’d handled life well, and the fruit of it fed her soul. Lizzy had focused on her business and never married. She didn’t regret her choices, not for herself, but she’d crawl on her hands and knees the rest of her days to keep her niece from the same fate.
Beth was like a daughter to Lizzy. Not long after the family’s dry goods store passed to Lizzy, Beth graduated from the eighth grade and started working beside her. Soon she moved in with Lizzy, and they shared the one-bedroom apartment above the shop. When Lizzy had this house built a few years ago, her niece had stayed above Hertzlers’ Dry Goods.
Lizzy studied the young beauty as she answered her family’s endless questions about her decisions in the middleman role between the Amish who made goods and the various Englischer stores who wanted those goods.
That was her Beth. Answer what was asked. Do what was right. Always be polite. Offer to help before it was needed. And never let anyone see the grief that hadn’t yet let go of her. Beth had banned even Lizzy from looking into the heartache that held her hostage.
The one-year anniversary of Henry’s death had come and gone without any sign from Beth that she might lay aside her mourning, so Lizzy had taken action. She’d prepared this huge meal and planned a social for the afternoon. Maybe all Beth needed was a loving, gentle nudge. If not, Lizzy had a backup plan—one Beth would not appreciate.
Over the din of conversations, the sounds of horses and buggies arriving and the voices of young people drifted through the kitchen window, causing Beth to look at her.
Lizzy placed her forearms on the table. “I’ve invited the young singles of the community for an evening of outdoor games, desserts, and a bonfire when the sun goes down.”
Two of Beth’s single younger sisters, Fannie and Susie, glowed at the idea. With grace and gentleness, Beth turned to her Mamm and asked if she would need help planting this year’s garden.
It didn’t seem to bother Beth that five of her sisters had married before her, and three of them were younger than she was. All but the most recently wed had children. Lizzy knew what awaited Beth if she didn’t find someone—awkward and never-ending loneliness. Maybe she didn’t recognize that. It wasn’t until Henry came into Beth’s life that she even seemed to notice that single men existed. Within a year of meeting, they were making plans to marry.
Now, in an Amish community of dresses in rich, solid hues, Beth wore black.
Through a window Lizzy saw the young men bring their rigs to a halt. The drivers as well as the passengers got out of the carriages. The girls soon huddled in groups, talking feverishly, while the guys went into the barn, pulled two wagons with plenty of hay into the field, and tied their horses to them. It was far easier to leave the animals harnessed and grazing on hay than to have to hitch a horse to its buggy in the dark. The young people knew the routine. They would remain outside playing volleyball, horseshoes, or whatever else suited them until after the sun went down. Then they’d come inside for desserts and hot chocolate or coffee before riding in wagons to the field where they’d start a bonfire.
Fannie and Susie rose and began clearing the table. Beth went to the dessert counter and picked out a pie. She set it on the table beside her Daed, cut a slice, and placed it on his plate. Then she slid a piece onto her Mamm’s plate before passing the pie to her brother Emmanuel. She took her seat next to her mother, still chatting about the upcoming spring planting. Lizzy hoped her brother saw what she did—a daughter who continued to shun all possibility of finding new love. Beth clung to the past as if she might wake one day to find her burning desires had changed it.
Fannie began gathering glasses that still held trace amounts of lemonade. “You’ve got to join us this time, Bethie. It’s been too long.”
Flatware stopped clinking against the plates as all eyes turned to Beth.
Susie tugged on her sleeve. “Please. Everyone misses you.”
Beth poked at the meal she’d barely touched as if she might scoop a forkful of the cold food and eat it. “Not this time. Denki.”
“See, Beth,” Lizzy said. “Every person here knows you should be out socializing again. Everyone except you.”
Beth’s face grew taut, and she stood and removed the small stack of plates from Fannie’s hands. “Go on. I’ll do these.”
Fannie glanced to her Daed.
He nodded. “Why don’t you all finish up and go on out? Emmanuel and Ira, do you mind helping set up the volleyball nets?”
Emmanuel wiped his mouth on a cloth napkin. “We can do that.”
Chairs screeched against the wood floor as most of the brood stood. Fannie and Susie bolted for the door. Two more of Beth’s sisters and two sisters-in-law went to the sink, taking turns rinsing the hands and faces of their little ones before they all went outside.
Lizzy longed to see Beth in colored dresses, wearing a smile that radiated from her soul. Instead Beth pasted on smiles, fooling most of those around her into thinking her heart continued to mend. But her quieter, more stoic behavior said things no one else seemed to hear. Lizzy heard, and she’d shared her concerns with Beth’s Daed, Stephen.
Beth took a stack of dishes to the sink and flicked on the water.
“You can leave that for now,” Stephen said.
She turned off the water and remained with her back to them.
Beth’s Mamm glanced at Lizzy as she ran her finger down a tall glass of lemonade. “Beth, honey—”
Beth turned. “I’m fine, Mamm.”
Stephen got up and piled more plates together. “Of course you are. And I’ll throw my favorite pie at anyone who says otherwise.” He stuck his finger into his half-eaten piece of chocolate pie, placed it in his mouth, and winked at Beth.
She smiled, an expression that probably looked real to her Daed but reminded Lizzy of fine silk flowers—only beautiful to those who aren’t gardeners.
“Beth, sweetheart,” Stephen said, “you know how me and your Mamm feel. We love you. It’s no secret that you’re different from our other girls. You’ve always had more of a head for business than a heart to find a beau, but now…well, we just want to make sure you’re doing okay. Since you don’t live with us, that’s a bit hard to know sometimes.” He set the dirty dishes beside the already full sink before he rinsed his hands and dried them. “Officially, your period of mourning was over nearly six months ago, but you haven’t joined the young people for a single event. You’ve not left the store for your usual buying trips. You eat half of what you should. You continue to wear black. And those are things a stranger would notice.”
“I…I could plan a buying-and-selling trip. It’ll take me most of the summer to get completely organized for it, but I can be ready by August. I know I should have sooner, but…”
Lizzy hoped Stephen didn’t fall for the diversion tactic Beth had just thrown his way, but since Beth was listening to him without getting defensive, Lizzy wouldn’t interfere.
“Good. If that’s where you feel like beginning, I’m glad to hear it. I know the community will be too, because without you they can’t sell near as many of their goods.” He walked to the table, took a seat, and motioned for Beth.
She moved to the chair beside him.
“But other people’s financial needs are not what this is about. Tell me something good and hopeful about you—something I’ll know in my gut is true—and I’ll end this conversation right now.”
The four of them remained silent as shouts and roars of laughter echoed from outside. If anyone could touch Beth’s heart and cause her to change, her Daed could. But the silence continued, and Beth’s inability to think of anything hopeful to say made Lizzy sick with worry.
The grandfather clock chimed the half hour, startling Lizzy, but no one spoke. Long shadows filled the room, and she lit a kerosene lamp and set it in the middle of the table.
Whatever happened the night Henry died consumed Beth. When Lizzy arrived on the scene, her niece didn’t even acknowledge her. The only words Beth spoke were the ones she whispered for days—God, forgive me. Lizzy had tried to talk to her about it, but Beth never broke her polite silence on the topic.
Beth’s Daed cleared his throat. “I’ll wait all night for an answer if I need to, Beth.”
Her eyes filled with tears, but it was another five minutes before she uttered a word. “I don’t trust my feelings about…certain things anymore, Daed.”
“Then can you trust mine?” her Daed asked.
“Always, but I don’t want to be one of the single girls looking for a husband. Not ever again. Is that such a horrible thing?”
“It’s not what we’d figured on, but we can adjust.”
Lizzy repositioned her glass of lemonade. During church the singles sat separately from the married couples. Lizzy’s memory of growing too old for the singles and removing herself from them still stung. From that day on she’d carried the title of alt Maedel—old maid. She’d been older than Beth’s twenty-six years, and her prospects of finding someone had faded into nothingness. If Beth thought navigating life after Henry was difficult, Lizzy dreaded the pain that lay ahead for Beth when she openly admitted to the Amish world that she didn’t fit—not with the single folk and not with the married ones.
Stephen had yet to mention anything about the color of mourning Beth still wore. If she would wear something besides black, young men would gravitate to her, and she stood a chance of finding someone.
He covered Beth’s hand with his and bowed his head, silently praying for her. He lifted his head. “There’s somewhere you’d like to be tonight other than washing dishes or working in that stuffy office in the store. Am I right?”
Beth kissed her Daed’s cheek, told her Mamm and Lizzy she’d see them later, and left.
Lizzy moved to the window and watched as her niece walked past small groups of young people. She overheard both women and men asking Beth to stay. Beth shook her head, smiled, and waved before making her way across the road and into the pasture near their store.
“You said nothing that will nudge her to change how she’s handling life,” Lizzy said.
Stephen placed his hands on her shoulders. “Henry’s death is the hardest thing this family has faced. Pressuring Beth isn’t the answer. Trusting God is.”
Lizzy stood in silence as Beth harnessed her mare to a carriage. She knew where Beth was going.
Again. And again. And again.
“Please, dear God, move a mountain for her.”
Stephen squeezed her shoulders. “Amen.”
Excerpted from The Sound of Sleigh Bells; copyright © 2010 by Cindy Woodsmall. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
She is also a veteran homeschool mom who no longer holds that position. As her children progressed in age, her desire to write grew stronger. After working through reservations whether this desire was something she should pursue, she began her writing journey. Her husband was her staunchest supporter as she aimed for what seemed impossible.
I don't know if any of you or how many of you have read anything by Cindy, you know how awesome she truly is! I know Kav has read her books per recommendations and loved them. Both Cindy and I would love for you to experience her books. Sooooo it's GIVEAWAY TIME!!! If you'd like a chance to win a signed, hardcover version of The Sound of Sleigh Bells, listen up ; ) Make sure to leave your email and you will be entered lol....easy, right?
Lastly it's time for our song of the day! THIS is an old classic in a way ; ) Think high squeaky voices and little furry animals, lol!!
Okay gotta run to work! I'll check in later : ) Hope you all are having a great day, one day closer to Christmas, right?