An Open Book: The Bridesmaid
by Beverly Lewis
“No one’s stuck anywhere unless they choose to be,” said Ella Mae, her eyes shining. “The Lord God guides those who are moving forward, my dear girl.”
My Old Order Mennonite grandmother might have thought she was stuck, having to adhere to the strict and, in some cases, absurd rules and regulations of her church. At sixteen, Ada Ranck yearned to know Jesus and understand the Bible. Against her father’s wishes, she attended a nearby revival meeting outside her church district and received Christ. While there, she caught the eye of a blue-eyed ministerial student, Omar Buchwalter. From that night on, Ada believed God was calling her out of her rules-based church in Lancaster County, where I also grew up. And she obeyed.
Ada was a young woman of profound faith—and spunk. She knew what she wanted and totally embraced the Scriptures, then followed her heart and married the handsome, devout preacher Omar Buchwalter.
Because of this, Ada was excommunicated by her bishop, and later her father and everyone she’d known and loved. But she never turned back. While she removed her head covering, she continued to dress Plain, as she was taught to do, and she cheerfully wore the simple gold ring Omar placed on her finger on their wedding day. Ada honored the Lord in everything she did, including raising eight children to become ministers, missionaries, preachers, and preacher’s wives. My own mother, Jane, was the next-to-youngest child—and married a minister, as well.
Fast forward with me now to the fall of 2006. I was completely surprised and quite delighted to discover an old friendship quilt made for my shunned grandparents, Omar and Ada, as a welcoming gift from their first-ever congregation—in Washington state, of all places. Yes, they’d traveled all the way across the U.S. (possibly to escape the shunning and its aftermath), following God’s call to plant churches for His glory.
The beautiful old friendship quilt—made in 1927—had been passed down through my maternal family tree all those many years, languishing in one of my uncle’s—and then cousin’s—blanket chests, wrapped in brown paper. Didn’t such a spiritual heirloom deserve to be used, displayed as the cherished quilt it was… brought out of its hiding place and into the open? Just as my grandmother Ada’s story has been read and “seen” by millions of readers through my first novel for adults, The Shunning, and the subsequent musical play, and the recent Hallmark movie.
This colorful family quilt presently serves as a continual reminder to me of the blessed rewards of obedience—it’s even found its way into my new novel, The Bridesmaid. God called; Ada and her husband answered. And like the hundreds of relatives in the Buchwalter family tree, I, too, am a recipient of this spiritual heritage.
To this day, the words “stuck” and “trapped” are rarely used among my Plain relatives of Lancaster County. They know Ada’s story and weep for joy. She had the gumption—the courage—to follow not only her heart, but God’s guidance. She never questioned if she’d made a mistake in doing something so rash as to leave behind all that she’d known. No, my grandmother Ada led a life that was a shining beacon of faith and Light to all who knew her. And there is no doubt that she is one of the key reasons that I, a painfully shy young writer, have now published nearly 90 books for all ages.
And that once “lost” quilt? It beautifully graces our guestroom, so all who stay there might hear the story of God’s goodness and grace toward Grandma Ada…and to all who are the children of God.