An Amish Invitation
mtl Note: Although they live their lives in unparallel ways, bestselling author Cindy Woodsmall and Miriam Flaud, an Old Order Amish woman, share years of timeless wisdom that are congruent in so many ways. Plain Wisdom tells of the unlikely friendship between these to woman and reveals both the depths and commonalities of every woman’s heart. Enter two different worlds of two women who share one heart.
“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.'” —Acts 10:34-35
In the early eighteenth century, my ancestors crossed the Atlantic Ocean, traveling from Switzerland to America to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. As an Old Order Amish woman, I call myself the “Plain” part of Plain Wisdom. (Perhaps that makes Cindy the “Wisdom” part.)
When one is born into an Amish household, he or she is expected to remain Amish and eventually join the church. The youth are encouraged to join the faith in their teen years. For me, like for most Amish youth, the question wasn’t, would I join? but rather, when would I take that step?
So when the desire and the appropriate age came together, I, along with six other young women and six young men, took the first steps by attending instruction classes. A church leader teaches instruction classes, and, similar to courses held by other faiths, the purpose of instruction is to clarify the founding principles and scriptures of our faith. The lessons begin in late spring and continue throughout the summer. Meanwhile, I was courted by a handsome young man named Daniel Flaud, who was from the same youth group and church. The following year we were married.
Eighteen months later we were blessed with our first son. As the years went by, we had four more sons and a daughter. Now, nearly thirty years later, our family has welcomed three daughters-in-law and five grandchildren.
I’ve enjoyed my life inside one of the most structured societies in the United States. I haven’t always known what to do, agreed with the rules, or handled situations with wisdom. But I’ve experienced the abundant joys as well as the occasional frustration our lifestyle brings.
Often when we meet people, we see our own lives differently—perhaps better in some ways and worse in others. Sometimes we choose to stay inside our familiar circles so we can avoid the discomforts that are a part of building new friendships. Cindy’s world was so very different than mine. Sophisticated. Filled with technology. And by my Plain standards, it was worldly. I invite you to come along as I prepared to welcome her into my home.
Some of you know me as the author of fiction books with Amish settings and characters. But, like Miriam, my family roots trace back to Europe (specifically to Scotland), and my ancestors landed in America in the midÐseventeen hundreds. I was born in Washington DC, the youngest child in a family of four. When my parents were growing up, their family lives were tough, and they had almost no support. But when they married in their teenage years, they were determined to beat the odds and make a success out of their lives.
My family moved frequently when I was growing up. My dad would buy an old home in need of repair, and he and Mom would fix it up while living in it. Then they would sell it, and the process would start all over again. No matter where we lived, my vivid imagination constantly wove fictional stories of family life, romance, and conflict.
The summer between my eighth- and ninth-grade years in school, my family moved from Maryland to Alabama. Because of that move, I eventually met and married Tommy. A few years after that, we had our first son, and I became a full-time homemaker. Two years later I gave birth to our second son. I homeschooled our two boys through middle school, and we welcomed a third son into our home in 1994.
Throughout the years my mind had continued to devise fictional stories, but I was never willing to invest time in writing them. The story ideas were ceaseless, and, in hopes of quieting them, I began writing as a hobby in 1999. In 2002 I attended my first writers’ conference and then fell in love with the whole writing process.
I’ve enjoyed the freedom and opportunity granted to American women—whether it was choosing what church to attend, how to school our children, or what career path to take. But like Miriam, I haven’t always known what to do, agreed with all the rules that bound me, or handled every situation with wisdom. I, too, have experienced the abundant joys of my lifestyle as well as the frustrations.