Home for the Holidays
by Vannetta Chapman
I love the holidays, love seeing family members, and adore celebrating—fall festivals, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and of course New Years! There’s good food and my favorite people. What’s not to love?
Oh, yeah. There’s the stress of an overbooked calendar, the exhaustion from trying to do everything, and the strain on my budget for expenses I didn’t anticipate. So what is a girl to do? Become a recluse? Stumble my way through for one more year and hope that next year will be calmer? Put the dates on slips of paper, stick them into a box, and only choose one? I suppose any of these things might help some. Maybe there’s an easier way though. Maybe there’s a simpler way.
Over the course of writing my last 8 Amish books, I’ve had the chance to meet quite a few Amish folk—to share a cup of coffee, visit their homes, even enjoy a meal together. Theirs is not a perfect life. Yes, I know. It seems that way in some of the books we read and some of the television shows we watch. But in truth, they struggle with many of the same problems we have. However, I’ve yet to meet an Amish person who experienced the kind of holiday stress that many of us endure.
In my newest release, The Christmas Quilt, I once again returned to Pennsylvania and the holiday season. I put my characters in very traumatic situations—both physically and financially, but when I listened to that still small voice—the voice of experience and research, I found that their reaction was different than mine. Why? And how? And can I learn from it? I think so. Here’s a few things I learned while writing this story.
1. The Amish holiday centers around their faith and their family. This is easy to say, but a bit harder to do. Those Friday-after-Thanksgiving sales are so tempting! We could try pulling back a little though. If an activity is not centered around the people you love, or the faith you profess, just say no. I’m sure they are good activities, but there is only so much of you to go around—so save yourself for the things that matter most.
2. Ease up on the gift-giving. We give gifts for two reasons—because we love people and because we feel like we should. Put those reasons together and you have Pressure. How about we take that pressure off? The Amish do give gifts—each person receives one or two, and they are usually practical things: a new tool belt for the construction worker, fabric for the quilter, a tablet and drawing pencils for the teenager. We can’t possibly find the perfect gift for every person, but we can give from the heart and keep it simple.
3. What about those meals? The Amish are well known for their barn-raisings, their work-ins, their willingness to come together as a community. There’s always a lot of food too, but what you won’t find is one person attempting to create the perfect meal. I spoke with a sweet woman in Shipshewana, Indiana. She had 42 grandchildren, and they all come over for lunch every Sunday. I asked her how she cooked for so many, and she laughed and said, “I don’t. Everyone brings something and we eat casseroles, cold ham, fresh bread, etc.” Smart! I don’t where this idea of the perfect meal came from—perhaps Norman Rockwell—but it’s time to realize the important thing is being with those we love, not what we set out on the table to eat.
4. The Christ-child. I firmly believe the Amish are more able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas because they do not have all of the distractions that we have. No television. No computer. No iPhone. (Okay, some of the teens have phones, but they’re kept in the barn … where they do not constantly interrupt with their text or call or message.) The reason the Amish don’t have these distractions is because they’ve made the choice not to have them. We can do the same—even if it’s only for an afternoon or a Christmas morning. We don’t have to have the constant blare of the television and it’s okay if we don’t post on Facebook for one day. Perhaps if we choose to say no to these things occasionally, we could better appreciate the Child who was born in Bethlehem.
5. Allow yourself some down-time during the holidays. In The Christmas Quilt, Annie and Leah are sent to a hospital in Philadelphia. They are sent to wait the birth of Leah’s children. During that time they quilt, and they focus on the blessings of their lives. It’s not the holiday they planned, but it’s the one they have—and so they make the best of it. Allow yourself time to rest and reflect and thank the Lord for the things you have this holiday season.
I love the holidays, and I love being at home. Our children are now grown, and when they come to visit it’s a special time. I forget about the deadlines, turn off the television and spend time with them. We play board games or take a walk with the grand-dog. We might order a pizza instead of cooking a fancy dinner. Home for the holidays … it’s something I look forward to all year. I hope yours is filed with blessings, peace and the love of our Father.
Vannetta Chapman is the author of several novels, including A Promise for Miriam and Falling to Pieces. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a 2012 Carol award winner and a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. For more information, visit her at www.VannettaChapman.com.