How pleasant it is to just wile away the hours with a friend, chatting, enjoying, sharing. Editor Lorilee Craker has brought us just that joy in this book, a collection of true stories – Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women In Their Own Words.
Inside the covers of this soft back book, you will find the writings of a number of women who share the nitty-gritty, downhome honesty of their lives. Some of it is humorous. Some of it is rough. It will surprise you with hope and joy and laughter and tears. It is life – out in the open – for you to relate to and sympathize with.
Within six different areas, these 28 women share life with their readers These six areas – Welcome, Abide, Testimony, Wonder, Kindred, and Beloved – are parts of each of our lives. We live these things, too. Because of their backgrounds, their stories are rooted in truth and God and love. Each of these articles will encourage you to step out in faith and act on the impulses of your heart. To understand that life isn’t all roses but that roses can come from the hardships that come your way.
Some of my favorite stories were about the hospitality. I struggle with this area since it is so often expected to be a big, fancy invited thing. But I found hope for my struggle in the stories found in the section titled Welcome. I was reminded to “offer generously what you have” (p. 18), that a kitchen isn’t made up of appliances and tables but rather the love and welcome shared, and tips on cultivating the art of conversation. These were helpful articles for me to read and encouraging to me on just stepping forward to be a part of sharing a meal with others, no matter what it looks like or where it is held. Stepping out in courage is sometimes required and I found some of the necessary courage in these stories.
About the Editor
Lorilee Craker is the editor of Homespun: Amish and Mennonite Women in Their Own Words. She describes herself as a simple Mennonite girl from the prairies and didn’t know there was anything “peculiar” about being Mennonite until she moved from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Chicago, Illinois for college. It was then that she realized most people outside of Mennonite communities assumed she had come from buggy-driving, bonnet-wearing, butter-churning folk. Everyone seemed to think that being Amish or Old Order Mennonite and being her kind of Mennonite were one and the same. The experience of explaining the differences led her to writing the book, Money Secrets of the Amish (an Audie Awards finalist which she also narrated). A freelance journalist, blogger and speaker, Craker was an entertainment writer for The Grand Rapids Press for seventeen years. She has been featured in many media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Time and People. She is the author of fifteen books, including Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me, My Journey to Heaven with Marv Besteman, and the New York Times bestseller Through the Story with Lynne Spears. The proud founder of a writing day camp for middle schoolers, Craker lives in Grand Rapids, MI with her husband and their three children.
Learn more about Lorilee Craker online at lorileecraker.com. You can also find her on Facebook (@LorileeCraker), Twitter (@lorileecraker) and Instagram (@thebooksellersdaughter).
An Interview With The Editor
Q: You describe yourself as a simple Mennonite girl from the prairies. Can you share a little bit about your childhood?
My childhood was deeply rooted in the Mennonite culture. Growing up, I witnessed my two grandmothers with their hair in a bun and always wearing dresses or skirts. I thought this was normal! None of my grandparents spoke English—all four of them spoke German or Low German. At family gatherings we would eat Mennonite food such as borscht, varaneki (pierogies), platz (fruit strudel), and pluma moos (cold plum soup). We also ate those things in my home, so again, this was all very normal. We were also bound by similar values of faith and peace, and by stories of where we had come from.
Q: What was the inspiration behind your new book, Homespun? How did you collect the stories included in the book?
Herald Press approached me about being the general editor of a collection of writings from Amish and Mennonite women. I collected the stories from mainly two sources, Daughters of Promise magazine, a beautiful and beautifully written literary journal done by conservative Mennonite women, and Ladies Journal, a much more spare periodical by Amish women. It was thrilling for me to discover new writers and incredible writing from mostly unknown writers! These women have a lot to say and I was fascinated by their take on modern life. To hear from women specifically appealed to me, as a feminist. Sometimes in conservative subcultures, their voices are silenced or muted. This book gives them space and grace to speak.
Q: What themes did you notice emerging as started compiling the stories? How is Homespun organized?
As I read stories for the book, a number of themes arose, so I arranged the stories by those topics and wrote a brief introduction tying them together.
Welcome. A deep sense of hospitality is fundamental to these women. Yet it’s not hospitality in the HGTV, your-house-needs-to-be-perfect kind of way. As one of the writers shares, it is easy to overthink hosting, but Jesus made it look quite simple, and
his hosting style can be described in one word: love.
Abide. Hospitality is sacred and spiritual, but it doesn’t mean these writers don’t want to have an appealing home space in which to dwell. They want to abide in an abode, if you will, that nurtures them and feeds their spirit. The writers here expound beautifully on what home means to them.
Testimony. Story makes the world go round. When we hear the stories—the testimonies—of others, we are better able to understand our own story and our place in the world. These narratives stirred different emotions in me.
Wonder. The blazing faith of early Anabaptists is evident in the openness of these writers to all things wondrous. These are true stories of miracles, phenomenal happenings that don’t make sense from a human perspective. They highlight the possibility of the miraculous happening all around us, in big ways and small.
Kindred. A core value of both Mennonites and Amish is the preeminence of family—kinfolk, whether they be kindred or not. Our kin shape us in ways both known and unknown, good and bad. These essays and stories speak to the tremendous
influence of family.
Beloved. These essays enthused my soul, and I came away feeling as if I had just been to church. My cup had been filled. There is something wonderfully elemental and childlike about the devotion expressed here, devotion even in doubt. These pieces
drew me closer to the One who calls all his daughters “beloved.”
I have really enjoyed sitting down with this book, early in the morning after my Bible reading, enjoying a cup of hot tea and the stories of these women with the sunrise and cool morning air. As I read through these true stories, I found myself identifying with so many of the emotions shared and hopes spoken of, the heartaches and sadnesses, the difficulties and joys. But through it all, the hope that comes from a deep, abiding faith shines through and each woman writes of continuing forward to what comes next.
If you are looking for your next enjoyable read that will offer hope and encouragements, take a look at Homespun, edited by Lorilee Craker. It will warm your heart and bring a smile to your face.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through I Read With Audra and the publisher Herald Press in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.