How many people join the Amish as outsiders?

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Herald Press has released a new book in its Plainspoken series by an Old Order Amish woman, Marlene C. Miller. It has a somewhat startling title, Called to Be Amish: My Journey from Head Majorette to the Old Order.

Marlene’s story goes the opposite route than that followed by many Amish—those who leave. She is one of fewer than one hundred outsiders who have joined the Old Order Amish—and stayed.

Since 1950, Marlene has had a unique life journey. She grew up in a non-Christian household with a somewhat troubled family and began dating Johnny Miller. Johnny was Amish but had not yet joined the church. Johnny and Marlene got married, had children, and lived a non-Amish life for several years.

Then everything changed. Standing at the kitchen sink, Marlene accepted Christ into her heart. Here’s what happened next, as told in her book Called to Be Amish: My Journey from Head Majorette to the Old Order:

I ran out of the trailer to the cheese factory to tell Johnny what had happened. Although my feet were pumping hard, I felt so light that it seemed like I was floating across the little bridge Johnny had made for us to cross the creek. I flew into the cheese house and searched around until I found Johnny in the warm cellar, where the big wheels of cheese were processing.

 

The words tumbled out of my mouth: “God has forgiven me.” “I’m going to heaven.” “I was standing at the kitchen sink and . . .” Johnny just stood there looking at me, stunned. He could hardly believe me.

 

Here I was bubbling over with happiness, peace, and joy, and it was unbelievable to him. Then I told him the words that would change our lives: “I think I want to be Amish.”

 

That was even more unbelievable to him. I was actually jumping up and down for joy I was so happy. I asked, “When can we go to your family home?”

 

Johnny was speechless. He just looked at me, trying to process what I was saying and doing. Finally he answered in his steady way, “Well, we’ll wait a couple of days and see if you still feel the same.”

 

We waited for those few days, and I knew I was different and Johnny knew it too. First, we noticed I wasn’t swearing anymore. My jealousy and anger had disappeared, too.

 

What a miracle a prayer can bring! My whole life was changed in an instant. Johnny never asked me to be Amish, but the conviction came to me with my conversion to Christ.

 

I’m not saying that when a person is converted to Christ he or she has to become Amish. Not at all. But for me, it was the natural choice. It gave me peace and contentment to adopt this lifestyle and to love my husband enough to make him happy, which made me happy in the Lord.

 

Over the years, as I have read the Bible and learned from others, I have grown in my Christian faith. As we know, we are supposed to grow in the faith. That is exactly what the Lord has done for Johnny and me all through these years.

 

Out of all the people we knew in our little community there, we told only two people we were going to turn Amish in the future. We didn’t want everyone to know, because we thought they would not understand why we didn’t just do it right away. But I knew, and Johnny did too, that this was going to be a life-changing move for us. I felt I had to learn to sew better and understand more of the Amish ways.

It’s easy to turn from Amish to English, as far as how to live. One thing that’s easy is that you can buy all your clothes instead of making them. It’s easier to jump into a vehicle and drive than to learn to harness a horse and get it into a buggy.

But to go from English to Amish? Now that’s a different story. . . .

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Marlene C. Miller is pictured here as a senior in high school, not long before she became Amish.

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Here are photos of her as a cheerleader and band majorette.

Find out how Marlene fared as she adjusted to Amish life in her new book, Called to Be Amish: My Journey from Head Majorette to the Old Order. She shares about her struggles, joys, and how she came close to walking away from it all.

Turning Amish proved to be anything but plain and simple. Nearly fifty years later, Marlene is still living out God’s call for her as an Old Order Amish woman.

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Called to Be Amish is on a Mother’s Day discount for only $9.74 until May 9, 2015.

Do you know someone with a similar story? Questions or comments?

Read the complete news story about the book, here.

For more information on differences between Amish and Mennonite, check the Third Way website.

How to Design a Book Cover in 3 (Or More) Easy Steps – by Merrill Miller

Merrill Miller is senior graphic designer at MennoMedia/Herald Press

Actually, any kind of design solution is rarely reached in three steps—the ease of which depends on your point of view. If your normal workday consists of breaking rocks with a pick-axe—or trying to teach apathetic, defiant, hyper, high, and hungry kids the Pythagorean Theorem—then, yes, these steps might be viewed as easy. And, like students who fail geometry and have to repeat the class, sometimes (read “usually”) one or more of the steps below will need to be repeated.

But for the sake of this article I will reduce the procedure to three steps: Problem, Process, and Present.

PROBLEM: In which the book is presented to the designers and brainstorming ensues

The initial cover stages begin early in the life of a book so that the marketers can begin promoting it. Once the author contract is signed, even before the manuscript may be in its final form, sometimes even before a title or subtitle is finalized, we meet to brainstorm ideas. This group includes editorial, design, and marketing.

The editorial staff presents the PI sheet (which doesn’t stand for Private Investigator. It stands for Product Information. Kind of a let-down, eh?). This document lists pertinent information about the book, an author bio, a brief description, and marketing information.

It also includes book covers of competitive and comparative works that have been already published.This is somewhat of a conundrum to peruse: do we try to fit into this sample of published work or do we try to stand out from it? I suppose the short answer is that we want fit in while standing out. Easy.

For this blog post (2 parts) we will follow the process of one of our new books, Chasing the Amish Dream. This book is the first in our Plainspoken series written by Amish or Old Order Mennonite authors. The author of Chasing, Loren Beachy, is a school teacher and an auctioneer. His book is a collection of humorous columns he writes for the Goshen (Ind.) News called “The Plain Side.”

As the “problem” is presented we begin brainstorming ideas. At this point, the name of the book was Amish for Life, not Chasing the Amish Dream. We come up with words, ideas, associations, and images that represent the book and the author. Words such as: Amish, teacher, auctioneer, humor, and images of buggies and horses, etc. are thrown into the hopper. Sometimes the ideas get narrowed down and sometimes the designer is left with a mish-mash with no real direction.

PROCESS: In which the designer endeavors to narrow the focus to one idea

During this step the process may be repeated multiple times and may, or may not, go something like the diagram here:3EasySteps72dpi

The designer will take the words, ideas, and images offered during the initial meeting and work (read “play”) with them: joining opposites, looking for synonyms, doodling, writing more words, sketching, taking long walks or naps (while mulling, of course). As a last resort the designer may read some of the manuscript to glean inspiration.

No, actually, reading parts, if not all, of the manuscript is one of the first things the designer will do. Fortunately, we had several of the columns that were published in the Goshen News which I was able to read. In the case of the book formerly known as Amish for Life, these offered a wealth of imagery. There were stories about church, stories from the classroom, stories of softball games, biking, auctions and traveling to auctions. There were stories of train trips across country, stories of pranks, stories of people doing unwise things—like run beside their buggy in order to wake up.

Oh, how to narrow it down?

To be continued next time, on September 10, 2014.

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What are some standout covers (general) that you have seen you really like? What do you like about them? 

(And no fair peeking in our store to see how the final book cover came out for Chasing the Amish Dream. Of course if you want to spoil the drama … peek away.)

—Merrill Miller, senior graphic designer

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