Friday, September 2, 2011

Amish Values for Your Family - An Interview with Susan Woods Fisher

Bestselling Author, Susan Woods Fisher, was kind enough to answer some questions about her newest release; Amish Values for Your Family.  Enjoy!!

Amish Values for Your Family: What We Can Learn from the Simple Life

What is the inspiration behind Amish Values for Your Family?
After Amish Peace released, I had a number of speaking engagements to groups interested in the Amish. There was such interesting feedback—parents wanted take some principles from Amish Peace into their home. But how? That’s how this book came into being. I think of Amish Peace as a book where you are peeking in the windows of an Amish farmhouse. In Amish Values for Your Family, you’ve been invited in for dinner.

What are clues that we might need to incorporate some Amish principles into our family life?
One of the keys to contentment in the Amish life seems to be the commitment they have to filter every decision through a set of questions: what will the impact be on our family? Will it bring us closer to God? Closer to each other? Adopting that kind of decision-making helps to keep the demands of life in their proper perspective. 

Do you have to "go Amish" to have a simple life?
No! Not at all! But the Amish do provide some wonderful examples to us of how to prioritize what’s truly important, to slow down as a family, to safeguard time together.

What makes AVFYF unique from other parenting and family life books?
During these speaking engagements, there was always a moment when the audience stilled, leaned forward in their chairs, and began to scribble notes. It happened when I made this statement: “Children are loved but not adored.”  The Amish have a different way of relating to their children—they highly value children, but they have clear expectations in their home. I think they provide a better balance of loving children, yet raising them with an eye on adulthood.

Explain the Road Map sections of the book.
The Road Maps are a practical way to take some principles of the Amish life and weave them into your family’s life. After a story about an Amish family that loves to go bird watching together, there are suggestions to encourage your children to be knowledgeable about nature. Another story describes a father and son who build a rabbit hutch rather than buy it. The Road Map gives some of the benefits of what happens when a parent slows down and takes the time to teach a skill. Wonderful things happen!

What are one or two principles you talk about in AVFYF that families could easily adopt into their lifestyles right now?
There’s a theme of revering nature that runs through many stories. The Amish are outdoorsy—they are so aware of nature! I think that is one thing we parents can do a better job of—turn off the TV or computer, take a walk, plant a garden, provide a backyard bird feeder, stargaze at night. Get outside! And start to notice this beautiful world God has created.

In the introduction, you introduce a concept you call the "disappearing childhood phenomenon." Please explain.
There are quite a few studies that show some alarming trends in modern American families. Children’s free time has declined by twelve hours a week in the last twenty years; time spent on structured sports activities has doubled, family dinners are down by a third, and the number of families taking vacations together has decreased by 28 percent. Parents now spend 40 percent less time with their kids than they did thirty years ago. And another study found that the higher the income, the less time a family spends together. These findings are troubling. By contrast, the Amish maintain one of the most stable family systems in America. They’re doing something right!  And I think it has something to do with the amount of time they spend with their children.

You've spent a lot of time researching today's families and family dynamics for this book, what are some of the major struggles families are facing?
The pressure to succeed, to be the best. Many parents place their need for significance onto their children. Here’s where the Amish differ from modern America—we have a focus on raising children who are special. Unique. Admired and respected. They have their focus on pleasing God.

What one Amish principle stands out the most to you?
The one that has stuck with me the most—sometimes like a beacon, sometimes like a pebble in my shoe—is their intention to forgive. They have a deep humility about their own sinfulness before a holy God. If we can’t forgive others, how can we expect God to forgive us? It’s such a model to me—to learn to forgive readily and quickly. Practicing forgiveness on a daily basis, with little things (bad drivers, grouchy store clerks, insensitive friends), helps us when we need to forgive big things.

In what ways do the Amish apply their principles to their daily life that you feel is unique or interesting? 
A few months ago, I was visiting some Amish friends in Lancaster. There had been a fire in an Amish neighbor’s home, and the firemen thought the cause of the fire could be pinpointed to a faulty product. My Amish friends were discussing how to find out if the product was, indeed, the source of the fire. I asked my friend what she would do with that info, if she knew it was true. In the non-Amish culture, that would mean grounds for a lawsuit!

“Nothing,” my friend said. “It would just be interesting to know.”

That was such a metaphor to me of how the Amish handle adversity. They don’t ignore it. But they don’t dwell on it, either. They don’t seek revenge or restitution--they leave that in God’s hands. But they would certainly avoid buying that product in the future. 

Is there anything about the Amish that could be considered a "stereo-type" and isn't really true?
Formal schooling for the Amish ends at eighth grade. There is an assumption that education ends, too. Not so! I have been astounded at the depth of knowledge, curious minds, active intellects, and resourceful energy of these hardworking people. In fact, I’ve had discussions with a few bishops that have felt like I back in college, facing a brilliant theologian. I’ve never been in an Amish home without seeing bookshelves line the walls. Filled with books that may surprise you, too! Authors such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Max Lucado, Catherine Marshall. 

The Amish are lifelong learners. Their schooling is designed to not speed through skills, but to master them. That seems to be the heart of their work ethic. Whatever they do, they do well. Here’s the most amazing story of all: I stayed in the home of an Amish family who had run a dairy for years. When the eldest son was ready, the dad handed the management of the dairy to his son, and he then started to hire out as an electrician. An electrician! Remember—the Amish don’t use electricity! He was self-taught, and very successful. Such an example to us all…to keep learning!

Do you have a favorite Amish recipe?
I do! In fact, this recipe is from the electrician’s home. It is DEE-LISH!

Overnight Blueberry French Toast

12 slices bread cut in 1 inch cubes
8 oz. cream cheese cut in ¾ inch cubes
1 ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
12 eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 cups milk

Place half of bread cubes in a 9x13 baking dish. Top with cream cheese, blueberries, and remaining bread. Beat eggs, syrup and milk and pour evenly over bread. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until well done.

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