Writing the story of Sarah Yoder, the Dokterfraa-in-training who is the heroine of my Healing Grace trilogy, is as much an exploration of the expectations we have of ourselves as women as it is about Sarah’s expectations of herself and the Amish church’s expectations of her.
In the second book, Keys of Heaven, which released just this month, Sarah struggles with a dilemma that I have to confess I’ve struggled with as well: when you see a problem and you believe you know how to solve it, how do you know that what you think is the right thing … really is the right thing? For Sarah, some solutions are obvious—as in the opening scene, where a boy is brought to her suffering from severe sunburn. The right thing to do is to apply crushed chickweed, which soothes the burn and has a cooling effect on blistered skin.
But some cures are not so obvious—especially cures that involve the spirit and emotions. Sarah is treating a woman for infertility, and she believes that part of the problem is caused by the woman’s stress because they are so poor they hardly know where their next meal is coming from. Sarah’s solution is for her patient to move away from the situation. But what is God’s solution?
Seeking a solution in prayer
The Amish believe that a person is put into a situation because God wants them there, to help them learn or to help someone else. This is the small, but important, fact that Sarah, in her care and concern for her patient, temporarily forgets. This is also the thing that can lead us into temptation, isn’t it? It’s easy to be tempted to take matters into our own hands instead of coming to the feet of God and asking for His guidance. I saw a parallel in the little red-flowered weed the country people call “keys of heaven,” about which I wrote in the foreword to the book:
Red valerian, sometimes called “keys of heaven” or “Jupiter’s beard,” often grows in rocky places where other plants don’t flourish, such as in stone walls or against fences. But adverse conditions can produce a beautiful plant, brightening hard places with its sprays of red flowers. There are people like this, too. They grow in hard places where others wouldn’t flourish—staying where God has put them, even if they might not have chosen to grow there. But they stay because they’re needed, because their spirit transforms the hard place and makes it beautiful…
During the writing of this book, it was good for me to meditate on that all-important need to come before God and ask His direction, no matter how small the problem or question might be. Because we can see, as we read about and travel among the Amish, that there is nothing more beautiful—or more powerful—than a surrendered life.
Adina Senft grew up in a plain house church, where she was often asked by outsiders if she was Amish (the answer was no), she made her own clothes, and she perfected the art of the French braid. She holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches as adjunct faculty.
Writing as Shelley Bates, she was the winner of RWA’s RITA Award for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, a finalist for that award in 2006, and, writing as Shelley Adina, was a Christy Award finalist in 2009.
A transplanted Canadian, Adina returns there annually to have her accent calibrated. Between books, she enjoys traveling with her husband, playing the piano and Celtic harp, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens.
Purchase Adina’s books here.