Curiosities, Confessions, and FREE e-book

Whether it's a speaking venue, media interview, or booksigning, I'm frequently asked these common questions.
Where do you live? Are you married? Do you have a family?

We live in Ohio – home to the largest number of Amish settlements nationwide. My husband and I have raised two daughters but, along through the years, God has asked me to temporarily “parent” other children. 

For a year, we took in a homeless twelve-year-old and helped her feel safe and secure, while tending to her formal education and medical care until she was able to join her father.
Another summer, I sensed a divine urge to house a French exchange student. We did that two separate summers.
Laura & Nate; Lynsey; Me; Harvey Paul
Today, our older daughter Lynsey is married to a wonderful young man, Harvey, who was raised and left the Swartzentruber Amish. He’s hard-working, determined, and resourceful. Our younger daughter Laura is dating a pharmacist, Nate. My husband Paul is the director of a university library and I’m a writer with an education degree so I love to transfer information in my books and when speaking at public and private venues.

What made you decide to write your book?

My impetus for writing a book about “mothering” and mentoring Amish runaways came from the constant curiosity and encouragement from others. Many of my author and church friends asked so many questions, showed genuine love for the former Amish I met, and urged me to pen my experiences for others.

The book title is a double-entendre Beyond Buggies and Bonnets. I want readers to think of Amish as more than buggies and bonnets, and the stories of about those who went beyond their buggy and bonnet.

Why did you take in or house former Amish?
It fell in my lap. I neither looked for this ministry (service) nor prepared for it. 
God brought several “ex-Men” – as my daughters teasingly called them – into my life. I guess my instincts took over because they weren’t wanted by their parents because they left the Amish. They needed unconditional love, home-cooked meals,
a place to call home,
clothes, and
mentoring in adjusting to our “Englisch” world – a world they’d been warned to avoid.

The first to move in with us was Moses, he goes by Mosie. Following a horrific car wreck where he had a concussion and staples in his head, we invited Mosie to recover in our home. That recovery evolved into a year where Mosie became like a son to us. We helped him find a job, get proper dental care, a car, learn about insurance, how to play softball, and included him in family vacations, etc. Mosie is chapter one of my book.

Then our older daughter started dating Harvey, who left his strict Swartzentruber order where his dad is the settlement’s bishop. Through Mosie and Harvey I began a cultural learning curve. Throughout the years, Rudy, Levi, Dan, Andy, Uriah, Ura, and more have come through our home either for a meal, a place to belong, or a “mom” hug. Harvey is chapter two of my book.

A brother/sister team – Sarah and Monroe – left their Amish settlement one night and came to us for help. Word gets out – I don’t look for nor advertise, I don’t have an organization supporting me – I take each instance as a "God-thing" helping in different ways on a case-by-case basis. Pure and simple.

How has this impacted your life on both a personal and spiritual level?

I’ve learned volumes about their upbringing and parenting, the discipline, school days, farm chores, foods, rules, behaviors and beliefs of the strictest Amish orders. I learned there are about 40 different orders, each with its own Ordnung (rules), bishop, beliefs and behaviors.

I launched my Beyond Buggies and Bonnets blog in 2012 to share my unusual stories, their stories, what they’ve taught me, and pictures. To date, I've published 121 posts and my blog has more than 262K readers worldwide!

On a personal level, I’ve often felt inadequate. However, I responded like a “mom” with a balance of rules and relationship.

On a spiritual level, I’ve seen how God prompts people to respond. I simply share about the guys or gals I’ve met - or am mentoring - and the people from our church or author friends donate clothing, money, and other materials needs. I’ve never had to remind or nag people to help.

Unlike those who romanticize or idolize Amish, I'm bothered because I’ve learned that most put rules over relationship with God. The Swartzentruber and conservative Old Order Amish rely on obedience to the Ordnung as their “hope” for heaven. Sadly, they never have assurance of salvation as taught in Scriptures. 
In fact, most Amish teach that to say you’re saved is arrogant or prideful. 
My heart breaks for those who don’t know God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. When I see an Amish person, I whisper a prayer for his/her eternal soul. They may be a humble Christian but, I’ve learned that driving a buggy, living simply, and wearing plain clothes doesn’t mean a personal relationship with God. They could be living in hunger to know our Heavenly Father. Only God knows if that person has a personal & free relationship with Him or is in bondage to a lifestyle of rules.

Your Turn!
What question do you have for me or about my book? Leave it below in C
omments. I'll answer + randomly select two readers to receive a FREE Kindle ebook (leave your email address to enter to win - no spam, promise)!


  1. We have quite a few amish around us, also. That is sad to learn that they are relying on following the ordnung as their way to Heaven. Do you know if the Amish have to have some sort of training in traffic rules before taking their buggies out on the roads? Also, why don't they use buttons or snaps, but pin their clothes closed? dbdempsey98(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Hi Becky. No, there's no training to use a buggy, in fact I've seen young children seven and eight years old driving a buggy out on our public roads.
      And what traffic rules, they don't abide by many of our state and local traffic laws except to stop at stop signs. But I know police officers who have stopped buggies exceeding the speed limit and given the driver a citation.
      Different orders use different types of enclosures, some permit straight pins some use safety pens on women's clothing. Males in the Swartzentruber Order are expected to wear 2 buttons at the top of their shirt. If you look at closely, you observe there is no callar on the shirt – no laydown collar – and just 2 buttons at the top near the neck. With higher orders there may be more leniency on buttons used but again they must be very plain - nothing fancy. Some higher order women may also where buttons.
      Generally, there are exceptions, most Amish do not use snaps, Velcro, zippers or anything that is considered convenient as that would be a sin.

    2. CONGRATULATIONS Becky! Your name was selected as a winner of Beyond Buggies and Bonnets: Seven true stories of former Amish. Enjoy your prize!
      And thanks for reading my blog.

    3. Thank you for the answer and how exciting to win the book! Recently, there was a mild accident between a buggy and a school bus. Both stopped at the stop signs and both started up at the same time. That was why I wondered about the training for driving.

  2. I have read about the Amish for many years and have visited areas in Pennsylvania. If I lived where you do, I would be doing just what you are doing to mentor those leaving their families and way of life. I am so thankful that you are sharing their stories. I really don't have any questions.

    1. Thank you for reading my blog Nancy! You have a kind, giving heart and it is good to know – I am thankful – there are people like you out there who are willing to mentor.

  3. Regarding funeral practices, are there Amish who's sole profession would be to perform undertaker services to their fellow Amish? buganski(at)q(dot)com.

    1. Great question. I am unsure how most Amish handle a deceased person's body. In some orders they try to bury the body within 24 hours because they do not embalm. Other orders – Especially high orders – do you take time to prepare the body and have a funeral service.
      I do not know if there is a designated elder who handles this type of settlement service.

  4. I have been involved with Amish in our area as a "taxi driver". I learned many things from some of them. Some information I would rather not have known but sometimes hearts are heavy and need a friend. I made some good friends especially some of the women who wanted a listening ear. I took many to the midwives to deliver their babies or for pregnancy checkups. I truly wish that they knew The Lord in a personal way. Too many rules and regulations for true happiness! I truly enjoy your blog!

    1. Hi Katie! Boy I'm sure you have interesting stories. You are where you need to be, helping these precious Amish women and serving their settlement.

  5. I am continually amazed at this ministry that God has put into your hands, Brenda. You are truly a blessing. I know that one of the challenges you often face is obtaining the necessary documents e.g. birth certificate, social security, etc. Has this process become any easier? Has the state finally made the process easier by putting policies/procedures in place for the Amish that need these documents? I know that it's a huge undertaking. Just wondering if it has gotten any better.

    1. What a joy to hear from you Dali.
      If you ask this question of other Englishers who help ex-Amish you may get a different answer. In my experience, no, my state has not made it any easier to obtain Social Security numbers or birth certificates for ex-Amish. It is a lot of paperwork and standing in line waiting your turn!
      Last week I received an email from an ex-Amish lady who has been out for several years. She was asking me for help in obtaining her birth certificate. All these years out she has been working W/o any documentation.

  6. I am actually from near Amish country in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. How often do those that are outsiders become Amish?? Jillhartley0505@gmail.com

    1. Good question Jill. As there are no records or statistics it is hard to know an exact number of English people becoming Amish. But hang on, I have an upcoming post from a gal whose whole family joined the Amish. You will find it quite interesting.

    2. CONGRATULATIONS Jill - your name was selected as a winner of my book Beyond Buggies and Bonnets: Seven true stories of former Amish. Enjoy!

      Thanks for reading my blog - some exciting new posts are coming up...