How different would your belief system be if you grew up in a different culture? Would your faith in God be the same if you were raised in a different family? New York Times best-selling author Cindy Woodsmall poses these questions in the powerful conclusion to the CBA and ECPA bestselling Amish of Summer Grove series in Gathering the Threads (WaterBrook/August 15, 2017).
Q: The Amish of Summer Grove series introduces readers to a pair of girls, one Englisch and one Amish, who were switched at birth. What are some of the challenges each faced when pushed to experience the life she would have lived had the switch never taken place?
Ariana, who was raised Amish, battles to keep her sanity and survive in a lifestyle she’d never considered living. Her biological dad has devised what he calls a “bucket list” because he believes if she returns to the Amish ways, her life will be over. Her thinking and faith are undermined at every turn, and the changes demanded of her break her in ways her Englisch dad can’t understand. She finds it appalling he wants her to remove her prayer Kapp and wear modern clothes. She struggles when he insists she have some length cut from her hair. She’s never had scissors used on her hair. She must learn to drive. She also must study various religions and learn the original meaning of words in the Bible. Her biological dad’s goal is to undo her religious beliefs.
Skylar, who was raised Englisch, agreed to live with her Amish family to avoid rehab. She’s used to living a very comfortable lifestyle. The Englisch parents who raised her were never married and never lived together, so she’s learned throughout the years how to play them against each other to get what she wants. Suddenly she’s in a poor home, stripped of her cell phone, electronics and spending money. Her immediate challenge upon arrival in the Amish community is how to score prescription drugs. A tight-knit family and community is foreign to her. Manipulating her authorities isn’t easy, and in this home everyone works to put food on the table and to keep a roof over their heads.
Q: What are some of the questions about identity the girls must work through as they adjust to life with their new families?
Ariana’s journey is about coming to a place of not submitting to the authority over her when she thinks and sees things differently than that authority does.
In book two, Fraying at the Edge, Ariana adjusted to life with her Englischer family. Three months later she comes home, and that’s where Gathering the Threads opens. She left as a sweet, obedient Amish woman, and now she’s being accused of bringing the world into her insular Amish community. Yet she can’t compromise the gains she has made in her own personality and in her relationships. Is she still the “rule follower,” or is she now an “activist,” pushing others to open their eyes to see a broader life and a bigger God?
Skylar feels rejected by both families, passed over in favor of the “good” and “giving” Ariana. Skylar needs to work through her jealousy and her desire to put herself above others, but can she? Being self-centered comes naturally for her.
Q: Today’s news stories, even our social media feeds, are full of people arguing and treating each other poorly due to a difference of opinions. As Christians, how can we be respectful of others’ beliefs while standing for the truth?
Ariana wrestles with this very thing in Fraying at the Edge when she is living with her birth parents. In Gathering the Threads, she’s returned to her Amish community a changed woman who must stand up to some of the backward thinking and biases her older bishop holds.
It’s important to remember we have the ability, even when we are overwhelmed with emotions, not to dump our feelings on others. It’s helpful to remind ourselves we are all wrong at times. We’ve all had situations take place where we were lied to or were misinformed. If we’re as right as we think, why lose our temper over it?
I remember telling my mom about something really negative someone had said about me, and my mom asked, “Is it true?”
I shook my head, “No.”
“I don’t think so either, but always ask yourself if what was said is true. If it is, look at yourself and choose to change. If it’s not true, ignore it and move on.”
When we don’t like something, anger is our go-to response. It begins quite young for all people. Toddlers, regardless of ethnicity or socioeconomicbackground, are known for throwing tantrums.
As adults, we don’t have to let anger take control of us. We can take control and be in control. We can deal with our overwrought emotions in a way that makes us stronger and tomorrow better.
Q: Ariana was deeply conflicted between respecting the parents who raised her and the pull of the world outside the Amish community. How was she able to balance the two sides and still hold on to her faith?
Her emotions were a wreck much of the time, but she didn’t let them have the last say or rule her actions. She could see the extremes in each lifestyle – the Amish and Englisch – and she saw each way of life had strengths and weaknesses. When too confused to know what to believe, she talked to Quill, a good friend she rarely agreed with but who’d been through many of the same things as Ariana. He took her to a planetarium, her first time to go to one, to view images from the Hubble telescope of the universe and galaxies. While there she saw the power and awesomeness of God and realized He was bigger than anyone could understand. Suddenly faith wasn’t about rules and lifestyles. It was about the God of energy and light and creation beyond what she could comprehend. She saw God had a way for her tiny life in the huge universe to be what He designed it to be.
Q: Explain the meaning behind the title of the book. In what ways was Ariana a “gatherer of threads”?
Quill’s Mamm, Berta, gave Ariana the name “Thread Gatherer.” She said life was like an heirloom quilt; life ripped at the seams. Gathers are rare. Ariana took the frayed pieces and worked with them until the quilt could fulfill its purpose once again.
Throughout the tumultuous events of this series, a lesser person would have left the whole situation – Ariana is an adult after all. The Amish community feels she returned to them bringing the world with her. However, she stuck with her families, both Amish and Englisch, and worked all the frayed and broken pieces together until their bond was stronger than ever.