One Day Away:Holmes County

Green rolling hills provide a place of escape and relaxation on a random August afternoon. The clip clop clip clop of the past mingled with the here and now can be seen in any given direction. Long lines hung from home to barn with rainbows of laundry swaying in the breeze catch our romantic notions of a simple life. It goes without saying that although the plain and simple life seems like something straight out of the storybook of our imagination, we know the reality is far from that. There is hard work, sometimes Spiritual abuse,and a not so simple framework. Yet as we take. Step into Holmes County and out of our current setting it is easy to just get lost on the ever wondering roads only stoping as our fancy directs.

I’ve been to Holmes County Ohio or as it’s affectionately coined Amish County Ohio, on several occasions now. Each time has been a real treat and uniquely different depending on who I have been with. This most recent encounter with HC has possibly been my favorite as far as just escaping day to day life to embrace a moment of peace and quiet. It was a short day trip that had zero planning and very little notice. I’m going to share my favorite HC spots and my suggestion on how to properly enjoy a day or two of relaxation.

1) First you’ll need a friend that you’re 100% comfortable with. I’m talking the friend that has zero expectations of you and you them. Be prepared to just be.

2)Find a hole in the wall place to eat your lunch or dinner. I’m going to strongly suggest that you skip Dur Dutchman and anything really that says Amish,German,or farm. The Charm Pizzeria is a quick and cost effective place to pop in and out without much fuss. The pizza was top notch amazing as well as their frozen lemonade (they don’t actually sell that but they made one for me anyway).

Rebecca’s Bistro is another really delicious option is you’re wanting something a little more fancy. It’s on the cusp of being too frilly for my taste but I have enjoyed what I’ve gotten each time I’ve gone. Be sure to allow extra waiting time, it’s a popular choice.

3. For the ladies going on this trip Mt. hope fabrics is a small but efficient store. I personally love their slip options as well as other such things. They have traditional sizes as well as some plus sizes which make this a must stop shop anytime I’m in the area. They also carry things at a decent price like pretty notebooks, church toys,and winter wear. I actually wear an Amish style woolly scarf over my head during the coldest days of winter. I purchased it here and I’ve never regretted my decision. They also have a growing fabric selection and although it’s all very nice quality, the price is a bit steep for my taste. Be prepared to pay $7.50 a yard.

4. When going to HC you’re going to be on the road a lot. Some people like to be choosey with their stops mapping out every moment of the day. That totally isn’t my flavor unless I absolutely want to ensure I make it somewhere. The most relaxing thing is to simply throw away your expectations and simply experience! Just drive for the sake of seeing the beauty around you! Stop and chat with strangers for the pleasure of a conversation. Go into a random store that doesn’t hold any agenda. Just be and soak up the spontaneity that a day in Holmes County can hold!

5. After all that spontaneous adventure you’ll be needing a good cup of coffee. The RudMug coffee company, which is in the same row as Mt. Hope fabrics, has everything that a solidly good coffee shop should have. Friendly employees-check,well made coffee creations-check,comfy couches and cozy corners-check. This place is fairly child friendly baring that your children aren’t total brats. Sit down with your gal pal and spend a while sipping a maple breve. I venture to say this might be the most satisfying part of your time in HC. No agenda just being together almost like that show Friends where the gang hangs out doing random stuff but together. Do that,be all there.

6. If you’re an avid reader or writer like I am then go ahead and make a stop at Faithview books. They have a wide variety of Christian books that I’d feel comfortable reading,gifting,and suggesting to others. They also have greeting cards,stationary,journals,and other gift items. If you’re still in need of some coffee they give out a free cup of coffee and I for one think that’s a selling point right there!

7. Lastly there is no end to where you can go or what you could buy. Keep track of what you’re buying and how much you’re spending. Yes but something unique,yes,buy something frivolous,but be careful not to just spend because you can spend and it’s “Amish”. I guess I’m just saying be smart.

I’ve been looking for an apron for a while. In fact I think every trip to HC I’m on the search. I finally found one!

I’d love to hear from y’all where you like to go in Holmes County. Do you like to spend one really long day or rather an entire weekend? I like both. In fact last year in November a group of friends and I did a long weekend. We got a cabin and did some shopping and did some crafting and that was just as enjoyable. I think what stood out this go around was absolutely nothing was planned. That honestly suits my personality better. I’m a go with the flow kind of a gal. So whether you’re like me or not I hope some of these rid bits can make your next trip to Holmes County Ohio a little more relaxing.

Much love,Pilgrim Nicci

The Day I Went To Prison

Shadowy figures in the distant fog are easy to ignore. Walking right past the faceless bodies brings no pings of emotion that we wish could go away. What happens when the fog lifts and you lift your eyes as you make eye contact and say “Hello,God bless you and Merry Christmas.”? When the person is far away almost as if an abstract thought somehow we can justify not caring. This person must have done something terrible. This person is worthless and deserves to rot. This person really isn’t a person so let’s just walk away. It becomes much more of a blaring reality when you can imagine this woman as your bank teller, your dental hygienists,or even you. Where would we be if

we had made one choice that would of changed an entire future? I know that answer, I’d be on the other side of the cookie line.

So what does it mean to be on the side of the line that is giving? Yesterday was a day of waiting around. There was a fog plan in place which meant we didn’t get to pass out cookies right away. Held in a room full of predominately old order Amish sure made things interesting. As humans we tend to segregate ourselves into nice neat little groups. This makes us feel more comfortable ensuring that we don’t have to put forth much effort. The same was said even as we labored next to each other. There was a circle of chairs forming a tight group with backs facing us. Everyone not Amish we’re scattered around. Time came to repackage some cookies and I thought it would be my opportunity to break in with some of the Amish. I settled myself in to help. As I did this I tried countless times to make conversation. Each time being completely ignored. I’m not one to give up so I would simply repeat what I said. They’d grimace,answering a one word answer and turn away to talk in their language to someone else. I began asking myself why was it that these Amish came to this prison. It didn’t seem like it was for fellowship,they certainly don’t want any outsiders to get too close even if it’s another anabaptist,and they really seemed somewhat miserable. Then I remembered that these people are in just as much bondage as the women that are in maximum security. So I stood silently opening the baggies and as I passed it to the lady beside me I began to pray over these people that have physical freedom but are held in such tight chains and they don’t even know it.

Finally our wait was over and the rest of our cookie passing could continue. I was a bit nervous because I had no clue what to expect. Pretty quickly the unknown became known and I was comfortable. We all had a job mine was greeting the women as they entered. I so wish we could of hugged them because somehow a handshake just wasn’t enough. One young girl probably younger than me said “I’m a hugger and I’m so glad you’re here. You have no idea what this means to us.” With that she did lean in and gave me a hug and I didn’t mind. Streams of women came for the cookies,singing,and silent prayer. These women ranged in age from younger to me to 70’s or 80’s. I couldn’t help but wonder if they would ever have an identity outside of their crime. One older woman proudly announced “I have 27 days left and then I get a new life!” I felt happy for her and in the depths of my heart I prayed that it was the truth.

I made it my mission to memorize even one name and I did. I went home and looked up her crime. She was the get away driver in a burglary gone wrong. One bad choice and she wasn’t even the one to pull the trigger yet here she was. The Bible verse that says to avoid all appearances of evil has hung in my mind all day today. I wonder,would you stop right now and pray for this young woman? She is so young and when she gets out in several years could she be loosened from the chains of not only prison but also Satan?

One surprising experience was getting to go into the nursery. There were six young moms holding their precious gifts. None of these mothers have violent crimes and they all are going through a program to learn how to be a mother. You could definitely see a difference from mom to mom in how they talked about their children. My brain started wondering how will these children not develop RAD or other struggles. I found out that these children get to be with the moms for three years. It was so encouraging to see one mom with her baby’s head laying on her chest ear down. It was so sweet to acknowledge that a baby can still bond with its mother even in less than ideal situations. In those moments of us observing this child’s heart was being aligned with its mother’s heartbeat. That gave me hope for these children.

The program director said some of these moms have never held a baby or even changed their diapers yet here they were in the thick of it with no choice but to learn. In some small way I was overwhelmed with thankfulness that these babies were being raised right where they were. The moms were drug free,caring for their children,and growing to hopefully be able to raise these children in a healthy way. Once again only time will tell but these three years are giving them a chance.

You know what? We all were once in a prison. A prison of sin,ignorance,and defiance. Our drug of choice was pride and self satisfaction. We had no clue that our sugar daddy was really out to harm us. We didn’t know that the high we got was only temporary. There would be no escape in the end of our life. We were in sins prison without a hope and it was slowly destroying our lives.

It wasn’t until someone or some situation was like our cookie receiving opportunity. A message from the Lord was brought down and over time we could accept that we were loved. We could start the fight to regain our dignity. We could share our hurts and our past sin with our Heavenly Father. When our hearts had soften enough we could ask Jesus for help. He came and pled guilty for our crimes and just like that our chains were gone. Having received the Holy Spirit we could then go out into the world as if to do community service. No, not because we have to pay off our crimes but because we have been given so much that we want to serve our king and those that He loves.

Some of us might not know the real sorrow of being behind bars of a state prison however we do know what bondage feels like. The peace that come with total freedom is not something I’d want to try to withhold from someone. I think what Gospel Echoes and many other people do to bring self worth,salvation,and stability into the lives of a prisoner, is such a good thing. Not too long ago five years or so, I would of said that these people weren’t worth fighting for. I’m glad that long ago God convicted my heart that redemption is available for all. It’s not just for the seemingly squeaky clean people who get dressed up on Sunday, it’s for EVERYONE.

So maybe you’re reading this and find yourself in sins prison. I’d like for you to know that you can cry out to God at any time and He is there waiting for your call. It won’t be a golden ticket moment where you get everything you ever hoped for but it will start you on a journey of peace and salvation.

If you need a friend or simply someone to pray over you, please go to the question page on this blog and I’d be happy to pray for you.

May you find the love and salvation that can only come from the Lord!

Much love,

Pilgrim Nicci

Assumptions Flying

Want a little humor/ praise God for your afternoon?

A bit unexpectedly I found myself in need of a passport fairly quickly. I did the necessary research to find out how to make that possible and with documents in hand I set off for the local post office. I get there and the copy machine wouldn’t accept my money. I asked the lady at the counter for assistance to which she refused on account she didn’t know anything about the machine. Coming to my rescue was an older gentleman. He exchanged my perfectly crips dollar bill for four shiny quarters. “Ok, breath Nicci you know how to run a copy machine. Why are your hands so sweaty and why do you feel so nervous. Get a grip!” That was what was going through my mind as I walked back up to the counter. I overheard the lady who would be doing my passport processing “Well I’m waiting on that Amish girl.”

I breathed a deep breath and proceeded to the counter. “Hi I’m here for my passport appointment.”

The Taiwanese woman without a smile says “You leave on June 9th there no way you get passport by then! You Amish never plan,you need to pay extra money to get it by June 9th even then it may not come.” I explained that I had my two checks for the amount I needed to pay to the two separate places plus $15 for my photo. She says “You need to pay an additional $50 if you want to get it quick. You no plan and need it quickly.” This went on for a while and as she spoke at lightning speed I could feel myself on the brink of tears. As she spoke my mind was trying to add up the amount of money I needed and I knew I didn’t have enough (she kept adding fees that were not in my research). I told her that I’d need to come back another day. She said “You cannot just leave and come back another day! You need to make another appointment and plus you need your passport now! You stay and pay.” Literally I was about to cry and a line was forming. I looked at her and said “I have done my research. I’m not paying anything about what my two checks that I have with me we are for plus my $15.” She agreed then started looking over my forms. “You mother has no middle name? Why you no put her middle name?” She inquired. I tell her that she has no middle name.”

We go back to the back room to take the picture. And she says “You Amish,you wear your Amish hat all the time? “I’m not Amish I’m German Baptist. I wear my head covering at all reasonable times. The only time I Don’t is when I’m sleeping or swimming.” She shoots back “You Amish also don’t wear it in the shower.” Me “Yes that’s right.”

I get the picture and we head back up to the window. At this point I’m just done. She’s rude,not helpful,and I truly freaking out about it arriving on time…and I promise if she calls me Amish one more time I’m got o punch her( ok, not really because I’m non violent but I was fighting my flesh at this point.). She then starts the processing part and asks about why I don’t have an Ohio drivers license. I started to explain and decided to just say “Look if I explained to you, you’d think I was lying .” She gave me a look. Then I hear as if an angel out of no where someone calling my name! Sweet Rose was in the other line and I just said “Oh I’m so glad you’re here! I need a hug!” Just seeing a familiar face with a smile melted my flustered spirit! I have no doubts that God sent her to bring me encouragement when I was about to lose my cool.

What truly was the root of my frustration wasn’t that I was being called Amish,although more than once after being corrected does bother me a little. It was her trying to keep charging me more and more and just plain being rude. I had no control over the fact I needed a passport quickly. She had no clue what my situation was. She chose to judge me based on how I looked and how she thinks I practice religion. If I were to do that in return to her or even a Muslim I’d be a racist or something the like. The only time I have ever had negative reactions to being “plain” has been in Troy. I don’t know the light that “our people” or others similar give to those that we meet but I sure hope her reaction wasn’t due to a past experience with us.

Yes, I admit that my feelings about her in the moment were not favorable and I repent of that. I hope that through it that my smile and desperate attempt to win her over will have some effect. Kill people with kindness folks! A smile can change a day and a frown can ruin one.

All in all I find it humorous “You doesn’t wear your hat in the shower!” Bawhahaha

As some of you know I will be spending 45 days working with a family and their child that has RAD (reactive attachment disorder) in Georgia. The opportunity came up to go to Canada first to work with/and gain hands on experience with another respite care providers while the child is in her care. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to not only go out of the country for the first time but to gain valuable knowledge for the future. God has opened door after door answering prayers right at the perfect moment! The past few months have been heart stretching. I ask for prayers for myself as I face new challenges and also that I have strength for each new day! Please also lift the family and their son up in prayer. His heart and brain require a lot of healing.

Much love,Pilgrim Nicci

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God…Not the Amish Romance

About every two to three months I get a young woman or two wanting to become Mennonite or Amish. They’ve done no research and are looking for dress patterns, or as they call it “Kapp” patterns.

Each time I’m a bit grieved because I know in reality nothing on the outside matters if the inside isn’t changed. I labor over how to answer them knowing I was once in a similar position but with a lot more research under my belt.

A “plain” church or fellowship can be of no use if you aren’t fully informed of the culture that goes with it. There is more than putting on a long dress and white cap which is really a head covering. A daily walk with the Lord as well as an understanding of the people you walk along side.

The new wears off and it does become hard eventually. You’ll want a solid foundation with Jesus Christ.

These are a list of things that pertain to the kingdom as well as entering a culture that I’ll be giving to my Amish collecting friends to think on in the future.

-Do you use foul language?

-What type of books and movies do you watch?

-What is your relationship with your family like?

-How long have you attended your plain fellowship for?

-Have you been 100% open and honest with them about your walk with Christ?

-Do you have unconfessed sins?

Are you non resistant? Do you know what that means?

-Do you have a mentor?

-Are you ready to die?

-What does following Jesus look like to you?

-Have you developed relationships inside of the community that you are trying to fellowship with?

-Do you know what it means if I say there are two kingdoms and I am a citizen of one of them?

-Have you read a lot of Amish romance books and just like this life style?

-Do you currently dress modestly to the best of your ability?

-What is your view on divorce and remarriage?

-What about Homosexuality?

-Do you hate anyone?

These are questions to ask yourself not to answer to impress me but to determine if you are ready to truly go in this direction. I am here to help you to find the answers and to guide you in a real relationship as a follower of Jesus Christ and to help connect you to a community when you are truly and sincerely ready. Until then pray and keep seeking the Lord.

Proving Period

Let’s talk proving period for baptism.

I have met/or had conversations with countless people who have been waiting YEARS to have the opportunity of baptism. This is not ok( with the exception of blatant sin) no “church” fellowship should withhold the practice of baptism from a sincere follower of Jesus Christ. I don’t care if there are cultural differences. I don’t care what the persons past has been. I don’t care if the person is going to be “a lot of work” AKA require discipleship. I don’t care if your congregation is uncomfortable with a new outside member. No,fellowship should drag a follower through outlandish regulations to prove they are ready. Let the Holy Spirit dwell within them and know by their fruit! Oh this grieves my soul. How many “baptized ” youth in these very congregations are drinking,smoking,sneaking things they have sworn off,having sex and abortions,creating sin. It’s ok as long as it’s done in secret and the “church doesn’t know. Oh what hypocrites!

My fellowship doesn’t get it all right either but I will say in my situation it was ME who once made the choice of baptism to wait a month not the other way around. I do believe this fellowship I’m in could do a better job of discipleship before and after of a new member not only of the fellowship but of Christ. However there have been people who have been in prison,people who have been deep in sin,people who everyone would of given up on that have been given the opportunity to follow Jesus Christ and KNOW his redeeming power!

I’m not trying to puff up my fellowship. Trust me it is not perfect and has its own unique issues because we are all a bunch of imperfect people saved by grace.

I strongly urge you that if you are being denied baptism to start praying for God to show you if that is the earth church He wants you in.

Don’t Judge a Book by its cover

Sitting in the backseat of the car I scroll through my pictures of the week gone by. So many fun memories. Tons of thoughts flash through my mind as I try to piece together all that I’ve learned. Not only to be a more effective teacher but also about the nature of the two coworkers that went on this trip too. I’ve debated how to break up this blog post. Should I do two separate posts? One for the fun we had and one for the education we received? Possibly just shove it all together? **I’ve decided to go with one post to save you all from being forced to read more than you have to.
Our drive to Alabama was pretty uneventful yet filled with generous amounts of laughter and conversations. 

Once we arrived at the hotel and got settled in we began the task of looking for somewhere to eat dinner ( or supper depending on your definition). We settled on a little restaurant called Corsino’s. We pulled up and immediately thought we should find somewhere else to dine. As we cautiously looked out the car windows we saw people “walking the streets”,bars on the windows,and a cop standing guard. Ironically the address of the little Italian restaurant was 911. We had a bout of giggles over that! 

We concluded that because their was a cop, that we could just ask him what he thought. So we did. He was incredibly helpful and said that we should just “go on in” and he’d “help us when we came out” to figure out where to go next. True to his word he did just that.
So with cop as our line leader we walked through the barred doors and stepped into a scene that I’m pretty sure I’ve seen in a movie a time or two. An aged woman sitting in the corner purposefully folding pizza boxes. Our waitress Kim was standing in the back ready to serve. There was also a man standing by the cash register with serious eyebrows but a goofy little smile. The room was empty and..let’s just say quaint. By the looks on the the three employee’s faces they sure hadn’t ever seen a tea life “A-mish” person before! 
We scanned the menu which had the typical Italian food options that you’d expect. As we were deciding on what we wanted all of a sudden like an unofficial alarm went off people showed up so they too could enjoy this hole in the wall. We got several stares and whispers. Some would take quick glances trying not to be rude yet curiosity was very real. I didn’t care about all the attention we were getting. I just had an overwhelming feeling of happy and contentment. I think I could of brought my suitcases in and set up camp right at our table and stayed awhile. I began to wonder about the stories these people had and who they were. I too looked around the room, my eyes and imagination running wild. I made up Their stories in my mind, all with happy endings because I had decided I loved them all. 

Somewhere in between my story time in my brain and trying to keep up conversations with my coworkers our food came. One of my coworkers and I split fettuccine Alfredo and my other coworker got manicotti. I slowly ate my food because I wanted to savor each and every bite. I tried the manicotti too and mmm if I ever return to Alabama I’ll be getting that for sure!      

 As I ate my dessert of cannoli a little old man came up to our table to chat. Him and his wife were regulars of the establishment and thought he’d ask us some questions. To which we happily answered. Mmm dessert was amazing and the conversation sweet! Oops isn’t that supposed to be the other way around? 

As tempting as it was to stay in this little Italian restaurant nestled in the middle of the “ghetto ” we knew we had to leave. As we paid our bill the man with serious eyebrows had some questions for us too. We tried to make sure that every question was met with an answer directing back to our Lord and Savior. He was as chatty as they come. We engaged in conversation for about ten or so minutes and I believe we learned more about Him than he did about us! 
As I said above the cop was in fact waiting for us when we were ready to leave. He was incredibly helpful yet we all three felt like something was a little “off” about him. Maybe it was his unnervingly long pinky nail or his glassy eyes whatever it was I choose to believe God place us together for a reason. He was a help to calm our minds knowing he was out there. Maybe just maybe we were a witness to him as well. 

We ended up going to downtown town Montgomery just to walk around. There we met a few new people and just enjoyed the “flavor ” of the town. 

When we stopped at a gas station on our way back to the hotel, we shocked this one poor lady into silence. Just as I had felt like I had entered into a movie back at the restaurant. She thought the movie/tv had come to her. She was so flustered on account of her watching Amish mafia and she just hadn’t seen one of us in tea life before. Luckily after she came to she turned out to be a lovely woman. We shared with her that perhaps its best not to believe EVERYTHING you see on TV. 

**I’m going to end this post here because I’m seeing it’s going to get long winded. If you are so inclined stay tuned for the next post about our time spent at Pensacola Christian College and what I did and learned this week at the summer seminar. Then possibly a third post detailing our time spent at the beach and in the rain. 
As always much love,

Pilgrim Nicci