Why I Love The Life I Left

I love my life. Every minute of it.

I love the phase of my life I’m in right now as the founder of Farmhouse Frocks, a comfortable, beautiful, body-positive clothing line for women of all sizes and shapes. I love the part of my life when I was tiptoeing into entrepreneurship— learning what it takes to run a business and still maintain a personal life. And I love my growing-up years as an Amish girl looking for truth and finding her own identity in rural Ohio.

I really do love every minute of it.

That’s not to say I haven’t experienced difficulties and doubts, rough patches and relationship woes. We all have, haven’t we? But I believe with every bit of my heart that each of those moments has brought me to where I am today, to where I have been in the past, and to where I will be tomorrow.



When I was a child growing up in an Amish home, little things meant a lot. Our gift for Christmas might be a Sorry! game for the family or some other simple thing that would bring us all together. I could always count on a sit-down dinner with family at 5pm every night. We worked hard, dressing for the day and finishing our chores before walking to school each day. Every other Sunday morning--church mornings--meant coffee soup, which consisted of a cup of hot coffee with milk poured over a slice of bread or saltine crackers and sprinkled with a bit of sugar. Mom always used bread. Dad always used saltines. I still have strong memories of Sunday mornings when I smell coffee soup today.

laundry day

Each year, Dad would order a whole truckload of peaches from growers who would deliver them to our house. It was the only opportunity I had as a little girl to converse with an “English” person, a person from the non-Amish world. I would choose my nicest dress and eagerly soaked up the compliments when the visitors would tell me how beautiful I was. Even then, when I was as young as eight or nine, I prayed I would never fall in love with an Amish man because I wanted to grow up and be like those English women whose style I so adored.

It was settled into my personality to be a trendsetter. Sitting beside my mother at the sewing machine as she made my dresses, I would push the limits on what was allowed for my dress and cap. I would beg her to change the number of pleats, or the width of the belt, or even ask her if I could go with no belt at all. She would often indulge me, though I wasn’t permitted to wear those "fancy" dresses to church or school or to visit family members who wouldn’t approve. On the outside, it probably looked like I was trying to be rebellious, to test my parents and my culture. But the truth was, I just wanted to be different. I wanted to stand out from other people. It was simply part of how I was made.

amish girl biking

At age 16, when I started dating Allen (who would later become my husband), I immediately asked him if he planned to stay Amish. I knew I couldn’t date him any longer if he was going to join the church. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to wear whatever made me feel good. I wanted a different life than I saw every day.

At 18, I moved out of my parents’ home, bought a car, and told my mom and dad I had decided not to join the church. While they would have preferred that I stayed Amish, they supported me then, and they still do to this day. They are an important part of my life and my children’s lives, and, because they also live next door to me, we are able to continue nurturing our relationship with each other.

amish canned goods

Many things have changed about the Amish culture in my community over the last 40 years. Much of what is written in Amish fiction reflects the way things used to be, not the positive aspects of Amish life that many of my seamstresses and I treasure, like emphasis on family, community, faith, honest work, ad appreciation for simple beauty. While I’m glad for the life I have today, I wouldn’t change a thing about how I was raised. Even though I made the decision that the Amish life wasn’t for me, I recognize that it was a great way to live, and that heritage, just like my desire to be different, to serve others, and to encourage women in their daily lives, will always be a part of me.

Lena

I pray that you, too, whoever and wherever you are, will learn to embrace the parts of your life that serve you well and have the strength and wisdom to move past the parts that do not. I believe with every bit of my heart that each of those moments has brought you to where you are today, to where you have been in the past, and to where you will be tomorrow. I pray that you, too, can love your life.

Every minute of it.

{Amish Country photos by Sprouted Acorn Photography}


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1 comment

  • What a lovely story. I really needed this. I’m glad I found your page.

    • Rhonda Vanderburg