Dobsons 411

Hanging on for the ultimate ride--God's great adventure.
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Location: Oregon

The author of fourteen contemporary and historical novels, Melanie Dobson lives with her family in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Her latest novels are Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor and Chateau of Secrets. More info at

Saturday, September 19, 2009

God's Gift much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. (Matt. 7:11)

In March Kiki lost her Leapster (a handheld gaming system for kids). It was her Christmas present, and she loved, loved to play Nemo and Diego on it. We prayed and scoured the house and waited, but the Leapster never reappeared. So for her birthday in June, we purchased another Leapster for her gift, and she now "checks" it out and in to the Mommy library so it won't get lost again.

But yesterday, when she checked out the Leapster, it didn't work so I changed the batteries, expecting it to flash on. Nothing happened. It was dead. I asked the girls if they'd dropped it, and Karly informed me that the last time they played with it they gave the Leapster a bath. Sigh... As my friend Laura tells her children, electronics and water do not mix.

As we walked this morning, I prayed, asking God to please reveal where the old Leapster was hidden. I felt a little silly asking for it, but God was the only one who knew where it was...

And then God did a miracle for me and my girls. Minutes after we got back from our walk, I started cleaning the house. We have a small den in the front of the house that is rarely used (our only "adult" room), and I picked up the cushions from the couch to straighten them. There, tucked under the big cushion, was the green Leapster. I stared in shock. After six months of searching, it reappeared. Minutes after I prayed. There was no coincidence about it.

I called the girls into the room, and they cheered and clapped over God's gift for us today. It may seem like a small thing, but for my girls, it was huge. A miracle. Almost as if God had waited six months, waited for us to ask one more time, so we could truly see His love and His power. Together we rejoiced.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stepping Back in Time in the Amana Colonies

In August I spent a week touring the remarkable Amana Colonies in Iowa to research my new historical novel (Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa). There are seven quaint villages in the Amanas with 19th-century homes and shops built from brick, wood, and sandstone and surrounded by colorful gardens and trees. I felt as if I'd traveled back a hundred years or so as I visited the bakery (where they still bake on the open hearth), the rustic church buildings, the butcher shop, the mill, and the former Amana kitchens that now serve schnitzel, sauerkraut, spaetzle, and sweet rhubarb and dandelion wine.

A glassy canal cuts through the rolling farmland owned by the Amanas, and when I biked along it one afternoon, I discovered the beautiful Lily Lake with hundreds of yellow blooms canvassing the water. The Iowa River also traverses through the Colonies along with a train that woke me up at 4 a.m. every morning as it whistled and chugged its way through town.

I stayed at the Die Heimat Inn in Homestead which was built in the 1850s and used for 30 years as a communal kitchen. The Amana Colonies operated as a commune for 80 years (ending in 1932), and as part of their communal living, they ate together in community kitchens, attended church and prayer meetings together eleven times a week, and worked together either in town or in the farmlands that surrounded each of the seven villages.

No one received a paycheck in Amana. Each person worked hard at an assigned job, and then everything was provided for them--food, clothing, their home, medical care, furniture, and even the sky blue paint that added color to the rooms inside every building in the Amanas. The Amana people didn't worry about food or any of their physical needs so they devoted their time to reading, prayer, making beautiful crafts, and helping the many transients who stopped by the Colonies for a bite to eat.

During the Great Depression, the Amana Colonies separated their church community from their business corporation. The Amanas still worked together, but they began receiving pay for their work and learned quickly how to provide for themselves. While I was visiting the Colonies, I met a number of wonderful people whose parents were part of what they refer to as the "Great Change," and I was blessed to spend time with one 92-year-old man who grew up in Amana while it was a commune.

Even though the Amana Colonies no longer operate as a commune, there is still a strong sense of community and faith in this community. Residents value their friendships and the foundations of the Amana Church just like their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents did.

As I begin this next novel, I'm excited to encapsulate the strength and beauty and the community of the Amanas through a story about a heartbroken man and his young daughter who are trying to find their way home.

Here are some pictures from my trip: