18 December 2011

Special Friends Week - Interview with Karen Grassi Vogel

Karen Anna Grassi Vogel is the author of the Amish Knitting Circle Series and Knit Together: An Amish Knitting Novel.

I met Karen when our agent, Joyce Hart, fell and broke her hip. Karen sent an email out to all Joyce’s clients telling them of an e-card service to shower Joyce with cards. Karen is a member of the  ACFW Mid-Atlantic Group, of which I am the Zone Director, and has become our Pittsburgh Area Coordinator. Karen is a Compassion International Representative and we sponsor a boy in Colombia and contribute to a village in Africa through this wonderful ministry, also.  So I am happy to claim Karen as a special friend that we are featuring this week on Overcoming Through Time- With God's Help!

Karen, welcome to Overcoming Through Time.  Would you share either the most difficult thing in your life you have had to overcome, with God’s help, or the most tragic situation or circumstance one of your character’s has had to get past?

Thank you so much for having me on Overcoming Through Time. I wrote my novel Knit Together: An Amish Knitting Novel after losing my mom and two cousins in 13 months. My mom was 83 and in a four year decline, but my cousin Stacy, age 40, was quickly taken by cancer, and her sister, Renea, age 48, a year later…cancer also. I remember crying, feeling numb and shaking my fist at God.
I visited my Amish friend, Lydia, in Smicksburg, PA. She’d just lost her sister-in-law due to a heart attack, leaving eight children. We talked about grief and loss and I felt she accepted things much better than I did. I wanted to know why my loved ones died. Plain and simple….Lord….why did this happen? But the Amish don’t ask why. They have a profound sense of the sovereignty of God. When a buggy accident happens, or other tragedies, they seem to know they’re in the palm of God’s hand and everything is going to be alright. They shed lots of tears like we do, but they have an inner knowing that God is in control. So, I’m Ginny in my book Knit Together, and Lydia is Katie Byler. We live across the street from each other and I learn about grief the Amish way.

I also learn to knit in the book, and I’ve come to see knitting is a gift from God because it’s really good for your mental health!  The idea to do my Amish Knitting Circle series came to me when I was doing research on Amish spirituality. I had a long chat with an eighty year old Amish woman who helped start the Smicksburg Amish settlement. When I said I had to leave to go to knitting class, her eyes glowed; she told me she was a yarn spinner in her younger days. I asked if she could knit, and she said, “Oh, yes.” I didn’t know the Amish knit, but found they do and find great comfort in all the fabric arts: crochet, knitting, embroidery, needlepoint, and sewing. They do many crafts to relax, just like us English women do.

 What is your favorite bible verse and why?
      The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me
      to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
      and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. Isaiah 61:1 (NLT2)

This verse is just full of hope. I first started meditating on it when my dad passed away, on Christmas Day, sixteen years ago. I was brokenhearted and clung to this scripture. At first I focused on He came to comfort the brokenhearted and then I started to see how Christ wants to set captives free. So, my husband and I started getting involved with poverty ministry. We’ve been volunteer advocates for Compassion International for thirteen years now. Third world poverty is cruel, especially to children, and we hope to make a difference…to see these children set free through knowing Christ’s love and meeting their basic needs.  

Disability friendliness: My books are on kindle and Nook or any electronic device. I have a kindle and can make it large print and it’s also voice activated. Really love my kindle.

What has been the most important thing you hope your readers will get from your books and why?
My greatest hope for my book though is people will realize you don’t have to be Amish to be happy. I have a town full of people, half Amish and half English, similar to the town I lived in in Upstate NY. We saw people wanting to turn Amish, and Amish wanting to be English

I came to realize that peace is found in Christ alone. But lately, the Amish have been bombarded by folks who ask, “How can I become Amish?” Here’s advice one Amish man put in the Budget, an Amish newspaper:
“If you admire our faith, strengthen yours. If you admire our sense of commitment, deepen yours. If you admire our community spirit, build your own. If you admire the simple life, cut back. If you admire deep character and enduring values, live them yourself."
I put this quote in Knit Together, and show how Ginny and James Rowland change their life radically after following this advice. So I show a family who doesn’t turn Amish, but gleans a lot from them. I hope readers can do the same. 

As you researched your books, did you learn anything that particularly touched your heart?
The Amish view shunning as a loving act. I was told that if a shunned person came back to the community, and repented of their sin, even after being away for a decade or more, they would forgive and forget. The person would be reinstated into fellowship immediately. They also never stop praying for shunned people.  
Also, after knowing Amish families for twenty years, I didn’t know how much faith it took to live in community. They have to trust God daily to be content to live in their “Colonial” lifestyle. They see the modern conveniences and are always trying to figure out which ones to adopt and which ones will make their lives too fast paced. I was shocked that church members voted annually on matters such as allowing gas stoves, indoor plumbing etc. They don’t take a final vote until everyone is in agreement, or at least not upset about the decision.

I have to really watch what I say in front of the Amish, because I don’t want to make them feel the grass is green in English pastures. For example, when getting peaches from my Amish friend, she talked about how long it took to put up all her fruits and vegetables. I said I got a FoodSaver and all I did was slice, dice, throw stuff in a bag, push a button, and viola, I am done. As soon as I said this I saw her teenage daughters gawk at me. They just couldn’t believe it, and once again, I felt like I had to apologize for bringing discontent into their home.

In this latest work, do you have any topics useful for bibliotherapy, or therapeutic influence through reading about a disorder or situation?
Well, my characters have many problems. Joseph has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, since he was in NYC during 9/11. He’s also a former drug addict who went through Celebrate Recovery. Ginny’s in grief and going through the empty nest syndrome, and learns the whole Serenity Prayer used in Twelve Step Programs. I have an Amish man, Judah, who is shunned but comes back to the community and lives with the Baptist preacher who counsels him; Judah’s an ACA; adult children of alcoholics. Eli Hershberger, is actually my first Amish friend, Harry Hershberger. His buggy was hit and he became a paraplegic. I tried my hardest to portray Harry accurately because to me, he is as inspirational as Joni Erickson Tada.  Also, Christmas deals with holiday depression, since I feel qualified to write about that.

Thank you Karen for agreeing to answer these questions.  Have a blessed day and keep on writing!!

GIVEAWAY:  This week we are giving away Christmas books every day.  It will be a secret until each night but the books are Christian fiction releases from within the past two years.  Leave a comment for a chance to win!


  1. Such tragedy...and then your Amish friend leaving 8 children without a parent. How sad. Loved this quote “If you admire our faith, strengthen yours. If you admire our sense of commitment, deepen yours. If you admire our community spirit, build your own. If you admire the simple life, cut back. If you admire deep character and enduring values, live them yourself." ....so very true. Thank You!

  2. I love everything about this interview! It's so encouraging and uplifting :)

  3. MAUREEN, that quote from the Amish newspaper challenges me every day! ANNE, I really hope what I learn and "overcome through time" will help others. Thank you both for leaving your thoughts. So honored CARRIE PAGEL's had me on Friend's Week too. She's a gem. Merry Christmas everyone!

  4. Karen, thank you so much for this awesome interview, and for joining us on OTT-WGH! I gleaned so much from it and I love the wisdom of the Amish man; we don't have to be Amish to have peace and simplicity in our lives, God is everywhere, we just need to do as the Bible says-Seek peace and pursue it! Thank you for sharing these gems with us today, Karen, love it!

  5. I have all 5 of the Amish Knitting Circle books on my Kindle, good books and very quick reads. I really do like them. Thank you for this interview.

    wfnren at aol dot com

  6. I was really touched by this interview. I especially would like to live out daily what one Amish man put in the Budget, an Amish newspaper:“If you admire our faith, strengthen yours. If you admire our sense of commitment, deepen yours. If you admire our community spirit, build your own. If you admire the simple life, cut back. If you admire deep character and enduring values, live them yourself."

    Karen is a new author to me and I am looking forward to reading her books. I too have struggled with why God when my husband of 8 years died of a brain tumor.

    Blessings and Merry Christmas!

  7. I loved this interview,it was great.I can't wait to read Karen's books.Thanks and Merry Christmas...jackie_tessnair@yahoo.com

  8. merry christmas, ladies...

    thanks for the chance to read karen's books :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  9. Wow, wfren, you have me beat on that! Karen is a new author to me, so I haven't had the pleasure of reading any of her books yet!

  10. Judy, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. I think from time to time we all in our fleshly minds have asked "why". We just lost two little children in our church when a drunk driver hit the vehicle they were in. I don't understand, but have to trust in the sovereignty of God. Blessings, Judy!

    Jackie and Karenk, Merry Christmas to you, ladies!

  11. Diana Flowers,
    I love what the man said in the Budget too, and I agree, we need to do what the Bible says...plain and simple ;)Sometimes the Amish just tilt there heads and "ponder" me, and then say, "Well, it says in the Good Book..." as if I'd never read it. I'm always challanged. Many don't know how much the Amish read their Bibles where they gain the strength to live out simplicity and live in community.

  12. wfnren,
    Thank you for reading Amish Knitting Circle. Volume 6, Old World Christmas, is out. The Amish celebrate Christmas through Old Christmas on January 6th. My journey towards a simpler Christmas is on my blog Amish Crossings. found at karenannavogel.blogspot.com. I talk at length about how Christmas is celebrated by the Amish. ;)

  13. Judy,
    I am so sorry about the loss of your husband. Losing a spouse would be so hard and like Diana Flowers said, our fleshly minds ask why. It's very natural to ask why and sometimes I still do, especially about my two cousins. I feel I can be honest with God and pour my heart out to Him. I think the victory comes when after I ask why, cry etc. and then can rest, knowing He's in control. I may come with shaking fists at first, but leave with open palms. I have 4 preschool grand-neices who ask my why why why, when when when, and I listen, then just say...because. When they calm down and say, OK, somehow I really like that. They trust me... ;)

  14. I can't tell you how happy I am Carrie Pagels asked me to open up about why I write. I've never mentioned my cousins before in public. Sometimes it still really stings. I'll be joining this site for sure. Lots of healing...thank you all!

  15. Karen's book sounds very interesting. I would love to enter your giveaway. Thanks!

    Tina "the book lady"

  16. KAREN, I would love to have someone review your book for January 6th. My bday is the 5th and Marian Baay's is the 4th, so we are going to have a continuation of fun friends on the blog!

  17. KAREN, Merry Christmas back and you are the winner of Suzanne Woods Fisher's A Lancaster County Christmas book!

  18. Should have said KAREN K is the winner since I have two Karens in a row! It is great having both Karens here!

  19. TINA welcome! We will do a drawing for a book for December 19th, also. I am gonna go check out your blog. Thanks for sharing that info!

  20. This is such a thoughtful interview. It feels like opening a Christmas present to read it. Thank you for entering me in the contest.

    Merry, Merry Christmas! jsmithg@hotmail(dot)com

  21. JANICE, I found this very touching, too. I do beadwork not knitting. After my mother died last year, I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote but did very little bead work. I find writing therapeutic at times. Karen is a very special lady.

  22. I'm shocked at the idea of the Amish knitting. One only hears about their quilts, jams, pies, etc. This is one I would I loved to win. Great interview!!!

    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  23. I love Christmas Books, would love to win one.




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