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A Gathering of Sisters: A Year with My Old Order Mennonite Family

November 9, 2018

Another Way for week of November 9, 2018

A Gathering of Sisters

Darla Weaver is an Old Order wife, mother, expert gardener, and author. She and her husband have three children, but she grew up in a family of five sisters and four brothers. The sisters all live in the hills of southeastern Ohio near her parents’ house where they grew up.

Darla and her sisters have the marvelous tradition of spending each Tuesday with their mother (their father joins them for lunch, from his work in their home-based greenhouse). And the little ones of these sisters absolutely love Tuesdays before they begin formal education (usually from age six through grade eight in typical Old Order or Amish parochial schools), playing on the farm with cousins, eating, and “reading” books in their grandmother’s “library.”

I had edited a previous book of Darla’s, a devotional called Water My Soul. When she happened to mention this unusual gathering to me—spending all day each Tuesday with her sisters, mother, and their younger children—what came to my mind was Mitch Albom’s unforgettable book Tuesdays with Morrie. What if Darla would write something like “Tuesdays with Mom.” She pretty much jumped at the chance—while also presenting the idea to her mother and sisters. Would they be willing to be put under a microscope and have their weekly conversations, activities, joys, triumphs, as well as the skirmishes of their children shared with the entire world?

I think it took some processing with her family—especially the spouses—but Darla has now produced a delightful new book. Eventually the Herald Press team decided on Gathering of Sisters: A Year with My Old Order Mennonite Family as the title, and it is an inside, detailed look at the daily Old Order life of one extended family.

Darla uses a typewriter to write, so we took her pages and used special software to scan them into files the computer could read. Darla writes with a self-deprecating bent, with jokes about her cooking, and consternation over the new silicon cupcake “papers” that are lovely until it comes time to individually wash those modern cupcake holders, which frequently seem to turn up when it’s Darla’s turn to wash. And oh yes, no one can remember who washed the dishes last Tuesday. The children get into tangles the mothers try to sort out, and there’s an extended thread about a brother getting married in another state and chartering a bus to get the whole family there.

In September of the year her youngest son Matthan starts school, Darla reflects on the near universal ache parents feel as their children first scamper off to school: “When Cody (oldest son) went to the store to buy a pair of shoes, he came home with elevens. What’s more, they were the right size. Those were not the feet that fit so snug into the palm of my hand, or when I helped him begin to walk, just the day before yesterday or so. Now even Matthan had grown up and gone to school. The last lingering bits of babyhood always vanish forever in that first-grade aura.”

So Darla arrives at her mom’s on Matthan’s first day of school, no children in tow. She has to kick open a stubborn door. Her mother teases her that she “looked so old, coming up the hill without any children along. One sister chimed in smiling, ‘You looked almost like a grandma with your children all in school.’ They were all smiling so I smiled too—so wonderful is the consolation of sisterly sympathy that I cheered right up” (p. 199-200, Herald Press).

I grew up with two sisters and a little brother and even though our “modern” Mennonite family was much smaller, the community of siblings and especially sisters is something to treasure—even when we tease each other or become downright irked at times. Darla’s strong faith runs through her book, bringing moments of reflection amid both momentous and ordinary days.

Perhaps someone you know would enjoy this book for a Christmas gift or anytime. I’m snagging several for loved ones as well!


Many of us wish we lived close enough to loved ones to gather weekly like Darla and her sisters and family. What traditions for gathering have you managed, even if not as often as you would wish? 


For more about Darla’s new book Gathering of Sisters, check here, or write to me and I’ll send you information by regular mail. Send your request to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I had two sisters who both died of cancer. I’m now dealing with cancer and of course, missing my sisters. Please follow my blog…I love the book suggestion as I’m also a librarian!

    • I can see why this post brought your sisters powerfully to mind. I have checked out your blog, you are quite the survivor and champion for all of us taking better care of our skin and protecting from the sun. Hope you’ve found my post on this topic too. I can’t find a place to comment over on your site but will check back.

  2. The book sounds wonderful, Melodie. And your invitation to Darla to think of her weekly gatherings with sisters in the vein of Tuesdays with Morrie was a true inspiration. Best wishes to all!

    • Thanks, Shirley. Using the Gathering of Sisters as the title saves it from trying to be a knock off of Tuesdays with Morrie, I hope. 🙂 If you get a chance, I’m sure you would enjoy the book as well.

  3. What came to mind: Farm to Table and Darla’s typewritten pages to Herald Press. What a process!

    Yes, this does sound like a gift idea for my sisters!

    • The mechanical and digital process on it was quite a bit more difficult and detailed than what I went into here. Hope you enjoy reading it at some point!

  4. Elaine permalink

    My four sisters (ages 58-71) and I have started texting regularly in the past year to stay in touch. They all live in eastern PA (I’m in KY) and we share prayer requests, the mundane, the care they are giving to our 93 year old mother and just some fun banter. It has been such a blessing to all of us.

    • Elaine, I love your example here: “Not together? Text together!” My one daughter keeps marvelously in touch with a group of high school chums that way in a group text. I envy her connections. For you, as a way to support each other in caring for a mother–such a beautiful way to turn technology into a blessing. Thanks for sharing here!

      • Elaine permalink

        I love that–“Not together? Text together!”. Do you think we should copy rite that? 🙂 🙂

  5. This sounds delightful!!! I will definitely be ordering one and telling my sisters about it! As you know I came from a family of seven sisters and one brother. Our oldest sister is in heaven and the rest of us are scattered across the US, but we stay in touch via Facebook. We have a sibling FB group where we share heart aches, prayer requests, funny stories, etc. Every other year we get together with our spouses, and as many children and grandchildren as can make it, for a weekend at a wonderful church camp. On the off-year we get together for a sibling weekend at one of our homes. We’re hoping to go to our sister in Idaho next summer. My sisters are absolutely my best friends.

    • I like the idea of a sibling facebook group 🙂 I had forgotten just how big Mary Ellen’s family was and that there was only one boy, but shouldn’t have. Our gatherings still focus around our Mom, in Indiana, and still fairly healthy and with a good mind. Thankful for our blessings too. When I retire I hope to get up to Lancaster and get together with several friends from past years who are up there. Thanks for your comments!

  6. Athanasia permalink

    Melody, you liked/think it is like… TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE? To me, that would not be a positive endorsement of this book. I’m sorry. I will, however, not hold that against Darla’s book and will certainly read it.

    • It has been a long long time since I ready the Morrie book. It is certainly not a religious book but I know I found it touching. Please don’t hold that against this book by Darla! I should have reviewed it briefly before mentioning it here I guess.

      Have a good day, we’re getting our first snowy-icy mix.

      • I really enjoyed all the pithy, wise sayings in Tuesdays with Morrie. Each to their own, I guess.

  7. Yolanda, thanks for speaking up! There was a lot of wisdom in that book. 🙂

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