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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cowboy At Heart

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


 Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books' Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.

Visit the author's website.

Virginia Smith is the author of more than a dozen inspirational novels and more than fifty articles and short stories. An avid reader with ecclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense.

Visit the author's website.


When an unscrupulous cattle baron tries to steal Amish land, a brave cowboy intervenes and is wounded. Lovely Katie Miller, the young healer in the district, attends to him while trying to guard her heart. Could there possibly be a future with Jesse Montgomery only God can bring about?

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736953418
ISBN-13: 978-0736953412


Apple Grove, Kansas
May 1886

 The first fingers of sunlight danced across the tips of tender wheat plants that had poked through the rich Kansas soil only two weeks before. Jonas Switzer stood on the western border of the field, his face to the rising sun, and marveled once again at this evidence of the Almighty’s provision. Last fall he had sown this wheat into ground prepared to accept it, and throughout the long winter months it laid dormant with no visible sign of the planting. But now it rose from its earthy bed to bask in the warmth of the sun.

Jonas knelt to inspect a single plant barely taller than his finger. Though he was not normally given to poetic comparisons, something about the crisp morning air and the smell of the soil turned his thoughts toward symbolic expression. His life was much like the single grain of wheat from which this plant had sprung. How many times had he felt dried and shriveled, a tiny kernel buried in a barren field? When his beloved wife passed eighteen years ago, something died inside him. If not for the blessing of his daughters he would have sunk into the earth and disappeared forever, his life smothered by a grief he thought he might never throw off. But as they grew, the joy they gave him showered his parched world. He learned to trust that somewhere above the trench in which he was buried, sunshine warmed the earth and rains fell to nourish it.

Then they left the Amish. Jonas closed his eyes against a wave of sorrow. First his Emma and then his Rebecca had chosen to build their lives outside the faith in which they were raised.

It is their right. Their choice.

That he knew, but still his heart grieved that the children he loved had not found the same contentment in the Plain ways he clung to. That his grandchildren were being raised in a lifestyle foreign to his.

“Pride it is that makes you think yours is the only way. At least they are Christian. Gott sei Dank!”

His mother’s voice rang in his head, and a smile tugged at his lips. Her attitude toward the Plain way of life had been forever skewed by the few years she had spent with her Englisch husband. And yet he did thank Gott that his children and their husbands professed a Christian faith, though Bishop Miller would argue that their way was not enough because they did not separate themselves completely from a sinful world.

Jonas stood with a sigh. All he knew was that his daughters were happy and they lived their Englisch lives in service to the Almighty and to their families. They had showered his life once again with blessings, with fine, strong sons-in-law and happy, smiling grandchildren. With a full heart he formed a silent prayer of gratitude for Emma and Luke’s two, Lucas and Rachel, and for the baby Rebecca and Colin were expecting, who would be born before summer’s end.

His gaze swept the sun-bathed field. A breeze rustled the fledgling plants, creating waves that swept from one end of the field to another. He was but one small plant, but at least he had broken free of the soil and could feel the warmth of sunlight once again.

A movement in the distance caught his attention. Beyond the wheatfield he spied a pair of horses standing on the slight rise that separated this field from the wide creek that watered his small herd of cattle and goats. Wild horses, perhaps? Squinting, he stretched his gaze. Were those saddle pommels on their backs? Not wild, then. But where were their riders? With a glance toward the house in the opposite direction, where Mader no doubt waited for him with a hearty breakfast, he headed toward the horses.

When he was halfway around the wheatfield, something else came into focus. What was that post sticking up from the ground? Yesterday there had been no post. He scanned the area around his farm, alarm tickling his stomach when he realized there were many posts, strung out as far as he could see. And was that a wire strung between them? His eyes were not so good today. Sound drifted to him from the location of the horses. Men’s deep voices.

Slapping a hand on the top of his straw hat to keep it on his head, Jonas hurried toward the horses at a trot.

As he neared the rise, men came into view… Englisch men, four of them in their buttoned shirts and snug trousers held up by leather belts cinched around their waists. They worked at some activity. It took Jonas only a moment to identify what they were doing. Two of them were digging while the other two wrestled a large roll of barbed wire off a wagon. The wagon’s bed was filled with sturdy wooden posts.

He could hardly believe his eyes. These men were building a fence. On his property!

Jonas stood on the top of the rise, watching them work with his hands hanging uselessly at his sides. Someone had made a grave mistake, one that must be corrected.

One of the men with the wire caught sight of him and straightened. “Woodard, we got company.”

Woodard stopped digging and looked up. He planted his shovel in the soil and hooked a palm across the handle, staring at Jonas with a measuring look. “Howdy.”

The man managed to turn the word into a threat. Jonas kept his face impassive, but an alarm rang inside his ears. The four Englischers wore menacing scowls, and their rough appearance hinted at a familiarity with violence. An ugly scar ran down Woodard’s unshaven face from cheekbone to chin.

“Pardon me.” Jonas spoke in the same soft manner he would use to greet any stranger. “There has been a mistake. This fence is misplaced.”

Woodard held Jonas’s gaze while he turned his head to spit. “No mistake. This here fence belongs to Mr. Andrew Littlefield. Heard of him?”

The name meant nothing to Jonas. He shook his head.

“Whew, doggie,” said his digging partner. “Them Amish really are backward, ain’t they?”

The others chuckled. Jonas gave no outward sign that the insult had affected him, though inside his nerves stretched taut. A man who would insult another would be quick to injure as well.

A smirk twisted Woodard’s features. “Mr. Littlefield’s a powerful man in these parts. He’s your neighbor to the north. Moved up here from Texas to start him a ranch a while back. Gonna bring a herd of Texas Longhorns up from Amarillo.”

“We will make him welcome.”

“Welcome him, will you?” Woodard barked a harsh laugh, and the other men joined in. “Well, I’ll tell you right now that the best welcome you can offer him is to get your livestock off of his land.”

Jonas looked in the direction in which the man jerked his head. A little to the east, beyond the thorny hedge he’d planted to border the wheatfield, a few of his cattle were making their way toward the creek for a drink.

“Pardon, please, but it is my farm the cows are on.”

“Now, that’s where you’re wrong.” Woodard pushed his oblong Englisch hat back on his head with a finger. “See this fence?” He pointed out the length of wire that stretched to the west as far as Jonas could see. “This here’s Mr. Littlefield’s property. He’s filed a homestead claim to this land. The boys and me been working all night to get this fence in place.”

“But this is my farm, my home.” Jonas waved both hands to encompass the land that surrounded them.

“Yeah? I don’t see no sign.” He glanced at his companions. “You fellas see a sign?”

With their smirking gazes fixed on Jonas, they shook their heads. “Not a one.”

“Well, there you go.” Woodard’s smile did nothing to veil his scorn. “Looks to me like this fence is the only thing marking the boundary.” He waved to the area behind him, including the creek. “That means this part belongs to Mr. Littlefield. And that part,” he gestured toward the wheatfield and house behind Jonas, “must be yorn.”

A flicker erupted in the back of Jonas’s brain. Did they mean to take his farm, his home? The area on his side of the barbed wire was a fraction of his property. What, then, of the field beyond the creek, the one he and Big Ed had plowed only a few days ago in preparation for planting corn? What of the pasture where his cattle and goats grazed? Angry heat suffused his face, but he took care to pitch his voice so that none of the anger might escape.

“The land belongs to me. Almost twenty years have I lived here. A trench I dug all around, as I was told to do.”

Woodard’s eyes narrowed to mere slits. He tossed his shovel aside and closed the distance between them with a menacing stride, stopping only when he was close enough that Jonas could smell the rank odor of his breath. The others also moved. They went to the wagon and each picked up a rifle before coming to stand behind their leader.

“I don’t think you heard me, Amish man,” Woodard said, his voice as low as Jonas’s. “This property belongs to Mr. Andrew Littlefield. If you want to go on breathing, you’ll keep to your side of that fence.”

A cold lump of fear cooled Jonas’s burning anger. The message was clear. If he or his livestock crossed that fence, they would be shot.

Injustice churned like acid in his stomach. It was because he was Amish that these men did this. They knew he would not retaliate.

They are right.

Did Jesus not forbid His followers all revenge and resistance? He has thereby commanded them not to return evil for evil, nor railing for railing. The words rose from deep inside, placed there by years of repetition of the Confession that all Amish professed. Though his sinful self would love to rail against these rough men, he could not.

Maintaining his silence was the only way Jonas could keep his anger in check. Without a reply, he turned away from Woodard and began the trek around the wheatfield and back to his house. Behind him, derisive laughter rose from four throats into the morning sky. Jonas kept his head up, though his back burned from the weight of their scornful stares.

I will not rail against them. I will not dishonor the faith to which I have pledged my life.

The laughter stopped, and soon he heard the sound of shovels carving into fresh soil.

But neither will I give up my home. I will stand my ground, but peacefully, with my friends at my side.

He lengthened his stride, a sense of purpose giving him fresh energy. He would hook Big Ed up to the buggy and go to his Amish brothers for help.


“Ow, stop! It hurts, Katie.”

Katie Miller looked calmly into a pair of reproachful blue eyes belonging to her young sister-in-law. “The bandage must come off, Hannah, else how can I see if the wound is healing properly? Hold still. I will be gentle.”

Eight-year-old Hannah studied her with a measuring look, as though deciding whether or not to trust her. Finally, with a brief nod, she placed her bandaged hand again into Katie’s waiting one. She turned her head away, face screwed up and eyes shut tight, her muscles tense. Seated next to Hannah at the sturdy kitchen table, Ella Miller held her daughter’s uninjured hand, worry lines carving crevasses in the smooth forehead beneath her prayer kapp.

And well she might worry. The injury to Hannah’s hand had not been serious until infection set in. By the time they sent for Katie, it had swollen to twice normal size, and angry red lines stretched halfway up the child’s arm.

Katie unwound layers of cotton bandages, a half-formed prayer for the girl running through her mind. When she pulled the last strip gently away from the wound, she let out a pent-up breath.

“Das ist gut,” she told Mader Miller.

A relieved smile washed the worry from the woman’s face. “See you there, Hannah. The smelly salve that angered you so has worked.”

Katie pressed the skin around the wound with a gentle finger. Thank goodness the swelling was greatly reduced from two days ago, and the red lines had all but disappeared. “Wiggle your thumb and finger.”

The girl did, and Katie breathed a prayer of thanksgiving.

“By the good Lord’s grace, she will recover fully,” she announced, and then she turned a serious look on Hannah. “But you must be more careful when playing around your papa’s plow. You could have lost your hand, and then where would you be?”

A dimple appeared in one peachy cheek. “I would not have to milk cows.”

“Ach, what a girl!” Mader Miller swatted at Hannah with a tea towel. “Indeed you would, but twice as long it would take you. In fact, you can return to your chore tomorrow and see how you like working as a one-handed dairymaid.”

Scowling, Hannah slumped in her chair and remained silent while Katie cleaned the wound and slathered it with a layer of ointment. When a fresh bandage had been put in place, the little girl tested the tightness by gingerly clenching her hand into a loose fist.

Satisfied with the result, she bobbed her head. “Danki, Katie.” She looked shyly up. “Maybe if I hurt my other hand you will come more often. I miss you.”

The words twisted Katie’s heart. Since she’d returned to her parents’ home four months ago, she had only seen her family-by-marriage a few times outside of the district’s twice-monthly church services. But though she loved them, there were too many re-
minders here. She and Samuel had lived in this house during the five years of their marriage. At this very table they had sat side by side for meals with Hannah and Mader and Fader Miller. In the room at the top of the stairs, they had slept as husband and wife. A sense of grief threatened to overwhelm her.

She shook it off and tugged playfully at one of the laces dangling from Hannah’s kapp. “If you do, next time I shall make the ointment doubly smelly just to plague you.”

Hannah wrinkled her nose, and Katie tweaked it.

“Off with you, now.” Mader Miller snatched a basket off of the counter and pressed it into Hannah’s hands. “The hens have waited long enough for their breakfast, and the eggs need to be gathered.”

When the child had skipped out the door, the older woman set a mug of coffee on the table in front of Katie. “It is good to see you, daughter. Too long has it been since you visited.”

Unable to meet her mother-in-law’s eyes, Katie stared at the steam rising from the mug. “I know. I am sorry.”

Silence fell. Katie glanced up to see Mader Miller’s unfocused gaze fixed on something visible only to her. A sad smile tugged at one corner of her mouth. With a rush of guilt, Katie realized she wasn’t the only one whose memories of Samuel wedged like thorns in her heart.

She broke the silence with a whisper. “I miss him.”

Mader Miller nodded. “As do I.” Her eyes focused on the window. “And so does John.”

At the mention of Fader Miller, an uncomfortable knot formed in Katie’s stomach. Though she and Mader Miller had grieved Samuel’s passing as only a wife and mother could, their grief combined could not touch that of his father’s. In the span of a few months, Katie had watched the man go from mourning to near-obsession with his son’s death. A mournful cloud hovered over him, and instead of dispersing with time, it grew darker and denser and more distressful for those around him. Though he continued to administer his duties as bishop to the Amish community of Apple Grove, grief had made him rigid. Because he found no comfort for his pain, how could he give comfort to the families who looked to him for leadership? The community of Apple Grove sympathized with the devastating loss of a son, but they whispered that their bishop should attempt to put the tragedy behind him instead of wallowing in his grief. Thus would he advise others, but he seemed unable to heed his own advice. At home every conversation centered on Samuel until finally, unable to bear the constant reminder of her loss, Katie had moved back to her parents’ home. There she had been able to begin to let go of the pain of Samuel’s death, and more and more remembered the joy of his life.

Until today. Coming back here tinged all her memories with pain.

Mader Miller reached across the table and laid a hand on her arm. The touch was brief, only a moment, but Katie drew strength from the contact.

“Life is not meant to be lived in sorrow. You are young, daughter. One day the Lord will guide you into happier times.”

Katie looked up into eyes glazed with tears. Much time these past months had been spent asking the Lord what the future held in store for her. Surely love such as she and Samuel had shared came only once in a lifetime. Had the Lord not given her a task to occupy her lonely days? She had begun to learn the ways of doctoring and birthing, and through that had discovered the deep satisfaction of tending to those whose hurts were physical and therefore easier to heal. And yet…

She squeezed her eyes shut. Was she to always remain a widow, forever denied love and happiness until she quit this world for the next?

Mader Miller’s hand pulled away. Katie opened her eyes to see her staring through the window. “A visitor has come.”

“This early?” Katie twisted around to look through the glass. An Amish buggy approached, clouds of dust from the road rising beneath the wheels.

The buggy rolled past the house and continued toward the barn.

“That is Jonas Switzer.” The older woman rose. “I will put on more coffee and warm some rolls. Go, daughter, and invite him in when he has finished his business with the bishop.”

Obediently, Katie rose and headed toward the door.

The morning sun still hung low on the horizon, its brilliant rays shafting through the leaves of the apple trees that bordered the Millers’  yard. Mr. Switzer’s buggy had come to a stop, and Fader Miller emerged from the barn. He stood erect, waiting for Mr. Switzer to climb down from the bench and stand before him. Mr. Switzer began to talk, calmly at first. Then he waved his arms, churning the air around him. Clearly something had upset the normally unruffled man.

I hope Emma and Rebecca are well.

Jonas’s daughters had been Katie’s friends since childhood. Though she rarely saw them now that they had both left the Amish and lived almost two hours’ ride away, Katie stayed informed through their grandmother.

She slowed her approach, unwilling to eavesdrop on the men’s conversation. But Mr. Switzer was so upset that his voice rose and fell, and she couldn’t help but overhear a few snatches.

“…weapons…fence…shoot me on my own land!”

Oh, dear. Someone had shot at him?

Because Fader Miller faced her way, she heard his answer more clearly.

“You must go to this Mr. Littlefield and explain to him the mistake. Perhaps he will listen and respond honorably.”

Katie stopped several yards away and politely turned her back, though she could still hear.

“You will go with me? I fear to go alone will result in violence.”

A stern note crept into the bishop’s voice. “You threaten violence?”

“From me, no. From them? They are Englisch. Their honor is different from ours. If two of us go—”

“If two go, they will see a threat. If one man calls upon his neighbor to discuss a shared problem, it is a friendly visit. Have Marta bake a snitz pie.”

Jonas’s voice grew loud. “You would send me to the home of an Englisch man with rifles armed with a pie?”

Katie winced. Mr. Switzer must be distraught indeed to raise his voice to the bishop. She would never have the nerve.

Fader Miller’s reply was low, alarmingly so. She couldn’t make out the words, but the tone was one that would have set her knees to shaking if it had been directed at her. The sound of retreating footsteps followed.

Katie turned in time to see the bishop disappear into the barn, his back rigid. Mr. Switzer stared after him, shoulders slumped and arms hanging at his sides. Moving cautiously, she stepped toward him, and he turned at her approach. A struggle lay plain on his creased brow and troubled eyes.

She bobbed a quick curtsey. “Mader Miller says won’t you come in for coffee and warm rolls?”

For a moment she thought he must not have heard her. He stared at her without answering. Then he set his jaw.

“Danki, no. I must go.”

She stepped back and watched him climb into his buggy. Seated, he picked up the reins and then stopped. He looked at her as though seeing her for the first time. “Katie Miller. A favor you would do for me?”

“Ja. If I can.”

“Take a message to my house. Tell my mader I have gone to Rebecca and Emma, and will return after the noon meal.” He tossed a glance toward the barn, and his chin jutted forward. “I go to see my son-in-law, the Englisch sheriff.”

Without waiting for an answer, he flicked the reins. Katie stepped back as his buggy rolled forward. She almost called after him, “Give my greetings to Emma and Rebecca,” but somehow she doubted he would remember.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pam Rhoads

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Lion Fiction (2013)

***Special thanks to Noelle Pedersen for sending me a review copy.***


For many years Pam Rhodes has presented the world's number one religious television program, Songs of Praise. She writes for the Daily Mail's Femail section, and is also a successful novelist, author of With Hearts and Hands and Voices and four other novels, as well as a number of other books.

Visit the author's website.


The country church of St Stephen's, Dunbridge, under the leadership of the formidable Rev. Margaret Prowse, is getting a new curate. The whole congregation is abuzz as the shy but earnest Neil Fisher arrives to take up his very first post.

Though intimidated by Margaret, he is determined to overcome his shyness and immediately sets out to meet the congregation. As often occurs when a man of the cloth is single, his mission becomes somewhat sidetracked when his attention is first drawn to Ros, the spiky single mum who looks after the vicarage garden, and then commandeered by Wendy, leader of the church music group, who is determined to bag herself a vicar for a husband. And if that isn't enough, he also has to contend with his opinionated mother, who strongly disapproves of her son's vocation.

Product Details:

Pages: 256
Size: 5 x 7.75 inches
Published: 2013
Rights: NA
Imprint: Lion Fiction
Price: $14.99
ISBN:  978-1-78264-000-4


It was the spire of St Stephen’s that Neil noticed first. In fact, if it weren’t for the spire standing head and shoulders above every other roof in the town, he might have needed to keep a closer eye on the map he had balanced on his lap as he navigated round the one-way system which seemed intent on taking him out of rather than into the market town of Dunbridge. Actually, to describe this cluster of houses and shops, some very old, some alarmingly new, as a “town” might suggest more than Dunbridge really delivered. Neil had read that 6,000 people lived here. As he rounded the last corner, he wondered where Dunbridge put them all.

He felt his chest tighten with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation at the sight of the grand old church which stood solidly at the end of the square, looking for all the world as if it were peering down the High Street keeping a benign, unblinking eye on its faltering flock. Neil swallowed hard as he felt beads of sweat spring up on his top lip. Wiping his finger sharply across his face, he firmly reminded himself he had absolutely nothing to worry about. After all, this was just a first visit – to see if the Reverend Margaret Prowse thought he might make a suitable curate in this parish, and to decide if he felt Dunbridge could be a place to call home for three years during his training as a curate.

And wasn’t this exactly the moment he’d been working towards for so long? As a soon-to-be-ordained deacon (the ceremony was less than two months away now), those years of longing, of recognizing his call, of study and preparation, had surely all been leading up to this moment – when he finally settled on the parish in which he would start his ministry. Was this the place? Would he become the Reverend Neil Fisher of the Parish of St Stephen in Dunbridge? He rolled the words over in his mind. They had a nice ring to them.

He glanced at the notepad on the seat beside him. “Drive up towards the church, then follow the road round to the right,”  Margaret had instructed. “You’ll find the Vicarage down the first turning on the left. You can’t miss it!”

He hated it when people said that. It always made him feel even more of a failure when he proved them wrong.

On this occasion, though, the directions were spot on. A sign on the well-worn gate proudly announced that this was indeed The Vicarage, a large sprawling Edwardian house whose faded glory was camouflaged by a huge wisteria on one side, and a scarlet Virginia creeper on the other. Uncertain whether he should pull into the drive, he decided that it would be more polite to park a bit further up the street, just round the corner from the house, under the arch of a huge horse chestnut. Neil grabbed his briefcase, clambered out and locked the door.

The gate squeaked as he opened it.

“Come round the back!”

The voice came from somewhere above his head. Neil shaded his eyes as he squinted up into the low morning sun.

“Take the path down the side of the house!” came the command again. “The kitchen door’s always on the latch. Daft, really, but I like the idea of an open house.”

Neil could just make out the silhouette of a round, female face surrounded by thick, neat curls leaning out of the upstairs bay window.

“You must be Neil. You’re early! I’ll be down in just a sec. Put the kettle on! Mine’s a coffee…”

And the head abruptly disappeared.

Getting to the back was quite a challenge. Neil clambered over two bikes, a trailer and a hawthorn bush which had very nearly succeeded in its attempt to straddle the narrow path alongside the house. Finally, he made it to what seemed to be the back door, which was not just ajar, but wide open. Closing the door tidily behind him (he just couldn’t help himself), he stepped into a large, alarmingly muddled kitchen in which the table, the worktops and even the hob were piled up with everything from stacks of plates and cutlery to columns of letters, newspapers and magazines. On top of the cooker was a Holy Bible on which was precariously balanced an open copy of the Book of Common Prayer. Neil grinned. Not much doubt a vicar lived here!

Something brushed his trouser leg. He looked down into the calculating gaze of the biggest, fluffiest ginger tom he’d ever seen. He was on the point of leaning down to give the little dear a tickle under the chin when he found himself staring into yellow eyes that gleamed with malevolence. Plainly this four-legged resident didn’t take kindly to visitors, as it did a slow reconnaissance figure of eight around Neil’s legs. He grabbed hold of a nearby stool and sat on it hastily, clasping his briefcase to him and pulling his knees up as high as he could.


The same voice, sounding twice as loud, rang through the house from somewhere upstairs.

“Tell him where the tea is, there’s a love! I think we’re out of biscuits.”

Intrigued, Neil looked towards the open kitchen door as the sound of slippered feet padded in his direction. Round the corner came a dapper little man with grey hair but, surprisingly, bushy dark brows. Taking stock of the positions of both man and cat before him, there was a sympathetic gleam of understanding in his eyes as he smiled at Neil.

“Sorry,” he said, “my wife’s only just got back from an unexpected hospital visit. She’ll be down shortly. I’m Frank, by the way. And that’s Archie. Quite harmless really, even if he does look a bit fierce. What can I get you? Tea?”

“No, thanks all the same,” gulped Neil, not taking his eyes off the feline predator below him. “I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”

“Oh, the kettle’s always hot in our house,” smiled Frank. “You’ll need to learn that if you’re joining the ranks. Your first appointment as a curate, eh? Well, you’ll be all right here. Margaret will look after you.”

“Frank, have you found him?” That voice again.

“Yes, dear, he’s fine. Archie’s got him cornered…”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, give the poor man room to breathe, Archie!”

The Reverend Margaret Prowse strode into the room, her arms clasped around a large box full of collecting tins.

“Take these, dear, before I drop them. Why Peter left them here when they should be at the Church Centre, I really don’t know!”

There were seconds of confusion while the box was handed over, almost dwarfing Frank, who staggered over to deposit the lot on top of the one pile of papers which was flat enough to perch it on.

“Margaret Prowse!”

Pushing her spectacles further up her nose so that she could peer at Neil a little more closely, she moved towards him, her expression warm and welcoming, her hand stretched out to clasp his.

“How nice to meet you, Neil! Did you have a good journey?”

“Not bad at all. Most of the traffic was going the other way. And I’m very pleased to meet you too!”

Neil became aware that Margaret’s attention had diverted from him, as she suddenly stared at the clock on the wall behind him.

“Heavens! Is that the time?” She grimaced towards Neil. “Look, I know this isn’t ideal, but you’ll soon realize that parish life is never predictable. I hope you won’t think me rude, but I do need to pop out for a short while. I won’t be long, but I had a call early this morning from Violet, one of our regular congregation members. She’s in a dreadful state – bereavement, you know.”

“Oh,” said Neil, “has she lost a family member?”

“Yes – and no. It’s her budgie, Poppet. When you’re nearly ninety and your bird is your only companion, then losing that friend is a dreadful shock. Her daughter is coming over at half ten for the ceremony…”

Neil felt his eyebrows shoot up with curiosity.

“Nothing formal. Not even consecrated ground, although a bit of holy water will soon put that right. No, Poppet is destined to rest in peace in the shade of Violet’s magnolia tree.”

“Have you worked out just what you’ll say, dear?” enquired Frank.

“Not really. I’ll play it by ear. That’s why I was looking in the Book of Common Prayer earlier on, to see if there’s anything that might fit the bill. Nothing quite right, I’m afraid. Any ideas, Neil?”

“For the burial of a budgie?” Neil loosened his grip on his briefcase, then lowered it to the ground behind his stool as he watched Archie wander away in boredom. “It’s difficult, really, when you can’t even give a potted history of the life and achievements of the dear departed, as you would for a normal funeral.”

“Quite!” agreed Margaret. “But Violet tells me she’s written a poem. That might do the trick. And perhaps a hymn? What do you think?”

“‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’,” suggested Neil. “That’s got a line about God making their tiny wings, if I remember rightly…”

Margaret grinned with approval. “Great minds think alike! Exactly what I came up with. And that reminds me. I’ve downloaded the accompaniment for ‘All Things’ on to my iPod. A bit of music might add a touch of atmosphere. Where are those speakers we take on holiday, Frank? You know, the ones that work on batteries?”

“In the upstairs cupboard, I think. I’ll go and look.”

“Great! Meet me with them at the front door. And you…” Margaret turned her gaze towards Neil, “… might like to take a look around the church while you’re waiting. I really won’t be long. Sorry I can’t take you with me, but I don’t think Violet could cope with new faces just at the moment.”

“I quite understand. And I’d welcome the chance to take a look around the church while you’re gone.”

“Go straight out the gate at the end of our garden. You can’t miss it.”

Not again!

“The door’s open, but it’s a tight fit. Just watch it doesn’t slam shut because it’s the devil to open again! Back soon. We can get down to business then. OK?”

Neil nodded, not quite sure which part of the deluge of words he was agreeing to.

But Margaret was already out of the room.

“Frank! Frank, I’m leaving! Where are those speakers? Oh, there you are.”

Surprisingly, Neil heard the unmistakable sound of a kiss being planted firmly on a cheek.

“Remember to get those chops out of the freezer. And don’t forget you’ve got to rearrange your dental appointment on Friday. Oh, and the recycling bin needs to go out today. Bye, dear. Bye!”

There was a sudden draught as the door opened, then slammed shut – and she was gone.

“Right,” said Frank as he came back into the kitchen. “I’ve got my marching orders and so have you. The church is that way. Down the garden, through the gate, up the lane a bit – and you’re there!”

This time Neil really couldn’t miss it. St Stephen’s loomed ahead of him the moment he stepped beyond the garden gate. He caught his breath. He’d always loved old buildings, and churches had been a particular favourite even when he was a small boy. That was probably because old churches had been a passion for his father too. There was nothing he’d liked more than coming across a church which he had never visited before. Story books – that’s what Dad had called them. Neil remembered so many happy hours when the two of them had wandered around and inside an ancient church, noting a Norman carving here or a Gothic arch there. They would discover masonry marks left by the builders, faces carved in the wooden screen or the christening font, or even at the top of pillars – faces which probably looked very like some of the congregation members in the artist’s time; towers hung with bells which had been rung every Sunday for countless generations (except during the Second World War, so his Dad had explained); tapestries and fading medieval paintings telling the Bible stories to congregations who couldn’t read or write; even swallows nesting in the eaves, just as they had done for as long as anyone could recall.

Young Neil had listened, mesmerized, imagining the stonemason, picturing worshippers of times gone by, looking up at the great bells which had called the faithful to worship down the years. And to that small boy, it did seem that his father could read the story of each church as if it were a book, noticing details, large and small, which revealed so much of those who’d known the building before them.

“If these walls could only speak…”

Neil could still picture the softening of his Dad’s face as he’d said those words.

“… drenched in all that’s happened here, those walls are. That’s why old churches have such a wonderful atmosphere. They’ve seen it all and felt every emotion. All the worries, hopes, joys and sorrows of the people who’ve come here down the years – these walls have absorbed the lot. What a tale they could tell!”

Neil found his pace slowing as he thought again of his Dad. Fifteen years on, and he still missed him. That final illness had robbed him of his zest for life and his dignity too. At least he was at peace now. Neil gave a wry smile. Well, at peace from Mum’s sharp tongue, at the very least!

It was often said that Neil looked like his Dad –  and he could see the likeness in the thick, wiry hair he’d inherited from his father. Nowadays Neil kept his cropped short, so the tight curls were hardly noticeable – unlike his Dad, who had let his hair grow quite long towards the end, much to his Mum’s annoyance, especially as it turned grey. Father and son had also had the same lopsided grin when they laughed, which was often, because they shared a similar sense of humour – but beyond that, Neil could recognize little of his Dad in himself. His broad shoulders and stocky frame came from his Mum’s side of the family. Her brothers had both been rugby players “for the county!”, as she never tired of telling anyone who’d listen. Physically, Neil was perfect for a scrum half. Actually, the thought of getting anywhere near a scrum was his idea of a nightmare.

The graveyard was nice. A strange thing to think about a graveyard, but he’d always found them fascinating since he’d spent hours wandering around them reading epitaphs as a kid. Taking a quick look at the stones immediately near the path as he walked, Neil was vaguely aware of the church clock chiming noon as he reached the imposing Gothic-arched porch door. In spite of Margaret’s warning, one twist of the round metal handle was enough to release the latch, so that Neil could easily push the door wide enough to slip inside.

He hadn’t realized how much warmth there had been outside in the late Spring sunshine until he stood for a moment breathing in the essence of the building as he walked along the back pew, then turned to make his way up the centre aisle. There was a quiet coolness about the church, an oasis of tranquillity which didn’t entirely cut out the bustle of the surrounding market town. He could still hear traffic noise, children’s voices from a nearby school and even gentle birdsong, but it felt as if a blanket had enfolded the building, filtering everything until it seemed distant and removed from him.

Could this church become his spiritual home? He considered the thought as he walked towards the rail and looked up at the huge carved wooden cross suspended above the altar.

Was this it? Would he be able to bring something worthwhile to this community? Would his contribution as a curate in this church make a difference that was beneficial? Could he be happy and fulfilled here?

Like a sigh, he felt a sweep of cold air brush past him – and at that exact moment, caught by the same sudden draught, the heavy church door slammed shut, shattering the peace and shaking the rafters as it echoed round the old building.

* * *

Frank picked up the phone almost immediately it rang.

“Oh, Frank dear, I’m glad I caught you!” Margaret didn’t bother to wait for any greeting from her husband before she continued:

“This budgie thing is proving to be a bit more complicated than I thought. Violet lives in sheltered housing run by the council, as you know, and because she wants this ceremony to take place as the body is buried, some ‘jobsworth’ is saying we need written permission before the budgie can be interred anywhere on council land! Can you believe it? Well, of course you can! Anyway, Violet is bereft, her daughter is threatening to call the local newspaper – and I need to be here for a while to pour oil on troubled waters.”

“And perhaps even pour holy water on council land sometime this afternoon!” chuckled Frank. “Oh, you poor old thing. Still, if anyone can get things sorted out, you can.”

“It’s just Neil, that new curate – well, hopefully our new curate, if I can persuade him to join us – must think I’m dreadful to be so tied up when he’s come all this way…”

“Well, he’ll be getting a measure of how busy it is here, and how much he’s needed, won’t he!” replied Frank.

“Can you explain and ask him to bear with me? Do you think he’d mind holding on for a bit? Tell him to have a look at the minutes of the last few parish council meetings. Give Peter a ring and see if he’ll pop round to talk to him about how involved the churchwardens are at St Stephen’s…”

“But he’s not here! He went over to the church, as you instructed, around twelve o’clock, and although I know I was out for a while, I really don’t think he came back. Just to be sure, I did pop down to the church about two to check if he was there. I stuck my head round the door and called out a few times, but there was no sign of him, so I suppose he must have taken himself off home again.”

“How strange! From his letter, it sounded as if he was more interested than that. Oh well, he must have taken one look at the church – and us – and decided it wasn’t for him, then!”

“His loss.”


“Odd, though.”

“Certainly is.”

“Right, I must get on. Good luck with the budgie, dear.”

“Oh, I can handle the budgie. It’s the council officials who need to be handled with care.”

“They’ve not met you yet, have they? You’ll knock them into shape.”

Frank could almost hear her smiling at the other end of the line.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can. Bye, dear!”

And the line went dead.

* * *

The main relief was that he’d found the loo. It was now three hours since the door had slammed shut on him, and in spite of shouting, thumping, kicking – and a lot of praying –  the door refused to budge, and he was well and truly stuck. Worst of all was the moment about five minutes after the door slammed when he first realized that his briefcase was still stashed behind the stool where he’d been cornered by Archie in Margaret’s kitchen earlier that day. In that briefcase was his mobile. Without his mobile, he was lost.

For one hopeful moment about an hour before, he thought he’d heard someone trying the door. He’d been closeted in the vestry at the time, idly looking through papers on the desk and books on the shelves, for lack of anything else to do. He was just opening a hymn-book, thinking that perhaps a verse of “How Great Thou Art” might make him feel better, when he heard something. The sound of footsteps, perhaps – and was it a voice calling his name? He rushed out into the main body of the church and ran back down the aisle, yelling at the top of his voice, then banged his fists for all he was worth on the unmoving old door which had imprisoned him – but there was nothing. No voice from outside filled with relief to have found him. No sound of a key turning in the lock or a shoulder thumping against the door. No sound at all. Zilch.

Exhausted with frustration, Neil staggered back to lean against the old stone font. How come they hadn’t missed him? Why weren’t they searching for him? Where was Margaret? Hadn’t Frank wondered about him not calling back to the house?

What was it Margaret had said about that door? A tight fit? Something about it being the devil to open? Neil slumped down into the back pew, exasperated and exhausted by another bout of trying to pull, prise, cajole, punch or even kick the door open. It simply wouldn’t budge.

He ran his fingers through his hair and sat for a while with his head cupped in his hands. He just couldn’t understand why no one had come looking for him. Could that have been Margaret or Frank he thought he’d heard earlier? Did they just think he’d taken himself off again without even saying goodbye? Surely they’d see his briefcase? An image slipped into his mind of the Vicarage kitchen piled high with bits and pieces on every available surface. He’d tucked his briefcase behind the stool he was perching on. Would they see it there? Surely they’d find it! He frowned as he wondered if they ever found anything in that muddle. But then there was his car! He groaned out loud when he realized how he’d parked it up the road a bit so that it didn’t block their driveway. Margaret and Frank didn’t even know that car was his, so why would they take any notice of it?

When might the church be opened again? Perhaps for evening prayers? What time would Margaret think about doing that? Mind you, in a small parish like this one, with only one incumbent, evening prayers were often missed because the vicar was just not available to say the office at the right time. Margaret was tied up this afternoon at the budgie’s funeral service. How long would that take? Would she find time to fit in evening prayers tonight?

Neil became aware of a deep rumbling noise, then realized it came from his stomach. He was not a man to miss meals without noticing. He remembered longingly his boiled egg and toast soldiers eaten at eight that morning, and glanced at his watch. He’d been imprisoned in the church for nearly four hours. No wonder his tummy was complaining. He needed food – now! Like a fox out on a night raid, he decided to search every possible nook and cranny for something to munch. There must be some biscuits here, surely. All churches ran on tea and biscuits!

He set off towards the vestry, a man on a mission.

* * *

It was gone six o’clock before Frank heard Margaret’s key in the door.

“Mission accomplished,” she grinned. “Poppet had a very good send-off quietly after five o’clock, when the council official had knocked off for the day. We sang the hymn and said a few words in Violet’s flat, then nipped down and did the deed when he wasn’t there to see us.”

“Oh, well done, dear. I knew you’d think of something.”

“No sign of Neil, then?”

“None at all.”



“Can I smell those chops in the oven?”

“With baked apple, just the way you like them.”

“And roast potatoes?”

“What else?”

“I’m starving! Give me five minutes to sort myself out, and I’ll come and set the table.”

“How about, as a special treat, having it on our knees in the living room?” suggested Frank. “We can watch the news as we eat.”

“Perfect,” agreed Margaret, heading upstairs.

Minutes later, when she joined Frank in the kitchen, her nose twitched at the aroma of apples as he dished up the chops and gave the gravy a final stir. Margaret reached down beside the dresser to grab the padded knee-trays which they could balance on their laps as they ate. Suddenly, she stopped.

“Frank, look!”

Following her gaze, his eyes opened with horror.

“His briefcase! Neil left it here!”

“But why didn’t he come back to collect it?” asked Margaret.

“Perhaps he just forgot.”

The two of them stared at each other for several seconds, obviously registering the same thought.

“Or perhaps,” said Margaret slowly, “perhaps he didn’t leave.”

“He couldn’t still be in the church… I went there. I shouted. There was no reply.”

“Did you look in the vestry?”

“Why would he be in there?”

“Why not? He might have got cold. Or bored. Or needed the loo. Oh, Frank, he can’t still be in there, can he?”

“That blasted door!”

The two of them moved as one, out of the kitchen and down the garden path. It was as they were running through the graveyard towards the church that Frank spotted the light.

“I didn’t leave that on!” wailed Margaret. “It must be him!”

Within seconds they ran into the porch, and Frank grabbed hold of the iron ring which turned the latch on the ancient door. Funnily enough, it worked very easily from the outside. Making it work from the inside, however, was a quite different story. It took practice, a lot of practice, to get the knack just right. Why on earth hadn’t they made that clearer to Neil?

Practically falling through the door, their calls were greeted by absolute silence. Neil was nowhere to be seen. One small light was on, but the church was quiet and empty.

“Maybe he’s in the vestry?” suggested Frank. “I’ll go and check.”

“Frank.” Margaret’s voice was practically a whisper. “What’s that noise?”

He stopped in his tracks, his head tilted to one side as he listened.

“Whatever it is, it’s coming from in here,” gestured Frank, looking around the main body of the church. “Down the front there, I think.”

“Be careful, dear. It may not be him.”

Frank hushed her by putting his finger to his lips, then he began to tiptoe down the aisle, stopping suddenly as he drew level with the row of seating second from the front. Moving silently along the pew, he slowly leaned over to peer down on the seat in front of him.

“Come and take a look at this!” He turned to her with a smile.

What she saw when she joined him made her smile too. They looked down on a peacefully slumbering Neil, snoring loudly, his mouth wide open, his legs curled up along the seat, and his head resting comfortably on a hassock. On the floor below him was an open box of Communion wafers – or at least, what was left of them. He’d apparently found the Communion wine too, because the silver goblet they used in Sunday services stood beside his dangling arm with just a mouthful of red liquid still in the bottom.

“He didn’t starve, then,” said Frank. “That’s a relief.”

At the sound of their voices, Neil’s eyes shot open, and for a second it was plain he was struggling to remember just where he was.

“Right, then,” said Margaret in that no-nonsense tone he would later come to know so well. “It’s pork chops for tea. Coming?”

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Katie's Journey to Love

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


In book two of Amish fiction author Jerry S. Eicher’s new series, Katie Raber’s journey of discovery continues after her mamm’s marriage to Jesse Mast. Drawn back from the Mennonite world briefly by the miracle of Mamm’s changed heart, Katie finds she can’t totally abandon her new Mennonite friends.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (April 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736952535
ISBN-13: 978-0736952538


Katie Raber awoke well before dawn in the stillness of the old Amish farmhouse. Something seemed wrong…unfamiliar. Where was she? The question raced through her mind. The familiar shape of her upstairs bedroom was gone. Where the dresser should have been there was a window, and where the dark outline of the dresser was there used to be a closet door. She sat up in bed, listening as a door banged downstairs. The sound was soon followed by the muffled voices of people stirring below. There was also a soft clatter of dishes being moved and Mamm’s voice being overlaid with the deeper tones of a man.

Katie lay back in bed and smiled. Of course! Mamm had married Jesse Mast last week. The wedding had been held at Bishop Jonas Miller’s place, with all the relatives and friends gathered for the great day. In the evening, the community youth had sung old hymns until after nine o’clock.

Today was the Friday after Thanksgiving, and the whole family was together for the first time since the wedding. They had given Mamm and Jesse some time alone, including Thanksgiving Day. The newlyweds hadn’t gone off on some honeymoon like an En--glisha couple would, so they were entitled to extra consideration—what with children from both sides of the families joining the new union and with a farm to take care of. Katie had also taken the week off from work at Byler’s Store and had spent Thanksgiving Day with her Mennonite friend Margaret.

Mabel, Jesse’s oldest daughter, had thrown a royal fit about being bossed around by Mamm last night when they’d all arrived after supper. And all Mamm had said was “It’s time for bed, children.” But thankfully Mabel had eventually calmed down. She’d been a wild card ever since Mamm had accepted Jesse’s offer of marriage. At first Mabel had refused to even consider Mamm as her new mamm. It wasn’t until Mamm was well into her engagement with Jesse before the feelings between Mamm and Mabel thawed out even a little. And even then Mabel gave in only after her daett brought great pressure to bear on her.

Katie took several deep breaths. The feelings of hope and joy that had been rushing over her at the memory of Mamm and Jesse saying their vows were fast disappearing. She really had to stop letting thoughts of Mabel’s bad attitude affect her this way. After all, this should be a wunderbah new beginning for all of them. For one thing, she would no longer be known as odd widow Emma Raber’s daughter, the strange girl with a yet stranger mamm. The wedding would surely change all of that.

Certainly Jesse and Mamm were persuaded things would turn out well for all of them. The past was behind them. Even Mamm’s past that had caused her to be thought strange by the Amish community—all because of that crush she’d once had on Daniel Kauffman, the most popular boy around when she’d been a teenager. Mamm had held on to her foolish hope that Daniel would return her affections right up to the moment he said his vows with Miriam Esh. Mamm had dashed out of the services and drove her buggy right past the couple and the astonished eyes of the bishop himself. She’d never lived down that action or gotten over the bitterness of the memory of Daniel.

Mamm had frozen her heart. In fact, she’d married Ezra without expecting she would ever again feel love for a man. When her heart had opened to Ezra after their daughter’s birth, it was made all the worse when he’d died suddenly. His early death had driven Mamm back into her shell. That Jesse Mast had been able to break through was a miracle indeed.

Now the joy was coming back. Katie belonged in this family—Jesse’s five children and her. Yah, it was still a little unfamiliar, just like the room she hadn’t recognized this morning. But she was here, and she was part of this family now. True, it didn’t seem quite right that she should have this room that had been Mabel’s. But Jesse had insisted. Katie was the eldest, so she deserved her own room. Katie dared not look at Mabel when he’d made that announcement.

At the wedding, everything had seemed to fall into place. There had been great love flowing from everybody. Mamm’s brothers from Lancaster had all taken time to speak with their niece, and they wished her well in her new life. “You’re a Mast now,” they’d teased, even though she really wasn’t. She was still a Raber. Mamm marrying Jesse wouldn’t change that. Only her own marriage would change her name.

That thought turned her mind to the dashing Ben Stoll, the boy she had her heart set on. He hadn’t paid her any attention at the wedding. He’d taken Tina Hochstetler to the table at the evening hymn singing. Katie had been left with no choice but to sit with her young cousin James, who lived in Lancaster. At sixteen, he was too scared to take a strange girl to the table. She mustn’t think about Ben now, Katie told herself. There were other boys in the world besides him, even though her heart would never be quite convinced of that. Maybe she could get over her crush on him if she tried hard enough. Mamm had found love beyond Daniel Kauffman, had she not?

Right now what she could be thankful for was that all of Jesse’s children—except Mabel—had accepted Mamm and her with open arms. The change had been slow at times. Mabel hadn’t been the only one of Jesse’s children unwilling at first to accept the idea of a new mamm keeping house for them. But they had eventually come around. And Mabel had also—sort of—after she’d been told by her daett to straighten out her attitude and accept Emma as her mamm.

Well, even if Mabel made trouble for her, Katie was still much better off than she had been before. She now knew what it felt like to be included in the Amish community and spoken to as if she were a normal human being. Of course, it hadn’t been just the wedding that had accomplished that. It had really started when she accepted an invitation to a Mennonite youth gathering. There she’d become friends with girls like Margaret Kargel and Sharon Watson. Both girls had come to Mamm’s wedding at her special invitation. They were the only Mennonites there besides Esther Kuntz, who worked at Byler’s Store with Katie.

Neither Jesse nor Mamm had any Mennonites in their immediate family. All the brothers and sisters on both sides of their families were Amish. That had made Katie’s relationship with the Mennonite girls a troublesome matter for Mamm. Jesse too seemed a bit concerned about it, though not as great as Mamm.

She would continue to leave that matter in Da Hah’s hands, Katie decided. Much gut had come out of her friendships with Margaret and Sharon. And Da Hah had blessed them in spite of Mamm’s fears. How that all made sense, Katie still didn’t know. And she might never know. It was enough that both Mamm and she were finding their way out of a life lived alone with closed-off hearts.

Back in the “old” days, Mamm had forbidden Katie from participating in the usual rumspringa the rest of the Amish young people in the community took part in. But to Mamm, rumspringa was a mild offense compared to attending Mennonite youth gatherings. But Katie had continued to go to them. She sighed and threw off the bedcovers. She knew Jesse and Mamm wanted her to stop attending, but she would have to see. Da Hah had been with her so far, and she would keep believing He would be in the future. It was true that living with Jesse and his family was going to be a great joy in its own right. Jesse had told her before Mamm’s wedding, “I love you, Katie. Just as much as I love Mabel and Carolyn or any of my boys. You’ll be living at my house as my own daughter.”

She was so thankful for that, and she appreciated the man from the bottom of her heart. That wasn’t something a person just walked away from. She now had the chance to grow up for a few years with a daett who cared about her. There might now be less reason for her to attend the Mennonite youth gatherings, though she would always keep up her friendships with Margaret and Sharon.

Katie walked over to the unfamiliar dresser. She opened the top drawer and ran her hands around the front edge. She found the matches and lit the kerosene lamp. The flickering flame had just caught when Jesse hollered up the stairs, “Time to get up, boys!”

Katie smiled at the sound. Mamm sometimes yelled up the stairs at home, but she’d never heard a man yell the morning wake-up call. It sounded gut. She pulled on her work dress as footsteps rushed past her bedroom door. She finished putting in the last pin and took the lamp with her as she stepped into the hallway. The light played on the walls as she found her way downstairs. No one was in the living room, so Katie peeked into the kitchen. Mamm had her back turned toward her as she worked over the stove.

“You should have called for me,” Katie told her.

Mamm turned around with a smile on her face. “Gut morning, Katie.”

“Gut morning to you.” Katie set the lamp on the kitchen table. “May I help with breakfast?”

A look of uncertainty replaced Mamm’s smile. “Perhaps we’d better wait until Mabel comes down before we get too far along. I don’t want to take over her kitchen on the first morning she’s here. Not without talking with her about it first.”

Katie sat on a kitchen chair. This was an unexpected turn of events, although she really shouldn’t be surprised now that she thought about it. Mamm had always been in charge at home, but now she was in another person’s kitchen—Mabel’s kitchen. “But you’re Jesse’s wife,” Katie protested. Everything has changed, she wanted to add, but she didn’t. Mamm looked troubled enough without adding undue pressure, and obviously everything hadn’t changed yet. There still would be bumps in the road. She could handle it.

Mamm was trying to smile. “Yah, I know. It takes some getting used to.”

“You should call Mabel,” Katie said. “She shouldn’t sleep in on the first morning we’re all together.”

Mamm lifted her head from the stove, seeming to ponder the suggestion for a moment. Then she went to the bottom of the stairs.

Yell loudly! Katie wanted to say. Wake the girl up!

“Mabel!” Mamm called up the stairs, her voice gentle.

Long moments passed, and Mamm looked ready to call again when the sound of a door opening came from upstairs.

“What do you want?” Mabel’s voice sounded irritated.

“I need your help in the kitchen,” Mamm said.

The door closed upstairs without an answer.

Katie watched Mamm’s face as she turned back and went to the stove.

Mamm glanced at Katie. “Perhaps you shouldn’t be in here when Mabel comes down.”

Katie looked away. Had she heard correctly? Mamm didn’t want her in the kitchen? Mamm must have seen the look on Katie’s face because she came over and gave Katie a quick hug. “It’s not what you think, Katie. I’m not rejecting you. It’s just that we must think about the larger picture right now. Mabel is used to running the household, and we need to give her an opportunity to adjust. It might be difficult enough for her with just me in here. And she might think ill of us if she finds you here too, both of us working in her kitchen. Especially because we didn’t take the time to call her before we started breakfast.”

Katie kept her eyes on the floor. What in the world was she supposed to do now? The pain was throbbing something awful in her heart. She’d never been told to leave the kitchen at home.

“Come on, Katie,” Mamm whispered. “We need to think about how Mabel will see things. If we’re both here, it will look like we’ve taken over.”

“Where am I supposed to go? What am I supposed to do?” Katie got to her feet.

Mamm looked around but didn’t offer a suggestion.

“I’ll slip outside for a bit,” Katie finally said, opening the washroom door. Already she could hear Mabel’s quick footsteps coming down the stairs. Katie walked past the faint outline of the washbasin and towel in the darkness, and then she stepped outside. She stood on the porch with her arms folded and looked up at the splash of stars still visible in the heavens. Toward the east, dawn was breaking, the light still hidden in part by the corner of the house. In the other direction, the barn windows were lit with the glow of gas lanterns as Jesse and his boys worked on their chores. Katie looked at the soft light spreading across the dark lawn for a long time as tears stung her eyes.

Not that long ago she would have been out in the barn with Mamm doing the few chores they had at their place. Their two cows, Molly and Bossy, had been brought over and would be milked along with Jesse’s herd. She wouldn’t be going to the barn again for chores anytime soon. Jesse and his boys would take care of the farm jobs. So much had changed, Katie thought. And so quickly. She hugged herself tightly as she heard faint sounds of laughter coming from inside the house. That was Mamm’s voice laughing with Mabel. They were hitting it off big, apparently. Katie felt shut out. How could this be happening with all the hope that had filled her heart only moments ago? Surely Mamm hadn’t planned on sending her out of the kitchen on the first day they were all here after the wedding. Katie told herself she needed to think the best possible thoughts right now or she was going to burst into tears and totally embarrass herself when she did go back inside.

Was all this part of Da Hah’s way? No doubt He was continuing to lead her on paths she was unfamiliar with. Instead of being bitter, she should be thankful that Mamm was adjusting so well in her new role as Jesse’s wife and as mamm to his five children—especially Mabel. Wasn’t Mabel the hard case? Any progress in that area was all the more reason to give thanks. In the end, Katie decided, she would fit in somewhere. Mamm wouldn’t forget her own daughter.

One thing was for sure. Mamm and she would never slip back into what they used to be. That was in the past—and would remain so. No more feelings of being passed over by everyone or going unnoticed in Amish youth gatherings. Some of that would still happen, but she now had her wonderful memories of the evenings spent with the Mennonite youth to counter the aloneness. Margaret and Sharon had accepted her so quickly, and she’d met many others who were friendly too. Even the Mennonite boys who played beside her at the volleyball games—young men she’d never met before—had taken the time to say a few words of greeting and inquire how she was doing. They were all nice people who had welcomed her into their homes and hearts.

She had them to go back to in addition to whatever new blessings Da Hah had waiting for her with her new, expanded family. Mabel was the thorn with the rose, but Katie didn’t wish to destroy the flower because of the pain that stung her hand. Nee, she would not. She took deep breaths of the cool morning air and gathered her courage to return inside.