An Amish Christmas: December in Lancaster County - Four Amish Christmas Novellasby Beth Wiseman, Barbara Cameron
A Choice To Forgive by Beth Wiseman. After Daniel disappeared that long-ago Christmas Eve, Lydia built a life with his brother. But now she's a widow and Daniel has reappeared, asking for forgiveness. But can she go back to her normal life with her long-lost love as her neighbor?
December in Paradise. A time of hope, redemption, and new life.
A Choice To Forgive by Beth Wiseman. After Daniel disappeared that long-ago Christmas Eve, Lydia built a life with his brother. But now she's a widow and Daniel has reappeared, asking for forgiveness. But can she go back to her normal life with her long-lost love as her neighbor?
A Miracle for Miriam by Kathleen Fuller. Seth is no longer the arrogant young man who shattered Miriam's confidence and broke her heart. But can he convince "plain" Miriam that she is truly beautiful to him?
One Child by Barbara Cameron. The birth of one child forever changed the world two thousand years ago. On a snowy Christmas night in Lancaster County, another child changes the world for two very different couples.
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An Amish ChristmasDecember in Lancaster County
By Beth Wiseman Kathleen Fuller Barbara Cameron Kelly Long
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2010 Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Barbara Cameron, and Kelly Long
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFive years later
Seth lived with pain every day. At one time he'd tried to blame God for what had happened, but he knew that wasn't honest. He had no one to blame but himself.
He winced as he pulled on his trousers, his movements awkward. Still, just as he did each day, he silently gave thanks to Father God. If people had said to him even six months ago that he would be grateful to feel pain, that he would praise the Lord for each twinge and ache, he would have laughed in their faces. But today, the ever-present soreness reminded him that he was lucky to be alive.
He reached for his walking stick—plain, unadorned, but stained and lacquered to a smooth, shiny finish. His older brother, Noah, had made it for him shortly after the accident. The top of the stick was straight, so he couldn't call it a cane. Neither was it overly long, like a traditional walking stick. The knob at the top reached him at hip level, giving him the perfect amount of support without being unwieldy.
When he first saw the stick, he'd wanted to throw it at his brother. Now the gift had become indispensable.
Seth turned at a loud knock at his door. "What?"
"Caleb Esh is here." His father's gruff voice penetrated the wooden door. "You ready?"
Hearing his daed's voice gave Seth pause. Considering their strained relationship, he was surprised his father had come upstairs to fetch him.
"Ya," Seth replied, reaching for his black felt hat, the one he usually wore in cold weather. He'd pick up his coat on the way out. "Tell Caleb I'll be right down." He heard the thudding of his father's work boots against the wood floorboards as Melvin Fisher left to deliver Seth's message.
Seth placed his hand on the knob of the door and started to turn it, then stopped. Before the accident he'd never been nervous about going out. But tonight was different. The Christmas sing at the Lapps' home was his first social outing in six months, a time span unheard-of for him. For the last three years, since he'd turned sixteen, going out had been a big part of his life. Not that he had wasted his time on the Amish social circuit. Frolics and singings and other gatherings had been too tame and too lame. Seth was too cool for that, choosing instead to hang with Englisch friends. When he was with them he drank. He smoked.
He learned to drive a car.
He ran his fingers over the thin ridge of scar tissue that started from his left temple and cut a straight line to the top of his jaw. The facial cut had healed faster than his leg, and far more quickly than his pride.
Shaking off the raw memories, he twisted the brass knob and opened the door. He'd learned some hard lessons that night six months ago, and they had shaped him into a new man. But he couldn't hide here forever, surrounded by his family. Not only had they accepted what had happened; they'd forgiven him too.
Perhaps not everyone would show him such mercy.
He ignored the sudden stab of low confidence and headed down the stairs, determined to renew the old acquaintances he had abandoned in favor of the outside world.
* * *
"I don't understand why you're helping me with this boring task when you could be at the Lapps', having a good time."
Miriam finished putting the plastic binding on a cookbook and looked into her older sister's weary face. The exhaustion she saw there explained why she chose to spend Sunday night helping her sister Lydia. But she would never say so aloud. Since the death of Lydia's husband two years ago, she'd had enough to fret over without worrying about how tired she looked.
"I like helping you," Miriam said, a little too brightly. "I can't think of a better way to spend my evening than with my sister and my niece and nephews."
"I'd believe you, except the kinder aren't even here right now." Lydia smirked. "The boys are spending the night with the Yoders, and Anna Marie is at the Christmas sing, where you should be."
She had heard her niece use the term on occasion, and Miriam thought it fit her current situation. Pushing up her glasses, she glanced down at the cookbook, pretending to be engrossed in the artwork on the shiny cover.
"You can ignore me all you want, Miriam, but I know the real reason you're here." Lydia picked up her mug of lukewarm coffee, took a sip, then frowned. Rising from the table in the middle of her kitchen, she walked over to the stove, opened up the percolator, and started a fresh pot.
Lydia's bait was too tempting to ignore. Miriam's gaze shot up, and she watched her sister remove the lid from the metal coffeepot.
"I already told you why I'm here," she said.
"You told me what you wanted me to hear, not the real reason." Lydia added fragrant coffee grounds to the basket, then poured water over them and put the pot on the stove. Within minutes the kitchen filled with the coffee's comforting aroma.
"There's no other reason, Lydia." Miriam reached for an unbound cookbook. "Besides, if I weren't here, how would you get all this done?"
"I'd manage, God willing." She sat back down at the table. "Not that I don't appreciate all the help you've given me. But you're spending too much time either here or at the quilt shop. You're nineteen years old, Miriam. You should be enjoying life."
"I enjoy life. I like my job, and I have my quilting." She started inserting the binder into the square holes on the left margin of the loose pages.
"But what about your friends?"
"I have plenty of friends. A lot of them are just as busy as I am."
"What about a boyfriend?" Lydia leaned forward, her gaze steady and serious.
"What about Daniel?" Miriam said, eager to switch their conversation to something else. She suspected that Daniel Smucker was the main reason for Lydia's singular focus tonight. Since her late husband's brother had returned to Paradise, her normally steadfast sister had been out of sorts.
Lydia averted her gaze, but only for a moment. "I'm not talking about me and Daniel."
"You and Daniel?" Miriam lifted a brow. "What about you and Daniel?"
"There is no 'me and Daniel'."
"But you just said–"
"Stop changing the subject." Lydia sat up straight in her chair and folded her hands on the table. "Miriam, it's time you started thinking about your future. There are several available young men in the community. Isn't there at least one you're interested in?"
At her sister's last question, Miriam's thumb slipped and slid against the sharp edge of the binder, hard enough to draw blood. She put her thumb to her mouth.
Concern suddenly etched Lydia's features. "Do you need a bandage?"
Miriam looked at her hand. The cut was tiny, negligible actually. She shook her head and rose from her chair. "I'm fine. I'll just give it a quick wash."
As she stood over the sink and lathered her hands with Lydia's homemade lavender soap, Miriam stared out of the window into the darkness of the night. A chill suddenly flowed through her, as if the cold outside air had somehow seeped through the clear glass pane and entered her body. Lydia didn't want to talk about Daniel, and Miriam certainly didn't want to talk about men, so she wished her sister would drop the topic altogether.
At nineteen Miriam was old enough to marry. Several of her schoolmates had already married or had steady beaus. But she remained single. She'd learned her lesson a long time ago. She wasn't about to open herself to ridicule again. Although she was expected to get married and raise a family, she wasn't in any hurry to do so. At least she tried to tell herself that.
Trouble was, her heart refused to cooperate. At times she had to admit she was lonely, especially when she saw other young couples together, enjoying each other's company. So she made sure not to put herself in situations where she would be reminded of what she didn't have.
"Miriam? Are you all right?"
Lydia's voice broke into her thoughts. Quickly Miriam rinsed and dried her hands, then went back to the table and delved into her work.
A few moments later Lydia placed her hand on Miriam's forearm. "That's enough. I can get the rest. You go on and have a good time."
"Lydia, I already said I'm not going."
"And I said you are. This is the last singing before Christmas, and you don't want to miss that. Go home and put on a fresh dress. I'm sure Pop won't mind dropping you off at the Lapps', and Anna Marie can bring you back home." As if to make sure Miriam would follow orders, Lydia gathered the cookbooks and binders and carried them into the next room.
Miriam frowned. The last thing she wanted to see were boys and girls flirting with each other as they played the awkward and thrilling game of courtship. Or worse, she'd be subjected to all the young people who had already found someone to love, or at least to like well enough to date.
She planted herself in the chair. She was nineteen years old, not a little girl. Her sister couldn't force her. Could she?
Lydia came back into the room, glanced at Miriam, and grimaced. "I can see this is going to be harder than I thought." She left abruptly, and returned a moment later with her black winter cloak slung over one arm. She adjusted the black bonnet on her head with the opposite hand.
"Where are you going?" Miriam asked.
"Drastic times call for drastic measures." She stood in front of Miriam, hands firmly planted on her hips. "I'll take you to the singing tonight."
"You can't. Your kind has your buggy, remember?"
"Ya, but that doesn't mean I can't drive yours. I'll drop you off, then pick you up in a couple of hours. Then you can go home to Daed and Mamm, or you can spend the night here. You know we always love having you."
A scowl tugged at Miriam's mouth. She was being coerced. "You say you love having me, but you want me to leave."
Lydia nodded, her expression resolute. "Ya, I do. Just know that I'm doing this for your own good. Now, are you coming, or do I have to physically force you?"
Miriam didn't doubt her for a minute. Although Lydia was a couple inches shorter than Miriam, when she set her mind on a goal, nothing would keep her from achieving it. Even if it meant making her younger sister do something she didn't want to do.
Trapped, Miriam slowly stood. "You said I needed a fresh dress."
"You look fine."
Miriam doubted that. "Let me at least freshen up in the bathroom before we go."
"Ya, but don't dally. The singing has already started. You're missing all the fun!"
Miriam headed for the bathroom, more than a little irritated. Why couldn't Lydia mind her own business? Entering the small room, she closed the door and turned on the battery-operated lamp on the vanity. As with all the rooms in Lydia's house, this one had also been adorned with Christmas decorations. An evergreen-scented candle burned next to the lamp, filling the small space with its fresh fragrance. A pine bough sporting a bright red bow perched above the small mirror over the sink. Nothing fancy, but a festive touch.
The light was a bit on the dim side, but she could see her reflection clearly enough. Plain, plain, plain. A stab of insecurity hit her. While she lived among a people who valued simplicity and plainness, there was such a thing as being too nondescript. She knew that firsthand.
There was nothing pretty, nothing extraordinary, nothing striking about her appearance. Her hair and eyes were the shade of brown mud while her complexion was fair, even stark. Small, wire-framed glasses with round lenses did little to enhance her features, while her chin angled to a point. Unlike her sisters, Miriam had no curves, and her dress hung loosely on her boyish frame. A sharp chin, lean hips, and a tiny bosom. No wonder men weren't falling at her feet.
She knew that inner beauty was more important than a pretty face or appealing figure. She also knew that the Lord valued the heart, not the shell that protected it. Still, that didn't keep her from secretly longing for at least one attractive physical quality. Seth Fisher's words were still true: she was a four-eyed beanpole.
Closing her eyes against the insult ricocheting in her brain, she fought the humiliation and resentment pooling in her stomach, unabated by time. Her path hadn't crossed Seth's since they left school, and that had helped—at least she hadn't been constantly reminded of how ugly he thought she was. He had turned into a wild boy and run around with a bunch of Englisch people, constantly getting into trouble. A few months ago he fell into more trouble than anyone would have thought, and that was the last she'd heard of him. While she had never wished him any harm, it would suit her just fine if she never saw him again.
Opening her eyes, she leaned over the sink and splashed some cold water on her cheeks. She mentally pushed the past away as she stood up, adjusting the hairpins affixed to her kapp. Staring into the mirror, she forced a smile. She could do this. She could do anything for a couple of hours.
Opening the door, she thought of the one good thing about attending the singing, and that put a genuine smile on her face. At least he wouldn't be there. She wouldn't have to worry about Seth Fisher ruining her night.
Chapter Two"Ach, what's with that buggy moving so slow?" Caleb tapped his foot in a rapid staccato rhythm against the floor of his buggy as he pulled on the reins. His horse slowed almost to a standstill as they pulled up to the modest white house at the end of the street.
"You sound like an Englisch driver," Seth remarked, shifting in his seat. Sitting in one position for very long still made his leg ache. The physical therapist who had helped him regain his motion said that the pain would subside, but it would take time.
Patience—another hard lesson learned.
"Ya, and they got a right to complain if they get behind someone like this," Caleb said. "We're running late as it is."
"Nee, it's not your fault. Well, it is, but I don't blame you. I blame this!" Caleb pointed as the buggy made a left turn into a driveway. "Great. He's also going to the Lapps'. It'll probably take him forever to find a place to park."
But instead of parking, the buggy pulled to a stop just as Caleb's horse drew up behind it. In addition to their large circular driveway, the Lapps had another driveway that split off from the main one, which led to the barn in the back. There was ample parking there, so Seth wasn't sure why Caleb was concerned.
The passenger door opened, and a woman stepped out wearing a black cloak, her face obscured by a bonnet. She walked around the back of the buggy and headed toward the Lapp house.
"Finally." Caleb tapped the reins on the flanks of his horse as the buggy in front of them moved, then turned around in the driveway.
In the dim light of dusk Seth could see the driver was another woman.
"Would have been easier if she had dropped her off at the road." Caleb maneuvered his buggy into an empty space by the barn. "And faster."
Seth regarded his friend. "Why are you in such a hurry?" As soon as he asked the question, he knew the answer. "That's right. Mary Lapp."
Caleb shrugged. "Maybe."
Seth knew that was all he would get out of his friend, and he was fine with that. He was glad his first outing would be here. The Lapps were a good family, Mary included. She had always been a nice girl, friendly to all and a stranger to none. If anyone would help him not feel out of place, it would be Mary. Besides Caleb, of course. He was the one Amish friend Seth had kept in touch with during his wild years, and one of the few to visit him when he came home from the hospital.
Caleb jumped out of the buggy, and envy stabbed at Seth. He swiveled in the seat as he opened the door, then slid to the edge and grabbed his walking stick. By the time Caleb had tethered his horse, Seth had just gotten out of the buggy.
"Need some help?" Caleb asked.
"Nee. I've got it." Leaning on his stick, Seth shut the door behind him and turned around. "Go ahead and go inside. Don't want to slow you down."
Seth shook his head. "I know how eager you are to see Mary—"
"I never said that."
"You didn't have to. Now, go."
Caleb hesitated again, then nodded and walked to the house, taking long strides. Again jealousy came to the fore, but Seth ignored it. He was determined to walk one day unassisted, no matter how long it took. He would accomplish that by continuing the exercises his therapist had given him, even though they were painful.
Seth hobbled along until he reached the front door. He knocked out of politeness, though he had been to the Lapps' many times as a child.
Mary's mother, Katherine, opened the door. She stood still for a moment as she looked at Seth's face, then at his walking stick, then back up until her gaze focused on his scar.
"Gut-n-Owed," Seth said, breaking the silence.
She blinked a couple times, then grinned. "Seth Fisher! I'm so glad to see you."
His earlier nervousness dimmed a little at the warm welcome. "Danki, Frau Lapp."
"Come in, come in. Everyone's downstairs. I'm sure they'll be happy you came." She stepped aside, and Seth entered through the doorway, then turned and faced her, inhaling the sweet scent of cinnamon that wafted through the room.
He knew the brighter light in the Lapps' front room made his scar more pronounced, and that was evident by the way Frau Lapp was looking at him. A mixture of pity and curiosity filled her eyes, but for only a moment.
Excerpted from An Amish Christmas by Beth Wiseman Kathleen Fuller Barbara Cameron Kelly Long Copyright © 2010 by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Barbara Cameron, and Kelly Long. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Barbara Cameron is the author of fifteen novels and three nationally televised movies (HBO), as well as a recipient of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart. Her Amish stories are inspired by her visits to Lancaster Co., PA.
Beth Wiseman is hailed as a top voice in Amish fiction. She is the author of numerous bestsellers including the Daughters of the Promise series and the Land of Canaan series. She and her family live in Texas.
Kathleen Fuller is the author of the bestselling novel A Man of His Word and An Honest Love. When she's not writing, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and farm pets.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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An Amish Christmas is three novellas, all set in Paradise (town in Pennsylvania). They're interconnected (characters from one pop up in the other two) but also standalones so if for whatever reason you don't read them all at once, you can follow each one without remembering the other two. (But good luck not reading them all at once.) The three stories are all really good, but I think my favorite was A Choice to Forgive (the one by Beth Wiseman). But that in no way indicates that I didn't love A Miracle for Miriam (Kathleen Fuller) and One Child (Barbara Cameron), too. The book opens with A Miracle for Miriam, which is about a woman with incredibly low self-esteem who finds herself being courted by Seth. In school, Seth was the most popular boy and he broke Miriam's heart. But now he's older and wiser and wants to make it up to her. But can she trust him? (And, more importantly, should she?) Then there's A Choice to Forgive. Lydia is a young widow with three children. Her dead husband is the brother of her first love (Daniel), who broke her heart when he vanished on Christmas. Except now he's back and he wants to be re-baptized into the faith. He clearly still likes Lydia, but can she get over her hurt (and feeling like she's betraying her husband by wanting his brother)? And finally One Child. Sarah and her husband are still grieving the baby they lost over Christmas a year ago. Then, during a really bad blizzard, a very pregnant Englisch woman and her husband show up. They had a car accident and need somewhere to stay. Sarah has to help a woman with the only thing she wants and lacks: a baby. This book also has discussion questions and recipes. This would be an excellent stocking stuffer for a girlfriend of yours who reads. (Especially if she has a fascination with the Amish, which I think most of us do. Or is that just me?)
The first story in the collection is A Miracle for Miriam by one of my favorite authors, Kathleen Fuller. As a child, Miriam had a pretty intense case of puppy love for Seth. A cruel joke on the playground shatters her confidence but not her feelings. Years later Seth is in a terrible accident and returns to the simple life in the Amish community after withdrawing into himself for a while. He finally notices that plain little Miriam has grown up into a strong, lovely, helpful and hardworking Amish woman...can he repair the hurt feelings from long ago and start a new life with her? This was a terrific story and one of my two favorites from the book. A Choice to Forgive by Beth Wiseman is the story of Lydia who's husband of 15 years dies suddenly. To add to her sadness and confusion during a very troubling time her first love, Daniel, has returned to their Amish community after disappearing on Christmas Eve nearly 16 years before. As an added twist, Daniel is also the brother of Lydia's deceased husband. Can Lydia pick up the pieces and go on with her life, even with her lost love as her neighbor? In Barbara Cameron's terrific tale One Child a Christmas Eve birth will spell remarkable changes for two very different Lancaster County couples...what's the mystery? Why the changes? You HAVE to read this story to find out. It had me riveted and is my second favorite from this fabulous collection. Lastly, in Kelly Long's Christmas Cradles spirited and sprightly Anna Stolis takes over for her aunt in the role of midwife on Christmas night. Throughout the night more than one baby is born, several gorgeous Amish quilts take the stage and, surprise of surprises, the taciturn Asa Lapp, a man with a story of his own, helps her out. Will Christmas give these two plain folk a present they didn't bargain for? In all I give this fabulous collection 5 stars. It is very readable and brought me endless joy during an already joyous season. A definite must read and one you'll want to keep in your Christmas collection to re-read each year during the Christmas season.
Actually, I didn't know much about the Amish people and their lifestyles until I read this book. They live without electricity, without technology, TV, internet, etc. unlike the modern city people. They are against using them, but they are happy with this. In "An Amish Christmas", which consists of four novellas written by different authors, you will find love of people as the main theme, but this love is told in a God-oriented and religious way through the light of Bible. The book tells how a good man should be: humble, grateful, faithful, nice, kind, patient, valuing inner beauty... Throughout the book, these virtues are emphasized. Although the first three novellas were written by different authours, they have a common feature; the characters of the stories. The characters know each other. For example, when you read any novella, you realize that the main character is a relative or friend of the main character of the other novella. I found this very interesting. When you read the book, you'll see that the core of the book is to believe in God to endure all the pains of life in any condition. Despite being not a very exciting and escapist book (except "One Child", where I was curious to know how the woman would survive the birth at home), and although it took a long time for me to read it, I generally like the characters inside. In the book, there are some "different" words that the Amish people use, and at the beginning, you'll find a glossary for them. Also, at the end of the book, there are some delicious Amish recipes you can cook after reading this nice book. * I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
I really enjoyed this book and lent it to my mom and sisters who agreed! Its warm and cozy and the perfect book to curl up an read on a cold winter day! The mix of authors was interesting.
This book is a great read. If you like happy endings.
Each novelette was a story of love and forgiveness.
Good fiction quick read.
"A Miracle for Miriam" by Kathleen Fuller - This was a sweet story with a strong message. Forgiveness and self-worth are the main themes throughout this story and the author does an excellent job of getting them across. The characters are well-written and you can really see the changes in them in such a short story. Overall, I enjoyed this novella and will definitely read more by Kathleen! "A Choice to Forgive" by Beth Wiseman - This book is all about forgiveness. Beth Wiseman does a fantastic job of weaving forgiveness throughout the entire story. Daniel and Lydia are great characters with a heavy past to overcome. I enjoyed the stories and the obstacles the author put in their places for them to overcome. It kept the story moving in a swift pace. Overall, it was well written story that I thoroughly enjoyed. "One Child" by Barbara Cameron - What a powerful novella that shows how God really does work in mysterious ways. David and Sarah are grieving. On Christmas night, a stranger knocks on their door seeking shelter for him and his pregnant wife. Both families, in their own ways, help comfort and support each other. This was an excellent book and I will definitely be reading more by Barbara Cameron! "Christmas Cradles" by Kelly Long - Do you believe in love at first sight? This is a heartwarming novella about second chances, overcoming shame, and accepting the gift the Lord has given. I enjoyed the sparks and attraction between Asa and Anna. The description of the storm made me want to cozy up with a blanket by the fire. I think this was my favorite story of the four. Overall, I really enjoyed this collection of novellas and I look forward to reading An Amish Second Christmas soon!
Miriam and seth r the main characters
I am into everything Amish. I enjoyed these books very much. Although I was a bit confused when I started to read the second book, I soon realized that all three books are about the same family, just different pointsf view and different story lines. I found this story to be easy to read and I couldn't tear myself away. I highly recommend this book!!!
Three wonderful Amish stories. Very enjoyable !!!
Heart warming stories. I live in Lancaster County, PA so I can definitely relate to these short stories
I enjoyed visiting with the Amazing Amish People who enjoy life and celebrate it to its fullest. I was drawn into the simple life style, even if I would have problems living without Electricity and cars and English ways of life. I revisited childhood memories of the wonderful sound and smells of this way of life. Thanks for a job well done