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An Amish Miracle
By Mary Ellis, Ruth Reid, Beth Wiseman
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Mary Ellis, Ruth Reid, Elizabeth Wiseman Mackey
All rights reserved.
Stephen Bowman switched off the generator, swiped his brow with a handkerchief, and straightened his spine. Not even nine o'clock and the July day was already sweltering.
Since dawn he had milked, fed, and watered the animals and turned them out to pasture. The milk was now stored in the cooling room, awaiting pickup, and he was ready for breakfast.
He headed for the house, his stomach rumbling. What might his fraa have made this morning? Buttermilk pancakes swimming in maple syrup? A mushroom omelet covered with melted cheddar? Maybe a thick slab of ham with an over-easy egg on the side?
He entered the kitchen to find a box of cornflakes on the table, along with a banana. The pot of coffee had grown cold on the stove.
After thirteen years, he knew his fraa well. Hope usually only served a cold breakfast when pressed for time or when—
Stephen bolted toward the front room. "Hope?"
His wife sat in the rocking chair with her sewing basket at her feet. Sweat beaded at her hairline. The tiny white kapp she'd been crocheting lay abandoned in her lap.
"When did the contractions start?" He tried to keep his voice calm so as not to frighten his daughters. The three girls sat on the couch staring at their mother and holding hands.
Hope said nothing for at least half a minute. Then she spoke through gritted teeth. "A few ... hours ago."
"Why didn't you send Josie to the milking parlor for me?" His glance flickered to his eldest dochder, who peered up at him through thick lashes.
"Thought I had plenty of time to finish this kapp and pair of booties." Her speech improved as the contraction loosened.
"You know what the doctor said. Things move along faster with each new bundle of Bowman joy." Stephen chucked his youngest child under the chin. Little Greta's green eyes sparkled as she giggled.
"True enough, but I still thought I had enough time. No sense dragging Jane Beachy out too soon." Hope's voice returned to normal, and her fingers released their grip on the chair. "She has her own family to tend."
"Midwives are accustomed to being called out at all hours of the day or night. At least she's not sleeping at this hour. I'll leave now to fetch her."
"May I ride with you, Daed?" asked Josie. She scrambled from her position on the couch to land on the floor near Hope's feet. "I could help Jane carry in things."
"Nee." Stephen gave her kapp ribbon a pull. "You stay and help mamm get things ready." He felt himself blush. Discussing babies-on-the-way was not a proper topic between father and daughter. "You understand God is bringing us another boppli?" He peered at one pair of rounded eyes after another.
"Of course I do," she said, as though mildly insulted.
"Ya," replied the younger two, heads nodding. "Mamm said so. Bruder this time?" asked seven-year-old Emily.
"We'll soon find out." He buzzed a kiss across his wife's kapp. "I'm off. Put down your sewing, fraa. I believe you should start moving in the direction of our bedroom. But don't pick up a paintbrush to give the kitchen a fresh coat."
Stephen smiled at the memory of a woman in their district who decided to paint a room during labor. Things happened so fast she gave birth in their bathtub, assisted solely by her eldest daughter. By the time the midwife arrived, the mother had been bathed and was resting comfortably with her new son sleeping in the crook of her arm.
Suddenly, Hope grabbed his sleeve, her brown eyes huge. "I've prayed all morning for this one to be a boy." She turned her face up to him.
Stephen patted her hand. "We shall be grateful for another healthy child, whether boy or girl." He gazed at his family, then strode from the room. Within minutes Stephen hitched his fastest gelding to the buggy and raced down their lane. Not much traffic crowded the country roads, no speeding cars that could panic a skittish horse. And so far, no buses with tourists leaning out of windows snapping pictures.
He used the time to say his prayers and count his blessings. God had smiled upon the Bowman family. His wife and daughters were healthy; he'd inherited a fertile, productive farm from his father, and his large herd of Holstein cows supplied an abundance of milk. Even the new bulls had drawn decent prices from the veal producers, providing necessary cash to pay taxes, and medical bills, and to buy diesel fuel.
At thirty-five, Stephen Bowman was content.
But a son would be nice.
It would be good to have help with the harder farm chores. Although Josie could already plant a straight row of corn and pick more than her weight in beans in a day, he didn't want women riding dangerous equipment. Some chores like plowing, harrowing, and harvesting remained men's work. Growing up, he'd witnessed firsthand his father's challenge of having only one son. His sisters eventually married and moved to other parts of Lancaster County or to different states altogether. Stephen remained on the farm helping his daed until a heart attack took him to the gates of heaven.
Would an early death be his destiny? Only God knew the future, and whether this coming child would be another girl. He didn't feel comfortable praying for one over the other.
"Still, a son would be nice, Lord."
He whispered the words against his better judgment and added a hasty, "But Thy will be done."
Turning into the Beachy yard, a red-cheeked Nathan Beachy hurried to greet him. "Come for Jane, ya?" Nathan shielded his eyes from the glare of a hot July sun.
"We'd be obliged if Jane could lend a hand, if she's not too busy." Both men spoke in even tones as they marched quickly toward the house.
"Fraa?" called Nathan. "Stephen Bowman has come." They waited less than a minute before the experienced midwife bustled down the stairs into the kitchen.
She carried her black satchel, a diaper bag, and a sleeping infant. "Time has come, then." Jane issued a statement rather than asked a question. "Our kinner are dressed and fed," she said to Nathan. "They should be fine while you're in the fields since the oldest aren't back to school yet." A shy teenager peeked around her mamm. "No telling when I'll be home." Jane kissed his cheek, then hurried out the door with Stephen at her heels. Flanked by his brood, Nathan remained on the porch, waving.
"Might be home sooner than you think," murmured Stephen once they'd climbed into his buggy. With another man within earshot, it would have been embarrassing, but he didn't mind discussing the delicate topic with a professional midwife.
Jane pivoted toward him. "Why? How far along is she?"
Stephen shook the reins and released the brake. "Can't say in terms of minutes between pains, but from what I could gather, I should have fetched you at first light, if not sooner."
The midwife picked up the seldom-used crop and slapped it lightly on the horse's broad back. "Git up, there," she commanded. "Save the meandering for the trip back. We've got a boppli on the way!"
Stephen Bowman felt his excitement ratchet up a notch to match her enthusiasm. Another one of God's miracles was about to take place, right in his own family.
* * *
Hope experienced a moment of panic when the door closed behind Stephen. She was alone with three little ones with a fourth about to make a grand entrance.
I will never leave you or forsake you.
God's promise gave her strength as she struggled to her feet and dropped her crocheting into the basket.
"Come, Josie, we must prepare. Emily, Greta, I want you to stay in your room. You may play or read, but do not come downstairs until Josie calls you." Hope touched each of their cheeks tenderly. "Mamm will be fine."
Emily hugged her around the waist, then took Greta's hand and scampered up the steps. Greta glanced back at Hope but left obediently with her sister.
"What should I do?" asked Josie. Her dark eyes glowed with the eagerness of new responsibility. At twelve, the girl was ready for all but the most delicate portion of childbirth.
"Fill both kettles and the soup pot with water. Then bring them to a low boil. Jane will need plenty of warm water to bathe the boppli and me." She walked gingerly toward their ground-floor bedroom, her belly feeling impossibly heavy. "First, help me put the rubber sheet on the bed and set out the towels. And we'll need blankets to keep the baby warm. Jane will bring whatever else is needed."
By the time the next contraction stole her breath, the birthing room was ready. Josie went to prepare the kitchen while Hope climbed into bed, covering herself with their oldest sheet. "Won't be long now, Lord," she whispered.
Hope squeezed her eyes shut and concentrated on not screaming as a contraction hit. Just when she was about to call Josie to help, Jane Beachy bustled into the room, her sleeves rolled up and her hands still wet from scrubbing. A grin stretched across her face.
"Did you figure to pull this off alone to save yourself my fee?" Jane said. "Nothing doing, Hope Bowman. Nathan and I plan to use that money to visit Paris, France, in the springtime." She pulled long gloves up to her elbows.
The joke distracted Hope from counting breaths. "Please don't make me laugh until this is said and done." Josie retreated from the room, and Hope positioned herself for examination.
"From the looks of things, you won't have to wait long to appreciate my sense of humor." Jane rushed to prepare for the final stage. "You cut this one a bit close to the wire. Did you think that I charged by the hour?"
Her quip almost sent Hope over the edge. She had to wait several minutes to retort. "Remind me to come to the birth of your next baby. Between now and then I will save up a bag of jokes."
And so, together the two longtime friends brought a life into the world. The newest little girl to the Lancaster Amish community.
Hope swallowed down an initial pang of disappointment when Jane announced, "Looks like we have a fourth daughter for the Bowman family. All ten fingers and toes with plenty of hair—she looks perfect to me." A loud wail signaled a strong pair of lungs as well. "I'll get her cleaned up and warm and be back in a jiffy."
Jane disappeared from the bedroom, leaving Hope alone. "Thank You, Lord," she whispered, "for the smooth delivery and another healthy child." She didn't put words to her dissatisfaction and hoped God would overlook her discontent.
This is nobody's fault but mine.
Jane bathed Hope and helped her into a fresh nightgown, then she took the baby into the kitchen to examine, weigh, and bundle into a warm quilt. Hope could hear Jane instructing Stephen and Josie on their tasks for the next few days. When she returned to the bedroom, Hope reached for her hand, forcing a smile. "Danki for all you've done."
"All in a good day's work." Jane pushed damp hair off the new mother's forehead. "You've been blessed, Hope Bowman."
"Ya, but not as much as you and Nathan, with three sons." The words escaped Hope's mouth before she could stop herself. She felt a hot flush rise up her neck into her face.
Jane bundled the laundry and tidied the bedroom. "Ya, sons are helpful, but who's to say what your next one will be? The next dozen or so might be boys." She winked and plumped an extra pillow behind Hope's back.
Hope pressed a palm on her still-swollen belly. "Let's not talk about the next dozen quite so soon."
"I'll be back tomorrow to check on you. The paperwork has been filled out except for the baby's name." In a rare display of affection, Jane leaned over and kissed Hope's cheek. "You and Stephen put your heads together and come up with something gut." Then she bustled from the room.
But Hope had no chance to wallow in self-pity. Just as she finished feeding her infant, her best friend, Rosa Hostetler, marched into the room with a broad smile stretched across her face. "I heard from Jane Beachy on her way home you might have someone new to show off."
"Goodness, word travels fast." Hope pulled back the coverlet to reveal a pink face. "Meet the youngest Bowman dochder." She lifted the baby for inspection.
"May I hold her? Oh, she's just perfect. I'll bet she'll be a cheerful boppli too." She took the infant in her arms and strolled around the room explaining doors, windows, and vases of flowers as though the newborn were ready for language instruction.
"Let that boppli sleep. You can start the lessons next week." Throughout Rosa's fussing, the littlest Bowman slumbered peacefully.
"What do you suppose you'll call her?"
Hope's smile faded. "I'd selected David or Joseph—names of strength and fortitude. I was so sure this one would be a boy." Unbidden, tears streamed down her face.
"Ach, the next one will be." Rosa kissed the infant before settling her into the crook of Hope's arm.
As Hope tucked the blanket beneath the tiny chin, her tears fell unchecked. "You don't understand," she whispered. "There'll be no boys for me—not after what I have done." The words strangled in her throat. "God is punishing me just as He punishes all who disobey Him."
Rosa perched on the edge of the bed. "I doubt He would punish a sixteen-year-old girl. You had no choice." She slipped an arm around her friend's shoulder.
Hope shook her head violently. "We always have a choice. I could have refused. I could have run away. Now, because of my shame, I'll never give Stephen a son."
"Hush," Rosa demanded. "Stop those tears. You don't know what God has planned. No more worrying. You must have faith."
Faith. Hope looked into Rosa's eyes. The woman had lost so much. She had been married for five years without the blessing of a child. And then, two years ago her husband, Uriah, had died and left her alone. Alone and struggling, both financially and emotionally.
And yet here she was talking to her best friend about faith. About trusting God, no matter what the circumstances. If Rosa could have faith, Hope certainly could.
She nodded and swallowed hard. "You're right. There's no place for wallowing in self-pity. You've given me the perfect name for our new little one—Faith." She brushed a kiss across the downy head. "And faith is what I shall have."
Within two days Hope returned to most of her housewife duties. Stephen would still carry heavy cases of canning jars up from the cellar, and Josie did most of the weeding and harvesting in the garden, but Hope resumed cooking, cleaning, and ironing for her family. Rosa offered to come over each laundry day for the next month, and Hope's sister Rebecca volunteered to stay for several weeks—an offer Hope declined.
Baby Faith was thriving. Stephen loved the name, so when the midwife returned the next day, she completed the birth certificate. One week later, on a morning sunny and mild, Hope fixed a plate of sandwiches for Stephen's lunch, packed her four daughters into the buggy, and drove to her mamm's farm, a dozen miles away.
Hope spotted her mother near the barn. "Guder mariye," she called. "I brought the newest Bowman to see you."
Mamm shifted the basket of tomatoes to her other hand and hobbled toward the buggy as fast as her bad knees would allow. "Good morning to you. I wondered when I'd see my new kinskind." She paused with a hand on her hip as the Bowman daughters sprang from the buggy. "If you didn't show up by noon, I would have told Silas to hitch the team to go to you. I started to worry something was wrong." Martha handed the basket to Emily and took hold of Josie's arm for support. Together they moved slowly toward the house.
"Everything went smoothly, no problems. And here is little Faith." Hope shifted the baby closer and peeled back the cover.
Martha chuckled. "Look at those eyelashes. This one will be a beauty like the other three." She patted the top of Greta's head. "Faith is a gut name too—none in the family yet and we're up to fourteen kinskinner."
A grimace pinched her features "Let's go inside. I'm ready for a cup of coffee."
Hope prodded Emily and Greta down the path. "Your knees acting up again?"
Martha waited until they were in the kitchen to reply. "Ya, I knelt in the garden yesterday. Even though I used that foam pad you bought, it still was a mistake. When I couldn't get up, your daed had to pull me to my feet. But I couldn't bear to leave plump, ripe vegetables hanging on the ground."
"Folks drop by often to visit. Send somebody young out to finish the rows." Hope placed the coffeepot on the burner to reheat while Josie set out cups, milk, sugar, and a plate of chocolate chip cookies.
"Suppose that's what I should do, but I hate not keeping up with my own chores." She angled a grin at Josie. "Danki, dear heart. Now let me hold that boppli; I've waited long enough."
Martha performed her own inspection of Faith, making sure all appendages were accounted for. "I'm your Grossmammi Klobentz," she whispered into the baby's ear. "And it will be my pleasure to spoil you terribly." She turned back to Hope. "She's on the thin side, but as long as she nurses well, that should take care of itself. God bless you, Faith Bowman." She kissed the tiny nose lightly, then settled her in the baby carrier they'd brought in. "How did Stephen take the news?" Martha asked as Faith drifted back to sleep.
Hope shifted on her feet. "What news?"
Martha frowned. "That he's got another girl and no sons yet." She held her cup with gnarled fingers.
Excerpted from An Amish Miracle by Mary Ellis, Ruth Reid, Beth Wiseman. Copyright © 2013 Mary Ellis, Ruth Reid, Elizabeth Wiseman Mackey. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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