Can Anna Mae heed God’s call on her life, even if it means leaving behind everything she knows . . . and everyone she loves?
Ever since Anna Mae’s childhood friend Jeremiah left their Amish community, she’s questioned her own place in the Amish world. The Amish life feels as if it’s closing in on her, and with her mother trying to set her up with potential suitors, Anna Mae feels trapped in a life she’s not sure she wants anymore.
But she’s never told anyone that she longs for a tiny taste of freedom—freedom that could be very costly.
When Jeremiah suddenly reappears in Middlefield to help his mentor, Yankee veterinarian Dr. Miller, new questions surface for Anna Mae, along with feelings she’d never fully acknowledged before.
As Anna Mae and Jeremiah rekindle their friendship, old feelings take on new meaning. Yet the question still lingers: What is God’s plan for her life?
Should she stay, remaining loyal to her Amish family, or does God have a bigger plan—one that provides more freedom than she could imagine?
The answers do not come easily, and God’s plan may lead in different directions . . . for both of Anna Mae and Jeremiah.
About the Author
With over a million copies sold, Kathleen Fuller is the author of several bestselling novels, including the Hearts of Middlefield novels, the Middlefield Family novels, the Amish of Birch Creek series, and the Amish Letters series as well as a middle-grade Amish series, the Mysteries of Middlefield. Visit her online at Kathleen Fuller.com; Instagram: kf_booksandhooks; Facebook: Writer Kathleen Fuller; Twitter: @The Kat Jam.
Read an Excerpt
A Faith of Her Own
By Kathleen Fuller
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Kathleen Fuller
All rights reserved.
Nine Years Later
Anna Mae folded her hands in her lap as the buggy rolled past the lush grove of oak and maple trees. She sat in the back behind her parents, tilting her face to let the warm June air flow over her, perfumed with the scent of fresh-mown hay, clover, and timothy grass.
"It's been awhile since we've all gotten together," her mother said from the front seat of the buggy. She glanced at Anna Mae over her shoulder. "Other than church, of course. But it's nice to have time with just the family, especially since it's growing so fast."
"It's hard to believe Mary Beth and Christopher have been married for nearly nine years," Mamm said, referring to Anna Mae's brother and his wife. "I just wish Rachel could be here. Then we'd all be together." She turned around in her seat. "You're very quiet this afternoon, Anna Mae."
"Unlike some people," her father muttered good-naturedly.
Mamm lightly smacked him on the arm with the palm of her hand before turning her full attention back to Anna Mae. "Is something wrong?"
Anna Mae turned from the fresh air and looked at her mother's wide eyes, filled with feigned innocence. Something was wrong and they both knew it. But Anna Mae wasn't in the mood for a lecture, discussion, or argument. Not today. "Nee," she said, mustering up her sweetest voice. "Everything is fine."
"Gut," her father said, turning into her brother s driveway. "Because we're here. And I'm starving."
Mamm's eyes narrowed slightly as she gave Anna Mae one last look before facing front.
When the buggy stopped, Anna Mae scrambled out, glad to be free of the tight thread of tension that had connected her and her mother for the past several months. That her father was oblivious to it was a testament to the effort both she and her mother expended in hiding their true feelings around him. But it was getting harder for Anna Mae to keep silent, to pretend everything was okay when it wasn't. She suspected it was becoming difficult for her mother too.
Anna Mae looked around, noting all the buggies parked neatly in a row by the side of the driveway. The horses must have all been stabled in the barn. Her father was leading their horse, Licorice, there already. She smiled, remembering when her father let her name the horse after her favorite candy.
Her thoughts turned bittersweet. Life had been so much easier when she was a child.
She turned to see one of her relatives by marriage, Bekah Yoder, striding toward her. She was twenty-five, three years older than Anna Mae. They weren't particularly close, but Anna Mae liked her. She was different from a lot of the friends Anna Mae had—in her mid-twenties and still not married. She had joined the church as soon as she could, yet she managed to remain independent and happy—the opposite of Anna Mae.
"We need more hands in the kitchen," Bekah said, linking her arm with Anna Mae's. "Actually, we need more competent hands in the kitchen."
"You've been kicked out?"
"Voluntarily removed." Bekah laughed. "I didn't want to spend the afternoon cooped up in there anyway."
Anna Mae grinned. Bekah was notorious among their family not only for her independent spirit but for her complete lack of cooking skills.
"I offered to help man the grills, but nee." The smoky scent of smoldering charcoal filtered through the air. They stopped on the front porch. "Apparently only men are allowed to do that job." She sighed, her pale-brown brows knitting together. "I guess I'll set the tables. And they'll be the best set tables you'll ever see." Bekah released her arm and headed for the backyard, where Anna Mae knew there were at least two long tables and over a dozen chairs to accommodate the family.
Anna Mae went inside and proceeded to the kitchen, where there were indeed many good cooks—her sister-in-law, Mary Beth; Mary Beth's mother, Margaret Mullet; Bekah's sister Katherine, who was married to Mary Beth's twin brother, Johnny Mullet; and Anna Mae's mother, Caroline, who must have gotten to the kitchen through the back door while Anna Mae was talking with Bekah.
She hung back and stood in the doorway, watching them finish up the final preparations for a meal that included a bounty of food to accompany whatever grilled meat was cooking outside. Anna Mae saw a plate of deviled eggs, a bowl of pickles, two platters filled with Swiss, cheddar, and American sliced cheese, three huge bowls of red-skinned potato salad, two jars of chowchow, a fruit salad, a plate of cookies, and four pies.
Her stomach growled as she kept observing the bustle in the kitchen, each woman wearing a different colored dress but with the same white prayer kapps secured to their heads. They spoke to each other in Pennsylvania Deitsch, only stopping the conversation with a smile or a chuckle. They all seemed happy. They all seemed at peace.
All but Anna Mae.
"Anna Mae," her mother said, motioning her to come inside the kitchen. "Put out these yeast rolls Katherine made." She lifted the lid to the plastic container and sniffed. "They smell appeditlich. Reminds me of the ones your grossmammi Bertha used to make."
She took the rolls from her mother with a small smile. Grossmammi had passed away two years ago, and she still missed her. She could be tough, especially when it came to Anna Mae learning how to cook, take care of the house, and be a gut Amisch woman. But as Anna Mae grew up and her grandmother grew more frail, she'd learned to appreciate Grossmammi more. Maybe if she were here, Anna Mae could confide in her.
Then again, she probably wouldn't have understood. No one did.
A blast of warm air hit her when she went outside, her nose detecting the grilled pork chops that were on the menu for the Saturday supper meal. The sun still gleamed brightly in the late-afternoon sky, with only a few dainty puffs of clouds dotting the brilliant blue expanse above.
"I see you finally have a job you can handle."
Anna Mae glanced at Caleb Mullet, her sister-in-law's younger brother, who was behind one of the grills flipping over a pork chop with a metal spatula. His words were aimed at Bekah, who was putting the last fork on the table.
"At least I'm not burning supper," Bekah said sweetly.
A quick look of panic crossed Caleb's face, disappearing when he realized the chops were fine. "They're not burned."
"I'm sure they will be."
"What they will be are the best chops you've ever tasted."
"A little full of yourself, ya?" Bekah straightened one of the chairs.
"More like confident."
Anna Mae kept her head down as she placed the rolls on the table. She'd seen them go at it like this since Christopher had married Mary Beth. Always sniping, always trying to one-up each other with the sarcastic comments and veiled insults. She wondered when they'd figure out they were meant for each other.
When the meat was done and the rest of the food laid out, everyone found their places at the table. The only ones missing were Mary Beth's younger brothers, Micah and Eli. Anna Mae had overheard Caleb mention that they were spending the day fishing on Lake Erie with a few of their friends.
Her parents sat at one end, Mary Beth's at the other. In between were the couples, Mary Beth and Christopher, Johnny and Katherine. Bekah and Caleb sat across from each other, both pretending to ignore the other, and Mary Beth and Christopher's two children sat by their parents. The table was crowded, and Anna Mae sat on the corner edge next to her mother, her plate barely fitting on the table.
Everyone had a place. Everyone fit. Everyone belonged.
Everyone but Anna Mae.
* * *
Jeremiah Mullet turned off the engine and gripped the steering wheel of his car. He looked at the veterinarian clinic in front of him and the modest house connected to it. For the hundredth time since he'd started the drive from Columbus, he questioned his decision to come here. But he owed Doc Miller, and after he received the call for help from his former mentor yesterday, Jeremiah threw some clothes in his beat-up two-door early this morning and hurried here before he could change his mind.
He checked his watch. Although the sun had risen only an hour ago, he knew Doc would be up. He remembered how, when he was Doc's apprentice years ago, Doc would wake him up at four in the morning, ready to get a start on the day. Jeremiah was still an early riser, which had annoyed his roommate at Ohio State, who was often just stumbling into bed when Jeremiah was getting up.
His college and vet school years had been so different from his former Amish life. He hadn't been to Middlefield since he was sixteen and left for school. That same year he'd gotten his GED and continued on to college. He took accelerated courses, then sped through vet school. It had taken a lot of work and sacrifice, even though school had always come easy to him. Staying focused on the goal had gotten him through, and he'd been the youngest in his graduating class. Now he was back, and he could see the area had pretty much stayed the same.
But he had changed. For the better, he thought. Until now, as he sat in Doc's driveway dealing with the assault of the past. The guilt for leaving his family the way he did.
For not telling Anna Mae good-bye.
He drew in a deep breath, steadying his thoughts. He was here to help Doc Miller for a short time, but that was it. Then he'd hightail it back to his life in Columbus, where he had been applying for jobs at clinics around the area. Sure, he lived in a dump and could barely pay his bills with the part-time convenience store job he quit yesterday to come back here. But as his grandmother Ella had said, he had to follow his heart and his dreams. Which he had, by graduating last month from vet school.
Another wave of guilt flowed over him at the thought of his grandmother. He shoved it away and got out of the car. His worn work boots scraped against the black asphalt driveway. Two giant bumblebees hovered over a basket of purple flowers hanging from a hook under the front porch awning. He knocked on the door.
"Jeremiah Mullet." Amy Miller grinned as she opened the door and motioned for him to come in. "I'm so glad you're here." She opened her arms for a hug, and Jeremiah embraced her. During the three years he apprenticed with Doc, the Millers had been like family to him.
She released him. "Did you have breakfast?"
Amy headed for the kitchen and Jeremiah followed. "I can whip up some eggs and bacon real quick, if you want."
"That's okay. I'm not really hungry."
"How about some coffee, then?" She went to the counter and picked up the black coffeepot. She poured the dark brew into a cup that said Got Fleas? along with an advertisement for flea-prevention medication. She handed it to him. "Doc will be down in a few minutes."
"How's he doing?"
"He was able to start with the crutches yesterday, but he's still having trouble with them. I offered to help him down the stairs, but you know Doc. Stubborn as the day is long. You wouldn't believe how hard it was to convince him to call you for help." She lowered her voice, her mouth tightening with worry. "It isn't just the broken leg, Jeremiah. He's been moving a little slower lately. His arthritis is getting to him."
"Is he taking anything for it?" Jeremiah sat down on the tufted cushion tied to one of the white kitchen table chairs. The sun streamed through the window, brightening the already cheery room.
"A couple of prescriptions, but they don't seem to help too much. Don't tell him I told you. He wouldn't be happy with me." She lifted a flowered mug to her lips and sipped.
"No problem. I won't say anything."
Jeremiah turned as Doc walked into the kitchen. He tried to hold back the surprise at the man's appearance. He'd changed a lot in the last six years—thicker in the middle, and what little hair he had on his head was more gray than brown. He seemed to be doing okay with the crutches, though. Yet when he plopped down next to Jeremiah and placed his hands on the table, that's where the real effects of the arthritis were most noticeable. His fingers were bent slightly to the side and his knuckles were swollen, the blue veins under his skin bulging and prominent.
Jeremiah closed his hands underneath the table. His hands were his most important tools. Performing surgeries; delivering colts, calves, ewes, and a variety of other animals; administering shots and IVs; and so many more manual tasks—he couldn't imagine doing all that with painful, misshapen hands.
When Doc had called him, he hadn't given a hint of how important it was that Jeremiah return to help, only that he'd broken his leg and would be laid up for a few weeks. But it was clear the man was in pain.
"I was just saying," Jeremiah said, glancing at Amy before picking up his coffee cup, "that your wife makes the best coffee I've ever had."
"Yes, she does." Doc looked up at her and smiled. His formerly brown beard was completely gray.
"I also make pretty good oatmeal." Amy set a bowl in front of Doc. "Now eat up."
Doc picked up the spoon out of the bowl and frowned at the big clump of warm cereal. "My breakfast for the last year," he mumbled.
"Doesn't look so bad," Jeremiah said.
"That's because you don't have to eat it."
Jeremiah chuckled. "I've eaten worse."
"Ah, yes. The glamorous life of a starving veterinarian student." He looked at Jeremiah. "I am now thankful for my oatmeal."
While Doc ate, he and Jeremiah chatted about school, some of Doc's patients, and how Doc had broken his leg—he was examining a horse and it kicked him in the shin. "Didn't move fast enough," Doc said, scraping the last bite out of his bowl.
Jeremiah met Amy's worried gaze, then quickly focused his attention on Doc.
"Oh well. Stuff like that happens." Doc grabbed his crutches. "Ready to go?"
Jeremiah nodded. "Thanks for the coffee, Amy."
"Anytime." She took the cup from him and put it in the sink.
They walked next door to the clinic. The bell above the door rang as Jeremiah opened it, holding the glass door so Doc could limp inside. Jeremiah looked around the waiting room, which had remained the same since he'd left. He was relieved. Everything else in his life had changed so much it was disorienting. More memories came flooding back from when he was younger and helping Doc with the various animals both Amish and Yankee clients had brought to the clinic.
"I've been spending most of my time here the past year or so," Doc said. When Jeremiah didn't say anything, he added, "Thought you'd ask me why."
"It's not any of my business. It's your practice. You need to do what's best."
"That's what I keep telling my wife." Doc leaned against the front counter, holding on to the top of his crutches with his hand. "She kept wanting me to give up the large-animal part of the practice." He looked down at the cast on his leg. "When this happened she thought she'd been proven right." He chuckled. "Maybe she was. Like I said with how I broke my leg, I don't move as fast as I used to." He looked up. "I've finally given in. I think I could manage if I only had the small critters to take care of. But I still have a lot of people with livestock asking if I can help them out." He looked at Jeremiah. "That's why I called you."
Jeremiah didn't let on that he knew crippling arthritis was the real reason Doc needed to stop working with livestock—and probably needed to stop practicing altogether. "I'm glad you did."
"Are you?" He pushed up his glasses. "I was kind of worried how your dad might feel about you coming back."
"I wouldn't know. I haven't seen him yet."
Doc lifted a bushy brow. "You came here first?"
Jeremiah nodded. "I wanted to come and check on you. Your call seemed so urgent and all."
"It wasn't that urgent." Doc paused. "But I understand why you're putting off going home."
Home. Jeremiah hadn't had a real home in years, and where he grew up wasn't home to him anymore. But he nodded. "Yeah."
Doc took up his crutches and limped over to the coat tree in the corner of the waiting room. He took a white lab coat off one of the hooks and awkwardly put it on. Jeremiah was going to ask him if he needed help, but he held back. When Doc was finished putting on the coat, he turned to Jeremiah. "I guess I was kind of hoping ..."
Excerpted from A Faith of Her Own by Kathleen Fuller. Copyright © 2015 Kathleen Fuller. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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