This year, spend Christmas in Bethlehem, Maine, as the town prepares for annual living nativities. Will stepping into the roles of Mary and Joseph help empty nesters David and Kate Walters discover the joy of becoming parents again unexpectedly? Can a young pastor and a pretty choir member convince the town to be like three wise men of long ago when a devastating hurricane threatens tradition? Can veterinarian Leesa McElroy survive working alongside a man more at home with camels than Christians? Will the truth about singer Angeline Monroe’s abandoned career come to light at Christmas?
About the Author
Elizabeth Ludwig is an award winning author who is an accomplished speaker and teacher, and often attends conferences and seminars, where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth makes her home in the great state of Texas.
Lorraine Beatty is a multi-published, bestselling author. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, she currently lives in Brandon, Mississippi, with her husband of forty-four years. Lorraine has written for trade books, newspapers, and company newsletters. Lorraine has lived in various regions of the country as well as in Germany. She is a member of RWA, PAN, and ACFW and is a charter member and former President of Magnolia State Romance Writers.
SANDRA ROBBINS is an award-winning author who lives with her husband in the small college town in Tennessee where she grew up. Until a few years ago she was working as an elementary school principal, but God opened the door for her to become a full-time writer. It is her prayer that God will use her words to plant seeds of hope in the lives of her readers.
Virginia Vaughan was born and raised in Mississippi and has never strayed far beyond those borders. Blessed to come from a large Southern family, her fondest memories include listening to stories recounted by family and friends around the large dinner table. She was a lover of books even from a young age, devouring stories of romance, danger, and love. She soon started writing them herself. After marriage, two kids, and a divorce, Virginia realized her characters needed the same thing she needed—the healing grace and restoration power of Jesus Christ. She devoted her life and her writing to His glory and has watched God swing doors open for her to walk through. You can connect to Virginia through her website virginiavaughanonline.com.
Read an Excerpt
Christmas Comes to Bethlehem Maine
By Lorraine Betty, Elizabeth Ludwig, Sandra Robbins, Virginia Vaughan
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Virginia Vaughan
All rights reserved.
This December, journey to Bethlehem to experience for yourself the true meaning of Christmas. Think the trip's too far? Not so. The city of Bethlehem, Maine, presents its first annual live nativity. Join Mary, Joseph, and a host of other biblical figures as they reenact the events leading up to the birth of Christ. This event takes place from six thirty to nine o'clock every Friday and Saturday night from Thanksgiving until Christmas. Bethlehem—it's closer than you think."
Kate Walters caught her breath as the commercial announcing the town's live nativity played for the first time on the radio. A thrill rushed through her. The live nativity had been her idea, and she'd been the one to push the project through. Now, it was Thanksgiving week and the premiere was only days away. Her hands shook with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. This project would likely be the defining mark of her first term as town manager of Bethlehem.
Her office door opened, and Lisa, her assistant, burst in, clapping and smiling. "I heard it! I heard the commercial!"
Kate pushed back from her desk. "I heard it, too. Isn't it exciting?"
The phone on her desk rang at the same moment her cell phone buzzed. Lisa answered the office phone while Kate checked her cell. It was her husband. She considered letting it go to voice mail as Lisa accepted congratulations and people began to meander in to comment on the commercial, but she couldn't ignore the nagging feeling that she would be doing something wrong. She stepped away from the emerging group and answered her phone.
"I just heard the spot on the radio." David's voice was upbeat, full of encouragement and support. "I wanted to be the first one to congratulate you."
Kate turned to look at the crowd gathering in her doorway. "It's amazing. I can't believe this is really going to happen."
"Of course it's going to happen, and it's going to be great. You've poured your heart and soul into this project, and we both know that when you give something one hundred percent, it can't fail."
Despite the excitement buzzing in the room, Kate felt a sting at David's comment. What did he mean by that one hundred percent remark? Did he think she'd neglected her family?
She shook her head. She was overreacting. David was only trying to pay her a compliment. She had a crowd gathering and she needed to get off the phone and back to business. "Well, there's still so much left to do, and we only have three days left to do it. I have a group in my office waiting to see me, so I'd better let you go."
His resigned sigh spoke volumes that his words didn't. "I'll see you at home later. I love you, Kate."
"Bye, David." Kate ended the call and joined the others in celebrating this exciting milestone of her first major event in office.
* * *
David Walters snapped his phone shut, resisting the urge to toss it across the car. He wouldn't take out his frustrations on an innocent cell phone, especially one that he paid for. He'd heard the radio spot and felt compelled to call to congratulate Kate. The live nativity was a big event for the city, and she was getting the credit she deserved for its conception. His wife had vision and the determination to make her visions reality. It was one of the things he loved about her. Plus, she'd answered his call. He supposed that was a good sign, but he couldn't shake the feeling that even while she was speaking to him, she'd been itching to get him off the phone.
He drove past her office but couldn't catch a glimpse of her through her office window. Across the street, Bethlehem Green was being transformed for the nativity.
David parked the car, hiked up his coat collar, and went to check out the progress on the construction. The area was blocked off with city barriers to keep unauthorized people out, but he had signed up as a volunteer on the set-building committee. They left the big work, the set design and construction, to the professionals, but David was handy with a hammer and nails.
His and Kate's sons, twenty-one-year-old John and eighteen-year-old Keith, were also signed up to help with the set. David had urged the boys to volunteer, although he hadn't had to do much arm twisting. John had worried that he wouldn't be available enough while he was away at college, but David had signed him up to work during his vacation breaks.
It was important to him that they all participated in this project ... and not just because it was their mother's brainchild. The nativity was good for the city and good for Christmas. It celebrated the true reason for the season—the birth of Christ—while also promoting the city of Bethlehem. It was a good idea all around, and as he watched it come to life around him, he could hardly believe that no one had thought of it before his wife came to office.
"Hey, David, are you here to work or just to stand around and look pretty?"
David glanced up to find Bill Mitchell, the head of the set-building committee, staring down from the roof of the structure that was to be the inn from which Joseph and Mary were turned away. "I was looking at the progress."
"Well, grab a hammer and join in."
David had only left the office for lunch, but he was in no rush to get back. He stared down at his clothes. He wasn't exactly dressed to work, but his khakis and polo shirt could be cleaned. He wanted to do his part, and he had signed up to work.
Besides, it might feel good to work out his frustrations for a while.
* * *
In the months leading up to the nativity, Kate had had weekly meetings with the different committee chairs for status reports and updates. Now, with three days left until opening night, she'd scheduled a meeting for them all to meet together to make certain everything was covered.
She started the meeting by thanking those in attendance for helping her bring the project to life. "As most of you know, this project has been my dream for a long while. Now it's come to fruition. I'm anxious and excited all at once. As town manager of Bethlehem, I'm proud that our community has the courage to step out and make such a bold statement of faith. I'm also very proud of the way this town has rallied to put this event together. There are so many jobs to do, and there has been no lack of willingness to do them. Such unity makes me very proud to be a part of Bethlehem."
She slipped on her reading glasses and turned to page one of her agenda worksheet. "Now then, let's get down to the business of this meeting. The first performance is three nights away. We need to go over the status of all areas. Let's start with costumes." She turned to Janet Burgess, who headed up the sewing committee.
After hearing from Mrs. Burgess, Kate listened to updates about maintenance and parking issues, care and feeding of the live animals, and the response so far to the promotions the city had been producing.
After the meeting was adjourned, Kate returned to her office and fell into her chair. The meeting had taken more out of her than she'd expected.
Lisa brought her a glass of water and a bottle of aspirin. "You look like you could use this," she said at Kate's questioning look.
"Do I look that bad?"
"Of course not. You just look tired. It seems like you've been extra tired recently."
"Well, this project has taken a lot out of me. Plus, with the holidays ..."
"Are you sure that's all it is? You've seemed out of sorts the last few weeks—moody, irritable, unusually tired. Plus, you've stopped downing coffee, your all-time favorite drink."
Kate realized Lisa was right. Recently, the smell of coffee made her stomach turn.
"Please don't fire me." Kate noticed the mischievous grin on Lisa's face as she handed Kate a paper bag.
"What's this?" Kate took it and pulled out a pregnancy test. This was what Lisa thought was wrong with her? "No," she said, pushing it back into the bag. "I am not pregnant."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure." She jumped from her chair and stacked her papers nervously. The idea that Lisa thought she was pregnant was outrageous. "Obviously I'm too old to be pregnant."
"My mother was forty-six years old when she had me."
A nervous twitter lit through Kate as she thought back on the past few weeks. She had felt out of sorts recently. No! She stopped herself before she allowed her thoughts to go down that road. She was already the mother of two nearly grown boys. She was not pregnant. She couldn't be. While she appreciated Lisa's concern for her, it was a ridiculous notion to even consider. God would never do that to her. She was just too busy to be pregnant.
But, as Lisa left the office, that plain brown bag on her desk began to mock her. She picked it up and stuffed it into her briefcase.CHAPTER 2
The morning alarm sounded.
Kate reached to turn it off but didn't get out of bed right away. She considered staying put and taking a sick day, but that thought came and went in a flash.
She pushed back the covers and willed her feet to the floor. Mothers didn't get a sick day and neither did town managers, especially now that Thanksgiving had come and gone and the nativity premiere was only hours away. There was still much to do. Kate had status meetings planned for the morning and a television interview to promote the project on the noon report. As she stumbled toward the bathroom, she faced the facts—if she wanted a sick day, she would have to cough up a lung or something major like that.
She stared at her reflection in the mirror, noticing the bags beneath her eyes, and realized she probably could pull off being sick. She looked as tired as she felt. Sure, it was the busy time of year. Sure, she was overworked and overstressed. But all that was nothing new to her. Overworked and overstressed was her life. She usually thrived on it.
Kate remembered Lisa's comments earlier that week. Had she been so cranky that everyone around her had noticed? Had David noticed? She certainly didn't need him to know how worn out she was. He already believed she took on more responsibility than she could handle.
What would she do if she had to take on the responsibility of a baby as well?
The pregnancy test was right where she'd tossed it, hidden beneath the sink under a stack of towels in the very back of the cabinet, sure to never be found. Kate had not been able to bring herself to throw the thing in the trash once and for all. And as the days had passed and she'd had more and more time to dwell on the notion, she decided the idea might not be as impossible as she'd first decided.
She fell to her hands and knees and dug through the contents of the cabinet until she found it. She held it in her hands, fearful of the results this test might hold and the changes those results might have for her life. How would a baby affect her career? Could she manage being the town manager and the mother of an infant? Her boys had been teenagers by the time she'd reentered the workforce.
And what about David? Could their marriage survive another baby? Kate knew how much he loved their boys, but she also knew he was looking forward to the day when they were both out of the house. David wanted to have the freedom to travel, and he was already making plans for the day when Keith left for college. Kate had yet to ask him how her job would fit into those plans, but a baby would definitely ruin them.
She decided to take the test and stop worrying about things she couldn't control. Good or bad, it was done now. Either she was or she wasn't pregnant.
After the appropriate time, she checked the test. Hot tears burned her eyes when she saw the results.
* * *
The music playing on David's headphones matched the thump of his feet against the pavement as he finished his morning run. He slowed to a walk a few houses down from his own in order to cool down. He admired the houses as he walked.
This was a nice family neighborhood, but he and Kate were about to be without a family to inhabit it. Keith had received his college acceptance letter only this week. His future was planned, and he was ready to get started on it. John was already away at college, and it was like pulling teeth most times to even get him to come home. Not that David was complaining. He was glad his boys were independent enough to want to live their own lives. It meant that he and Kate could soon have the freedom they had earned without so many restrictions. He could sell his business and Kate could step down from her job as town manager. They would finally be able to get away together and reconnect.
As he reached his yard, he stopped to pick up trash that had somehow been tossed on the lawn. He stopped and took a good long look at the house, wondering if they shouldn't think about selling it. It would soon need a paint job, and this would be the last spring he would have Keith around to help with the yard upkeep. They would have little need for so much space once both boys were out of the house. And since he and Kate hoped to travel, they didn't need a big yard and a lot of maintenance issues to tie them down. He would call and talk to a Realtor about their options after the holidays.
He entered the house through the patio off the master bedroom. The bed was empty and the bathroom door closed, indicating that Kate was already up. This was her big day, and he imagined she was anxious to make an early start. He grabbed his clothes and decided to shower and change in the hall bathroom.
By the time David finished dressing, the boys were up and making breakfast. When he entered the kitchen, he saw John, who was home for the Thanksgiving break, digging into a plate of toasted waffles while Keith poured himself a bowl of cold cereal. "What are you boys doing up so early?"
"We promised to help Mr. Mitchell finish up the set construction," John said.
"Yeah, everything has to be perfect," Keith chimed in. "This is Mom's big day. We want everything to go off without a hitch."
John smacked his brother on the shoulder. "This isn't just about Mom, you dope. This nativity reflects on the whole town of Bethlehem."
"Maybe so, but who gets the blame if it doesn't go well? Mom."
"That's enough, both of you," David said, putting an end to the bickering.
They were both right, but their argument was moot. The nativity would do well. Everything Kate touched succeeded. She was a winner. She always had been. Plus, this time she had the entire backing of the community behind her. This project didn't belong to only her anymore. Though Keith was right—if it didn't go well, she would be the one to bear the blame.
As his boys often did, they quickly moved on to another subject. Keith unfolded a piece of paper and mounted it to the freezer door with magnets like a child displaying art he made at school.
"What's that?" David asked.
"He's been mooning over that thing for two days," John said.
Keith grinned from ear to ear. "It's my letter from UMF. I thought I'd showcase it here for everyone to see."
David patted his shoulder, as proud of Keith for his acceptance into the University of Maine at Farmington as Keith was. "I think that's a good idea, Son. Now why don't you two finish up your breakfast? You don't want to keep Mr. Mitchell waiting."
John turned back to his waffles, but Keith took a moment to straighten his letter before returning to the table.
David poured himself a cup of coffee then opened the morning paper. It was full of listings, but he wasn't interested in buying more things to fill up the house. In fact, his mind was already on the idea of downsizing. He turned to the real estate section and began looking through the ads for condominiums for sale. He wanted to have a good idea of what they were looking at before he presented the topic to Kate.
"Mom, have you been crying?"
Keith's question brought David's attention back to his current home. Kate was standing in the doorway of the kitchen. Her eyes were swollen and her face held an ashen look to it like she had, indeed, been crying, despite her obvious attempts to hide it with makeup.
"No, I'm fine," she said. Her assurances, however, did not prevent any of them from getting to their feet to make certain.
David touched her arm. "Kate, are you sure you're all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine." She opened the refrigerator, an obvious attempt to escape their gawking stares.
"This is because of my letter, isn't it?" Keith was now standing on the other side of the opened refrigerator door, eye to eye with the UMF acceptance letter he'd mounted only minutes before.
Kate closed the refrigerator. "What?"
"Of course this is because of your letter," John told him. "You're the baby, Keith. Once you're gone, what will she have left?"
John had a way of speaking as if he knew the answer to every question in the world, and for some reason that David had yet to figure out, Keith believed every word he said.
"I'll only be two hours away." Keith looked back at his mother. "Don't you want me to go away to college?"
Kate had that deer-in-the-headlights look in her eyes. It was obvious Keith was about to pull her into a conversation she was unprepared to discuss. He had to intercede.
"Whoa, hold on there now," David said. He put his arm around Kate's shoulders in order to present a united front in this matter. "Keith, your mother and I are both thrilled that you got into the school you wanted. Honestly, we couldn't be happier for you."
"Then why is Mom so upset?"
David pulled her tighter against him, a little curious that she was allowing it. Where was her spitfire? Where was her grit? Something must have her really rattled this morning. "Cut your mother some slack. She's under a lot of stress with this nativity project plus the pressure of running an entire city and this household. Weren't we just talking about how important today was? Sometimes people just need to let off a little stress. Okay?"
Excerpted from Christmas Comes to Bethlehem Maine by Lorraine Betty, Elizabeth Ludwig, Sandra Robbins, Virginia Vaughan. Copyright © 2014 Virginia Vaughan. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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.
Table of Contents
ContentsThe Christmas Gift,
A Christmas Promise,
One Holy Night,
The Last Angel Song,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The stories were great. I really enjoyed this book.