An Amish widow with newborn twins discovers her deceased husband had disturbing secrets. As she tries to come to grips with the past, she considers a loveless marriage to ensure stability for her young family . . . with her faith in God hanging in the balance.
Sarah Troyer never expected to raise her children on her own, but when her husband dies in a tragic accident, she finds refuge in the home of her parents in the Amish community of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. Sarah is taken completely by surprise when a stranger arrives claiming connections to her husband’s past—even though he had told her he was an orphan with no family. From Luke, she learns her husband hid a secret life, one with ramifications that will change her own.
Sarah’s family, concerned for her and her children, encourages her to marry again. It should make sense . . . but Sarah’s heart says no. She feels trapped. Should she marry a man she doesn’t love? Or discover if her growing interest in Luke can be trusted?
Take a trip to Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, where you’ll meet the women of the Kauffman Amish Bakery in Lancaster County. As each woman’s story unfolds, you will share in her heartaches, trials, joys, dreams . . . and secrets. You’ll discover how the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle and, most importantly, you will be encouraged by the hope and faith of these women, and the importance they place on their families.
About the Author
Amy Clipston is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery, Hearts of Lancaster Grand Hotel, Amish Heirloom, Amish Homestead, and Amish Marketplace series. Her novels have hit multiple bestseller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA. Amy holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan University and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and four spoiled rotten cats. Visit her online at Amy Clipston.com; Facebook: Amy Clipston Books; Twitter: @Amy Clipston; Instagram: @amy_clipston.
Read an Excerpt
A Promise of Hope
By Amy Clipston
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2010 Amy Clipston
All rights reserved.
Smoke filled Sarah Troyer's lungs and stung her watering eyes. Covering her mouth with her trembling hand, she fell to her knees while flames engulfed the large carpentry area of the furniture store.
"Peter!" Her attempt to scream her husband's name came out in a strangled cough, inaudible over the noise of the roaring fire surrounding her.
Peter was somewhere in the fire. She had to get to him. But how would she find her way through the flames? Had someone called for help? Where was the fire department?
A thunderous boom shook the floor beneath Sarah's feet, causing her body to shake with fear. The roof must've collapsed!
"Sarah!" Peter's voice echoed, hoarse and weak within the flames.
"I'm coming!" Sobs wracked her body as she crawled toward the back of the shop. She would find him. She had to!
Turning her face toward the ceiling, Sarah begged God to spare her husband's life. He had to live. She needed him. He was everything to her. They were going to be parents.
Their baby needed a father.
Standing, she threw her body into the flames, rushing toward the crumpled silhouette on the floor next to the smashed remains of the roof ...
Sarah's eyes flew open, and she gasped. She touched her sweat-drenched nightgown with her trembling hands. Closing her eyes, she breathed a sigh of relief.
It was a dream!
Stretching her arm through the dark, she reached across the double bed for her husband of three years; however, her hand brushed only cool sheets.
Sarah cupped a hand to her hot face while reality crashed down on her. Peter had died in the fire in her father's furniture store five months ago. He was gone, and she was staying in her parents' house.
Taking a deep, ragged breath, she swallowed a sob. She'd had the fire dream again—the fourth time this week.
When were the nightmares going to cease? When was life going to get easier?
She rested her hands on her swelling belly while tears cooled her burning cheeks. It seemed like only yesterday Sarah was sharing the news of their blessing with Peter and he was smiling, his hazel eyes twinkling, while he pulled her close and kissed her.
It had been their dream to have a big family with as many as seven children, like most of the Amish couples in their church district. Sarah and Peter had spent many late nights snuggling in each other's arms while talking about names.
However, Sarah had buried those dreams along with her husband, and she still felt as bewildered as the day his body was laid to rest. She wondered how she'd ever find the emotional strength to raise her baby without the love and support of her beloved Peter.
She'd believed since the day she married Peter that they would raise a family and grow old together. But that ghastly fire had stolen everything from Sarah and her baby—their future and their stability. Her life was now in flux.
Closing her eyes, she mentally repeated her mother's favorite Scripture, Romans 12:12: "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." But the verse offered no comfort. She tried to pray, but the words remained unformed in her heart.
Sarah was completely numb.
She stared up through the dark until a light tap on her door roused her from her thoughts.
"Sarah Rose." Her mother's soft voice sounded through the closed door. "It's time to get up."
"Ya." Wiping the tears from her face, Sarah rose and slowly dressed, pulling on her black dress, black apron, and shoes. She then parted her golden hair and twirled long strands back from her face before winding the rest into a bun. Once her hair was tightly secured, she placed her white prayer kapp over it, anchoring it with pins.
Sarah hurried down the stairs and met her mother in the front hall of the old farmhouse in which she'd been raised. "I'm ready," she said.
Mamm's blue eyes studied her. "Aren't you going to eat?"
"No." Sarah headed for the back door. "Let's go. I'll eat later."
"Sarah Rose. You must eat for the boppli." Her mother trotted after her.
"I'm not hungry." Sarah slipped out onto the porch.
"Did you have the dream again?" Mamm's voice was filled with concern.
Sarah sucked in a breath, hoping to curb the tears rising in her throat. "I'm just tired." She started down the dirt driveway toward the bakery.
Mamm caught up with her. Taking Sarah's hand in hers, she gave her a bereaved expression. "Sarah Rose, mei liewe, how it breaks my heart to see you hurting. I want to help you through this. Please let me."
Swallowing the tears that threatened, Sarah stared down at her mother's warm hand cradling hers. Grief crashed down on her, memories of Peter and their last quiet evening together flooding her. He'd held her close while they discussed their future as parents.
Rehashing those memories was too painful for Sarah to bear. She missed him with every fiber of her being. Sarah had to change the subject before she wound up sobbing in her mother's arms—again.
"We best get to work before the girls think we overslept," Sarah whispered, quickening her steps.
"Don't forget this afternoon is your ultrasound appointment," Mamm said. "Maybe we'll find out if you're having a boy or a girl. Nina Janitz is going to pick us up at one so we're at the hospital on time."
At her mother's words Sarah swallowed a groan. The idea of facing this doctor's appointment without Peter sharpened the pain that pulsated in her heart.
Pushing the thought aside, Sarah stared at the bakery her mother had opened more than twenty years ago. The large, white clapboard farmhouse sat near the road and included a sweeping wraparound porch. A sign with "Kauffman Amish Bakery" in old-fashioned letters hung above the door.
Out behind the building was a fenced-in play area where a few of the Kauffman grandchildren ran around playing tag and climbing on a huge wooden swing set. Beyond it was the fenced pasture. Mamm's, Peter's, and Timothy's large farmhouses, along with four barns, were set back beyond the pasture. The dirt road leading to the other homes was roped off with a sign declaring Private Property—No Trespassing.
A large paved parking lot sat adjacent to the building. The lot—always full during the summer months, the height of the tourist season—was now empty. Even though temperatures had cooled off for autumn, the tourist season had ended a month ago in Bird-in-Hand.
Mamm prattled on about the weather and how busy the bakery had been. Sarah grunted in agreement to give the appearance of listening.
After climbing the steps, Sarah and Mamm headed in through the back door of the building. The sweet aroma of freshly baked bread filled Sarah's senses while the Pennsylvania Dietsch chatter of her sisters swirled around her.
The large open kitchen had plain white walls, and in keeping with their tradition, there was no electricity. The lights were gas powered, as were the row of ovens. The long counter included their tools—plain pans and ordinary knives and cutlery.
Even though the air outside was cool, Sarah and her sisters still did the bulk of the baking in the early morning in order to keep the kitchen heat to a minimum. Five fans running through the power inverters gave a gentle breeze. However, the kitchen was warm.
Nodding a greeting to her sisters, Sarah washed her hands before pulling out ingredients to begin mixing a batch of her favorite sugar cookies. She engrossed herself in the task and shut out the conversations around her.
"How are you?" Lindsay, her sister-in-law's young niece, asked after a while.
"Gut," Sarah said, forcing a smile. "How are you today?"
"Gut, danki." The fourteen-year-old smiled, her ivory complexion glowing. Although she'd been raised by non-Amish parents, Lindsay had adjusted well to the lifestyle since coming to live with Rebecca, Sarah's sister-in-law. Her parents had died in a car accident, leaving custody of her and her older sister to Rebecca. Lindsay quickly adopted the Amish dress and was learning the Pennsylvania Dietsch language as if she'd been born into the community.
Lindsay tilted her head in question and wrinkled her freckled nose. "You don't look gut, Aenti Sarah. Is everything okay?"
"I'm fine, but danki." Sarah stirred the anise cookie batter and wracked her brain for something to change the subject. "You and Rebecca got here early this morning, no?"
"Ya." Lindsay began cutting out cookies. "Aenti Rebecca was having some tummy problems this morning." She gestured toward her stomach, and Sarah knew the girl was referring to morning sickness. "She was up early, and I was too. So we just headed out. We had a couple of loaves of bread in the oven before Aenti Beth Anne and Aenti Kathryn got here."
Sarah glanced across the kitchen to where Mamm was whispering to Beth Anne and Kathryn, Sarah's older sisters. When her mother's gaze met Sarah's, her mother quickly looked away.
Sarah's stomach churned. She hoped her mother wasn't talking about her again. She was in no mood for another well-meaning lecture from her sisters. They were constantly insisting Sarah must accept Peter's death and concentrate on the blessing of her pregnancy. Over and over they told her it was God's will Peter had perished and the Lord would provide for her and her baby.
What did they know about loss? They both had their husbands and children, living and healthy.
"I best go check on the kinner on the playground," Lindsay said, wiping her hands on her apron.
Sarah picked up the cookie cutter. "I'll finish cutting out your cookies."
"Danki." Smiling, Lindsay crossed the kitchen and disappeared out the back door toward the playground set up for Sarah's young nieces and nephews.
"Sarah," a voice behind her said. "How are you today? Mamm mentioned that you had a rough night."
Sarah glanced over at Beth Anne and swallowed a groan. "I'm fine, danki. And you?" I wish you all would stop worrying about me.
Beth Anne's blue eyes mirrored her disbelief, and Sarah braced herself for the coming lecture.
"You can talk to me. I'll always listen." Her older sister squeezed her hand.
"I appreciate that, but there's nothing to say. I didn't get much sleep last night, but I'm gut. Really." Sarah turned back to her cookies in the hopes Beth Anne would return to work and leave her alone with her thoughts.
"I know you're hurting," Beth Anne began, moving closer and lowering her voice. "However, you must let Peter's memory rest in peace. You need your strength for your boppli."
Sarah gritted her teeth and took a deep breath, trying in vain to curb her rising aggravation. Facing her sister, she narrowed her eyes. "I know you mean well, but you can't possibly know what I'm thinking or what I'm feeling. I lost my husband, and you have no idea how that feels. I know I need to let go, but how can I when Peter's boppli is growing inside me? Grieving is different for everyone, and it can't be rushed."
Beth Anne's expression softened. "I just want what's best for you."
"Then leave me alone and let me work." Sarah faced the counter. "I have a lot of cookies to make. We sold out yesterday."
"If you need to talk, I'm here." Beth Anne's voice was soft.
"Ya. Danki." Sarah closed her eyes and prayed for strength to make it through the day.
* * *
Late that afternoon, Sarah lay on the cool, metal table at the hospital and stared at the monitor while a young woman moved her instrument through the gel spread on Sarah's midsection.
Sarah watched the screen and sucked in a breath while the ultrasound technician pointed out anatomy. Sarah wondered how many years of schooling it had taken for the young woman to figure out which was the spinal cord and which was the heart when it all resembled a bunch of squiggly lines.
Miranda Coleman, Sarah's midwife, interrupted the technician and moved over to the monitor. "Do you see that?" Miranda asked the young woman in a hushed whisper. "I believe that's ..."
"Yeah, you're right," the technician said with a grin. "I think so."
"This is something." Miranda folded her arms and shook her head. "Well, that explains her sudden weight gain."
"What?" Sarah started to sit up, her heart racing with worry. "What's wrong with my boppli?"
Her eyes full of concern, Mamm squeezed Sarah's shoulder.
Miranda chuckled. "Nothing's wrong, Sarah."
Sarah held her breath and wished Peter was by her side to help her shoulder the news. "Please tell me what's going on."
"Sarah Troyer, you're doubly blessed," Miranda said with a smirk. "You're having twins. I guess one was blocking the other when we did the last ultrasound."
"Zwillingbopplin?" Sarah gasped. Lightheaded, she put her hand to her forehead.
How would she ever raise twins alone?
* * *
Later that evening, Sarah stood on the porch and studied the rain falling in sheets on the fields across from her parents' farmhouse. Rubbing her swollen abdomen, she swallowed the sorrow surging through her.
The word had haunted her since it left Miranda's lips. Sarah had tuned out Miranda's voice while she discussed Sarah's prenatal care for the remainder of the pregnancy. She'd heard the midwife say Sarah was now "high risk" and would be referred to an obstetrician for further care. Beyond that, Sarah had just stared at her midwife and pondered the news.
Two mouths to feed. Two babies for which to care.
Two children without a father.
How would Sarah bear the load? Of course, her family would help her, for it was the Amish way to care for one another. However, raising two children without Peter would be daunting, regardless of help from the extended family.
"Sarah Rose." Her mother's voice interrupted her thoughts. "How are you?"
"Gut," Sarah whispered, still rubbing her belly.
"Zwillingbopplin." Mamm shook her head. "The Lord is gut. You are blessed."
"Am I?" Sarah snorted. The shock seemed to have deflated the blessing from the news.
"Why do you say that?" Mamm's eyes probed Sarah's. "Bopplin are a blessing. Daniel and Rebecca have waited fifteen years to have one of their own."
Sarah touched Mamm's warm hand. "Ya, I know bopplin are a blessing. You forget Daniel and Rebecca have each other." She gazed down at her stomach. "I'm alone. These bopplin will have no dat. They only have me."
"You're not alone. You have your dat, me, and the rest of our family. The community will take care of you. We'll all love and care for you and your kinner."
"But it's not the same." Sniffing, Sarah wiped a lone tear. "They'll know love but not their dat's love."
"You can tell them how much Peter loved them. We have many stories that will make them smile, and you'll smile again too." Leaning over, Mamm looped her arm around Sarah's shoulders. "You'll find joy again, Sarah Rose. God will make sure of that."
Nodding, Sarah wiped her eyes and cleared her throat in an effort to suppress her tears. She had to hold herself together. Dissolving into sobs wouldn't help the situation.
"When the time is right," Mamm began, "you may marry again."
"I doubt that." Sarah shook her head with emphasis. "I don't think I'll ever love any man as much as I loved Peter. That only happens once in a lifetime."
"Sarah Rose." Mamm took Sarah's hands again. "You're young. You may love again. Give your burdens up to God, and He'll see you through. Right now, just concentrate on your kinner. It will all come in time, God's time."
Sarah breathed deeply, hoping to stop the emotions that threatened. "Maybe someday, but not anytime soon. My heart still belongs to Peter." She stepped toward the door. "I'm going to go to bed. Good night."
"Good night." Mamm reached for Sarah's hand. "Don't rush yourself, Sarah Rose. God will see you through this. He's in control."
Sarah pulled her hand back and opened the screen door. "Ya," she whispered. "Good night."
Climbing the stairs to her room, Sarah closed the door and lowered herself down onto her bed, hoping to keep the world out. Lying there, she prayed for her family to stop nagging her. She needed room to breathe and figure out her way without their constant unsolicited opinions. She needed strength and guidance to make the right decisions for her twins.
Excerpted from A Promise of Hope by Amy Clipston. Copyright © 2010 Amy Clipston. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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