Patience, faith—and the hopes and dreams within their hand-carved hope chests—help to bring three young Amish women, one by one, the blessed futures their hearts desire…
Rachel Kauffman and Jarred Zimmerman seem to have nothing in common. She’s the outgoing youngest of a large, close-knit Amish clan, and longs to raise a brood of her own near those she loves. Estranged from his family by tragedy, Jarred is a young veterinarian who trusts the animals he heals far more than he trusts people. However, when Rachel’s beloved horse falls ill, Jarred’s struggles to save him show Rachel he’s a man who cares deeply. And the respect he feels for her gentle warmhearted ways soon becomes an irresistible bond…
When Rachel tries to help Jarred reunite with his parents, it is an unexpected blessing—with one complication. If he takes this chance to put his past to rest, it could separate him and Rachel for good. Now, with prayer, love—and her hope chest’s small miracles—Jarred and Rachel must find the courage to reconcile their wishes into a joyous life together.
“Written with tenderness and simplicity.” —New York Times bestselling author Joan Wester Anderson, on Rebecca’s Bouquet
About the Author
Lisa Jones Baker grew up near a small Amish town in Illinois that she frequented with her family on weekends. She's also a dog lover and a fan of Scottsdale, Arizona, where she spent nearly two decades. Lisa graduated from Illinois State University with a French major, has been on 5 out of 7 continents, and considers her parents the best in the world. Raised in a Christian home, Lisa has always been blessed with love and support. She enjoys hearing from readers at LisaJonesBaker.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Lisa Jones Baker
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Lisa Jones Baker
All rights reserved.
Her situation required immediate attention. In Old Sam's barn, Rachel wrung her hands together and poured out her great fear of losing Cinnamon. She sat back in the chair opposite Sam's workbench and let out a deep, impatient breath.
While she awaited a response, the late May breeze floated in through the large open doors. Every once in a while, they creaked when the wind moved them.
Rachel could hear Sam's horse, Ginger, clomp her hooves as she stepped from her stall to the pasture. The pleasant scent of wood filled Sam's work area. Birds chirped from the upper window by the hayloft.
Finally, Old Sam met her gaze before carving into wood that would become another hope chest. The widower was well-known for his hope chests. Of course, many could put boards together, but his special talent lay in creating personalized etchings on the oak lids.
His voice was thoughtful, serious. Rachel sat up straighter. "Young one, we never like to see our horses sick. I'm glad that Dr. Zimmerman's coming tomorrow. I've heard he has a special knack for healing."
Sam gave a slow shake of his head. "Now, I know he's fresh out of veterinary school. That would usually give me pause, but in my opinion, his youth works to his advantage. Not to mention that he was mentored by Doc Stevens. You know how word spreads quickly around here."
Rachel grinned, because what Sam mentioned was an understatement.
"According to the Wagler family, this Doc Zimmerman is marvelous. There wasn't much hope for Martha's cat until Zimmerman treated him. Now he's as good as new."
Rachel breathed in relief. She'd heard the young vet's name, and much more. That Zimmerman was a blessing to the sick. And that he was as good as or better than the well-respected Doc Stevens, who'd gone to the Lord not long ago.
"The good doctor has helped Rebecca's and Annie's horses."
Rachel knew that to be true. Rebecca Conrad and Annie Miller were friends. Rachel shared Old Sam with the two girls, who also took care of him. His wife, Esther, had been like a second mother to the trio. When she'd passed, Rebecca, Annie, and Rachel had returned that kindness to Old Sam Beachy.
Now Rachel wasn't sure what she would do without the widower. She went to him for his wise advice and to listen to his horse-and-buggy stories. Sam had made Rachel, Annie, and Rebecca very special hope chests to store their private thoughts in. And inside Rachel's was her dream.
* * *
Dr. Jarred Zimmerman took in the Standardbred. He squatted before the horse, and his heart nearly melted. With great tenderness and affection, he stroked the beautiful cinnamon-colored face.
As he did so, the scent of fresh straw filled his nostrils. He swatted away a fly while the early June breeze cooled the inside of the Kauffmans' barn in the country between Arthur and Arcola, Illinois. He glanced at the healthy filly that had been purchased to replace Cinnamon while he was down.
Jarred stood and turned to the girl who'd introduced herself as Rachel. He motioned to the healthy animal. "What's her name?"
He lifted an amused brow. "Paula?"
Rachel shrugged. "Yes, Doctor. Daddy bought her at the auction, and that was what they called her."
The horse whinnied and stomped her foot before proceeding outside to the pasture. Jarred laughed. "You're a beauty, that's for sure. But right now, your pal needs me. Sorry about that."
As Jarred stood, he could hear hammering in the neighboring building. He knew from his phone conversation with Rachel's dad that he was a woodworker who also farmed the land behind their home.
Jarred glanced at Rachel. It was impossible not to note the distressed expression on her face. Her eyes held a silent plea to get Cinnamon well. A tan halo around her pupils accented large blue-green irises.
Even with her beautiful heart-shaped face and high cheekbones, the halo did a fearful dance. Jarred was committed to saving her horse, but because of her obvious love for the gelding, he also yearned to put her mind at ease.
A kapp covered light brown hair that was pulled back tightly off her face. Remembering his purpose, he turned his attention to the helpless creature in front of him. Jarred ran a compassionate hand over Cinnamon's mane and spoke with conviction.
"Don't you worry, boy. I'm here to help. Just bear with me, and before ya know it, you'll be pulling that buggy again for Rachel and her family."
He turned to Rachel and smiled a little. "I fell in love with this guy years ago. Do you know that I even helped Doc Stevens deliver him?"
Jarred furrowed his brow and softened his voice. "First thing, we've gotta get some weight back on those bones."
His optimistic words were directed to the gelding, but also to Rachel. From experience, he'd learned that the human's mental suffering needed almost as much attention as the sick animal.
He knew all too well that watching their loved ones suffer made the owners extremely vulnerable. So in his opinion, there were two in need of healing: Cinnamon and Rachel.
Ensuring that Rachel maintained her optimism was part of his recovery plan. Horses were exceptionally sensitive, especially to mood.
Now was the time to voice that. After glancing back at her, he offered a soft pat of encouragement on Cinnamon's face. "Getting you well isn't gonna be easy. But be patient. Your recovery will take all three of us putting out one hundred and ten percent. So you've got to promise to do your part, okay, boy?"
Not expecting a response, he turned to Rachel. "How about you?"
A quick, eager nod followed.
Jarred smiled in satisfaction, but the corners of his lips made a sudden drop when he turned back to Cinnamon. "I don't know if you're aware of this, but Cinnamon survived a grave illness at birth."
He heard Rachel's surprised breath.
Jarred rose to his feet. "But he's a fighter! Time to get down to business." After checking the horse's eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, he reached for his bag while asking if the animal had been anywhere and Cinnamon's history of eating, drinking, and slowing down to develop a time line.
After Rachel's quick responses, Jarred offered a nod. "First thing we've gotta do is check his temp." He unzipped his medical pouch. "You mind giving me a hand?"
"Of course not."
"First, let's tie him."
When her eyes reflected confusion, he explained. "Not that he's feeling good enough to go anywhere, but just as a precautionary measure."
She completed the task.
"Now, stand here." He motioned. She moved next to Cinnamon and stroked his head tenderly.
Rachel continued whispering to Cinnamon as Jarred removed and checked the thermometer. He gave the stick a second glance, shook his head, and frowned.
Rachel waited for him to speak.
"Just as I suspected. He's running a fever."
The corners of Rachel's lips dropped. While he observed her reaction, his heart warmed. A combination of compassion and determination floated through him.
He supposed that his immediate bond with this young girl was because of her obvious adoration for this beautiful animal that had once stolen his own heart.
Not only was his heart at stake, but Rachel's was, too. As he watched the expression in her eyes that was a strong mix of fear and hope, he vowed to pay extra care and attention to this special opportunity. He couldn't let this unusually kindhearted girl down.
"Just so you know, a slight fever's okay. You're probably already aware that horses have trouble getting rid of body heat. A hundred is normal for them, but this guy's temp is over a hundred and three. We're looking at all the symptoms of the upper respiratory virus goin' around."
His cell beeped and he glanced at the message from his next appointment.
"Will he be okay?"
The soft, worried tone pulled his attention from his phone. He shoved it back into its holder on his belt. Jarred's pulse quickened as he considered how to respond.
What Cinnamon suffered from appeared to be the very same virus that had claimed the lives of numerous horses in the area, but her question was posed with such innocence.
Jarred stood, slapped the dust from his hands, and shoved them into his jeans pockets to hook his thumbs over the tops.
When their gazes met, he could see that she was waiting for him to say something. He cleared his throat and forced a confident smile. "Cinnamon's definitely struggling. Unfortunately, there's no good vaccine for the illness, but we can do some things to try to jump-start him."
He pressed his cheek against the gelding's long face and whispered, "I'll do everything I can for you, you know that. Do you remember when you were born?" Not expecting an answer, Jarred went on. "I doubt it. But I'll never forget. We beat the odds then, and we'll do it again."
He straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin confidently. "We're gonna fix this guy up."
Rachel's cheeks glowed with happiness. Again, his heart melted at the vulnerable expression that was so genuine and sincere. She stepped beside him. When she spoke, a combination of gratitude and shyness edged her voice. "You can't imagine how happy I am you're here. I've heard all about you and how you studied under Dr. Stevens."
She hesitated. "I'm sorry for your loss. He was a great man."
Jarred nodded in appreciation. "Yeah, he was. And a good friend. True animal lovers are few and far between, Rachel. He was the most unselfish individual I've ever met. We docs are constantly learning, but his knowledge was unmatched. Not to mention his open mind. I would be honored to be half as good as he was."
Rachel's eyes lightened. "He helped us a number of times. He was special."
The recollection of Doc Stevens prompted Jarred to chuckle. "The man had a house full of cats and dogs." Jarred grinned. "I can't tell you how many times he pulled over to the side of the road to rescue a stray. He always made it clear that he'd find them a good home."
The corners of his mouth pulled up even more. "He never did, 'cause he couldn't part with them once he took them in."
Rachel giggled in amusement. "God must have been anxious to get him to heaven."
The statement made Jarred's jaw drop in surprise. For several speechless moments, he considered another death, one even more personal than Tom Stevens's.
Ready to change the subject, he turned to Rachel and forced an optimistic tone. The girl who loved Cinnamon every bit as much as he did depended on him to make things right. And time was of the essence. He couldn't let her down.
Rachel shook her head. "He isn't drinking water. He just kind of plays with it. You know, holds his face in it. And he won't even eat sugar cubes." Her tone filled with deep concern. "Usually, whenever he sees me, he begs for them."
She added, "You know, by licking my hand. He has a sweet tooth." She lifted a brow apologetically. "Course, we can't blame him for that."
He considered her statements and slapped his right palm against his left. "You mind giving me a hand?"
"Of course not."
Within a short time, he had hosed Cinnamon down to lower his temp. Jarred followed with flunixin before giving fluids through a tube up Cinnamon's nose, which was certain to be much easier than going through the mouth. He did this just long enough to deliver five gallons with electrolytes.
When his tasks had been completed, Jarred zipped his bag shut and stepped closer to Rachel. He caught her staring at the scar on his neck.
He decided to indulge her curiosity. "When I was a teen, I was thrown from a horse."
He chuckled. "It's all right. In fact, as often as I rode, I'm lucky it didn't happen more than once." He went on. "I grew up on a ranch not far from here."
"What was it like?"
When he darted her a curious look, she jumped in.
"Growing up on a ranch."
As they walked from the barn to his truck, he pushed out a sigh. What was it like? Was I happy? Did I miss my parents?
When he turned, he saw the eager expression in her eyes and softened his voice. "I loved being with animals. Horses, especially. And we had lots of them."
He drew in a deep, uncertain breath before continuing. "Rachel, this virus won't make things easy, but I know with all of my heart that God will help us."
"I know. Old Sam — he's my friend — he always tells me to look at the glass as half-full. And my parents have always stressed how important it is to have faith." She paused before lowering her voice to a tone that hinted at shyness and uncertainty. "How about your folks, Jarred? Obviously, you've been raised with love. Otherwise, how could you do so many wonderful things for animals?"
The unexpected words nearly stopped Jarred's heart. Breathless, he froze. His fingers turned cold on the bag as he fought hard to view his glass as half-full, like Rachel had recommended. He didn't make a verbal response to her question. Reality hit him hard as he acknowledged the strange thing that had happened while he'd talked with this lovely girl.
Without thinking, he'd been pulled into a world where everything was positive. Sunny. Cheerful. A place of hope and optimism. He didn't know Rachel well, but his impression was that she was protected from life's ugliness.
But unfortunately, he couldn't change what had happened to him. Rachel was right: He had been brought up in a loving home. But he wished that his own parents had cared about him enough to have raised him.
* * *
That evening, Rachel stood in front of her bedroom window, squeezed her eyes closed, and drifted happily to her all-too-familiar imaginary land. She straightened, pressing her palms against the soft blue cotton dress that covered her hips.
Now that she was eighteen, she truly believed her greatest wish would come true because she prayed for it every night and because God took good care of her and her family.
Her thoughts turned to Cinnamon and the wonderful doctor who'd offered hope for her horse's recovery. She considered the young vet. When he'd begun checking Cinnamon's vitals,
Rachel had taken advantage of the opportunity to get a good look at him.
She recalled his blue-gray eyes that reminded her of the sky before a dangerous storm. His dark brown hair bordered on black. The doctor's face was kind looking, but his fierce depths made her wonder if something had happened to upset his life. She knew he was kind and thoughtful. She'd barely met him, yet her acute senses told her, without a doubt, that they would be great friends. His soothing voice put Rachel at ease.
She smiled a little as she glimpsed Old Sam's barn in the distance. Her very deepest secret was recorded in ink on the solid blue lines of her journal and stored in her hope chest.
Every night, while she wrote in her journal, she jotted it down in expectation that seeing the words would ensure they would come to life. She breathed in the pleasant, comforting scent of apple and cinnamon emanating from the small candle on her desk.
As always, glimpsing the hope chest that Old Sam had made especially for her prompted a happy sigh. With great emotion, she dropped her hands to the work of art and rested her fingers on top of it. His artistic capability was so superb, his carvings looked real.
Without thinking, she reached for her feather duster and ran it over the few pieces in her room while she considered her dear friend. To her, Old Sam was much more than a hope chest maker. She liked him best for his horse-and-buggy stories. No one told them like Sam. He enjoyed reciting the interesting truths that had transpired over his eighty-something years. And she loved hearing them. Listening to him even trumped the numerous horse stories she'd read in the public library.
Sam was her confidant, too. His wife of over sixty years, Esther, had been like a second mother to Rachel until she'd succumbed to pneumonia. Rachel had looked up to Esther. And Rachel was fully aware that mammas in the community, including hers, had often sought advice from the woman who had seemed to have a knack for everything, especially cooking.
Sam's kind wife had been especially fond of animals, and her great love for horses, in particular, had bonded her to Rachel in a special way. Not to mention her delicious sponge cakes.
After Esther's death, Rachel had returned that extreme kindness to Old Sam, feeling that in a small way, she was repaying Esther for all of the attention she had offered Rachel over the years.
She cherished her friendship with Sam. It didn't bother her that she had to share him with Rebecca and Annie, two of her friends who loved spending time with him, too. Sam offered wiser advice than anyone in the world. And most importantly, he was the one person who fully respected Rachel's love of horses.
Rachel stepped on her tiptoes to run the duster over the top of the closet door. When her bare heels met the wood floor, she caught her breath before moving on to her headboard.
Excerpted from Rachel's Dream by Lisa Jones Baker. Copyright © 2017 Lisa Jones Baker. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.