An Amish Man’s Heart Rebounds in IllinoisFrom Amish Country's Most Beloved Storyteller, Wanda E. Brunstetter Discover along with Jonah Miller how life can begin anew in the prairie state of Illinois. Moving from Pennsylvania, finding rewarding work, and leaving heartbreak behind is the best decision Jonah ever made. But is he ready to consider love again when he meets Elaine Schrock? Will his scarred heart mend when she chooses family loyalty over love? Now available in mass market edition with Book 2 (The Gift) and 3 (The Restoration) coming soon.
About the Author
New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Wanda E. Brunstetter is one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre. She has written more than 100 books translated in four languages. With over 11 million copies sold, Wanda's stories consistently earn spots on the nation's most prestigious bestseller lists and have received numerous awards. Wanda’s ancestors were part of the Anabaptist faith, and her novels are based on personal research intended to accurately portray the Amish way of life. Her books are well-read and trusted by many Amish, who credit her for giving readers a deeper understanding of the people and their customs. When Wanda visits her Amish friends, she finds herself drawn to their peaceful lifestyle, sincerity, and close family ties. Wanda enjoys photography, ventriloquism, gardening, bird-watching, beachcombing, and spending time with her family. She and her husband, Richard, have been blessed with two grown children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. To learn more about Wanda, visit her website at www.wandabrunstetter.com.
Read an Excerpt
Prairie State Friends Book 1
By Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Wanda E. Brunstetter
All rights reserved.
Tears coursed down Elaine's cheeks and dripped onto the front of her black mourning dress. The mourners had arrived at the cemetery a few minutes ago, ready to put Grandpa Schrock's body to rest in the ground. He'd died of an apparent heart attack just moments after the paramedics arrived Saturday evening. This morning, because Grandma wanted it that way, Grandpa's funeral service had been held in a large tent outside their home, rather than in the Otto Center, where some local Amish funerals took place.
During the service, one of the ministers quoted Matthew 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." Grandpa had always been merciful to others, and so had Grandma. When Elaine was five years old and her parents had been killed in a buggy accident, her father's parents had taken her in. They'd been wonderful substitute parents, teaching, loving, and nurturing Elaine, yet asking so little in return. She only hoped she could live a life that would be pleasing not only to Grandma, but also to God.
If I'd only found Grandpa sooner, could he have been saved? Elaine wondered. Oh, Grandpa, I already miss you so much.
Elaine glanced over at her grandmother, standing to her left with hands folded, as though praying. Her eyes brimmed with tears. Grandma Schrock was a strong woman, but the grief she felt over losing her husband of forty-five years was evident on her face. And why wouldn't it be? Elaine's grandparents always had a deep, abiding love for each other, and it showed in everything they said and did as a couple. Elaine hoped to experience that kind of love when she got married someday.
Taking Grandma's hand, Elaine's throat constricted as Grandpa's simply crafted wooden coffin was placed inside a rough pine box that had already been set in the opening of the grave. Death for the earthly body was final, yet she was confident that Grandpa's soul lived on and that he now resided in a much better place. Grandpa had lived the Christian life in every sense of the word, and he'd told Elaine many times that he loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind. Yes, Elaine felt certain that Grandpa was in heaven with Jesus right now and perhaps even looking down on them with a smile. Did Grandma feel it, too? Quite possibly she did, for she gave Elaine's fingers a gentle squeeze as she turned her face toward the blue sky. Thank You, Lord, for giving us a sunny day to say our good-byes, Elaine prayed.
A slight chill hung in the air, but at least it wasn't raining, and only a gentle breeze whispered among the many headstones surrounding them. A bird chirped from a tree outside the fenced-in graveyard, as though offering comfort and a hope for the future.
A group of men from their church district began to sing while the grave was filled in by the pallbearers. Elaine winced. Although she had been quite young when her parents died, she still remembered standing in the cemetery during the burial, holding her grandparents' hands. Elaine's maternal grandparents, who had since died, had been living in Oklahoma back then. They had decided not to uproot Elaine from the only home she'd known, and she was grateful that Grandma and Grandpa Schrock had been more than willing to take her in. As the last shovelful of dirt was placed over the coffin, Elaine remembered her final words with Grandpa and her promise to take care of Grandma. And I will, Elaine reminded herself. For as long as Grandma needs me, I will be there for her.
Bishop Levi Kauffman asked the congregation to pray the Lord's Prayer silently, which concluded the graveside service. It was time to start back to the house for the funeral meal their friends and neighbors had prepared, but Elaine had no appetite. She'd be going through the motions and doing what was expected of her. Grandma would no doubt do the same.
Scanning the faces of close friends and church members, Elaine saw that the heartache she and Grandma felt today was shared by all. Although nothing had been said during the funeral service earlier this morning about Grandpa's attributes, everyone knew that Lloyd Schrock was a kind, caring man. Having farmed in this community from the time he'd married Grandma until his recent retirement, Grandpa had proved his strong work ethic and commitment to the community. How many times had Elaine witnessed him getting up at the crack of dawn to head out to the fields without a word of complaint? Grandma always got up with him and made sure he ate a hearty breakfast before beginning another busy day. She'd done the same for Elaine throughout her school days.
Elaine would miss their shared meals, as well as Grandpa's smile and the stories he often told. On cold winter evenings, they would sit by the fire, enjoying apple cider and some of Grandma's delicious pumpkin or apple pie. All the wonderful times the three of them had together would be cherished memories.
As folks turned from the grave site and began walking back to their buggies, Elaine's friends Priscilla Herschberger and Leah Mast approached Elaine and her grandmother and hugged them warmly. No words were necessary. These two young women had been Elaine's best friends since they were children, and even though at twenty-two Elaine was the youngest of the three, they'd always gotten along well.
"Are you coming over to our house for the meal?" Elaine asked.
Priscilla and Leah both nodded.
"We'll do whatever we can to help out today so you and your grandma can relax and visit with those who attend." Leah, whose hair was golden brown like a chestnut, gave Elaine's arm a tender squeeze.
"You can count on us, not just for today, but in the days ahead as you and your grandma strive to adjust." Priscilla's dark eyes, matching the color of her hair, revealed the depth of her love.
"Danki, I appreciate you both so much." Given a choice, Elaine would prefer to keep busy, but she'd be expected to visit with the guests, so she wouldn't think of turning down her friends' offer of help.
"I am grateful for you, too," Grandma said, her voice trembling a bit. "I value all of our friends in this community."
As Elaine and Grandma moved slowly toward their buggy, Elaine caught sight of Jonah Miller heading her way. For nearly a year, she and Jonah had been courting, and Elaine was fairly certain it was just a matter of time before he proposed marriage. A week ago, she would have eagerly agreed to marry Jonah if he'd asked. But with Grandpa dying, she needed to be there for Grandma. Perhaps later, once Grandma had recovered sufficiently, Elaine would be ready for marriage. But she would continue to look after Grandma, making sure that all of her needs were met.
"I'm sorry for your loss," Jonah said, his coffee-colored eyes showing the depth of his concern as he looked first at Grandma and then Elaine. "If there's anything I can do for either of you, please let me know," he added, pulling his fingers through the back of his thick, curly black hair, sticking out from under the brim of his black dress hat.
"We will," Grandma murmured. "Danki."
All Elaine could manage was a brief nod. If she spoke to Jonah, her tears would flow, and she might not be able to stop them. There would be time for her and Jonah to talk—perhaps later this afternoon or evening if he stayed around after the meal that long. Jonah had a business to run, and he might need to get back to work this afternoon.
As though reading her thoughts, Jonah touched Elaine's arm and said, "I'll see you back at your house." Nodding in Grandma's direction, he sprinted for his horse and buggy.
* * *
As Jonah stepped into his buggy and picked up the reins, he thought about Elaine and her grandmother and wondered what they would do now that Lloyd was gone. Would they continue to offer sit-down dinners in their home for curious tourists, or would Elaine find some other employment in order to help out financially? Although Lloyd had retired from farming, he'd continued to earn money by selling a good deal of the produce they raised to a local store where many Amish, as well as some English, shopped. He wondered if Elaine would end up taking over that responsibility.
I could ask Elaine to marry me now. That would solve any financial worries she and her grandma might have. Jonah smiled. It would also make me a happy man.
Jonah had been unlucky in love—at least when he'd lived in Pennsylvania. He had fallen in love with Meredith, a beautiful young woman whom he'd met several years before while visiting Florida. Meredith had believed that her husband was killed in a tragic bus accident, and after a suitable time of courting, Jonah and Meredith made plans to be married. But on the eve of their wedding, Meredith's husband, Luke, showed up. It turned out that he hadn't been on that bus after all, but had suffered from amnesia because of a beating he'd received at the Philadelphia bus station. For over a year, Meredith had grieved for Luke, until she'd finally given her heart to Jonah. When Luke showed up, claiming his wife and child, Jonah's whole world had turned upside down. Knowing he needed to get away from Lancaster County and begin again, a year and a half ago Jonah had moved to Arthur, Illinois, where his twin sister, Jean, lived with her family. Jean had also suffered a great loss when her first husband, Silas, was killed in a tragic accident. But since then, she had remarried. Jean had two children, Rebecca and Stephen by her first husband, and now she and Nathan had a baby boy named Ezekiel.
Jonah's bishop from childhood used to say, "Everything happens for a reason. God can take the tragedies in our lives and use them for something good." That was true in his sister's life, for she seemed happy and content. Jonah had also found happiness and love again when he'd met Elaine. He looked forward to the future and hoped to make the pretty blond his wife someday. But while she and her grandma were recovering from this great loss, he wouldn't bring up the subject of marriage. Instead, he'd be there for her, offering support in every way. When the time was right, he'd propose.
Thinking about the others who had been at the cemetery, Jonah reflected on how Sara Stutzman had looked as though she might break down at any moment. Sara's husband, Harley, had been killed by a falling tree ten months ago. Attending Lloyd's funeral and going to the graveside service must have been difficult for her, especially given that Harley's grave wasn't more than ten feet from where Lloyd was buried.
It was hard for Jonah, too, because he and Harley had been good friends. Since Jonah was courting Elaine, he had to be careful not to offer Sara too much support. But he, as well as several other men from their community, had gone over to Sara's several times to help out with chores. Jonah still dropped by occasionally to check on Sara and her two-year-old son, Mark. Usually Jonah's sister, Jean, was with him, as she and Sara were good friends. He wondered if Sara would get married again, since it would be better for Mark if he had a father.
But that's really none of my business, Jonah told himself. If it's meant for Sara to marry again, she'll choose the right man when the time comes.
* * *
Back at the house, Elaine visited a bit and then headed for her bedroom to retrieve a gift she'd purchased the week before for Leah. As she walked down the hall, each step was a struggle. Walking into her room on the main floor, Elaine quietly closed the door. The voices from those who had gathered in the yard, as well as from inside the house, became muffled.
She stood by the bedroom window, her head leaning against the cool glass. Gazing outside at the people who were visiting in the yard, she was overwhelmed by how many friends Grandpa had made over the years. Elaine watched with blurry vision as Priscilla and Leah and a few other women dashed around, making sure food and drinks were readily available for everyone. It was nice to see Grandma receiving so much support on such a difficult day. For Elaine, it was like losing her father all over again, only worse because she'd been with Grandpa a lot longer. Grandma's heart was aching, too. It would take some time to work through all of this, and they would need to rely on God.
Away from well-meaning people, the tears Elaine had held in for most of the morning pushed quickly to the surface. Quietly, she let them fall, covering her mouth to stifle the cries. Grandpa was gone, yet it seemed as though he were still here. His presence would be felt in this house for a long time. Grandpa's voice seemed to whisper in Elaine's ear: "Make each day count, Lainie, no matter what. Things happen for a reason, and although we may not understand it, in time, you'll find the answers you seek."
Grandma used to remind Elaine of similar things, often saying, "The Lord knows what is best for each of His children."
God, is all of this really what's best for me? Elaine's jaw clenched. First, You took my parents, and now You've taken Grandpa, whom we need so much. I feel like I'm in a dark tunnel without any light to guide me out.
She could stand in her bedroom and sob all day, but she had to get ahold of herself. It was time for her to support Grandma, just as she and Grandpa had always been there for her.
Elaine wiped away the tears with her apron and went to her closet to get Leah's gift, a bag of daffodil bulbs from the market. Leah's favorite color was yellow, and Elaine thought her friend would enjoy planting them and seeing them bloom every spring. She had enough bulbs to give half to Priscilla. She hadn't planned it this way, but it would be her way of saying thank you for all they were doing to make things easier on her and Grandma. She would ask them to plant the flowers in memory of Grandpa.
Elaine hesitated, wishing she could stay in her room a little longer. She took a deep breath, squeezing her eyes tightly shut. Grandma must want to be alone in her grief, too, and yet throughout the funeral, graveside service, and now here for the meal, she had put on a brave face in the presence of others.
How can one go on after losing their soul mate and partner for life? Elaine wondered. How does a wife begin each new day, knowing her husband is gone and won't be coming back? First Grandma had lost her only son, and now her husband was gone. Oh, Lord, Elaine prayed, help me to be there for her in every way, offering all of the comfort and care she will need in order to get through each day.
Elaine thought of Jonah and wondered what it would be like if she'd never met him. She cared deeply for Jonah and hoped to have a future with him, but how fair would it be for him to have to help her care for Grandma? The most difficult part of today was behind her, but now the real work would begin. It was time to pick up the pieces of their lives and try to move on.CHAPTER 2
That evening after all the food was cleared away and everyone had gone home, Elaine went out to the barn to feed the horses. The sound of her steady stride had apparently alerted the animals of feeding time and sent the buggy horses into whinnying and kicking at their stalls. Patches and two of their other barn cats seemed excited to see Elaine, as they skittered across the lawn and pawed at the hem of her dress. "Not now, you three. I'm too busy to play right now."
When Elaine stepped inside, she was greeted by familiar smells—grain, hay, dust, and the strong odor of horseflesh and urine from the horses' stalls. They really needed to be cleaned, but that could wait for another day. She was too tired to lift a pitchfork, and it would be all she could manage just to feed the horses this evening.
As Elaine approached the stall where Grandpa's horse was kept, she bit back a huge sob. This was the last place she'd seen her grandfather alive, when he'd asked her to look out for Grandma. Grandpa had obviously known he was dying.
"I will be here to help Grandma through her grief," Elaine murmured. "And she'll be here for me."
Excerpted from The Decision by Wanda E. Brunstetter. Copyright © 2015 Wanda E. Brunstetter. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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