Saturday, July 29, 2017

Amish Cooking Class - The Blessing by Wanda E. Brunstetter, © 2017

The Amish Cooking Class series, Book 2


Releases August 1, 2017
This is the second book in The Amish Cooking Class series. Book #1:  The Amish Cooking Class - The Seekers

My Review:

In Book 1 of this series, there were five students in Heidi Troyer's first cooking class ~ this story almost had five students too ~ until the Troyers' mailman gets a whiff of Heidi's cooking as she opens the door for a package too big for their mailbox. Missing the first class that morning, he is eager to catch up!

Others in Heidi's class share their lives ~ unexpectedly ~ as they become more comfortable with themselves and their decisions outside of class. Heidi's addition of a Scripture verse on the back of the recipe note card goes home with them ~ and their hearts. Praying for them during the week, Heidi wonders which one or ones the Scripture is meant for as they return for the continuation of the six cooking lessons.

I liked how one member of the class aided another anonymously to relieve their overload. The recipient hears a conversation and is thankful to be able to share appreciation. Beyond Heidi's recipes, lives are touched. Not initially realizing their isolation, new friendships are formed.

The author's story is conversational as the daily happenings of the five participants are followed and interchanged within a chapter. Characters from the first book are intermittently referred to in continuation of their lives and interaction to Heidi and her husband.

About the Book:

Return to the Troyer farm where Heidi welcomes six new cooking class students who experience the healing hand of God.
   Despite stressful changes occurring in their lives, Lyle and Heidi once again open their Ohio home up to those seeking to learn about Amish cooking. This time a teenager helping her divorced dad cook for the family, a caterer needing new recipes, a food critic, a hunter looking to impress his buddies, a wife given the class as an unwanted gift, and a mailman lured in by the aroma of good cooking gather around Heidi’s table.
   During each class, Heidi teaches culinary skills, but it is her words of wisdom that have a profound effect on her students—though, this time Heidi’s own hurting heart will need some healing nourishment.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Cooking Class - The Blessing ~ Chapters 1 & 2

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
Luke 18:27

Chapter 1

Walnut Creek, Ohio

Heidi Troyer’s skin prickled as a gust of wind blew into her kitchen. After peeling and cutting an onion to go in the savory meat loaf she was making for supper, she’d opened the window a few minutes ago to air out the room.
   Glancing into the yard, Heidi watched as newly fallen leaves swirled over the grass. Across the way, freshly washed laundry she’d hung on the line a few hours ago fluttered in the unseasonably cool breeze. Even the sheets made a snapping noise when the wind played catch and release.
   They’d soon be saying goodbye to the month of August, and Heidi was glad. A long dry spell had caused some of the trees to drop their leaves early, and the rustling of those still clinging to the branches sounded like water rushing down a well-fed stream after a heavy rain.
   “I wish it would rain. Even a drizzle would be nice.” Heidi looked toward the sky, but not a single puffy cloud was in sight. September was a month of transition, teetering between warm, summer-like days and cool, comfortable nights, so maybe the rain would come soon. She looked forward to its fresh, clean scent, not to mention it removing the necessity of watering her flowerbeds and garden.
   Heidi glanced at the plot where she’d planted a variety of vegetables in the spring. The potatoes and other root vegetables still needed to be dug and put in the cellar, and she wanted to get the chore done before Kendra’s baby was born and the adoption became official. Once the infant came, Heidi would put her full attention on raising the child. She’d already made the decision not to teach any more cooking classes— at least not until her son or daughter was older and didn’t require round-the-clock attention. Heidi certainly couldn’t teach and take care of the precious baby, and she didn’t want to juggle between the two—especially after waiting so long to become a mother.
   Heidi’s senses were heightened, and she giggled out loud as she visualized herself holding the infant while stirring a batch of cookie dough. After being married to Lyle for eight years and finding herself still unable to conceive, the idea of soon becoming a mother was almost more than she could comprehend. In a matter of weeks, her dream would finally come true. How thankful she was that Kendra had moved into their home and agreed to let them adopt her child. Once the baby was born and Kendra got her strength back, she would find a better-paying job and move out on her own. It wouldn’t be right to ask her to leave until she was physically and financially ready.
   Heidi sighed. What a shame Kendra’s parents turned their back on her and she felt forced to give up her baby. But then if they hadn’t, Lyle and I would not have been given the opportunity to raise Kendra’s child.
   Satisfied the onion smell was gone, Heidi took one more breath of the late summer-scented air, then closed the window and took a seat at the table. She owed her aunt Emma a letter and would start writing it while the meat loaf cooked. Maybe by the time supper was ready, Kendra would be back from her doctor’s appointment, and Lyle from Mt. Hope, where he’d put his auctioneering skills to good use most of the day.
   I can hardly wait for us to be sharing a warm meal at the kitchen table, so I can hear about the events of their days. Heidi was most anxious to get updates on Kendra’s doctor’s appointment. She’d offered to go with her this afternoon, as she had several other times since Kendra moved in with them. Today, however, Kendra had said she had a few stops to make after seeing the doctor and didn’t want to take up Heidi’s day.
   I wouldn’t have minded. I enjoy being with Kendra. Heidi’s nose tickled, and she rubbed it, trying to stifle a sneeze. Smelling onion on her fingers, she wet her hands under the faucet, then rubbed them along the sides of their stainless steel sink. After a few seconds, she smelled her fingers again and was amazed the onion scent was gone. Heidi didn’t know how it worked, but she was glad her friend Loretta had recently given her this unusual tip.
   “I’ll have to keep this in mind to share with my students once I decide to start up the cooking classes again.” Heidi wrote a note to remind her, since it would be a good while before she taught more classes.
   After she stuck the note in her recipe box, Heidi turned her attention to a daily devotional book lying near her writing tablet. She read Psalm 9:1, the verse for the day, out loud: “‘I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.’”
   Closing her eyes and bowing her head, Heidi prayed: “Thank You, Lord, for Your many blessings. I praise You with my whole heart for all Your wonderful works. Thank You for this day, and for my family and friends. Protect us, and shower Your people with many blessings. Amen.”
   Heidi had no more than finished her prayer when she heard a car pull into the yard. She went to the window and looked out, smiling as she watched Kendra get out of her driver’s car. Since Kendra didn’t have a vehicle of her own, she’d hired one of Heidi and Lyle’s drivers to take her into town. If Heidi had gone with her, they might have traveled by horse and buggy; although it would have taken them longer.
   Keeping an eye on Kendra, as she made her way toward the house, Heidi couldn’t help noticing her slow steps, and how she pursed her lips, while holding her stomach, as though in pain.
   Heidi’s shoulders tightened as she rushed to open the door. She hoped the doctor hadn’t given Kendra unsettling news today.
   “Sorry I’m late.” Kendra entered the house, avoiding eye contact with Heidi, and took a seat at the kitchen table. “We need to talk.” She pushed a lock of auburn hair behind her ears.
   Heidi pulled out a chair and sat. “What is it, Kendra? Is everything okay with the baby?”
   “No, not in a physical sense at least.” Kendra’s brown eyes looked ever so serious as she took the seat next to Heidi.
   “What do you mean?”
   The young woman’s shoulders curled as she bent her neck forward. “The whole way here, I thought about how I should tell you this.” Kendra took a shuddering breath. “And still, I don’t know where to begin.”
   Heidi held her hands in her lap, gripping her fingers into her palms. “Please, tell me what it is you need to say.”
   “Well, the thing is. . .” Kendra shifted in her chair. “Miracle of miracles—my dad called my cell phone this morning. He asked if I’d be free to come by his office this afternoon.” She paused and drew a quick breath. “I went there after I left the doctor’s office, and. . .” Her voice faltered, and she paused to swallow before continuing. “He said it had been a mistake to kick me out of the house after I told him and Mom I was pregnant.”
   Heidi smiled. “That’s good news, Kendra. I’ve been praying for it to happen. I hope things will be better between you and your parents from now on.”
   “Yeah, well, Dad wants me to move back home so he and Mom can help raise the baby.”
   “Raise the baby?” Heidi blinked rapidly, her breath bursting in and out. “Does this mean you’ve changed your mind about Lyle and me adopting your child?”
   Kendra gave a slow nod. “Since my parents are willing to help, there’s no reason for me to give up the baby now. And since the contract the lawyer drew up says. . .”
   Heidi held up her hand. “I know what it says; although I never expected you would go back on your word.”
   “I. . .I wasn’t planning to, but things have changed.” A few tears trickled down Kendra’s cheeks. “I never wanted to give up my baby; you have to know that. I only agreed to it because I had no support and knew I couldn’t take care of a child by myself.” She touched Heidi’s hands: both of them had turned cold. “I can see you’re disappointed, and I’m sorry, but I hope you understand.”
   Understand? Heidi’s stomach clenched, and she pressed the wad of her apron against it. She sat in stunned silence, unable to form a response. The tension felt so strong, she could almost touch it. It didn’t seem possible, after all these months of Kendra living with them, that she had changed her mind. Heidi wanted to be happy for the young, pregnant woman sitting at her table. It was good Kendra had reconciled with her parents and been invited to move back home. But Kendra’s decision to keep the baby put a hole in Heidi’s heart—one she felt sure would never close. Her dream of holding a tiny baby she could call her own was just that—only a dream. The walls in this house would not echo with the laughter of children. Tiny feet would never patter across the floor. No chubby arms would reach out for a hug. Heidi fought for control. The ringing in her ears was almost deafening.
   She glanced toward the hall, knowing the nursery that had already been set up would have to be dismantled. All the baby blankets and clothes would have to be packed away. The crib would be disassembled. She’d have Lyle haul it out to the barn, for having the crib in the house would be a painful reminder of their loss. Heidi didn’t even want to look at it now.
   She thought about the scripture she’d quoted several moments ago and wondered if she would ever praise the Lord again.

Less than an hour later, Heidi checked on the meat loaf, decided it was done, and turned the oven temperature to low. It was all she could do to get supper ready for when Lyle got home. Kendra’s shocking announcement numbed her mind. She wondered what Lyle’s reaction would be when he heard the news.
   Kendra came into the kitchen and stood watching as Heidi took a sack of potatoes from the pantry. “Would you like help getting supper ready?” she asked.
   “We need a kettle for boiling the potatoes.” Heidi could barely make eye contact with the young woman. Truth was, she wished she could be alone to deal with her grief.
   Kendra went to the lower cupboard and took out a medium-size pot. “I’ll add water to the kettle and set it on the propane burner to heat.”
   Without a word, Heidi slid over the jars of home-canned beans she’d taken out earlier. After removing the lids, she dumped the contents into a kettle and sprinkled some leftover onion bits on top. She stirred them around a bit, set the lid in place, and put the pan on the stove. She felt like a robot, merely going through the motions of preparing their meal.
   “Is there anything else I can do?” Kendra waited by the stove.
   “We’ll have iced tea to drink. Could you make that while I cut up a few carrot and celery sticks?” Heidi glanced at Kendra. This meal will be so awkward. I’d give anything if Kendra’s decision wasn’t absolute.
   Her hands trembled as she took out the carrots and began slicing them. She wished it was still morning and things were as they had been before Kendra’s shocking announcement. Is there even a chance she might think things over and change her mind? Is it right to cling to that hope?
   “When I’m done making the tea, I’ll set the dining-room table.” Kendra put the tea bags in the pitcher of hot water.
   “Okay.” Heidi washed celery stalks and cut those as well, pausing briefly to glance at the clock. Lyle would be home soon, and he’d be hungry. Her insides twisted; she had no appetite at all.
   Silently, Kendra got out the plates, silverware, napkins, and three glasses. She placed them on a large tray and headed for the dining room, elbows tucked into her sides. This had to be difficult for her, too. Heidi and Kendra had become close during the months she’d been living here. Heidi felt sure the young woman did not want to hurt her. But she had, and Heidi needed to come to grips with it, despite her disappointment.
   A few minutes later, as Heidi watched the water bubbling over the potatoes, she heard the familiar sound of Lyle’s horse and buggy pull in. She glanced at the timer on the counter. The potatoes had ten more minutes to go. It felt like it was a countdown to the moment she would give Lyle the news. Should I tell him before supper or wait until we’ve finished eating? Either way, there simply wasn’t a good time nor an easy way to say it.
   The back door squeaked open and clicked shut. A few seconds later, Lyle entered the kitchen, carrying his lunch box. He placed it on the counter, then pulled off his straw hat and smoothed back his thick auburn hair. “How was your day, Heidi? Did everything go well here?”
   She moved away from the stove and gave him a much-needed hug. At the moment, Heidi felt so overwhelmed she could barely speak.
   “You’re trembling, Heidi. Is something wrong?” He patted her back gently. “Wasn’t Kendra supposed to see the doctor today?”
   “Jah.” Heidi’s voice sounded muffled as she held her face close to his chest, hoping to draw strength from his embrace.
   “There’s nothing wrong with the boppli, I hope.”
   “No, Kendra’s baby’s fine.”
   Kendra came into the room just then. “Are we about ready to eat?”
   “Almost.” The timer for the potatoes went off, and Heidi stepped back to the stove to shut off the burner. The beans were also well heated, so she turned them off, too. “I’ll set everything on the dining-room table, and we can take our seats.” She’d already decided not to tell Lyle about Kendra changing her mind regarding the adoption until they were alone this evening. It would be too difficult to say it in front of Kendra.
   “Okay, just let me get washed up.” Lyle gave Heidi’s arm a tender squeeze before he left the room.
   Kendra picked up the amber-brewed tea sitting near the refrigerator. She also got out a tray full of ice before turning to face Heidi. “Lyle doesn’t know about me moving back with my folks, does he?”
   “No, I haven’t said anything yet.” Heidi’s voice caught in her throat. She picked up a pair of pot holders, opened the oven door, and brought out the meat loaf. After placing it on a platter, she sliced up their main course.
   Kendra paused a minute, blinking rapidly, then without a word, she made a hasty exit with the tea and ice cubes.
   Soon Lyle returned from washing up and offered to carry the meat loaf to the table. Heidi gave a brief nod and followed him with the beans and potatoes. Then, remembering the carrots and celery that had been sliced, she returned to the kitchen to get the container. When Heidi returned to the dining room, she took a seat across from Kendra, and they all bowed for silent prayer. Lyle sat at the head of the table, and he cleared his throat when he’d finished praying. Heidi took this as a cue, and she lifted her head. It had been difficult to even formulate a prayer. Although she was thankful for the food on their table, she felt no gratitude for the fact that her hopes and dreams of being a parent had been crushed. She couldn’t let it defeat her, though; she had to be strong.
   After the food was passed around, Lyle looked over at Kendra and smiled. “I was asking Heidi about your appointment earlier. How did it go?”
   Kendra picked up her iced tea and took a drink. “Umm. . . It went fine. The doctor said the baby and I are doing okay.”
   “Good to hear.” As if sensing Heidi’s gloomy mood, Lyle reached over and lightly touched her arm. “You’re not eating much.”
   Her lips quivered. “I–I’m not really hungry tonight.”
   “How come?” He reached for the bowl of potatoes and helped himself to several pieces. “Did you have too much to eat for lunch?”
   Before Heidi could respond, Kendra blurted, “I believe it’s my fault Heidi’s not hungry. She’s upset.” She paused and looked at Heidi before continuing. “I can’t blame her, and I’m sure you’ll be upset, too, with what I have to tell you.”
   Lyle’s brows drew together. “What is it, Kendra?”
   “I’ve changed my mind about giving up my baby.”
   His eyebrows shot straight up. “What?”
   Kendra explained the situation and said her parents wanted her to move back home. “I’ll be packing up my things and leaving in the morning.”
   Heidi wished Kendra hadn’t said anything—especially during their meal. Her shoulders slumped as she dropped her gaze and stared at her uneaten food. Heidi felt her husband’s eyes upon her, and she couldn’t help wondering what Lyle must be thinking right now. Her heart felt like it couldn’t sink any lower. It’s so unfair. How could this be happening to Lyle and me?

Chapter 2

Lyle placed his hands on Heidi’s shoulders, where she stood at their bedroom window watching the remaining colorful leaves swaying gently in the trees. “Are you all right? You’ve been staring out the window for the last ten minutes. If we don’t get ready for church soon we’re going to be late.”
   “It’s our off-Sunday,” she reminded. “We can stay home today and do our own private devotions.”
   “I realize that, but I thought we were going to visit a neighboring community today, like we often do between our own church district’s biweekly Sunday services.”
   Groaning, she flopped onto the bed. “I don’t feel like going. It would be hard for me to sit and watch other women holding their bopplin.”
   “There are babies in our own district, too. Are you going to stay home from church every Sunday because of that?”
   Heidi blinked several times, willing herself not to cry. She’d had enough tearful spells since Kendra had moved out two weeks ago.
   The bed creaked beneath his weight as Lyle took a seat beside Heidi and clasped her hand. “Don’t you think it’s time to let go of your grief and get back to the business of living?”
   She pulled away from his grasp. “That’s easy enough for you to say. You never really wanted to adopt Kendra’s baby. You only agreed to it because of me.”
   He shook his head. “Not true, Heidi. It may have been the case at first, but I changed my mind, and was looking forward to being a daed.” Lyle pressed a hand to his chest. “I’m hurt by Kendra’s decision as well.”
   She tipped her head. “Really? You haven’t shown it that much.”
   “I keep busy with my work and try not to dwell on what happened. Don’t you think it was hard for me to take the crib down and haul it out to the barn? Like you, I couldn’t bear looking at it.” Lyle leaned his head against Heidi’s. “We can’t change the situation; Kendra’s moved out and gone back to live with her parents.” He paused and drew a deep breath. “I’ve reached the conclusion that the adoption must not have been God’s will for us.”
   Heidi stiffened. “So are you saying God doesn’t want us to become parents?” Her throat felt swollen from holding back tears, and she swallowed hard to push down the lump that had formed.
   “I don’t know if God wants us to have children or not, but if it’s His will for us to become parents, then we’ll be given another chance to adopt.”
   “Oh, so you think some other pregnant woman is going to show up at our doorstep and ask us to adopt her child?” It wasn’t right to speak to her husband in such a sarcastic tone, but Heidi couldn’t seem to hold her tongue this morning.
   “That is not what I meant.”
   “What then?”
   “We can put our name in with the adoption lawyer, and. . .”
   “I don’t want to.” Folding her arms, Heidi shook her head stubbornly. “Not now, anyway. Even if the lawyer found another birth mother seeking adoptive parents to take her child, she might change her mind at the last minute, like Kendra did.” Heidi’s voice cracked. “I can’t deal with another disappointment, Lyle.”
   He slipped his arm around her waist. “Let’s wait a few months, then we can talk about this again. Okay?”
   She lifted her shoulders in a brief shrug. What choice did she have?
   “Have you thought about teaching another cooking class? You enjoyed the last one you taught, and your students learned a lot more than cooking from you. It would give you something meaningful to do, and teaching six more classes might prove to be fun.”
   Heidi couldn’t deny having enjoyed teaching her first set of students. During the six classes she’d taught, some wonderful things had happened. She would never forget how Ron Hensley turned his life over to Christ and went back to his hometown to make amends with his grown children and ex-wife. Then there was Loretta Donnelly, who’d formed a relationship with their friend and neighbor, Eli Miller, and was preparing to join the Amish church this fall. Heidi had been pleased when Charlene Higgins, engaged to be married, learned how to cook under her tutorage. The young school teacher had gained more confidence in the kitchen, which in turn, gave Charlene a better relationship with her future mother-in-law. Even Kendra Perkins had changed during the time she’d been in the class, focusing on the positive, rather than letting negative thoughts fill her mind.
   Despite Heidi’s disappointment over not being able to adopt Kendra’s baby, she wished the young woman well. “Maybe it is time to teach another class,” she murmured. “At least it would keep me busy.”
   Lyle patted her arm. “Good for you.”
   Drawing strength from deep within, Heidi turned toward the closet. “I’ll change into my church clothes and be ready to leave for church by the time you have the horse and buggy ready.”
   He smiled and leaned down to give her a kiss. “You’ll be glad you went once we’re sitting in church and singing familiar hymns from the Ausbund.”
   “Jah, you’re probably right. The songs of old, as well as our ministers’ sermons are enough to lift anyone’s spirits.”

Coshocton, Ohio

“Hey, buddy, what’s for breakfast? You’re not gonna give us any leftover stew, I hope.”
   “No, Andy, I’m certainly not. We’re gonna have cold cereal this morning.” Bill Mason ground his teeth together. He and a couple of his buddies had gone camping at his cabin for the weekend, and as usual, he’d gotten stuck with all the cooking.
   Andy, Russ, and Tom wrinkled their noses. “Come on, Bill,” Russ said. “Can’t you do better than that? If I wanted cold cereal for breakfast, I could have stayed home.”
   “Maybe you should have then.” Bill poked Russ’s arm. “Whenever we go camping you guys always want me to cook, but then all you do is complain.”
   Tom shifted on his canvas camping stool and leaned toward the fire he’d recently built in the pit outside Bill’s cabin. “Know what I think?”
   Bill shook his head. He had a mind to throw his gear in his rig and head for home. Let ’em fend for themselves and see how they like it.
   “I think you oughta take some cooking classes. If you started on ’em right away, by the time deer season starts, you might be ready to cook us some decent meals.”
   “Humph!” Bill folded his arms. “Maybe you should be the one to take cooking classes.” It was hard not to let his so-called friends get under his skin this morning. Bill hadn’t slept well last night, even though his was the only bed inside the cabin. The other men had bedded down near the fireplace with their sleeping bags on fold-away cots.
   Tom shook his head. “Nope. Out of the four of us, you’re the only one who likes to cook.”
   “Tom’s right.” Andy gave a nod. “Even if I took classes, it would do me no good.”
   Bill grunted. “Well, you’d better get used to my cooking then, ’cause I ain’t takin’ no cooking lessons—end of story.” He grabbed a box of cereal and set it on the metal folding table he’d set up near the fire pit. “And by the way, I don’t actually like to cook; we just wouldn’t eat if I didn’t do it, ’cause none of you guys can do much more than boil water.”
   Tom threw another log on the fire. “You’re right about that, but even if we could cook a decent meal, you’d probably still do it.” He pointed his finger at Bill. “’Cause you like to be in control of things, since this is your hunting cabin.”
   Bill massaged his temples. I wonder if it would have been better for me to go to church today instead of camping with this bunch of ingrates. The truth was he hadn’t been to church in a good many years. More than likely, he’d never step into a church building again.

Millersburg, Ohio

Clutching a plastic container, Nicole Smith ambled across the room and placed it on the table. “Here you go, Tony. Are you happy now?”
   Nicole’s freckle-faced, nine-year-old brother looked up at her and frowned. “Is that all I get for breakfast—just some boiled eggs?”
   She pointed to the plate in the middle of the table. “You can have some of the bread I toasted, too.”
   Tony squinted his blue eyes, and wrinkled his nose. “You don’t have to be so bossy, Nicki.”
   She shook her finger at him. “Don’t call me that. My name is Nicole. Do you hear me, Tony? N–i–c–o–l–e. Nicole.”
   He puffed out his cheeks and grabbed a piece of toast, then slathered it with strawberry jam. “Mama calls you Nicki.”
   “That’s right, and she knows I don’t like that nickname.” Nicole looked at her twelve-year-old sister. “Are eggs and toast okay for you, Heather, or do you want a bowl of cold cereal?”
   “I don’t want either.” Heather shook her blond head. “I want pancakes this morning.”
   Tony bobbed his head. “Yeah, that’d be a nice change.”
   Nicole felt like telling her siblings if they wanted pancakes, they should get out the ingredients and fix them, but that would be a mistake—even worse than if she made them herself. “Listen, you both know I’m not good at making pancakes. The last ones I made turned out all rubbery.” Nicole plopped both hands against her slender hips. “I’m tired of you both wanting something different every day. Can’t you eat what I fix for breakfast without complaining?”
   “I don’t like cold cereal.” Tony wrinkled his nose again.
   Heather clutched her throat, making a low-pitched gagging noise. “The taste of boiled eggs makes me feel sick to my stomach. You oughta learn how to make somethin’ else for a change.”
   “All right you two; don’t give your big sister a hard time. Nicole does the best she can.” Dad came into the kitchen and took a seat at the head of the table. He paused long enough to add some cream to his coffee, then helped himself to a piece of toast.
   “She needs to learn how to cook somethin’ besides cold cereal, boiled eggs, and toast.” Heather looked at Nicole. “Maybe you should take some cooking lessons. Then you can make us some yummy-looking stuff like that lady on TV who has the cooking show.”
   “Dad doesn’t have enough money to pay for cooking lessons.” Gritting her teeth, Nicole grabbed a hard-boiled egg and cracked it open. Cooking meals for my sister and brother, as well as Dad, shouldn’t be my job anyway. It was Tonya’s responsibility, and she oughta be here taking care of us right now.
   Nicole tried not to dwell on it, but there were times, like now, when her anger bubbled to the surface. She was a sophomore in high school and should be having fun during her teen years, not babysitting, cooking, cleaning, and doing all the other things her mother used to do before she started drinking and ran off with another man. The high hopes Nicole once had for her high-school years had died. Everything she did now was an unappreciated chore.
   Nicole couldn’t fault Dad for agreeing to the divorce Tonya asked for—especially when she said she didn’t love him anymore and had started seeing another man. But that didn’t make it any easier to deal with the disappointment Nicole, Dad, and her siblings all felt. The responsibilities on Nicole’s shoulders had increased this past year, and it was hard not to feel bitter and let anger take control.
   Nicole had given up on her dreams of going to the upcoming homecoming dance that would be held the night before the big football game against her school’s biggest rival. Win or lose, after the game there’d be a big bonfire. Guess she’d be missing all that, too. Well, what did it matter? She had no one to go with anyhow. She couldn’t really blame the few friends she used to hang out with for not wanting to include her when she always turned down their invitations to go places and do things with them. Even after-school clubs like being on the yearbook staff, which she wouldn’t have minded joining, were out of the question now. Nicole always had to get home right away, do several chores, and of course, get dinner going before Dad got there.
   Nicole rubbed her forehead and heaved a sigh. Becoming a cheerleader was an even bigger pipe dream—a far-fetched hope that would never come true.
   She jumped when Dad placed his hand on her shoulder. “You know, your brother and sister could be right. Taking some cooking classes might be a good idea, Nicole.”
   Her eyes narrowed. “You’re kidding, right?”
   He shook his head. “It might be fun and even good for you. I think I’ll start looking around to see if there are any classes being offered in our area.”
   Lips pressed together, Nicole slunk down in her chair. She hoped if Dad did start looking, he’d come up empty-handed, because the last thing she wanted to do was take cooking classes, with some stranger telling her what to do. Besides, when would she have time for that? Nicole was already on overload.

Canton, Ohio

Kendra gripped the grocery cart, as she pushed it down the baby aisle. Since moving in with her parents, she’d tried to make good use of her time and help wherever, and whenever, she could. Her mother needed a few groceries, so Kendra had volunteered to go—if for no other reason, than to get out of the house for a while. Now, she wondered if it had been such a good idea.
   Since early this morning, she’d been having what she thought might be the early stages of labor. A dull, persistent pain throbbed through her lower back, but not bad enough to stop her from doing anything. Kendra wanted to keep mobile and stay busy, to help keep her mind off things, and grocery shopping would do just that.
   As the time drew closer to her due date, Kendra grew increasingly apprehensive. What was labor like, and how long would it last? Could she withstand the pain? Would she have any complications? Would her baby be born healthy? Kendra had all the normal questions of a first-time mother, but she had even more important things to ponder. Did I make the right decision to move back home? Would it have been better for my child to be raised by the Troyers and not under my parents’ influence? Mom can be so spineless, and Dad. . . Well, he’s impossible to please most of the time. He may have invited me back, but I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me for bringing shame on my family.
   Already, Kendra’s folks had been suggesting things they thought would be best for their first grandchild. But Kendra did not commit to anything. She placed her hand on her stomach. “This is still my baby, and I have the final say, no matter what Mom and Dad might suggest,” she huffed under her breath. Kendra kept walking when a shopper looked quizzically at her.
   “Didn’t you ever talk to yourself?” Kendra mumbled low enough so the man wouldn’t hear her. Then she stopped at the diaper section, which took up a large part of the shelves. Kendra didn’t realize how many selections there would be, and how many different brands of disposable diapers were available for purchase. It was a bit mind-boggling.
   Pulling an envelope from her purse, Kendra flipped through the coupons inside to see if any were still active and hadn’t expired yet. “Oh good.” She took out a dollar-off coupon. “Here’s one I can use.” Thankfully, this store carried the brand, and she could save a dollar, at least. After realizing she’d need to buy two packs of diapers to qualify for the coupon, Kendra made room in the cart to put them. When she grabbed the second pack off the shelf, a sharp pain stabbed from her lower back all the way to the front of her swollen middle.
   Grasping her stomach, the pack of diapers fell, and she shuffled over to her cart to hang on. At the same time, a young woman, who was also pregnant, but not as big as Kendra, stopped to see if she needed any help.
   “Are you okay?” the kindly lady asked. She picked up the diapers and placed them in Kendra’s cart.
   “I—I think so.” Kendra remained still until the pain subsided. “It’s not my due date yet, and I’m hoping these aren’t labor pains I’ve been having.”
   “By the way, my name’s Delana.” The woman rubbed her stomach. “I’m not due until the beginning of December, but in the last maternity class I attended, we learned about false labor. Do you think that’s what you might be having?”
   “I’m not sure. I’ve had a backache all morning.” Kendra reached around and rubbed the small of her back. “But then, since I’ve grown larger, my back always hurts, so who knows?”
   “Okay, well, maybe you’d better finish your shopping and get back home, just to be on the safe side,” Delana suggested. “Would you like me to call your husband or someone else?”
   “No, that’s okay. I only live about fifteen minutes from here.” No way would Kendra admit to a stranger that she had no husband. Her situation was no one’s business but her own. Kendra hadn’t even bothered to introduce herself—not even after the woman had said her name.
   “Well, if you’re sure.” Delana hesitated a minute. “It was nice talking to you, and good luck.”
   “Same to you.” Kendra pointed to the diapers in her cart. “Thanks for assisting me.”
   “Sure, no problem.” Delana moved on.
   Looking at her mother’s list, Kendra headed for the frozen food aisle. Let’s see. . . Mom wants four packages of mixed vegetables. This morning, her mother had mentioned wanting to make soup for supper. Luckily the store was having a sale on a well-known brand this week. Ten packages for ten dollars. Sounds like a good deal.
   As Kendra held the freezer door open to get the frozen vegetables, another pain, worse than the last one, made her scream. This time, the cart’s support did no good, and she doubled over and crouched on the floor, barely able to deal with the pain. By this time, several patrons gathered around, including the young pregnant woman she’d spoke to minutes ago.
   Delana didn’t ask any questions. She got out her cell phone and called 911. An older woman took her sweater and bunched it up to make a pillow for Kendra’s head. “There, there dear, lie down on the floor and try to relax. Help will be here soon.”
   By then, Delana had made the call and hunkered down next to Kendra, taking her hand and patting it gently. “Looks like you might be having your baby a little sooner than you expected. Just breathe deeply and think positive thoughts. The paramedics will be here soon.”
   Delana looked up at the other people gawking at Kendra, and said, “She’ll be okay. The ambulance is on the way. No need to hover all around. Please, just give her some space.”
   A few people hesitated, but then they finally dispersed and went about their shopping.
   When only Delana and the older woman were kneeling beside Kendra, she didn’t feel quite so intimidated.
   Delana leaned closer. “I never got your name.”
   “It–it’s Kendra.” She tried to get up, but the older lady told her to stay put.
   “But the pain is gone now, and I feel okay. My water hasn’t even broken yet, so I don’t think the baby’s coming right away.”
   “Still, you should get checked out.” Delana placed her hand on Kendra’s shoulder. “What if you were driving home and had another bad contraction? You don’t want to have an accident and get hurt or injure the baby.”
   “I guess you are right,” Kendra relented, even though the floor was hard and uncomfortable.
   As she remained there, trying not to think about her situation and willing herself to relax, Kendra looked toward the end of the aisle. For a fleeting moment she saw a man who’d been looking her way, turn quickly and scurry around the corner.
   Was that Dad? If it was, then why didn’t he come see if I was okay?


Later that evening, Nicole reclined on her bed, working on a math assignment. She laughed out loud, thinking about her dad’s silly idea of her taking a cooking class. “I can’t believe he’d even suggest such a thing.”
   Soon, her bedroom door opened, and Heather walked in. “I heard you laughing. What’s so funny in here?” She flopped on the end of Nicole’s bed.
   Nicole rolled over and sat up, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “You heard me laugh?”
   Her sister gave a nod. “Were you talkin’ to yourself, too?”
   “Yeah. I was thinking about Dad saying I should take a cooking class. Can you imagine me doing something like that?”
   Heather shrugged. “It’s not a bad idea, you know. We get tired of eating the same old things all the time.”
   “You can take over for me anytime you want.” Nicole stretched her arms over her head. “It’s not easy being in my shoes, you know.”
   “It’s been hard for all of us since Mom left.” Heather’s chin quivered. “I wish she’d come back, Nicki.”
   Nicole gave a quick shake of her head, choosing not to make an issue of her sister calling her Nicki. “Not with her drinking problem, Heather. That’s what got her messed up in the first place.” Her gaze flicked up. “Besides, she’s married to someone else now.” And he’s a big creep, she mentally added.
   Heather sniffed. “Don’t know why she’d want to leave Dad. He’s a great guy, don’t you think?”
   “Absolutely. He works hard and does the best he can for us. We’re lucky to have a dad like him.” Nicole gave her sister’s arm a pat. “You’d better get ready for bed, and I need to finish my homework.”
   “Okay.” Heather scooched off the bed. “See you in the morning.”
   Nicole smiled. “Yep. I’ll have your cold cereal ready and waiting.”
   Her sister paused at the door and wrinkled her nose. “If Dad can afford it, I think you'd better take a cooking class." Heather hurried out of the room before Nichole could form a response.
   Nichole picked up her math book and stuffed it in her backpack next to the bed. She was too tired to do any more problems. If she got up early tomorrow maybe, she could finish then.
   Yawning, she stretched out on the bed again and closed her eyes. A vision of her mother popped into her headscraggly blond hair she sometimes wore pulled back in a ponytail, and blue eyes often rimmed with red. Why'd you have to ruin things between you and Dad? How come you chose your new husband over us? He's not even a nice man.
Wanda E. Brunstetter,  Amish Cooking Class - The Blessing Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., © 2017. Used by permission.

***Thank you to Barbour's Review Crew for inviting me to join in this second book and sending me a copy. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Heidi's recipes she taught in this second class are included in the back of this book. You will look forward to 200+ practical recipes in the spiral bound Amish Cooking Class Cookbook releasing in February 2018, and... book 3 in this series: Amish Cooking Class - The Celebration releases then too!
author Wanda E. Brunstetter
Expected publication: February 1st 2018 by Shiloh Run Press

The Seekers (Amish Cooking Class #1)
Published February 1st 2017 by Shiloh Run Press

Amish Cooking Class - The Celebration
Expected publication: February 1st 2018 by Shiloh Run Press

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Nichole Nordeman CD Album: Every Mile Mattered, © 2017

Nichole Nordeman
Every Mile Mattered preview

My Review:

I enjoyed Nichole Nordeman's album "The Unmaking" and looked forward to listening to her new album. I especially liked the reflection of her voice and instruments in closing everything else out. Our hearts resounding with the One who loves us best, deeper, and forever. Through experiences of life, love flows surrounding us taking hold of Him in all areas. J*O*Y. ~*You're here / The only invitation that You need, is the very air I breathe /

Dear Me... / This is a letter to the girl I used to be /

Christian & Gospel
Every Mile Mattered
11 songs, 46 minutes

1 Every Mile Mattered 3:26

2 You’re Here 4:01

3 Dear Me 5:27

4 No Longer 3:55

5 Lean 3:47

6 Hush, Hush 4:24

7 Listen To Your Life 3:44

8 Beautiful Day 4:17

9 Sound of Surviving 4:06

10 Anywhere We Are 5:23

11 Slow Down (feat. Pepper Ingram) 4:03
℗ Sparrow Records; Ⓟ2017 Capitol Christian Music Group, Inc.

Lyrics to Title Song ~ Every Mile Mattered

Spread the map on the table
With the coffee stain
Put your finger on the places
Show me where you’ve been

Is that California where your teardrops dried
You drew a circle around Georgia, can you tell me why

I see should have beens, could have beens
Written all over your face
Wrong turns, and bridges burned
Things you want to change

It’s history
You can’t rewrite it
You’re not meant to be trapped inside it
Every tear brought you here
Every sorrow gathered
It’s history
But every mile mattered

Get the box off the top shelf
With the black and white
Snapshots of your old self
In a better light
Ghosts and regrets back again
I can see it in your eyes
Send them home, let ‘em go
Don’t you think it’s time

Every road and every bend
Every bruise and bitter end
All you squandered, all you spent
It mattered, it mattered
Mercy always finds a way
To wrap your blisters up in grace
Every highway you’d erase
It mattered, it mattered

But it’s history
It don’t define ya
You’re free to leave
It all behind ya
Music video by Nichole Nordeman performing Every Mile Mattered. (C) 2017 Capitol Christian Music Group, Inc.

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She has a book “SLOW DOWN” coming out in August, pre-order here:

9780718099015, Slow Down, Nichole Nordeman

Her book Slow Down: Embracing the Everyday Moments of Motherhood will be in stores August 22, 2017. Pre-order available here: The days are long, but the years are short.
No matter if it’s your child’s first step, first day of school, or first night tucked away in a new dorm room away from home, there comes a moment when you realize just how quickly the years are flying by. Christian music artist Nichole Nordeman’s profound lyrics in her viral hit “Slow Down” struck a chord with moms everywhere, and now this beautiful four-color book will inspire you to celebrate the everyday moments of motherhood.
Filled with thought-provoking writings from Nichole, as well as guest writings from friends including Shauna Niequist and Jen Hatmaker, practical tips, and journaling space for reflection, Slow Down will be a poignant gift for any mom, as well as a treasured keepsake.
Take a few moments to reflect and celebrate the privilege of being a parent and getting to watch your little ones grow—and Slow Down.

One music CD of Every Mile Mattered is
being offered to a commenter here at Lane Hill House.
With your comment, leave your email[at]location[dot]com below
 for contacting the winner.
Open for comments for ten days from this posting.*

*This giveaway to Continental U.S. residents only. Recipient of giveaway will be notified by email.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.

If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Friday, July 21, 2017

With You Always by Jody Hedlund, © 2017

Orphan Train, Book 1

Cover Art

Historicals, my very favorites. I am eager to read this orphan train story. So many were taken to fill a work need or replacement ~ so want these to be received with love and anticipation! I always love it when Jody Hedlund's novels say "Book 1." Future stories in the works! There is a free prequel novella available entitled An Awakened Heart giving a back story of the characters. Book one begins in New York City ~ June 1857.
New York City struggled with overcrowding and homelessness in the 1800s, leading to the Orphan Train movement #orphantrain #jodyhedlund #withyoualways
New York City struggled with overcrowding and homelessness in the 1800s, leading to the Orphan Train movement
Elise Neumann is not eagerly received as the other seamstresses observe her as "special picked" as they knew of other ladies waiting to be chosen for a stitching job. Marks against her already, Elise still is in need of keeping the peace to be able to take care of her siblings. They had been left in poverty, as others, in need of a place of rest and care themselves.

Rescued by a gentleman from an encounter on the street, Elise is introduced to Thornton Quincy, and in turn, becomes invaluable in his quest to build a railroad town. Quincy, Illinois, has its beginning!
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
--Deuteronomy 7:9

This story is so well developed! I loved the history-in-the-making as Thornton realizes it is the people he will be beholden to, and not the conquest he seeks to build a town. When we are truly ourselves and not trying to replicate another, our beauty shines through. This story is a second-read, indeed! Loved it. So much wisdom and daily application of God's Truth in our involvement with others revealing an individual's character that is received heartily and returned in-kind.

EnJ*O*Y this excerpt from Jody Hedlund's With You Always ~ Chapter One

For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand,
saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
                                                  Isaiah 41:13

Chapter 1

New York City
June 1857

Elise Neumann stared out the cracked third-story window to the muddy street below, watching the omnibuses and carriages slog their way through the muck. Pedestrians dodged puddles as they hurried along. A lone newsboy stood on the street corner attempting to sell his papers, his cheeks and hands black with ink. Even at the early morning hour, the city was bustling.
   To think that only a day ago these dangerous and dirty streets had been her home.
   Behind her came Marianne’s soft whisper. “How long have you been awake?”
   Elise turned. “Not long.” Her sister’s face still shone from the hard scrubbing she’d given it yesterday when they arrived at the Seventh Street Mission. It wouldn’t be quite as easy to wash away from their minds the trauma of being homeless orphans.
   She was still pinching herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming, even though the rumbling of her stomach told her she was very much awake.
   “I’m going to work today,” she told Marianne quietly with a glance to where the other three children lay on pallets. She didn’t want to wake them yet. She hoped they’d sleep all day. Marianne brushed back her wavy brown hair that was still in need of a washing. “Miss Pendleton said we didn’t have to start today, that we could take a few days to rest.”
   “We need the money.” They had none. In fact, they had nothing but a small sack of clothes and belongings to remind them that they’d ever had parents or a home. With each passing day, it was becoming more difficult to remember a time when they’d been happy and safe together in Hamburg, when both Vater and Mutti had been alive, when Vater had his thriving bakery, when they had everything they needed and more.
   At a faint scuttling, Marianne shuddered and hugged her thin arms across her chest. Elise had slept deeply last night—the first time since Mutti had died over a month and a half ago—and she hadn’t heard the rats in the walls or the cockroaches on the ceiling. But in the quiet of the early morning, their cacophony of skitters and squeaks had been all too loud.
   Miss Pendleton, the owner of the newly opened Seventh Street Mission, had explained she was still in the process of cleaning up the massive building that had once been a brewery. When the brewery had closed several years ago, gangs and thugs had taken over the unused building, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
   Bullet holes dotted one wall, while another had a jagged gap that had been hastily patched. The ceiling was coated in black soot, evidence someone had burned a coal fire for warmth. The floor had been swept, but a residue of grime remained.
   It was better than the streets, Elise reminded herself. Much better.
   Even more important, Miss Pendleton had promised her and Marianne one of the coveted seamstress positions in her workshop. Elise planned to put the promise to the test that very morning. She was desperate for a job. She’d promised Mutti on her deathbed she’d take good care of her siblings, and so far she’d failed to do so.
   Besides, she couldn’t rely upon Miss Pendleton’s or the Seventh Street Mission’s charity. Already Miss Pendleton had provided them several meals yesterday. She’d given them dry blankets and pallets. And she’d sent for a doctor to care for poor little Nicholas. At one year of age, the elements and lack of food had quickly taken a toll on the infant. Thankfully, except for dehydration, the doctor hadn’t found anything wrong with the boy. After a day of rest and plenty of fluids, color had begun to return to his cheeks.
   “Stay with the children.” Elise combed her hair back with her fingers and began to plait it. In the scant light coming through the window, her thick blond hair appeared gray. She didn’t doubt that it was. The dust of the streets engrained every fiber.
   Marianne didn’t argue. Even though she was only a year younger than Elise’s nineteen years, Marianne had always deferred to Elise. It made Elise’s job of caring for her siblings easier. They listened to her without question. But the weight of responsibility could be unbearable at times, especially because she couldn’t seem to take care of them the way they deserved.
   Elise’s fingers snagged in her hair. They were chapped and red from the exposure to the rain. And stiff. She just prayed she could make her fingers work to do the detailed stitches that would be required of her.
   Marianne brushed her hands aside. “Let me do it.”
   Elise relinquished her hair into Marianne’s deft but tender fingers. In no time, Marianne had her hair braided, coiled, and pinned at the back of her head. Elise pressed a kiss against her sister’s cheek in thanks and then tiptoed across the room.
   She paused above Sophie, who was sandwiched between Nicholas and Olivia. Sophie had her bony arms draped protectively across each of the children. For the first time in weeks, Sophie’s pretty face was smooth, devoid of worry lines. Elise almost thought she could see the girl’s dimples in her cheeks. They rarely made an appearance anymore.
   In sleep, Sophie looked so vulnerable, almost as helpless as Nicholas and Olivia. Sophie was petite and hadn’t begun to change into a woman yet. She could easily pass for a child of ten instead of fifteen.
   Elise sighed. Maybe now in a safe place, with steady meals, Sophie would begin to flourish. She desperately hoped today would be the start of a better future for them all.
   She made her way down a rickety stairway until she reached the first floor. After returning from the privy in the back alley, she followed the sound of voices and low laughter. The hallway was narrow, illuminated only by the open doors of rooms near the front of the building. The scent of fresh paint was strong, along with the lingering odors of vinegar and lye, a sure sign Miss Pendleton had already labored hard to make the first floor of the building usable.
   Before Elise reached the workroom, she stopped and took a steadying breath, then forced herself to step inside. She found herself in a workshop filled with women sitting at long tables, sewing shirts. Their chatter tapered to a halt, and soon all eyes focused upon her.
   None of the faces looked familiar. Many of the women held raised needles, dangling with thread. Others had needles jabbed through linen. The tables were covered in the cut pieces of men’s shirts in various stages of construction. Though Elise had sewn vests at her last job, she was familiar enough with seamstress work to recognize the different tasks the women had been assigned. Some were stitchers, others finishers, and still others embroiderers.
   Rumors abounded about new machines that could do the sewing in place of hand-stitching. Like everyone else, Elise couldn’t imagine how a contraption of metal could be as accurate or thorough as a human.
   While she never thought she’d end up a seamstress, it was one job in New York City available to women. Most sweatshops were already full, but Miss Pendleton had guaranteed her work. And she was counting on it. Desperately.
   She searched the room for the petite, dark-haired woman wearing black mourning garments. However, Miss Pendleton was not present.
   “May I help you?” A woman spoke with an English accent, pushed away from one of the tables and stood. She was tall with pale skin, which made the dark circles under her eyes more visible. Her drab brown hair was parted severely down the middle and smoothed into a coiffure. Her plaid dress of silk and taffeta, which at one time had probably been stylish and elegant, was now faded and ragged.
   “I’m looking for Miss Pendleton,” Elise said. The moment she spoke, the curiosity in some of the faces changed to mistrust, even anger. Seven years after immigrating, Elise couldn’t shed her German accent. And apparently these women weren’t German, which meant they were probably Irish.
   Unfortunately, the Irish and German immigrants couldn’t ever seem to get along. Roving gangs from either side were always fighting one another in the streets and alleys. Both ethnic groups had large populations here, and they were competing for the same limited jobs and homes.
   “Miss Pendleton is not available.” The tall woman’s eyes weren’t hostile, merely curious.
   “Miss Pendleton told me I could find work here.”
   The women exchanged glances among themselves. Elise’s stomach cinched. Was there no work after all? Had Miss Pendleton misled her?
   “As you can see,” the Englishwoman said, “we have no more room for additional workers.”
   Elise surveyed the spacious room once again and this time noted there were only four women at each table. Each had her own work surface with plenty of natural light from the windows, as well as oil lanterns positioned throughout the room.
   The sweatshop she’d worked in previously had been a small tenement apartment. Up to twelve workers had squeezed into a room that was a fraction of the size of this one. They’d had little lighting and only their laps to work on. “I don’t need much space.”
   The Englishwoman glanced over her shoulder at one of the tables to a curly redheaded woman, who pursed her lips and gave a curt shake of her head. Her eyes and her pretty freckled face were street-hardened, lacking any compassion in a world where the competition for survival was brutal.
   “You will need to find work elsewhere,” the woman said again, almost apologetically.
   Elise was tempted to protest—or beg. She considered herself a woman of some pride. But after living on the streets once already, the thought of returning sent a rush of panic through her. She wasn’t afraid for herself but didn’t want to expose her family to the danger again. “If you give me a chance, you’ll see I’m an excellent seamstress.”
   “I am truly sorry,” the woman said.
   “What will I do?” The desperate question slipped out before Elise could contain it.
   “Yer young and pretty,” said the redheaded woman. “The men’ll like ye well enough.”
   The implication made Elise’s scalp crawl. “I’d rather die than sell my body.”
   “My, aren’t we a proud one,” said another lady from a nearby table.
   “Aye,” said another, almost spitting the word through a scowl. “You’d do it if it meant you didn’t have to watch your wee one starve before your very eyes.”
   Others began to speak up, and angry voices escalated around the room. If their gazes had been unfriendly before, they turned downright hostile now. Elise took a step back. She couldn’t understand why her simple statement would make the women so angry. Prostitution was wrong. Why were they crucifying her for taking a stand against it?
   Unless . . .
   Elise clutched the doorframe. She’d been so tired yesterday that she had a hard time focusing on Miss Pendleton’s explanation behind the Seventh Street Mission, but somewhere in Elise’s mind she vaguely remembered Miss Pendleton mentioning that the women in the workshop had been rescued from a life of degradation. Had she meant prostitution?
   All traces of hope flittered away, like flower petals falling to the floor waiting to be crushed. She may as well leave. There would be no work for her here, not as a German woman. Especially not now that she’d insulted them.
   Elise turned from the workshop and started down the hallway back the way she’d come. She’d let the children sleep as long as possible, get one more meal, and then they’d be on their way. But where would they go? Would she be forced to return to Uncle’s, even though the situation there was intolerable?
   What about Reinhold? Her friend had offered to marry her in order to provide a place for her family, despite his barely being able to afford to care for his own mother and siblings, and his aunt and her children. He was probably worried sick about her by now. She’d had no way to contact him since they’d run away.
   “Elise” came a voice from down the hall.
   Elise pivoted to see Miss Pendleton entering the building. Behind her came the brawny Reverend Bedell. Although he had a kind face, he was big and broad-shouldered, a giant of a man who wasn’t afraid to use his fists. Elise had seen him break up a fight once, and he was impressively strong. Miss Pendleton had told them yesterday with pretty pink cheeks that she and Reverend Bedell were engaged to be married, and the wedding would take place just as soon as her time of mourning for her mother was over.
   Miss Pendleton rushed toward her with short, clipped footsteps. She was petite and thin, her face delicately angled and almost severe. But what she lacked in size she made up for in determination and purpose.
   “I’m surprised to see you awake so early this morning.” Miss Pendleton held herself with a poise and grace that reminded Elise all too keenly of their differences in social status. She knew better than to lump Miss Pendleton together with other rich aristocrats, and yet Elise struggled not to feel some resentment toward the woman.
   If not for Count Eberhardt, her family would still be happily together in Hamburg. Vater would still have his bakery, and she would be working alongside him doing what she loved with the people she loved. All it had taken was one minor offense against the calloused count for him to decide to ruin Vater’s reputation with a false rumor.
   Elise could never forget the deep grooves in Vater’s forehead and the despair in his eyes when he finally realized he would have no more customers to buy his breads and pastries.
   “I hope you found something to eat in the kitchen.” Miss Pendleton stopped close enough that the freshness of her clothes and hair, a flowery scent, made Elise self-conscious of her own deplorable stench, the sourness of her unwashed body and clothes.
   “I only need food for the children,” Elise said.
   “You must eat something too. I insist.” Miss Pendleton nodded toward the stairway that would take her to a kitchen and dining room on the second floor. Although the rooms were still under construction and far from finished, Miss Pendleton had a simple fare available for the workers to buy for a small fee.
   From down the dimly lit hallway, Elise caught a glimpse of the tall Englishwoman standing in the doorway of the workroom. When Miss Pendleton followed Elise’s gaze, the woman retreated into the room.
   “You mustn’t consider working today.” Miss Pendleton regarded her with keen gray-blue eyes. “I thought I made that clear to you last night.”
   “Yes, but—”
   “You will be my guest here for a few days. Then when you’ve regained your strength, I’ll introduce you to the supervisor, and she’ll give you a position suited to your abilities.”
   “The women told me there’s no more work to be had here.”
   “Nonsense.” Miss Pendleton spun and began to retrace her steps down the hallway. “I’ll introduce you right now.”
   Elise didn’t move.
   At the door to the workroom, Miss Pendleton stopped and motioned to her. “Come now. Don’t be shy.”
   Elise wasn’t shy. She was simply realistic. But even as she doubted Miss Pendleton, the questions surfaced as they had before. If she didn’t work at the mission, where else would she work? Where would she find a place to live? Could she subject her family to living on the streets again?
   Miss Pendleton smiled at her with a warmth and kindness that somehow reassured Elise everything would be all right. Surely after Miss Pendleton’s introduction, the women would accept her and overlook her insult. Surely they could forget the initial misunderstanding.
   When Miss Pendleton beckoned her again, Elise returned to the workroom.
   “Ladies,” Miss Pendleton said as she stepped into the room, “I’d like to introduce you to our newest worker, Elise Neumann.”
   Silence greeted Elise. And downcast eyes. In fact, no one looked at her except the tall Englishwoman.
   Miss Pendleton’s brows rose, the response clearly not what she’d expected. “Miss Neumann assures me she’s quite skilled in many aspects of sewing. So I’m certain she’ll be an asset to our business.”
   Still the room was silent. The noise from the busy street drifted in through the windows, which were already wide open on the June morning to allow the coolness of the early hour inside before the heat of the day became unbearable.
   “Mrs. Watson?” Miss Pendleton smiled at the tall woman, who was standing a short distance away at the head of one of the tables. “I’m sure you’ll be glad to have someone of Miss Neumann’s experience join you. Oh, and her sister will be working with us too.”
   Mrs. Watson didn’t return the smile. Instead she glanced at the redheaded woman again, who had focused her attention on the shirtsleeve in front of her, busily dipping her needle in and out of the linen.
   Miss Pendleton’s smile wavered, but she reached over and squeezed Elise’s arm.
   Mrs. Watson cleared her throat. “Miss Pendleton, I am afraid we do not have any room at present for more workers. Perhaps when the workshop across the hall is ready . . .”
   “I’m sure we can squeeze in two more temporarily.”
   “There are other women already waiting to work here, women we have had to turn away.” Mrs. Watson’s voice dropped to almost a whisper.
   Miss Pendleton gave Mrs. Watson a sharp look. “I’m well aware of our problem of having to turn away women. And it breaks my heart every day. I want to help everyone and eventually I hope to assist many more.”
   Mrs. Watson fixed her attention on the floor, which except for a few loose threads was surprisingly clean.
   “In the meantime, Mrs. Watson, I pray for God to guide me to those He wishes me to help, which I believe includes you and all the women in this room. Hereafter it also includes Miss Neumann and her siblings.” Miss Pendleton raised her chin as though daring anyone to defy her.
   No one spoke.
   “They are the first boarders here,” she continued. “And soon I hope to open the doors to many more who need a safe place to live.”
   From the few rapid glances some of the women exchanged, Elise had the foreboding that they would see the news as favoritism and would like her even less.
   “So, Mrs. Watson, can I count on you to welcome Miss Neumann and her sister into our workroom?”
   Mrs. Watson nodded. “Yes, ma’am. We shall do our best.”
   “Good. I’m very glad to hear it. After all, we want to extend the same grace and love to others as has been extended to ourselves, don’t we?”
   “Yes, ma’am,” Mrs. Watson said again.
   Though Miss Pendleton seemed satisfied with her answer, Elise couldn’t shake the feeling that her new job was doomed from the start. As much as she needed the help of the Seventh Street Mission, she suspected sooner or later she would have to find her hope and help elsewhere.
Jody Hedlund, With You Always Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2017. 

***Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending a print copy to me. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Jody Hedlund
author Jody Hedlund
An Awakened Heart by Jody Hedlund #orphantrain #novella #free #ebook
e-novella link
From 1854 to 1929, approximately 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children from crowded eastern cities were placed in new homes, mostly in the Midwest. Jody Hedlund's Orphan Train series provides a riveting look at the Orphan Train movement.
An Awakened Heart (free e-book) and With You Always are now available from Bethany House Publishers.

The e-novella also introduces the three orphan sisters who will each become main characters for the three full-length novels in the series. --author Jody Hedlund
Loved this:  Q&A at Bethany House with author Jody Hedlund

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New releases I am looking forward to reading!

An Amish Christmas LoveFour novellas collected together ~ by authors you may have read some of their previous stories, or an introduction to a new author to you ~ will be releasing September 9, 2017. This would make a great Christmas gift for the readers on your list!

I have read other selections by Amy Clipston and am looking forward to her newest story within An Amish Christmas Love, entitled, "The Christmas Cat." My husband and I know firsthand of the comfort of a "watch-cat" during a time of illness. She still has a favorite resting spot on the back of his chair. Here is a listing of Amy's books.

Cover Art
The Legacy is the final book in the Secrets of the Shetlands series by Michael Phillips. This is the first series I have read by this author, and I have thoroughly enJ*O*Yed the continuing story and background. My very favorite part was becoming acquainted with the community of Whales Reef and the cousins. Beautiful lineage listing in front of books. Here are the other two titles in the series:

The Inheritance The Cottage
The Legacy released July 4, 2017.

Bringing Maggie Home releases September 5, 2017. Kim Vogel Sawyer has become a favorite author of mine and I have read several of her novels. I like the unique way she brings her characters to life and their very lives speak of the love in their heart for the Lord ~ by who they are, portraying Whose they are. This story centers around a three-generational family; will these ladies work hand-in-hand to revive memories and love? The search will be on. I will love this one too!

A story I am currently reading is Jody Hedlund's With You Always, book 1 in the Orphan Train series. I have always thought about this time in history and hoped children were chosen for being wanted and not just to be an added "helping hand." I am enjoying this story as it tells beyond why children were placed on the trains, and features women who rode on the trains to find employment within the background descriptions of the time.

Cover Art

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight by Susanne Dietze, © 2017

Ruby City, Idaho ~
May 1866, Owyhee County, Idaho Territory
Image result for ruby city idaho

My Review:

An Idaho “mud wagon” arrives at Silver City’s Idaho Hotel.
Rebecca had a surprise when she got to town! This stagecoach stop will change her life and those nearby. Knowing she was to be a mail-order bride is one thing ~ being one is another!
Quickly married, she finds she has the wrong intended. Both women with the same pronunciation ~ Rebecca and Rebekah ~ sought by two Ruby City cousins. The first one there gets her! The shopkeeper is a little too tardy on his arrival.
   Rebecca bit her lip. "I arrived and he was there to greet me, a Mr. T. Fordham waiting for a Rebecca."
   --My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight, 23
Unraveling the mix-up becomes a chore ~ or is it a time to get acquainted?

This story will keep you on your toes. What will happen next? Past experiences cause a delay in being open to the present. Very well written, this author has put in a lot of turns and great secondary characters who bring charm to this Rebecca's life. A sweetness that she discovers unarms her defenses. Just as you think you have it all sorted out, another adventure begins changing the whole scope of things ~ one thing that keeps them all together is the great eats at Mrs. Croft's restaurant. A lot of action takes place there besides the cookin'.

I loved this story. Very active and expressive with deep thinking and plans set aside for Truth. A dividing of intent and purpose becomes the very supportive realization pulse. People matter. I liked how it was all sorted out giving care to those who deeply needed it.
Susanne Dietze
author Susanne Dietze

Ruby City, Idaho (pre-1866) Post Office Stamp
Ruby City, Idaho (pre-1866) Post Office Stamp

Seeking to encourage and entertain readers, Californian wife and mom Susanne Dietze writes romances with historical charm and timeless heart.

Wouldn't you like to reflect and gather your thoughts here?

The Quixotic Angler: Silver City, Idaho and Jordan Creek

***Thank you, Barbour Publishing, for inviting me to join Barbour's Review Crew for this terrific story by Susanne Dietze! So enjoyed it! This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***

Other books in this series ~

More from My Heart Belongs in Series...
My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss: Priscilla's Reveille by Erica Vetsch (January 2017)
My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmella's Quandary by Susan Page Davis (March 2017)
My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight by Susanne Dietze (May 2017)
My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island: Maude's Mooring by Carrie Fancett Pagels (July 2017)
My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley: Lily's Dilemma by Andrea Boeshaar (September 2017)
My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah: Leanna's Choice by Angie Dicken (November 2017)