Authors: Daisy Fields
Faith and Hope in Lancaster
(The Amish of Lancaster County #1)
By Daisy Fields
Copyright 2013 Daisy Fields
All Rights Reserved
Hannah Stoltzfus froze with her hand on the jar of flour. The wooden spoon she held clattered to the counter.
, she prayed,
protect me from a broken heart. Guide me, please guide me. How do I be a good, trusting mother when all I want to do is hug her to my chest and never let her leave?
The day she’d always dreaded had come at last, the day when her youngest daughter Miriam, now sixteen, went on
, the “running-around” time all Amish adolescents went through before committing to the
and a life in the community. Aaron had come back cockier, but at least he’d come back. Annie had returned full of stories about television shows, movies, and something called the Internet, her head stuffed with impossible dreams. But for her, dreams were all they would ever be. She’d never even considered abandoning the community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, or her beau Stephen.
But there’d always been a spark in Miriam, a sense of restlessness and discontent. Ever since she’d turned fourteen, she’d hardly paid attention to her chores or her schoolwork or even her family. Hannah had even caught her behind their house without her prayer
and her dress hiked to her knees as she listened to rock music on a radio she’d found somewhere. If anyone had seen—!
It had to be a choice, Hannah reminded herself. No one was forced to remain Amish. Miriam had to be free to make her own personal commitment to God and their way of life. But knowing that didn’t stop Hannah’s heart from squeezing fearfully. She was going to lose her daughter to the
, she just knew it.
God help me endure this
, she prayed again before turning to smile at Miriam. Her daughter’s face was lit by a smile that stretched from cheek to cheek, and she bounced up and down in the blue traveling dress, stockings, and sturdy black shoes. At least she was wearing her
, Hannah thought.
“I’ve packed you a sandwich and some cookies for the trip,” Hannah said, hoping her voice sounded calm. “You promise you’ll write as soon as you get to New York City?”
,” Miriam said, laughing. She snatched up a chocolate-chip cookie and stuffed it into her mouth. “I’ll miss these. No one can bake as good as you.”
Tears sprang to Hannah’s eyes. She wanted to thank her daughter, to say something, but the words choked her. Instead, she opened her arms, and Miriam ran into them. “Please be careful,” Hannah whispered, her chin on her daughter’s head.
The front door opened, and Miriam pulled away. “
Are we ready to go?”
“We are, my daughter,” Thomas said. He glanced Hannah, his face full of concern. Hannah knew he shared her fears but didn’t want Miriam to know. She forced herself to smile and pat his hand.
“Lunch for the road,” she said, handing them a pail packed with food.
Annie hurried down the stairs, huffing and puffing. “I’m sorry I’m late!” She held out something to her sister, a hand-stitched book with a flower pressed onto the cover. “I thought you might like a place to record your thoughts. I know it helped me.”
Miriam gave her a big kiss on the cheek. “
, so much!” She tossed the book into her bag and beamed at the whole family.
Hannah resisted the impulse to grab her daughter and lock her away until she was married. Miriam needed to make her own choices about her future. God wouldn’t have it any other way. And, Hannah reminded herself, hadn’t she managed to triumph over the lure of drugs and sex and miniskirts? Hadn’t she come home to Plain living and a community run without modern technology?
Miriam hugged them all again and then glided out the door. Hannah watched as she climbed into the buggy. Thomas pulled on the reins, and the horses set into a trot.
Just like that, her daughter was gone, off to experience New York City and all its worldly temptations. Hannah bit her lip and resumed scooping flour into a mixing bowl. There was baking to be done, after all.
* * *
It was dusk, and Annie listened to the crickets chirping as she relaxed on the porch with Stephen Beiler. They sipped cool glasses of lemonade and discussed their plans. “Can you believe I’ve been home for a year?” she asked, chuckling ruefully.
Stephen laughed, too. “I have to admit, I wasn’t all that sure you were coming back for a while.”
“Just because you didn’t go on
?” she teased, clicking her tongue at the horses’ whinnying.
Stephen grew serious. “No, not because of that,” he said. “But because the world is full of exciting things. How was I supposed to compete with them? I’m just a simple farmer who spends his days laboring in the fields.”
Annie’s heart melted. Stephen was so handsome, with his brown hair and green eyes. And so strong, too, in a way the
had to go to a gym and use strange equipment to achieve. Stephen came about his muscular build honestly; he worked hard in the fields every day. How could he ever have thought he had to compete?
“But you did come back,” Stephen went on. He leaned forward in his chair. “Tell me, did you ever think about staying?”
Annie considered the question. Everyone seemed so worried ever since she came home, but no one had dared ask until now. “I did,” she said finally. “The
have a lot of things we don’t, but it’s not just that. Their lives are easier. They have tools we can’t use without electricity, like washing machines and microwaves. And movies, did I ever love movies.”
Stephen waited for her to go on. When she didn’t, he asked, “So then why did you come back?”
Annie sipped her lemonade and stared up at the stars dotting the sky. “For this,” she said gesturing with her glass. “For all of this. It took me awhile to figure it out, but the
easier. All that leisure time leaves them with nothing to do, so they get bored, and they create problems for themselves. They gossip and judge one another and find things to be addicted to. A lot of them don’t believe in God at all, just living for the moment.”
“Now, surely all of them can’t be like that,” Stephen chided gently.
Annie shook her head. “You’re right. Not all of them are like that. I met some genuinely nice, lovely people, people I would be happy to call friend. But when you come down to it, they just don’t value the same things we do. I saw so many unhappy people. No matter what how much they had, they were miserable. They always needed more.
“When I saw that, I knew that it was time to set aside my dream of being an actress. I’ve always loved stories; you know that. But I had this secret dream of being an actress one day, my face up on a silver screen.” She blushed and ducked her head. “It’s silly, I know.”
“You did?” Stephen asked, shocked. “I never knew that!”
Annie sighed. “I did. Only the horses knew. I couldn’t tell anyone else! I thought I might see for myself what being in a play was like, so while I was in New York, I auditioned for a local community production.”
“You never said a word about that!” Stephen exclaimed, his eyes widening in the light of the candle.
Annie laid her hand on top of his. “I didn’t tell anyone. I was so ashamed when I was rejected in front of everyone. But I volunteered to help with the set if I couldn’t do anything else. I just needed to see what it was like.”
Stephen didn’t say anything, but he tilted his head curiously.
“And all the glamour I’d thought would be there, all the joy, was missing. Instead, I saw backbiting and insults and ugly behavior I wanted no part of. I thought then that I would let the dream go and come home. At least I knew what to expect here. I may not agree with everything, but at least I know what our values are.”
Stephen gazed out into the night, and a few minutes passed before he spoke. Then he squeezed her hand and smiled. “I’m so glad you came home, Annie. God brought you back to me, to us. In fact, there’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while now, and now is the perfect time.”
Annie gasped. She’d known this was coming, but she hadn’t thought it would be today . . . Her heart thudded in her chest, and her belly twisted nervously. “You do?”
“Annie Stoltzfus, don’t answer before you pray about it, but once you have, will you be my wife?”
“Yes,” Annie said, her heart glowing and her cheeks splitting into a huge smile, “yes, of course I will!”
“You weren’t supposed to answer until you prayed about it!” Stephen said, laughing.
“Fine,” Annie said. She bowed her head and put her hands together before her face.
Dear God, tell me, is this the step I should be taking? Is Stephen the man for me?
A thought flashed in her head, a memory she’d thought long buried. Jacob, her older brother Aaron’s best friend. Before she’d gone on her
, Jacob had occasionally walked her home from meetings. Aaron was always nearby, but somehow Jacob still found opportunities to tell Annie how beautiful and smart and kind she was. Her sewing and quilting were the best he’d ever seen, he whispered shyly, and maybe one day, she would make something for him.
Annie had daydreamed about him, little fantasies in which they ran away together and explored New York City. They left her flushed and curious. It was a good feeling. So one afternoon, when the sun was bright and the fields in full bloom, she pulled him under a tree and put her arms around him. It was only meant to be a hug, but somehow their lips met, and neither pulled away.
If they hadn’t heard rustling in the fields, thought Annie, who knew how far it might have gone?
Shame filled her, and she ran away, ignoring Jacob’s calls after her.
By feigning illness, she managed to avoid Jacob as much as possible for the two months left before her
. Then she packed her bags for New York, determined to put everything behind her and become an actress.
Annie’s cheeks burned, remembering how foolish she’d been. But it was all in the past now. Surely God thought so, too.
So why did she still feel a little nervous at the thought of marrying Stephen?
She looked at the man before her now, solid, stable, loyal. She couldn’t do better than Stephen, and surely God thought so, too.
“Yes,” she told Stephen, beaming, “I’ll marry you!”
* * *
, we need to speak with you,” Annie announced. Hannah didn’t miss the way Stephen and she kept shooting each other secret, happy glances. She had a strong feeling she knew what this was about.
“I would like to request your permission to court and wed your daughter,” Stephen said. He couldn’t suppress the grin that spread over his face.
“Stephen will keep up his farm, and I’ll do my sewing,” Annie declared, blushing like a schoolgirl. She looked as joyful as Miriam had that morning.
A knot inside Hannah dissolved, one she hadn’t known she’d had. She couldn’t do anything about Miriam, but at least Annie would be settled and well cared for. Hannah turned and met Thomas’s gaze, saying many things to him through that one look.
Thomas nodded in response. “You’re a fine young man,” he said to Stephen. “I’d be pleased to offer my consent to your courtship.”
“Hmm, where’s Aaron?” Annie asked, breaking free of her blissful cloud long enough to realize her brother was missing. “Shouldn’t he be here for this?”
“I believe he went over to Jacob’s house,” Thomas said. “We’ll tell him in the morning. And,” he added, a playful grin tugging at his lips, “perhaps he’ll realize that it might do him good to find a wife, too.”
Hannah watched discreetly as the newly betrothed couple said their goodnights and Thomas left. She accompanied Annie, who seemed to be floating on a cloud, up to her room and waited while she doffed her
, changed into her nightgown, and braided her hair. “Annie, my sweet, you could not have found a better man. I want you to know this.”
, I do, I do!” Annie rummaged in her bureau and pulled out a piece of paper. She handed it to Hannah. “Take this, please. I don’t need it anymore.”
Hannah looked at the paper in her hand. It was a postcard with a picture of a famous actress on the front. She tried to place the woman’s face.
“I saved it,” Annie murmured as she climbed into bed. “But I’m never going to be an actress, and according to the
, we shouldn’t have pictures, anyway.”
“No graven images,” Hannah agreed. The knot of worry reformed in her chest. If loyal, dependable Annie had harbored such dreams—and pictures!—all this time, what chance was there for Miriam?
“Throw it out for me,
,” Annie said, her eyes already closing. “I’m marrying Stephen now.”