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Luke had made good money working at the furniture store, but he’d been one of the newest men hired, so when things got tight, he was the first to go. He guessed during these hard economic times that people were buying less furniture, even the finely crafted kind. Luke had applied for several other jobs in the area, but no one seemed to be hiring. Even though he’d sold a few of his handcrafted items, that income wasn’t enough to fully support them. This whole situation sure was discouraging!

“How are you doin’ there Fritz, ole boy?” Luke asked, hearing his German shorthaired pointer bark out a greeting and feeling glad for the diversion. “Don’t worry, I hear ya.” Entering the pen, he petted the head of his beloved companion and bird dog. Good ole Fritz. Luke loved that faithful critter, and he was glad Meredith loved the dog as much as he did.

Last winter, Meredith had insisted on bringing Fritz into the house, where she felt he would be warmer. Luke would have preferred to keep the dog outside in the kennel like he had when he was still living at home. But after a while, Meredith convinced him to let Fritz become a part-time house pet. Those times that he was allowed to stay inside, Fritz would lie right by their feet while Luke and Meredith ate popcorn or played board games. At night while they slept, Fritz was like their guardian angel, lying on the floor by the foot of their bed, watching over them and keeping the house safe from intruders. So now only on rare occasions did Fritz stay outside in his kennel at night.

Luke squatted down and scratched the soft fur behind the dog’s ears, while Fritz gazed back at him with trusting brown eyes. Fritz was beautifully marked. His head was a solid liver color, and his body was speckled with spots and patches of liver and white. Fritz was affectionate and gentle with everyone. He’d no doubt be good with their children when Luke and Meredith started a family. Luke didn’t have that in mind when he’d first purchased Fritz, of course, but it just so happened that the breed produced not only excellent hunting dogs but also good family pets.

Most times, Fritz accompanied Luke when he went to visit his parents. Even Mom and Dad’s barn cats tolerated the dog when he’d bound over to greet them in his happy-go-lucky manner. Sometimes, it seemed as if they actually enjoyed his company, when they’d lie down beside him on a bed of straw and take a nap.

“Do you want to play fetch?” Luke asked.

Fritz tilted his head to one side, as though understanding exactly what his master meant, and then, like a streak of lightning, he took off across the yard.

How can dogs be so smart that way—understanding what people are saying to them?
Luke wondered.
Sometimes I think that critter’s smarter than me

“Find a stick, boy!” Luke commanded, watching Fritz run around with his nose to the ground.

In no time, Fritz returned with a small branch that Luke could throw for him to retrieve. If Luke let him, the energetic dog could run for hours. Then he’d flop on the floor and sleep.

From the time Luke bought Fritz, when he was an eight-week-old puppy, he and the dog had bonded. Fritz followed Luke everywhere. He’d had an easy time training Fritz, too, and there wasn’t anything the dog wouldn’t do for him. So loyal and willing to please his master, Fritz would sit in anticipation, eagerly waiting for Luke’s next command. Good ole Fritz was the best bird dog ever. At least Luke thought so. With hardly any training, Fritz tracked and flushed pheasant, rabbit, or grouse as well as any spaniel or retriever.

As he and Fritz played fetch, Luke looked toward the house. He and Meredith had been so excited after their home was built. Luke had beamed with satisfaction when his wife thanked him for all the hard work he had done in constructing the home. Their wedding ceremony had taken place at Meredith’s childhood home, but afterward, everyone had come back here to celebrate and share the wedding meal. The fall day had been warm, so they’d set up long tables in the yard to accommodate the large crowd, as well as the variety of food and desserts that everyone enjoyed. It had been a wonderful day, starting their new life together surrounded by family and friends. Luke had felt good about their roomy two-story home that he hoped would one day be filled with their children’s laughter.

“Come on, boy. That’s enough for today,” Luke finally called, clapping his hands after having given his dog a small workout. He wished he could spend more time with Fritz, but he had chores that needed to get done. “I see your water dish is frozen,” Luke said, whacking the ice onto the ground and then refilling the bowl with fresh water.

Fritz wagged his docked tail and anxiously sniffed Luke’s hand.

, here it is. You know I always have a treat for ya.” Luke grinned as Fritz gently took the dog biscuit he offered him.

Seeing that Fritz was relaxed and content with the biscuit between his paws, Luke stepped into the barn and quickly shut the door. It was bitterly cold, and the wind howled noisily, finding its way through the cracks in the walls. He’d be glad when spring came, and he hoped he would have a job by then.

It’s a good thing it’s only me and Meredith right now
, Luke thought as he stepped into his horse’s stall.
If we had a family to feed, I’d be even more troubled than I am right now

Luke was glad they didn’t owe any money on their house. He’d built it with the help of friends and family, and all of the building materials had been purchased by Grandpa Stoltzfus, who had since passed away. Despite the lack of a mortgage payment, property taxes still needed to be paid come spring. Taxes alone were high enough, but so far, they’d been manageable. But like nearly everything else, they were supposed to increase this year, and Luke hoped their savings account would still have enough money to cover the bill when it came due. If he could just sell a few more of the wooden things he’d made. Of course, that money would be nothing compared to the wages he’d earned at the furniture store.

Luke thought about Meredith’s request to buy paint. He hated saying no to her. If he could, he wouldn’t deny his wife anything. Normally, Meredith was quite understanding.

For that, and many other reasons, Luke felt blessed. She wasn’t the type to ask for much, and buying some paint was really no big expense—that is, until now. It may as well be the moon she was asking for. And while she only wanted to paint the room, most home projects inevitably led to more, so for now, painting or any other home improvement just wasn’t a necessity.

Luke knew Meredith was concerned about their finances, too. He also knew she kept herself extra busy around the house so she wouldn’t fret so much about him being out of a job. That’s how Meredith had always dealt with things. She hadn’t slept well since he’d been out of work, either. Many a night, he’d wake up and discover her standing in front of their bedroom window, staring out at the moon. Well, Luke was worried, too, and it was taking a toll on him. He’d become irritable and impatient, often snapping at Meredith for no reason. He owed her an apology and planned to do that as soon as he returned to the house.

Shaking his thoughts aside, Luke fed and groomed their two horses and then cleaned out their stalls. Taffy was Meredith’s horse, and rightly named. The mare was the color of deep molasses taffy, with a mane and tail that was almost black. Luke’s horse, Socks, was appropriately named, too. All four of the gelding’s feet had white patches that looked like socks, and while pulling their buggy, it appeared as if he was showing them off with each prancing step he took.

When Luke was done with his chores in the barn, he decided to walk down the driveway to the phone shack to check for any messages.

Inside the small building it was so cold and damp that Luke’s teeth began to chatter, and when he blew out, he could see his breath, heavy in the air. Blowing on his hands for some warmth, he clicked on the answering machine to listen to the first message.

“Hello, Luke. This is your uncle Amos out in Middlebury, Indiana. I was talkin’ to your
the other day, and your name came up. You see, I’m plannin’ to retire from my headstone-engraving business, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in coming out to Indiana as soon as possible to learn how to run the business. I’m sure you’d catch on fast. And if you don’t have enough money to pay for all my tools and equipment right now, you can give me half down, and the rest after you’ve learned the trade and have started making money. In case you’re wondering, I don’t expect you to move to Indiana. Just thought you could come here to learn the trade; then when you return home and the tools and supplies have been sent, you can open your own business there. There’s another fellow in my area doin’ this kind of work right now, so it’s a good time for me to sell out, and I’d like it to be to a family member. Give me a call soon and let me know if you’re coming.”

Luke dropped into the folding chair inside the phone shack and listened to the message again. He wanted to make sure he wasn’t hearing things. Uncle Amos had been engraving names on headstones for a good many years and was now ready to pass the trade along to a family member. Since he had no sons to take over his trade, this was a golden opportunity for Luke. Perfect timing, one might say.

“Thank You, Lord. This is surely an answer to our prayers,” Luke said aloud. He knew of only one other Amish man engraving headstones in eastern Pennsylvania, but he lived clear up in Dauphin County, so Luke was sure he’d get plenty of business right here in Lancaster County, and it would be a benefit to the community.

Luke was tired of being pulled lower and lower into a valley of unanswered questions, and he wanted more than anything to stand up straight, feeling safe and secure about their future. Uncle Amos’s offer was a chance for a new start, and he couldn’t let it slip through his fingers. The only problem now was that Luke didn’t know how he could justify to Meredith drawing money out of their savings to pay his uncle half the amount he would need to purchase the equipment. He’d just told her they couldn’t afford to buy paint for the spare bedroom. How would she take the news that he wanted to withdraw money from their dwindling bank account to learn a new trade he wasn’t even sure he’d be any good at? Not only that, but would Meredith be okay with him being gone for a few weeks until he learned this new skill?


uess what, Merrie? I have some really good news!” Luke shouted, bursting into the kitchen with an upbeat grin.

Meredith turned from the sink, where she stood drying the dishes. The look of enthusiasm on her husband’s face made him seem like a different person than the one who had abruptly walked out the door a short time ago. “What’s the good news?” she asked. Luke even seemed to be standing a little taller.

“I just came from the phone shack, and there was a message from my uncle Amos. He’s decided to sell his headstone-engraving business, and he wants me to buy it!” Luke’s grin stretched across his face, and his turquoise eyes twinkled like they used to before he’d lost his job. “This is the answer we’ve been looking for, Merrie. Jah, it’s an answer to our prayers!”

Meredith stood with her mouth gaping open.

“Well, what do you think? You look kind of stunned,” Luke said, moving toward her. “Aren’t you excited? Don’t you think this is the break we’ve been hoping for?”

She drew in a couple of deep breaths, hating to throw cold water on his plans. “I am a bit bewildered, Luke. I’m sure your uncle means well, but doesn’t he realize you don’t know anything about engraving names on headstones? And we can’t afford to buy his business, Luke. We don’t have a lot left in savings.”

“Don’t worry, Merrie. At first I was shocked, too, and I had the same questions running through my mind that you have right now. But Uncle Amos is gonna teach me all that I need to know, and he said I can give him just half of the money for his equipment now and pay the rest after I get the business going. Once I’m on my feet and start bringing in an income, we should be able to pay him in no time a’tall. Uncle Amos’s business has always done well, so I’m sure it’ll bring in a steady income.” Luke stopped talking long enough to draw in a quick breath. “It may sound kind of morbid to say this, but sad as it is, people are always dying, so this type of business isn’t likely to fail.”

Meredith grimaced. “You’re right, that does sound morbid, and just so you know—I’m not in favor of this.”

“Why not, for goodness’ sake? I need a job, and the way things are now, we could use up all our money just trying to stay afloat.” Luke’s expression turned serious. “It’s hard to face failure, Meredith, and I don’t want that for us. Can’t you see that I need this opportunity for a new start right now?”

“I understand all of that, but I like living near our folks, and if we had to move to Indiana I know we’d both really miss them.” She clasped his arm. “Luke, this is our home.”

He shook his head. “We won’t have to leave. I’ll be buying Uncle Amos’s equipment and starting my own business right here.”

“But you’re a woodworker. I would think you’d want to find a job doing what you do best and what you love to do. Could you really be happy doing something other than woodworking?”

“Well, I—”

“It’ll be hard to learn a new trade, and how are you going to? Is Amos going to come here to teach you?”

Luke shook his head. “He wants me to come there.”


“As soon as possible, and I thought I’d see about getting a bus ticket right away. I shouldn’t be gone more than a few weeks, and I’d really like your blessing on this new venture.” He gave Meredith a hug. “I need to do this for us—for our future. I can’t go on like this anymore, wondering and worrying about if and when our money will run out and where the next dollar’s gonna come from.”

“But it’s January—the middle of winter, Luke. The roads between here and Indiana are probably bad, and I doubt you could find a driver who’d be willing to take you there right now.”

Luke clasped her shoulder. “Aren’t you listening to me, Meredith? I don’t plan to hire a driver. I’ll make the trip by bus. After Uncle Amos teaches me all that I need to know, I can figure out the best way to get the equipment I’ll be buying sent back to Pennsylvania.” He leaned down and nuzzled her ear. “Come on, what do you think? Are we in agreement about this? I feel like God is handing me this chance, and I can’t let it go by without at least trying. Surely you understand that, don’t you?”

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