Saturday, July 13, 2013

“Anomaly” iPad Mini Giveaway from Krista McGee


Krista McGee is celebrating the release of Anomaly, the first book in her new YA dystopian series, with an iPad Mini Giveaway!






Anomaly-blogger-button

One winner will receive:




  • An iPad Mini

  • A $25 iTunes gift card (download Anomaly to the iPad!)

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 31st. Winner will be announced at Krista's website on August 2nd.







Spread the word about Krista and her giveaway HERE!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Kroger Deli Chicken .... a Bzzz Agent review:



I few weeks ago, I finally received the coupons I was promised from BzzzAgent.  The coupons are pictured here:


Sundays are the best day for me to use something like this... My husband is a pastor and this keeps me from having to labor over a meal when we get home from church or try to figure out something the night before for the crockpot.  I was thrilled to try Kroger Deli Chicken!!  

On the way home, we stopped in and I used the three coupons pictured above AND I purchased an additional 8pc chicken.  When we got home, I also made up an additional side to go with the chicken.. something quick (Kraft Mac & Cheese).  When we sat down to eat... we were extremely disappointed.  The chicken was terribly dry.  The kids got out the ranch dressing just to ease it down their throats.  SO, my husband called up the Kroger where we had purchased the chicken.  He spoke to the manager and told him exactly what happened.  The manager was extremely apologetic and asked us to give him a second chance, of course, we said sure.  That Thursday, after a long day at VBS, we stopped by Kroger-- again thrilled to not have to labor over a meal -- and picked up two 8 pc fried chicken meals. 
This time the chicken was fresh and moist and delicious!




I have had Kroger Deli Fried Chicken before.  We actually prefer it over KFC or Walmart or whatever other competitor is out there.  It's not as greasy as KFC, it's USUALLY more moist than Walmart and so on.  We have been very happy with Kroger Deli Fried Chicken... and it's AFFORDABLE.

So, while this started out as a bad experience, I will say it's not the norm.  Please... give your neighborhood Kroger a chance, check it out and ENJOY! 

The Quarryman’s Bride by Tracie Peterson


Welcome to the campaign page for Tracie Peterson's newest book in the Land of the Shining Water series, The Quarryman's Bride.
Tracie is celebrating with a "True Love" $200 Anthropologie giveaway and a Facebook Author Chat Party.
QuarrymanBride
One winner will receive:

  • A $200 Anthropologie gift card

  • The Quarryman's Bride and The Icecutter's Daughter by Tracie Peterson

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 8th. Winner will be announced at the "The Quarryman's Bride" Facebook Author Chat Party on July 9th. Connect with Tracie for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Tracie will also share an exclusive look at the next book in the Land of Shining Water series and give away books and other fun prizes throughout the evening.
So grab your copy of The Quarryman's Bride and join Tracie on the evening of July 9th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayHope to see you on the 9th!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Love Stays True by Martha Rogers


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!


You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:



Martha Rogers



and the book:



Love Stays True


Realms (May 7, 2013)



***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Martha Rogers’ novel Not on the Menu debuted on May 1, 2007, as a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Her series Winds Across the Prairie debuted in 2010 with Becoming Lucy, Morning for Dove, Finding Becky, and Caroline’s Choice. Her other credits include stories in anthologies with Wayne Holmes, Karen Holmes, and Debra White Smith; several articles in Christian magazines; devotionals in six books of devotions; and eight Bible studies. Martha served as editor of a monthly newsletter for the writer’s organization Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, for whom she writes a weekly devotional.

Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Can Sallie and Manfred overcome the distance that the war has put between them and find love?

In April 1865, the day following the surrender at Appomattox, Manfred McDaniel Whiteman and his brother, Edward, are released in an exchange of prisoners. They are given a few provisions, and they begin a long journey to their home in Bayou Sara, Louisiana.

At home Sallie Dyer is waiting word of her beloved Manfred. Though just a young girl when Manfred left, Sallie has grown into a caring young woman who is determined to wait for her love—despite her father’s worries that she is wasting her life on someone who may never come home.

On their journey Manfred and his brother encounter storms and thieves and are even thrown in jail. Will he make the journey home before someone else claims Sallie’s hand?




Product Details:
List Price: $11.33
Publisher Realms (May 7, 2013)
Language English
ISBN-10 1621362361
ISBN-13 978-1621362364
Product Dimensions 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




Point Lookout, Maryland, Monday, April 10, 1865

Cold air chilled his arms, and a sharp object poked at his cheek. Manfred Whiteman reached down to pull a ragged blanket up over his arms and brushed away the straw scratching his face. A few moments later a sudden brightness aroused him again. His lids opened to a slit. Slivers of sunlight peeked through the tiny windows and dispersed the shadows of the night.

He shut his eyes against the sun’s rays, but sleep would not return. He lay still in the quiet of the new morning and sensed a difference in the air that settled over him like a cloak of peace. Raising his head, he glanced around the room. The same familiar stench of wounds, dirty hay, unwashed bodies, and death permeated the air, but in it all the difference vibrated. Something had happened, he could sense it, but nothing unusual appeared in the confines of the prison barracks.

After being captured in the Battle of Nashville in December, he, his younger brother Edwin, and other prisoners had made the long march from Nashville to Louisville, Kentucky. From there they were transferred to Camp Chase in Ohio. Then, in the first week of February, they had been loaded onto trains like cattle and sent to Point Lookout, Maryland, a prison housing nearly fifty thousand men. Upon their arrival the captured soldiers had been stripped of everything personal, and as the days progressed, hundreds of men died. Manfred mourned the loss of friends but thanked the Lord every day for sparing his life, as well as the life of his brother.

Edwin lay sleeping on the pallet next to him, curled on his side as usual. Others still slept, their snores filling the air with sound. No use in trying to sleep now. Manfred’s stomach rumbled with hunger, but most likely the only breakfast would be hard tack or biscuit.

Several weeks ago an officer with the rank of general had visited. For some reason the general had asked Manfred about the one thing he would most like to have. When Manfred answered he wanted his Bible, the man had been somewhat taken aback. Still, he’d managed to find the Bible and Manfred’s journal, which he returned.

Manfred now pulled that worn journal from beneath his dirty mat. The almost ragged book, his lifeline for the past three years, fell open. Manfred wrote.

April 10, 1865

Three more died the night before last. The nearly full moon shining through the windows gave me light to see. I took one man’s shoes and left him with my holey wornout ones. He won’t need shoes, but I will. Took his socks and another man’s for me and Edwin. God, I never dreamed I would do such a thing, but we are desperately in need. Please forgive me. Help Edwin and me to get out of here and get home safely. I so desperately need to see Sallie and my family.



The scrape of wood against wood echoed in the room. Union soldiers, making their usual morning inspection, checked for any who may have died during the night. Manfred shoved the journal under his mat just before the door thudded against the wall and the guards’ shoes clomped on the wooden floors. He turned on his side once again to feign sleep. The blunt toe of the sergeant’s boot kicked Manfred’s hip and sent a sharp pain through his leg. He grunted in response and raised his head to let the sergeant know he was alive. When the man passed, Manfred sat up on his mat and stretched his legs out in front of him to relieve the usual early-morning stiffness.

Others awakened, and their groans filled the air as they rose to sit on their bedding. Manfred waited for breakfast, not knowing if he would even get rations this morning. The guards exited carrying the bodies of the souls who didn’t make it through the night.

Manfred voiced a silent prayer for the boys and their families who would receive the news of the death of their loved ones. He bit his lip. He and Edwin had to survive. They had too much life to live, but then so had the ones just taken away. What if God chose not to spare him or Edwin? No, he wouldn’t think of that. Instead he filled his mind with Scripture verses memorized as a child. God’s Word stored in his heart gave him the comfort and hope he needed to survive each day.

A little later the guards returned and ordered them to the part of the cookhouse where they would eat what the cooks passed off as food. Manfred accepted the cup of what the men called “slop water” coffee and a hard biscuit that would have to suffice until they brought a lunch of greasy water soup. Weeks ago the putrid smells of death, the filth in the camp, and the lousy food sickened him, but now he barely noticed.

Manfred managed to eat half his biscuit and drink a few sips from his cup then leaned toward the man on his right. “Here, James. You take the rest of mine. You need it more than I do.”

The man clasped a trembling hand around the cup and reached for the biscuit with his other. A few drops sloshed over the rim. “Thank you, Manfred. You’re a true friend.” He stuffed the biscuit into his mouth and lifted the cup to his lips to gulp down the last dregs of liquid. With a nod to Manfred, the young soldier returned the cup.

After they were sent back to their quarters, Manfred breathed deeply and almost choked on the rancid air. What he wouldn’t give for a bath, shave, and haircut. A good meal wouldn’t hurt anything either. His nose had mostly numbed itself to his body odor, but dirt and scum became more visible every day. When he had tried to wash his shirt, the brackish water left stains he couldn’t remove.

When would this nightmare come to an end? A question unanswered for these four long months of marching, fighting, and incarceration. Too many lay ill and dying. The end had to come soon.

He glanced once again at his brother, who cushioned his head on his crossed palms with his eyes closed. Manfred reached over to touch the boy’s shoulder. “You all right, little brother?”

Edwin didn’t open his eyes. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just hungry. I dreamed of home last night and Bessie’s cooking. When I close my eyes, I can see her and Momma in the kitchen, Bessie up to her elbows in flour making biscuits and Momma stirring the fire and making grits.”

“Shh, brother, you’re making me hungry too.” Manfred pulled what was left of his jacket tighter about his thin body. “We’ve been captive four months, but it seems a lifetime. Home, our parents, and Sallie may as well be a million miles away.”

Edwin sat up and pounded his fist into the straw. “Yeah, and sometimes I think we’ll never get back there.” He stretched his legs out on his mat, hugging what passed for a pillow. “I sure pray I’ll get to see Peggy again soon.”

Manfred positioned his body to sit squarely on his mat. “Soon as we’re home, I’m asking Mr. Dyer for Sallie’s hand in marriage, that is, if she still wants me. No telling who she’s met since I’ve been gone.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you, big brother. Sallie loves you.” He smacked his fist into the open palm of his other hand. “I just want to be out of here and out there where the action is, fighting with Lee. They told us the Yanks are fighting Lee in Virginny, and that’s just across the river. Lee has to beat them Yanks. We’ll be hearing about it any day now. I just know it.”

Manfred simply nodded. He didn’t agree with his brother, but Edwin cared more about the war than Manfred. At this point Manfred had resigned himself to waiting out the war.

If only he could somehow communicate with Sallie and let her know he was alive. Almost a year had passed since he’d seen her last summer and six months since he’d been able to send a letter to her or received one. From his Bible he removed her last letter and opened it, being careful to handle it as little as possible. Already small holes appeared in the creases from his folding it so often. She had written from her grandfather’s home last fall before he’d gone to Nashville. He prayed her family was safe there in St. Francisville, Louisiana. He’d been at Port Hudson, Louisiana, two years ago and would have been involved in that skirmish in May, but he’d been among the ones in the brigade deployed elsewhere in March. Major General had been sure he had enough soldiers to turn back the siege, but that had not been the case, and Port Hudson fell into Union hands in early July.

That battle took place too close to his hometown of Bayou Sara and had even damaged Grace Church up at St. Francisville. He’d seen the damage on his furlough home. His two older brothers had been captured at Port Hudson, and Manfred had no idea where they were now.

St. Francisville may have been spared, but it had been a close call for Sallie’s grandparents and the other citizens of the small town. He held the worn paper to his lips. With God’s help he’d get home and claim Sallie for his bride.

The hair on the back of his neck bristled, and goose bumps popped out on his arms. The foreboding feeling from earlier wouldn’t leave and swept over him now even stronger, as though he sat on the edge of something powerful looming in the day ahead.



St. Francisville, Louisiana

Sallie Dyer sat at her dressing table running a brush through her mass of tangled curls. Tears blurred her image in the mirror, and she grimaced as the bristles caught in another snarl. She dropped the brush onto her lap.

“Lettie, what am I to do? Not knowing about Manfred is too painful to bear.” She scrunched a handful of auburn hair against her head. “Nothing’s going right. I can’t even brush my hair. I hate the war and . . . ” Her voice trailed off, and she dropped her gaze to the floor then turned toward Lettie. “What am I to do?”

The housemaid clucked her tongue and fluffed the pillows on the walnut four-poster bed. “I don’t know, Miss Sallie. I hate the war too. Too many are dyin’ out there.”

Lettie’s skirt swished as she crossed the room. She picked up the discarded brush and began smoothing out the mass of curls. “You know, Miss Sallie, you have the prettiest red hair in all of Louisiana.”

Sallie lifted her tear-stained eyes and found Lettie’s reflection in the mirror staring back.

“You got to have courage. God is takin’ care of Mr. Manfred.”

“Oh, but the waiting is so hard.” Sallie swiped her fingers across her wet cheeks. In a letter last fall Manfred had written that he was headed to Nashville. Stories coming back from that area spoke of the volumes of soldiers killed at Franklin and then up at Nashville in December. Reports said the surviving young men had been taken prisoner, but no one knew to which prison.

“Lettie, do you truly believe Manfred will come home?”

“Yes, Miss Sallie, I do, and when he comes, you’ll be ready and waitin’.” In a few minutes Lettie’s skilled fingers had tamed the unruly ringlets and secured them with a silver clasp at Sallie’s neck.

“Thank you. I’m all out of sorts this morning. Here it is April, and I haven’t heard a word since November.” Her fears tumbled back into her mind. “Too many have died, and I don’t want Manfred . . . ” She couldn’t utter the words. Saying them might make them true.

She pressed her lips together and pushed a few stray tendrils from her face. She had to get her fears under control. She once believed God would give her the peace He promised, but no matter how hard she prayed, no answers came. God had abandoned her on that awful day last week when she had killed that young man. He hadn’t protected her that afternoon, and now her prayers fell on deaf ears.

Lettie secured the wayward strands with the others under the clips. “Now, Miss Sallie, I done told you we got to believe they’re alive and comin’ home. We can’t do nothin’ about the war. Your mama and grandma need you to be strong. When Mr. Manfred gets home, he’ll be courtin’ you right proper like. You’ll see.”

Lettie must be more concerned than she let on. She only slipped back to the dialect of her family when worried. Sallie turned and wrapped her arms around the dark-skinned girl’s thin waist. “I want to believe you, I really do, but it’s almost more than I can bear.”

After blinking her eyes to clear them, Sallie stared into the dark brown eyes of her friend. Lettie had been with Sallie since childhood, and they shared so much life with each other. If it had not been for Lettie and her mother, Sallie might never have regained her sanity after the incident in Mississippi that brought them all to St. Francisville.

A chill passed through her body at the memory of the day they had fled from their home. Sallie’s last act of defense would be one that would stay with her the rest of her life. Even now she could see the young soldier with the red oozing from his chest. It was the first time she’d ever seen a dead person, and now, only a week later, the image would not leave her, fresh as the day it happened.

The young servant’s brow furrowed, and she pursed her lips. “Are you thinking about what happened back home?”

How well Lettie knew her. Sallie sniffed and blinked away the tears.

“Then you best stop it. What you did had to be done, and we both know it. You saved all our lives.”

It didn’t matter that Lettie spoke true. The images of war could not be erased from Sallie’s mind. “I just want this war to end.”

“Well now, I want that too, but it’s all in God’s hands. But think how Mr. Charles and Mr. Henry got back from the war only a few weeks ago. Theo’s back home too, so you have to believe the other two will come home before long.”

True. Of the five Whiteman brothers, only Edwin and Manfred remained unaccounted for. Charles and Henry Whiteman had been taken prisoner at Port Hudson but exchanged and sent home. Even Theo now sat safe at home after his last escapade revealed him too young to be in the army. She must have hope for Manfred and Edwin.

Lettie lifted the edge of her white apron and patted Sallie’s cheeks dry. “There now, Miss Sallie. It’s all goin’ to be fine. It’ll all be over soon. I just know it. I feel it in my bones. Besides, Easter’s a comin’, and that means a new season, new life, and new hope.”

“You and Mama, the eternal optimists, but I love you for it. You always know how to make me feel better.” Sallie breathed deeply and reached for a green ribbon to secure in her hair.

She would get through this day just as she had all the ones since Manfred left. Then the memory of what she overheard between her father and mother last night drained away her determination. She peered up at Lettie. “I need to tell you something.” Sallie squeezed the hand now clasped in hers.

At Lettie’s solemn nod Sallie took a deep breath and revealed her worry. “Last night I couldn’t sleep, and I heard Papa come in from his trip back to Woodville. I sneaked downstairs to see him, but he was in the parlor talking to Grandpa.”

Sallie’s lips trembled. “Our house in Woodville is ruined. The Yanks ransacked the place and took all kinds of things from our home. Papa said they’d left it in shambles. Mama’s beautiful things. Oh, Lettie, it’s just terrible.” After Sallie and the other women had fled the land, Papa and her brothers stayed behind until the next day, then joined the rest of the family in St. Francisville. He’d gone back to Woodville a few days ago, a twenty-five mile journey, when he heard the Yankees had moved on north.

Lettie pressed her hand against her cheek, her eyes open wide. “Oh, I’m sorry. Your poor mama. It’s so sad. No wonder you’re feelin’ blue this morning.”

Sallie squeezed Lettie’s hand again and for the next few moments sat in silence. Lettie understood her better than anyone else. The servant girl knew her deepest secrets and could be trusted to keep them.

“You are such a comfort. I don’t know how I’d get through these days without you to share my worries.”

Lettie patted Sallie’s hand. “We’ve been together too long and been through too much for me not to be with you.” She stepped back. “Come, now, let’s get you dressed. Your family will be waitin’, and you know your grandpa doesn’t like cold eggs or tardy children, even if you are his favorite.”

That statement brought a bit of smile. She did love Grandpa Woodruff, but he could be gruff when the occasion arose. She hastened over to a bench by the bed and picked up a green and white print cotton dress. Lettie grasped it and slipped her arms up inside it, and Sallie held up her arms.

“I believe Mama invited the Whiteman family for supper one night soon. I’m anxious to speak to Manfred’s mother. Perhaps she’s heard from him.”

The dress billowed about her as Lettie placed it over Sallie’s shoulders. She pulled the bodice up over arms and let the full skirt fall down over her hips and the myriad number of petticoats. At least Mama and Grandma didn’t require her to wear a corset or hoops with her day dresses. Lettie’s nimble fingers went to work on the buttons lined up the back.

“I think you lost more weight, missy. This dress is looser than it was last week. You sure don’t even need your corset. You have to eat more.” She peered over Sallie’s shoulder into the mirror and shook her head.

Looking over her shoulder, Sallie smoothed the dress around her waist. She gathered the wrinkles from the excess fabric. “It is big, but I’m just not hungry.” At Lettie’s stern gaze she added, “But I’ll try to eat more.”

Lettie sniffed the air. “If that aroma coming from the kitchen is what I think it is, my mammy’s ham and eggs should do the trick. She’ll have biscuits and gravy too.”

Sallie nodded. “I promise I’ll eat some of everything this morning.” A promise she would try to keep, especially with her grandmother’s and Flora’s cooking being so delicious.

The two girls locked arms and walked down the stairs together. At the bottom Lettie headed for the kitchen to help her mother. Sallie forced a smile to her lips and went into the dining room to join her family for breakfast.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Wedding For Julia by Vannetta Chapman


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!


You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:



Vannetta Chapman



and the book:



A Wedding for Julia


Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2013)



***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



 Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.

Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Julia Beechy’s dream of opening a café is shattered when her mother says she must marry or move to live with distant family upon her mother’s imminent death. Caleb Zook thought he would never marry, but can he help this beautiful, sad woman? Is this God’s plan for his future?






Product Details:
List Price: $8.79
Publisher Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2013)
Language English
ISBN-10 0736946160
ISBN-13 978-0736946162



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




Prologue

Pebble Creek, Wisconsin

March

Julia Beechy stood next to the open grave and prayed the wind would stop howling for one moment. Next to her, she could feel her mother trembling. Ada Beechy had turned seventy-eight the previous week, two days before Julia’s father had passed. It would have been perfectly acceptable for her mother to sit, especially in light of the mist, the cold, and the wind.

Ada Beechy had no intention of sitting.

But Julia did shuffle one step closer to her mother, so that their sleeves were touching, as the bishop began to read the words to the hymn Ada had requested—“Where the Roses Never Fade.” Ada had stared out the window of their kitchen, her attention completely focused on the rosebushes, which had yet to bud, while members from their church sat beside Jonathan’s body in the next room. She’d gazed at the bushes and made her request.

Bishop Atlee had nodded, ran his fingers through his beard, and said, “Of course.”

Julia tried to focus on the bishop’s words as the men—the pallbearers—covered the plain coffin with dirt. How many shovelfuls would it take? Would Bishop Atlee have to read the hymn twice? Why was she worrying about such things?

David King stepped back, and Julia realized they were finished. Bishop Atlee bowed his head, signaling it was time for them to silently pray the words from the passage in Matthew, chapter six, verses nine through thirteen—their Lord’s prayer. Julia’s mind formed the words, but her heart remained numb.

“Amen,” Bishop Atlee said, in a voice as gentle as her mother’s hand on her arm.

The large crowd began to move. Words of comfort flowed over and around her. There had been a steady coming and going of people through the house to view her father’s body for the entire three days. Julia had become used to her privacy as she cared for her parents alone. The large amounts of food and the people had surprised her. Some of them she saw at church, but others came from neighboring districts. Those she barely knew.

She and Ada turned to go, for their buggy was marked with a number one on the side. The white chalk against the black buggy caused Julia’s heart to twist. They had led the procession to the cemetery. They would lead the gathering of friends away from the graveside.

But Julia realized she wasn’t ready to leave.

She pulled back, needing to look one more time. Needing to swipe at her tears so she could read the words clearly.



Jonathan Beechy

11-3-1928

3-6-2012

83 years, 4 months, 3 days



Now she and her mother were alone.

Chapter 1

Tuesday morning, six months later

Julia glanced around the kitchen as she waited for her mother’s egg to boil. Everything was clean and orderly. Why wouldn’t it be? It was only the two of them. Except for the days when she baked, there was little to do. Julia was hoping that would change soon, and she meant to talk to Ada about it. Today would be a good day. She’d put it off long enough.

The water started to boil, and she began counting in her mind. Three minutes made for the perfect egg, at least for Ada it did. There were few things her mother could stomach on the days she wasn’t well, but a soft-boiled egg was one.

Julia walked around the kitchen as she counted, and that was when she noticed the calendar. She’d failed to flip the page to September. Where had the last six months gone?

Six months since her father had died.

Six months of Ada’s health continuing to fail.

Six months that Julia had continued to postpone her dream.

She flipped the page, smiled at the photograph of harvested hay, and vowed that today she would speak with her mother. Returning to the stove, she scooped out the egg with a spoon and placed it in a bowl of water to cool. Slicing a piece of bread from the fresh loaf she’d made yesterday, she laid it on a plate and added a dab of butter and apple preserves on the side. She set the plate on a tray, which already held a tall glass of fresh milk. Picking it all up, she turned to walk to her mother’s room and nearly dropped the tray when she saw Ada standing in the doorway.

“I’m not an invalid, and I don’t need to eat in my bedroom.”

She weighed a mere eighty-nine pounds. Julia had brought in the scale from the barn last week and confirmed her fears. Her mother was losing weight. She was also shrinking. Ada now stood a mere five foot four inches.

Why was it that the body shrank as it grew older? It was almost as if it needed to conserve its energy for more important things. Her mother had attempted to braid her hair and tuck it under her kapp, but the arthritis that crippled her hands made the task difficult. The result was snow-white hair sprouting in various directions and a kapp tipped slightly to the back of her head. She also hadn’t been able to correctly pin her dark green dress.

In spite of her appearance, the blue eyes behind her small glasses twinkled with good humor and complete clarity. Her mother’s health might be failing, but today her mind was sharp. Julia was grateful. Some days sporadic bouts of dementia robbed her even of that.

“Mamm, I don’t mind bringing it to you.”

Ada waved her hand, dismissing the notion. “When I’m too feeble to get out of bed, I’ll be praying the Lord sees fit to take me home.”

Julia didn’t think it was a good time to remind her she’d stayed in bed three days last week. Ada remembered well enough. She simply chose to ignore the bad days.

“Let me help you.”

Setting the tray on the kitchen table, Julia was relieved to see that at least her mother was using the cane Dr. Hanson had provided. He’d suggested a walker, but Ada had insisted “the Lord was her strength.” The cane was a compromise.

Julia inwardly winced as she looked at her mother’s hands. Some mornings the crippling arthritis was better than others. This morning her hands—wrinkled, and spotted with age—resembled claws. She wondered how her mother would be able to pick up the utensils to eat. She was tempted to offer to feed her, but the last time she’d suggested that had earned her a twenty-minute lecture on self-sufficiency.

Ada must have noticed her staring. Patting her daughter’s arm, she murmured, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”

“Indeed.”

She bowed her head as her mother prayed over her breakfast. While Ada thanked God for her food, Julia prayed for strength and wisdom.

Was today the right day? And how best to broach the topic? Why were her palms sweating?

She waited until Ada had finished the egg and eaten half the bread. Some part of her wanted to believe that if her dream came true, Ada would improve. Another part knew it was only a matter of time until she’d be left alone in the big two-story house beside Pebble Creek.

“My baked goods have been selling well at Lydia and Aaron’s shop.”

“Ya. That’s wunderbaar.”

Julia nodded but vowed in her heart to push forward with her plan. She’d thought perhaps she should wait until her mother’s health improved, but after the visit with Doc Hanson last week, she knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was imperative she not wait until winter. The tourist crowds came during the summer and stayed through the fall foliage. If she was going to do this, she needed to do it now.

“Mamm, I’d like to expand my cooking business.”

“You don’t have a business.” Ada fumbled with the glass of milk, and they both reached to settle it. “You have a hobby.”

Rising and walking across the room, Julia fetched the herbal ointment the doctor had recommended. When she opened the jar, the smell of mint balm filled the kitchen. Pulling her mother’s left hand across the table, she worked the cream into the skin, rubbing gently with her fingers to massage the muscles until they were straightened.

“I’d like to make it a business, though.” She looked up, peering directly into her mother’s eyes.

Why was this so hard? Why was she so afraid Ada would say no?

She was thirty-seven years old, and she was still worried whether her mother would approve of her plans. “I’d like to open a café here in the house.”

Ada didn’t speak as Julia reached for her right hand and began rubbing the ointment into it. When she’d finished, her mother touched her cheek, leaving the faint scent of mint and summer.

“Dear Julia, how can you open a café in these rooms if you won’t be living here?” Behind the glasses were blue eyes filled with calmness, sadness, and determination.

“I don’t understand—”

“Do you think your dat and I would leave you here after we’ve gone on? Leave you alone?”

“But—”

“Nein, Julia. It wouldn’t be proper. It wouldn’t be right.”

“What…” Julia’s heart was racing so fast she felt as if she’d run from the creek. She didn’t know which question to ask first. “How…”

“We always hoped you might marry. Your father spoke to you about this on several occasions.”

“Ya, but—”

“I know your reasons, and I even understand them. The fact remains that you can’t live here alone once I’m gone, which according to Doc Hanson will be relatively soon.”

Julia jumped up from her chair, walked to the kitchen counter, and glanced outside. Her gaze fell on the rose bushes. They still held some of summer’s blooms—a deep, vibrant red.

“So you’re deciding I have to leave? Just like that? I have no say in it at all?” Her voice rose with each question.

“You’ll go to Pennsylvania. Back to live with my family.”

“I don’t even know those people.”

“They’re family, nonetheless. You’ve exchanged letters with them for years.”

“This is my home, mamm. You would kick me out of my home?”

Ada bowed her head. She didn’t speak for the space of nearly three minutes—long enough to boil another egg. When she looked up, her words were gentle, but they still made Julia want to scream. “God is our refuge and strength, dochder.”

“The Psalms are not the answer to this!”

“Always you can find the answers in Gotte’s Word.”

Julia closed her eyes and forced her emotions to calm down. When she looked at her mother again, she saw the same quiet, loving woman who had been beside her every day of her life. What she recognized, in her mother’s eyes, was kindness—and it confused her as much as the decree she had just issued.

“There’s no changing your mind?”

“Nein. The papers were drawn up before your dat passed. It’s why we agreed to sell the pastureland to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott. This home will be sold when I pass, and the money will be put in a trust for you, to help support you the rest of your life—”

“Support me.”

“On the condition you live in Pennsylvania with my family.”

“Why are you telling me this now?” Julia’s voice was a whisper. How could her life have taken such a catastrophic turn? When she’d slipped out of bed this morning, she never would have imagined that her days in this home, her days living beside Pebble Creek, were numbered.

It was true she hadn’t been overly social. She couldn’t remember the last singing she’d been to, but then she was not a girl. She was a woman.

Instead she’d waited. She’d done what a good daughter should do, followed all the rules, and waited. For what? So she could be turned out of her home. So she could be told once more what to do.

It wasn’t fair.

And she hadn’t seen it coming. She had never expected such an answer. She had never dreamed her mother and her father—she mustn’t forget he had agreed to this plan—would betray her this way.

No, she’d been busy designing a café in the bottom floor of their home. Where should she put the tables she would purchase from David King? What type of sign would best attract customers? What would be the best location for it? Should she advertise in the Budget? What design should she use for the menus?

None of those things mattered if she would be living in Pennsylvania.

“Why now?” she repeated.

“Why? Because you asked.” Her mother stood, gripped her cane, and shuffled out of the room.

Leaving Julia alone, staring out at the last of the crimson roses.

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