#Holiday set of novellas
Amish teacher Susannah Miller suddenly has two new
the children of her former love. Widowed father Toby Unger
broke Susannah's heart ten years ago, but now the handsome
Amish man desperately needs help with his troubled little
ones. Can the joy of the season reunite two lonely hearts
time for Christmas?
Outspoken nanny Sally Yoder left her Amish community for
rumspringa. Though her heart is back home, the Amish man
loves, Ben Lapp, will never love a bold woman like her.
when a snowstorm strands her, her young charges and Ben on
remote farm at Christmastime, they both might discover
love is the true holiday spirit.
Susannah Miller stood behind the security of her teacher’s
desk, watching the departure of school board member James
Keim and his wife, and wondering if her annual Christmas
program was going to spell the end of her job as teacher at
the Pine Creek Amish School. The hollow feeling in her
stomach brought on by Keim’s complaints lingered even after
the door had closed behind him.
Too worldly? What would make the Keims think there was
anything worldly about the Amish school’s Christmas
program? The program celebrated typical Amish values and
attitudes toward the birth of Christ. It had always been
the highlight of the school year for her scholars and their
families in this small valley community in central
Susannah stiffened her spine. It still would be, if she had
anything to say about it. She glanced around the simple,
one-room schoolhouse that had become so precious to her
over the past twelve years. Everything from the plain green
shades on the windows to the sturdy wooden desks to the
encouraging sayings posted on the wall declared that this
was an Amish school, dedicated to educating kinder for life
in an Amish community.
Becky Shuler, Susannah’s best friend since childhood,
abandoned the pretense she’d been making of arranging books
on the bookshelves. She hurried over to put her arm around
“Ach, Susannah, it wonders me you don’t look more upset.
I’d be throwing something, if I had to put up with James
Keim’s criticisms. The nerve of the man, coming in here and
complaining about your Christmas program before he’s even
Susannah shook her head, managing a smile. “I’m not upset.”
Or at least, she had no intention of showing what she was
feeling. Becky was her dearest friend in the world, but she
knew as well as anyone that Becky couldn’t keep herself
from talking, especially when she was indignant on behalf
of those she loved.
“Well, you should be.” Becky’s round cheeks were even
rosier than usual, and her brown eyes snapped with
indignation. “The Keims have only lived here less than two
years, and he thinks he should tell everyone else how to
live Amish. How he even got on the school board is a
mystery to me.”
Shrugging, Susannah closed the grade book she’d been
working on when the Keims had appeared at the end of the
school day. “Komm, Becky. You know as well as I do that
folks don’t exactly line up to volunteer to be on the
school board. James Keim had been willing, even eager.”
“That’s certain sure.” Becky’s flashing eyes proclaimed
that she was not going to be talked out of her temper so
easily. “He was only eager to serve because he wants to
make our school into a copy of the one where they lived in
Ohio. All I can say is that if he liked Ohio so much, he
should have stayed there instead of coming here and
Susannah suspected that was by no means all Becky had to
say, and she’d have to do her best to head Becky off before
she made a difficult situation worse.
“Becky, you know you shouldn’t talk that way about a
brother in the faith. It’s not kind.”
“But it’s true.” Becky was irrepressible. “You of all
people know what a thorn in the side he’s been. Ach, you
know I wouldn’t say these things to anyone but you.”
“It would be best not to say them at all. James Keim has
his own ideas of what an Amish school should be like. He’s
entitled to his opinion.”
Based on his disapproving comments, Susannah suspected that
Keim’s previous community had been more conservative than
Pine Creek, Pennsylvania. Amish churches varied from place
to place, according to their membership and their bishops.
Pine Creek, being a daughter church to Lancaster County,
was probably a bit less stringent than what Keim had been
“You’re too kind, that’s what you are,” Becky declared,
planting her fists on the edge of the desk. “You know
perfectly well that he’d like to see his daughter Mary
taking your place as teacher, so he could boss her around
all he wanted.”
Susannah shook her head, but she had to admit there was
some truth to what Becky said. As a thirty-year-old maidal
who’d been teaching for a dozen years, Susannah wasn’t
easily cowed, at least not when it came to her classroom
and the young scholars who were like her own children.
Young Mary would probably be another story, easily
influenced by her father’s powerful personality.
“I don’t think Mary Keim has much interest in teaching from
what I’ve seen,” she said, determined to deflect Becky’s
ire. Picking up the cardboard box that held Christmas
program materials, Susannah set it on the desk. “If we’re
going to work on the program this afternoon, we’d better
Becky shook her head gloomily. “Mary might not want to
teach, but she’d never stand up to her daad. You’re not
going to let her help with the Christmas program, are you?
She’d just be spying on you and reporting to him.”
“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” she said.
“Maybe she won’t offer.” Parents and older siblings often
did volunteer to help with the Christmas program, but
perhaps Mary wouldn’t. Susannah pulled the tape from the
box lid, sure that would divert Becky’s attention.
Becky grabbed the flap and pulled the box open, her smile
saying she knew Susannah was trying to distract her. “Just
one more thing, and then I’ll stop, I promise. You’re not
to pay any heed to Keim’s nasty comment about you not
understanding the kinder because you’re unmarried, all
“All right.” That was an easy promise to make. One thing
she’d never had cause to question was her feelings for her
“After all, it’s not as if you couldn’t have married if
you’d wanted to.” Becky dived into the box and pulled out a
handful of paper stars. “Even after Toby left—“ She stopped
abruptly, looking as if she wanted to stuff the stars into
her mouth to keep herself still. Her cheeks flamed.
“Susannah, I’m sorry, I—“
“Forget it.” Susannah forced her smile to remain, despite
the jolt in her stomach at the mention of Toby’s name. “I
That was a lie, of course, and one she should repent of,
she supposed. Still, the gut Lord could hardly expect her
to go around parading her feelings about the childhood
sweetheart who had deserted her a month before their
wedding was supposed to take place.
“Have you? Really?” Becky clasped her hand, her brown eyes
suddenly swimming with tears.
“Of course I have,” she said with all the firmness she
could muster. “It was ten years ago. My disappointment has
long since been forgiven and forgotten. I wish Toby well.”
Did she? She tried to, of course. Forgiveness was an
integral part of being Amish. But saying she forgave hadn’t
seemed to mend the tear in her heart.
“Well, I wish Tobias Unger was here right now so I could
give him a piece of my mind,” Becky declared. “He left so
fast nobody had a change to tell him how ferhoodled he was
being. And then his getting married out in Ohio to someone
he barely knew…well, like I said, he was just plain
News of Toby had filtered back to Pine Creek after he’d
left, naturally, since his family still lived here.
Everyone knew he’d married someone else within a year of
leaving, just as they’d heard about the births of his two
children and about his wife’s death last year. His mother
had gone out to help with the children for a time, and
she’d returned saying that Toby and the kinder really ought
to move back home.
But he hadn’t, to Susannah’s relief. She wasn’t sure how
she’d cope with seeing him all the time.
“Forget about him,” she said. “Let’s talk about how we’re
going to arrange the room for the Christmas program. I have
some new ideas.”
“You always have ideas,” Becky said, apparently ready to
let go of the sensitive subject. “I don’t know how you keep
coming up with something new every year for the Christmas
“Ach, there’s always something new to find in Christmas.”
Susannah felt a bubble of excitement rising in her at the
thought of the much-loved season. “Maybe because we all
feel like kinder again, ain’t so?”
“I suppose so.” Becky’s color had returned to normal, and
her eyes sparkled. “Thomas and the twins have been
whispering together for weeks now. I think they’re planning
a Christmas surprise for me.”
“Of course they are. That’s what Christmas is, after all.
God’s greatest surprise of all for us.” Susannah swung away
from the desk, looking around the room. “What do you think
about making the schoolroom itself surprising when folks
come in? Maybe instead of having the scholars all
presenting in the front, we could turn everything sideways.
That would give the kinder more space.”
She walked back through the rows of desks, flinging out her
arms to gesture. “You see, if the audience faced this way—“
The door of the one-room school opened suddenly,
interrupting her words. Susannah’s heart jolted, and she
felt as if she couldn’t breathe.
She must be imagining things. Surely she was dreaming it.
The man standing in the schoolhouse doorway wasn’t…couldn’t
possibly be…Toby Unger.
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