Rebecca Kauffman’s pulse fluttered as the large SUV she was riding in rumbled down the narrow road past the rolling farmland and green pastures dotted by heifers. The cows chewed their cud and nodded their greeting as if welcoming her back. The serenity of the lush, open fields intersected only by clusters of white farmhouses filled her soul with a peace she hadn’t felt since she’d left last month.
Pushing the cool metal button on the door, she cracked the passenger window open and breathed in the sweet, warm, moist air, free of exhaust from overcrowded city roads. The SUV negotiated a sharp bend, and Rebecca’s heart skipped a beat when the three-story farmhouse came into view. A smile crept across her lips.
The whitewashed, three-story, clapboard house stood humbly near the entrance to her family’s forty acres. The newly painted white picket fence was a stark contrast to the house’s green tin roof, speckled with brown rust that told of its age. The green window shades were halfway up, and the windows were cracked open to allow the springtime air to cool the house naturally.
A sweeping porch welcomed visitors entering the front, and a white barn, almost the size of the house, sat behind it. The large moving truck filled with the girls’ belongings seemed out of place next to the plain farmhouse and barn.
“This is it,” Rebecca said.
Running her fingers over the ties of her prayer Kapp, her mind swirled with thoughts on how her life had suddenly changed. She was finally a mother, or rather a guardian, of her two teenage nieces, her sister Grace’s children. Children would again live in the large farmhouse for the first time since she and Grace had been young.
“It’s beautiful,” Trisha McCabe, her older niece’s godmother, whispered from the seat behind Rebecca.
“Thank you.” Rebecca sat up straight in the leather front seat and smoothed her apron. “I love it here. It’s so quiet. If you listen close, you can actually hear the birds eating the seed in the feeder by my garden.” She pointed to the area near the front door where a rainbow of flowers swayed in the gentle spring breeze. Four cylinder-shaped feeders dangled from iron poles above the flowers. “The birds love those feeders. I have to fill them at least twice a week.”
Trisha’s husband, Frank, nosed his large truck up to the side of the farmhouse and then killed the engine. Whispers erupted from the third seat of the truck, and Rebecca assumed her nieces were analyzing the home.
Wrenching open the door, Rebecca climbed from the truck. She inhaled a deep breath and hugged her arms to her chest. Birds chirped and a horse brayed in the distance. The familiar sounds were a welcome change from the roar of automobiles, blare of television sets, and electronic rings of cellular phones she had endured at her sister’s home.
Trisha jumped out from the backseat, her eyes scanning the field. “You and Grace grew up here?”
A rush of grief flooded Rebecca at the sound of her sister’s name. Unable to speak for a moment, she nodded. “This house has been in our family for generations. Grace and I were both born here and grew up here.”
Trisha glanced toward the front door. “The land is just gorgeous. Can I go in and freshen up?”
“Of course,” Rebecca said, folding her arms across her simple black apron covering her caped, Plain purple dress. “The washroom is to the right through the kitchen.”
“I’ll be right back,” Trisha said before heading in the back door.
Rebecca glanced inside the truck through the open back door and spotted her nieces speaking to each other in hushed tones. Jessica Bedford was a portrait of Grace at fifteen, with her long, dark brown hair, deep brown eyes, high cheekbones, and clear, ivory skin. Lindsay Bedford, on the other hand, was fourteen, with auburn hair, striking emerald eyes, porcelain skin, and a smattering of freckles across her dainty nose.
Watching her precious nieces, Rebecca’s heart swelled with love. She’d met the girls for the first time when she arrived in Virginia Beach after hearing the news of the accident that took the lives of Grace and her husband, Philip.
The girls gathered up their bags and climbed from the truck.
Lindsay gasped as her eyes roamed the scenery. “This looks like a painting.” She turned to her sister. “Can you believe we’re going to live here?”
“Whatever,” Jessica deadpanned with a roll of her eyes. She chomped her bright pink bubble gum and adjusted her ear buds on the contraption she’d called an iPod. Her obsession with the electronic devices seemed to exemplify the Amish perspective that modern technology interfered with community and family relationships.
Lindsay pointed to the barn. “Do you have a lot of animals?”
“We have a few cats, chickens, goats, sheep, a cow, and a Couple of horses,” Rebecca said.
Lindsay’s eyes lit up. “Cool!”
The gentle clip-clop of a horse pulled Rebecca’s gaze toward the road. A smile turned up the corners of her mouth as Annie and Titus Esh’s horse and buggy traveled past her home.
“It’s so good to see horses and buggies again,” Rebecca said, waving at her neighbors. “Such a nice change from the traffic jams.”
“Yeah, but I bet it takes four hours to get to the grocery store,” Jessica mumbled.
“It’s a much more enjoyable ride, though,” Rebecca quipped with a smile. “There’s no loud radio to take away from the beautiful scenery around us.” She turned her gaze to her garden. “That reminds me. I need to check my flowers.”
Moving toward her garden, she found that more flowers had bloomed and vegetables had matured while she’d been gone. Daniel must have watered them for her as he’d promised. Stooping, she yanked a handful of weeds. The feeling of her hands on the green plants sent warmth to her soul. Nothing pleased her more than working in her garden.
It’s so good to be home.
Jessica sidled up to Rebecca. Slipping her iPod into her bag, her hand brushed the front of her blue T-shirt revealing Grace’s wedding ring hanging from a sparkling chain around Jessica’s neck. “I’ve never seen so many different flowers.”
“They’re so colorful,” Lindsay said, joining them.
Rebecca’s smile deepened. Perhaps she’d found a common ground with her nieces --- gardening. “My mother planted roses when I was about six,” she said. “I helped trim and water them during the spring and summer.”
“Your mother planted them?” Jessica turned toward her, her eyes wide with shock. “My grandmother?”
“Your mother helped in the garden too. It’s sort of a tradition for children to help in the gardens, especially the girls.” She touched her niece’s arm. “Do you like to garden?”
“I guess.” Jessica shrugged. “I did a little bit with my mom.”
“I helped her weed,” Lindsay chimed in.
“Maybe you both can help me sometime,” Rebecca said.
“Yeah. Maybe,” Jessica whispered. “My mother loved to take care of her roses. I had no idea it was something she did when she was Amish.”
Rebecca chuckled. “Well, gardening isn’t just an Amish thing, but it is part of our culture. We love the outdoors. It’s a way to praise God and celebrate His glory.”
Jessica nodded. “That makes sense.”
“Becky, mei Fraa. Wie geht’s? ” a voice behind Rebecca asked.
Turning, she found her husband, Daniel, pushing back his straw hat to wipe the sweat from his blond brow. He flashed his dimpled smile and her heart skipped a beat. Oh, how she’d missed him during their month apart.
It was so good to be home!
“Daniel!” Standing on her tiptoes, she hugged him. “Daniel, I’m doing great now. Oh how I’ve missed you.”
“I’m glad you’re home,” his voice vibrated against her throat, sending heat through her veins.
Stepping back, Rebecca motioned toward the girls. “Daniel, these are our nieces I’ve told you so much about on the phone. This is Jessica, and this is Lindsay. Girls, meet your uncle Daniel.”
“Welcome.” He tipped his straw hat.
“Thanks,” Jessica said, shifting her weight on her feet and glancing around the property.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Lindsay said.
“I hope you’ll be comfortable here with us,” he said. “The movers and I have almost gotten all of your boxes in.”
“Great.” Jessica’s smile seemed to be forced.
Taking his hand, Rebecca smiled up at Daniel. Yes, it was so good to be home.
Excerpted from A GIFT OF GRACE: Kauffman Amish Bakery Series, Book 1 © Copyright 2011 by Amy Clipston. Reprinted with permission by Zondervan. All rights reserved.