Amish Romance: Let Go and Let God by Sandra Becker

“I am so excited!” Ruth exclaimed.

“I know. I am happy for you, dear Schweschder,” Mary replied.
Amish Romance: Let Go and Let God
Amish Romance: Let Go and Let God by Sandra Becker
Ruth looked at her sister Mary and smiled. It was a beautiful morning in Lancaster County. The family had just finished breakfast, and Ruth and Mary were in the kitchen cleaning the dishes. The biggest part of their morning routine was already done. Ruth had woken up at dawn, collected the eggs, milked the cow, and then turned it out to pasture. While Ruth cared for the animals, Mary had gathered vegetables and helped her mother with the breakfast. “You will follow me soon enough,” Ruth said. Mary was a year younger than Ruth, and the two of them were very close. A few days before, Ruth had celebrated her fifteenth birthday, and she knew that it meant the advent of rumspringa. Most of her friends had looked forward to this as a time to be more social with boys of their age, but Ruth was more excited about the fact that it was also an opportunity to finally become a member of the church. Rumspringa was a time when teenage boys and girls were allowed a bit more freedom as they began to court and made a formal decision about whether to join the church and agree to live their lives in accordance with the rules of the Ordnung, the Amish community order. Ruth had seen some of her friends spend rumspringa at home, while others had gone to stay with relatives while they pondered their decision. In most cases, her friends had already made their decision, and they therefore used most of their time during rumspringa observing adults, learning from them, and emulating their behavior and values. Ruth was already learning from her mother the habits and work ethic of a respectable Amish lady. She had a deep faith in God and she knew that this would be her chance to prove her devotion to God. The dishes were soon done, and Ruth wiped her hands with a cloth. Mary had a dreamy look in her eyes. “Mudder told me that next year it will be my turn for rumspringa. I would love to go to the singings and spend more time with the boys.” Ruth smiled. She had felt the same way. She had watched from the aisles as her friends had become church members and started participating in the choir. She patted her sister on the cheek and said, “Sure. We will have a lot of fun together once you complete your rumspringa. Mudder will also give you a new dress next year.” “That would be wunderbaar. Will you be going to Ant Sadie’s haus?” “Yes. Father sent her a letter. She said that she would be delighted to see me again. It’s been quite a while since we visited her, not since Mr. Schwartz’s wedding.” Just then, their youngest sibling, ten-year-old Abram, rushed in. “Look what I found Schweschder.” He held a frog in his hand. “Oh! Be careful, you could hurt the tiny animal.” She took the frog gently from Abram’s hands and released it on the floor. The frog gave a croak and hopped away. “Ach! Mr. Frog is running away.” Abram’s face fell. “Don’t worry, little bruder. Mr. Frog will be around the neighborhood. He knows that we are really nice people. He will come back when he needs our help. Now cheer up. I have a secret to share.” The boy’s curiosity was piqued. “A secret?” “Yes. A secret.” “What is it?” “I start my rumspringa in a few days.” “Oh!” Abram’s voice dropped a notch further. “It's not fair. Everyone else gets to see the outside world, but I have to stay at home.” Mary smiled and hugged her brother. “There is so much love here. Why do you want to go anywhere else?” * * * * The marketplace was less crowded than usual. It was mid-morning and Ruth had come to the marketplace for two things. One was to trade eggs and milk for some firewood. The other was to meet her friend Sarah. Sarah hadn’t arrived yet, so she met the tradesman and traded her eggs and milk for a small pile of firewood. Then she watched the other sellers ply their wares. Neighbors greeted each other and made small talk. It was Sunday, but still a typical day at the market. Suddenly a young man across the way caught her eye. It was his mustache that got her attention. It was unusual to see anyone in their community with a mustache. Married men wore a beard without a mustache. But this person wore no beard, only a mustache. And the face behind the mustache was handsome. Her heart stopped. The young man was next to a car, and it looked as if he was asking for directions from one of the vendors. It’s an Englischer. Her heart spiked as she looked at him. She felt an unusual but irresistible attraction to the stranger. “Well, well, well.” Ruth turned at the sound of the familiar voice and saw Sarah at her side. Sarah glanced at the Englischer and then back at Ruth. “He is handsome, isn’t he?” Sarah giggled. “Yes. He is strikingly attractive,” Ruth admitted. Suddenly, the young man turned toward them, as if he had heard their conversation. His eyes met Ruth's, and for a fleeting moment she felt as if he were reading her thoughts. Then he got into the car and guided it out of the market. Ruth watched him until he was out of sight. “I wonder what he is doing here?” she said. Sarah shrugged. “He's probably here to have fun or to make fun of us. Not that I would mind. I am starved for strangers. All we have here are plain-clothed people.” “Hush, you mustn’t speak so," Ruth scolded her. "It is God’s will that we should dress simply and not be ostentatious. We are the people of the Ordnung. We are the ladies of the community. We must do what is right.” Sarah sighed. “I guess you are right." Then her face brightened as she asked, "How are the preparations for your rumspringa going?” “They are going well. I have thought a lot about my future. I have learned so many things recently, especially in the time since I completed school. This will be the first time I will be away from Mudder for so long. I am a little nervous about that, but please don’t tell her or she will be afraid of sending me away.” Sarah nodded. “I won’t tell anyone. I know how it goes. I was scared, too, when I had to leave my family. But I got to live with my Ant and I prayed to God to give me strength. I will now pray to God to guide you.” “Thanks, Sarah.” “We have church services at Mrs. Bayer’s house today. Do you want to come along with me?” Sarah asked. Church services were held every other Sunday and rotated from home to home throughout the year. “Sure," Ruth agreed. We will have to stop over at my house first and drop off the wood.” By the time they reached Ruth’s home, her family had already left for the services. Ruth put the firewood in the kitchen and she and Sarah headed out. They reached Mrs. Bayer’s house a few minutes later. Most of the community had already gathered for the service. Ruth joined her family, as Sarah made her way over to the choir. The first prayer began in a slow, melancholic tone, praising God’s kindness, and everyone joined in. O Gott, Vater, wir loben dich und deine Güte preisen wir… Ruth joined in with the others. She silently expressed her gratitude and asked for the Lord’s blessings. She thanked God for the wonderful family she had and prayed to God to make her a member of the church very soon. Suddenly, however, the image of the young stranger flashed through her mind. She shook her head, and redirected her thoughts, a trifle concerned. This had never happened to her before. * * * * Chapter 2 The young stranger thought again of the lady at the market. Real pretty face. I would like to see her again; he thought and then shook his head. He knew better. He went over the events of the past few days that had led him to Lancaster County. Last month, he had been working for a prestigious medical research center in Philadelphia. He wouldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams that he would be in Amish territory only a few weeks later. It had started with his boss Dr. Jones finding out that he was drinking while on the job. Dr. Jones had confronted him and accused him of being an alcoholic. He had tried to talk his way around it, but it hadn’t worked. His boss had only become angrier. A couple of days later, he was given a new assignment. He was to study the genetic effects of intermarriage among the Amish. This would require him to do an onsite evaluation of an Amish community. He knew the reason why he was selected for this assignment. And it was not for his genetic knowledge. They wanted me to stay away. He thought of the girl and of others like her in the Amish community. This is an orthodox society. The people won't want to be around someone who binges on alcohol. As a doctor, he knew the terrible effects of alcoholism, but its grip on him was beyond scientific reason. He had taken up the bottle after a painful breakup with his girlfriend. The pain of the loss had subsided, but the craving for the bottle hadn’t. So what if I do need a little sip now and then? What right did Dr. Jones have to judge me? He saw a farm in front of him. It had a quaint cottage with lush green fields spread out around it in every direction. Near the house he saw a tall oak tree next to a shed. It was the landmark he had been told to look out for. This must be the place, he thought. He parked the car a little further from the cottage, walked up to the door, and knocked. An elderly lady opened the door and peered out at him. “Good morning, ma’am. My name is James Townsend.” * * * * Emma Byler looked at her children and smiled. They have grown up so quickly, she thought. It was evening, and the sun was nearing the horizon after completing its work of nourishing the farm throughout the day. She watched her eldest daughter, Ruth, playing with Abram and Mary. Their squeals of laughter could be heard from afar. Ruth guided them to the barn and the younger ones sped away, apparently playing a game of hide-and-seek. “The kids seem to be enjoying themselves, Emma.” her husband, Samuel said, coming to stand at her side. Emma adjusted her prayer kapp. “Yes. They are so carefree. It’s wonderful to watch them grow up.” Samuel looked out at the fields. “God has been good to us. We have been blessed with wunderbaar children.” “Yes, we have.” Emma remembered when each of her children was born. There had been no complications during their births and each time the labor had been relatively pain free. She had seen plenty of other mothers who had to deal with intense labor pain or worse, miscarriages and stillborn infants. She mouthed a silent prayer expressing her gratitude. A piercing squeal came from the barn. Ruth had just caught Abram. Emma and Samuel laughed. “Will this happiness last?” Samuel asked, becoming serious. Emma was surprised. “Why do you say that?” “It's probably nothing,” he said with a shrug. “No. Do tell me. You can share your feelings with me,” Emma told him. “Well. It’s about Ruth’s rumspringa.” “What about it?” “Do you think she will decide to stay in the community?” Emma smiled. She understood why Samuel was concerned. Some of the younger generation had not become members of the church. They had decided to move out of the community. Some of the community elders had been concerned. There had been some talk about how the children were being influenced by the Englischers. But Emma’s trust in the Amish way of life was strong. Even stronger was her trust in God. This gave her confidence that Ruth would do the right thing at the right time. She said, “I trust she will stay in the community.” Samuel breathed heavily. “I am glad you feel that way. Sometimes I worry about her. We have protected our community from outside influence for a long time. However, my greatest fear is that she will one day meet an Englischer and leave us.” Emma put her hand on his shoulder. “Samuel, you must not worry so. We have brought up Ruth in a loving and caring way. She has imbibed our values and beliefs. She is no longer a child, dear.” “I know, but I can’t shake off a nagging feeling of doubt,” Samuel said. “I have spoken with her about rumspringa and she is already committed to joining the church," Emma told him. "I don’t think that's the problem. I think I know what you are really worried about, though.” “You do?” “You are worried about the time when she will get married and leave us. Isn’t that it?” Samuel sighed. “I guess you are right. I can’t bear to see her leave us. The five of us together are a family. I cannot imagine how it will feel when Ruth will no longer be among us.” Emma wiped a tear from her eye. “She is a woman, Samuel. It is the destiny of a woman to leave one house for another. She must leave the loving care of her parents so that she can shower her affection on a new family. She will discover the hidden love of a caring husband and the joy of motherhood. The joys of marriage are many. Watching your child’s first smile and knowing that it was conceived from your womb. Growing up along with your child and teaching her and learning as well. She must leave us in order to experience all of this.” “I know Emma, but still … we bring her up, teach her values, shelter her, and then she leaves. Why?” Emma rested her head on Samuel’s shoulder. “If my father had thought the same way, I wouldn’t have become your wife.” Samuel didn’t say anything more for a few moments, but he squeezed her hand. Emma knew that her logic was right. He finally nodded. “You are right, Emma, as always, but it is so tough.” “We lose what we cling tightly to. Let go and let God.” * * * * Let go and let God. Samuel thought about Emma’s words. He was full of gratitude toward her. There had been many instances during their marriage when Emma had shown great insight into a problem that had been consuming him. This was another one of them. He sometimes felt that she was more intelligent than he was. She had been his rock in times of tribulation. He now understood what he had been struggling against. He had thought that his battles were his alone. That was not the case. God was on his side, watching him, throwing him a challenge to see how he would face it. Who was he to deny God’s designs? Let God decide what is best for Ruth. Samuel immediately felt more relaxed. He turned to Emma and smiled. He saw a look of understanding in her eyes as she smiled back. The children’s voices were closer now. Samuel looked toward the barn and saw that they were returning to the house. He observed Ruth, seeing her now in the light of her status as a young lady, instead of the child he had always thought her to be. Yes, she had turned into a fine young woman. Responsible, caring, and intelligent, just like her mother. He called out to her. “Ruth, my dear, come here.” “Coming, Father” she replied. He watched her stop to instruct her siblings. “Wash your hands and feet. They should be clean.” Then she approached him. “Yes, Father? Do you need dinner?” Samuel smiled on realizing that Ruth’s first concern was about his dinner. Emma had always put family before self, and now Ruth was following in her footsteps. He hugged her. “No, no. I just realized how much you mean to me.” Ruth smiled and hugged her father even more tightly. “When you hug me, I realize how much you mean to me.” Emma spoke then. “Ruth, your father has something important to discuss with you.” Samuel cleared his throat. “Your mother has informed me that you are aware of your upcoming rumspringa. I want to know if you have any questions." “No, Father. I have no questions. In fact, I am excited to have the opportunity to become a member of the church.” “And you understand that eventually you will marry one of the young men of our community?” Ruth lowered her eyes. “Yes, Father, I know.” Samuel saw Ruth’s eyes moisten. He understood that, like him, she wanted to remain with her family. It’s tougher for her than it is for me, he thought. I will lose only Ruth in marriage, but she will be leaving her entire family behind and will be living among new people. What is a father’s worry compared to a daughter’s? He patted her gently. “I know what you are thinking of.” She clung to her father, crying. “I don’t want to leave you, Father.” “Don’t cry, my dear," he told her. "I won’t be marrying you off immediately. You are with us for now. I am sure Gott has good things planned for you.” “Yes, Father. I will pray to our Lord to give me strength.” She wiped her tears. “Let me get you some dinner. You must be tired.” Samuel watched her go toward the kitchen. Yes. She has turned into a mature young lady. She would be a blessing to the family into which she married. He prayed to God for Ruth’s happiness. He would let destiny take its course. It’s Gottes Willes. * * * * Chapter 3 It was early dawn, but Ruth was already awake. She had woken up earlier than usual. She had been so excited that it had been hard for her to go to sleep the night before. Finally the day of rumspringa had arrived. She would be going to visit Ant Sadie and spend a few days with her. Ruth did her morning chores more quickly than usual. She milked the cows and helped her mother with the breakfast. When she was done, she collected a few of her clothes and packed them in a small sack. She adjusted her prayer kapp and ensured that she looked prim. Ant Sadie lived a few miles away. It was an hour’s walk. The entire family gathered together when it was finally time for Ruth to leave. “I can come with you, Ruth,” Her father offered. “Thanks, Father, but it’s a short journey and I can manage. You have to go to the barn anyway. I will be all right.” Her mother beckoned. “Come here, dear.” She gave Ruth a hug, holding her just a little longer than was needed. “May God be with you,” she said. Ruth ruffled Abram’s hair and patted Mary. Mary said, “You have to promise me, Schweschder, that you will tell me everything once you come back.” Ruth laughed. “Yes, Mary. I will tell you everything that happens.” Mary beamed. “Goodbye, Sister.” Ruth waved good-bye. Then she turned toward the road and headed to her aunt’s house. It was a clear day with blue skies. The morning sun was gentle on her face. Her neighbors waved at her as she passed. They were aware that she would be going to her aunt’s house. She waved in reply. As Ruth crossed a small bridge over a stream that marked the village boundary, she thought, All right, I am now in a foreign land. She felt both excited and a little nervous. She had been to her aunt’s house only a couple of times before, and this was the first time she had traveled there alone. Her father had been with her on the previous two occasions. Ruth met a few of the villagers along the way, and they nodded at her and smiled. It was a little over an hour before she saw Ant Sadie’s cottage. Fields surrounded the small house. She saw her aunt out digging potatoes in the field and called out to her. Sadie smiled broadly. “Ruth. Oh my, you have changed a lot. You were but a child when I saw you three years back. You are now a lovely young woman. Come. Let me show you inside the house.” They entered the cottage. It was spartan, with only the essentials. Sadie showed Ruth to her room. “You must be tired. Let me get you some food and milk.” “Thanks, Sadie. That is very kind of you. But let me help you,” Ruth said. “No, you can relax," Sadie told her. "It will take only a couple of minutes.” “Please, I insist.” Sadie smiled. “All right. If you want to help, you can help me by going to the Schrocks’ place next door. I need some beans.” “Sure," Ruth agreed. "I will.” Ruth had met Mrs. Schrock once before. She knocked on the door, but there was no response. She looked around and spotted a young man pulling water from a well. His back was turned to her. “Pardon me, Mr. Schrock,” she called. The man didn’t seem to hear her. She walked toward him. “Mr. Schrock, I needed some beans.” The young man turned toward Ruth, and her heart skipped a beat as she saw the mustached face. * * * * Chapter 4 They stared at each other as if in a trance. The man was the first to break out of it. “I'm sorry; I am not a member of the Schrock family. My name is James Townsend. I am living as a tenant here.” “Oh!” Ruth exclaimed. She heard a voice behind her and turned. It was Mrs. Schrock. She hadn’t changed a bit from the last time Ruth had seen her. “Do you need something, child?” Ruth saw a flicker of recognition in her eyes. “Ruth, is that you?” Ruth nodded. “I wouldn’t have recognized you, but for your eyes. When did you arrive?” “Just now. I am on my rumspringa.” “Isn’t that wonderful? Come inside. We have a lot to talk about.” “I would love to stay, but I have to get back. My Ant sent me over to get some beans. I am helping her cook.” “Oh, sure. Give me a moment. I collected a few of them yesterday. By the way, this is Mr. Townsend. He’s staying in the farm shed for a few weeks. Mr. Townsend, this is Miss Byler.” James inclined his head. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Byler.” Mrs. Schrock headed into the house to find the beans, leaving Ruth alone with the young man. She wondered what she should say to him. “So, are you staying with your aunt?” he ventured. Ruth nodded. “Yes, I come here now and then. How about you?” “This is the first time I have been to this village. I am a doctor. I'm here to do some research.” He smiled at her and she felt her heart flutter. “You are a doctor?” “Yes.” “I know a little bit about medicines. My uncle ran an apothecary and I used to help him.” “If you are interested in medicine, I could probably teach you a few things. I have a lot of medical equipment with me. I'd be happy to show it to you some time if you like.” Ruth realized that she was really attracted to the young man. And now that he had mentioned that he was a doctor, her respect increased. Doctors were life-givers. “I would like to take a look, but I have to help my aunt with lunch.” “That’s fine. You can visit me any time you want. How would after lunch suit you?” “Er, I am not sure," Ruth hesitated. "I will first have to call upon Mrs. Schrock.” “I understand.” Just then, Mrs. Schrock hailed her from the doorway of her home. “Ruth, here’s your beans. Boil them on a slow flame and they will taste delicious. And don’t forget to come over to my house later so we can catch up.” Ruth assured her that she would be coming soon. Then she collected the beans and returned to her aunt’s cottage. A few minutes later, lunch was ready. They had a delightful lunch, which was coupled with a heartfelt conversation between Ruth and Sadie. They had a lot of catching up to do with one another's lives, and they spent the next few hours discussing every thing that had happened since they last met. * * * * The next morning, Ruth was up and about early, and she helped Sadie with the daily chores. Sadie was pleased with Ruth’s independence and responsibility. Ruth didn’t want to be a burden on Sadie and had already decided that she would help her as much as she could. After breakfast was done, Ruth asked if she could pay a courtesy call to Mrs. Schrock. Sadie agreed and told Ruth not to worry about preparing lunch. Ruth promised to return soon. As she walked over to the neighboring house, she saw James in the yard. He was feeding oats to the horse. “Good morning, Mr. Townsend.” James turned around. “Ah, Miss Byler. It is indeed a beautiful morning.” Ruth watched him feed the horse. “The horse seems to like you,” she observed. “Yes. The feeling is mutual.” He glanced at Ruth and then continued. “You don’t get to see many horses in the city. Initially, I was afraid of him, but now we get along well.” Ruth said, “Horses are similar to people. They take time to forge a friendship. A stranger that you come to know well is no longer a stranger.” James smiled. “That’s true. So, do you have a couple of minutes to spare? I can show you some of the stuff that I am working on.” Ruth thought about it. She had come to visit Mrs. Schrock. However, she found the warm voice of the Englischer inexplicably appealing. She wanted to know more about him and what he was doing in their village. This should only take a few minutes, she thought. Mrs. Schrock won’t mind a little delay. “Please lead the way, Mr. Townsend.” They went to a shed at one corner of the farm. It was larger than she expected on the inside, primarily because it was mostly empty. An old and broken down buggy was kept at one corner. There was a kettle, some bowls, and a few spoons on a table to one side. However, what caught Ruth’s attention first was a crate full of books and a pile of scientific equipment, including a microscope, a stethoscope, test tubes, and some medicinal supplies. “What are those?” she asked, pointing to the modern equipment. Ruth had never seen anything like it before. “This is my portable laboratory. Here, let me show you.” James showed Ruth the medicines that could cure various diseases. He told her about the microscope that could show you things that could not be seen with the naked eye. Ruth was intrigued, so he showed her what a potato peel looked liked under the microscope. Ruth was impressed. It felt like magic to her. There was a knock on the door. James opened it to find Mrs. Schrock on the other side. “Mr. Townsend, did you get a chance to look at the buggy?” Mrs. Schrock inquired. “Yes. I think it can be fixed. It will take me a couple of days to get it working. I was telling Miss Byler about my work. I apologize if I have distracted her from the purpose for which she came.” “Ach, Ruth! I didn’t know you were on the premises,” Mrs. Schrock said. “I am sorry, Mrs. Schrock. I was about to call on you.” “It’s all right, my child. Take your time.” “No, I think we are done here,” Ruth said, glancing at James. He nodded. “That’s right. Feel free to visit me again sometime. I'd be happy to show you more of the equipment.” “Thank you for your offer," Ruth told him. "I will take my leave now, Mr. Townsend. Have a good day.” “You too," he replied. "Have a good day, Miss Byler.” * * * * Chapter 5 It had been an eventful day. Ruth, who had a set routine at home, felt good about herself as she cooked the evening meal. She had thoroughly enjoyed her conversation with Mrs. Schrock. However, she couldn’t take her mind off her meeting with James. He had been a real gentleman and was knowledgeable about his work. She was still astounded by the incredible things she had seen. She felt like he had offered her a peek into the outside world. She wanted to know more about him and his life. She wondered what it would be like to live the life of an Englischer. Would it be more exciting than her current life? She wondered what would happen if she decided to live outside of the community in the Englisch world. Sadie spoke. “Ruth, dear, can you cook the vegetables as well? I think I will lie down and rest. I am not feeling well.” “I am sorry, Sadie," Ruth apologized. "I should have helped you more today.” “That’s okay, my child," Sadie told her. "I will be in the bedroom if you need me.” Ruth didn’t worry too much about why Sadie felt indisposed. She figured that she must be hungry. Ruth worked efficiently to get dinner ready for her. Dinner was a quiet affair, compared to the previous day. Sadie listened intently as Ruth told her about her day, speaking only when Ruth asked her a question. After a while, she asked Ruth to close the windows. “Are you feeling all right, Ant?” Ruth asked. “I am a bit tired. I will be fine.” Ruth took a closer look at her aunt and observed that she was shivering. “Are you sure? You don’t look so good.” “I will feel better after I have had some sleep,” Sadie told her. Ruth helped Sadie to her bed and gave her some water to drink. As Sadie rested on the bed, she grasped Ruth’s hand. Ruth was astounded at the warmth of her touch. She placed her hand on Sadie’s forehead and found that she was feverish. “You are sick, Sadie. Let me make one of Uncle’s home remedies. It will cure you,” Ruth told her. “Don’t bother yourself, Ruth. I will feel better tomorrow,” her aunt said. “It will take only a couple of minutes. Please, I insist.” Ruth went to the kitchen and gathered the necessary ingredients. A couple of minutes later she was at Sadie’s side with the medicinal drink. Sadie drank it and lay back on the bed. Ruth fanned Sadie’s face with her handkerchief. She waited for a few minutes and then touched Sadie’s forehead. The fever hadn’t subsided. “Pray for me dear,” Sadie said in a weak voice. So Ruth prayed. She prayed in a soulful and heartfelt voice to God. She prayed that Sadie would be well soon, so that she could have many more conversations with her. She prayed for God to make her strong, hale, and hearty. Ruth stopped praying on hearing the retching sound. “Mein Gott, help us.” She saw that Sadie’s face had become bloodless. The medicine wasn’t working. Night had fallen. The local apothecary would be closed. No one would help them. Ruth felt helpless and alone. Sadie’s fever could worsen if she waited until morning. Ruth prayed to God for deliverance. Suddenly, Ruth was struck by an inspiration. The Englischer next door! He could help. Ruth ran barefoot across the field and knocked on the shed door, hoping that James was not asleep. She looked closely and saw a tiny crack of light around the doorframe. There was a shuffling sound inside and the door opened. James took one look at Ruth and asked, “Is everything all right?" “My aunt is sick. Can you help me?” “Sure.” He grabbed a coat and followed her. Back at the house, Ruth led James over to where Sadie rested. He made a quick examination and then told Ruth, “I will be back in a minute. I need to get some of my stuff.” He returned in a few minutes, carrying a stethoscope, a vial of medicine, and a syringe. He checked Sadie’s vitals and then gave her an injection. Ruth watched Sadie anxiously. Sadie looked visibly more relaxed after being injected with the medicine. A few minutes later she was asleep. James said, “She will feel better in the morning. A good sleep will be very beneficial. I will come back tomorrow morning to check up on her.” Ruth clasped her hands in gratitude. “Thank you so much for helping me. You are a godsend. I don’t know what I would have done tonight, if you hadn’t come.” “That’s okay," James told her. "I didn’t do anything special. It was God’s will that I was in the neighborhood.” “Yes. God bless you.” “Thank you. I will take my leave now. Goodnight.” * * * * Chapter 6 By morning, Sadie felt significantly better. Ruth told her about the events of the previous night and Sadie said that the least they could do was to invite James over for lunch. Ruth agreed. Presently, James came over to check on Sadie. He declared her much improved and admired her for the strength of will that had allowed her to pass through the difficult phase. Ruth was full of appreciation for what James had done. James was modest about it. He knew he had only done what any doctor would have done. They invited him to join them for lunch. James told her that he would be delighted to have lunch with them, but he was fixing Mrs. Schrock’s buggy and would possibly not have time that day. After much cajoling, he agreed to lunch the following day. The next day, Sadie and Ruth enthusiastically prepared lunch for James. They selected the finest vegetables and fruits and exceeded themselves in ensuring that James would have a delightful and memorable lunch. While they ate their lunch, the three of them indulged in small talk, but it soon became evident to Sadie that James and Ruth were really interested in one another. They swapped stories from their childhoods, comparing their very different experiences. James was keenly interested in how they lived without technology, whereas Ruth wanted to know all about the modern world. After the lunch was finished and the dishes were washed, James beckoned Ruth. “Come, I want to show you something.” “What?” “I'm not going to tell you. You will have to see it for yourself. It's not very far.” Ruth followed him outside, where he led her to the shed. He didn’t go inside this time, but instead pointed to the newly painted buggy, which was adjacent to the building. It looked as good as new. “This is wonderful,” Ruth exclaimed. “Isn’t it? Mrs. Schrock hasn't returned yet, but I think she will be delighted when she sees it.” “But does it work?" Ruth asked. "I hope you haven’t just pieced it together.” “It will work exactly like it was working before. How about we take it for a test ride?” “A ride?” “Yes. Do you know about the lake? It's only about a mile from here.” “No.” “It’s the most beautiful place on earth.” “You don’t say.” “Sure, I do. Come with me. I will show you.” * * * * Sadie watched James hitch his horse to the buggy. When he was finished he opened the buggy door for Ruth and she climbed inside. James lifted the reins and they drove off toward the lake. She could hear them talking from a distance. She was grateful to James for saving her life. However, as an Englischer, his attention to Ruth was improper. Sadie hoped that Ruth would realize where this was going. She considered her options. James, while certainly a nice guy, was still an outsider. She thought of Samuel. Samuel would expect Sadie to rein Ruth in, in such a situation. Still, after all that he had done for her, Sadie did not wish to hurt his feelings. I will write to Samuel if they spend time together again tomorrow, she thought. * * * * It was late afternoon when Ruth returned. She bustled into the cottage, glowing with enthusiasm. “Sadie, do you know about the lake over at the western valley?” she asked. Sadie smiled. “Yes, I do. It is a lovely place.” “I just visited there with Mr. Townsend. It is so beautiful. Words cannot describe it. The surroundings are lush green and the environment is so serene that you can hear your own breathing.” “I have been there quite a few times" Sadie told her. "It’s a place where you feel one with God.” “You are right. The stillness made me feel reflective. I was happy that Mr. Townsend didn’t speak much. Maybe he understood what I felt. Both of us were wrapped up in our own thoughts. I think he wanted me to experience the tranquility of the place.” At the mention of the Englischer, Sadie was reminded again of Samuel. Samuel wouldn’t appreciate Ruth going out alone with an Englischer. She coughed politely. “Ruth, my child, I like Mr. Townsend and I am very thankful for what he did for me the other day. However, I think it’s improper for ladies in our community to be going for rides with outsiders.” Sadie saw the enthusiasm drain from Ruth’s face. Ruth stared at the fireplace for a long time. Finally she spoke. “You are right, Ant. I am here for my rumspringa. I should be reflecting upon my future. I don’t think I have given it as much thought as I was supposed to. I have been a wayward child.” “Now Ruth, don’t blame yourself. You are young in the ways of the world. You are living with me, and it is now my responsibility to take care of you. I only want to ensure that you follow the right path.” Ruth felt guilty. She had come here on her own because her parents trusted her. Yet she felt a growing emotion for the Englischer. It was an emotion that she was afraid to name because she wasn’t sure she would be able to quell her emotions, once she admitted them. She was reluctant to probe too deeply because she dreaded what she would find. Dear God, help me. You have given me a tough test. Please also give me the strength to do the right thing. After reposing in her faith in God for a few minutes, Ruth felt calmer. She clasped Sadie’s hand. “I apologize, Sadie. I will act in an appropriate manner the next time.” “I am sure you will, dear.” Despite her words, however, Ruth was still thinking of the mustached Englischer when she went to bed. She was a little annoyed that James was still on her mind. She knew that Sadie was right. It wasn’t proper for her to continue to spend time with him. She decided she would try to keep a low profile for the next few days. * * * * In the shed across the yard, James was wide awake. In times past he would have opened a bottle of wine to help lull him to sleep. Yet things had been different for the past few days. He hadn’t had a drop of drink since he had met Ruth. James looked at the locked suitcase in the corner. It contained two bottles of the finest white wine. He was tempted, but with some willpower he turned his gaze away. He focused his mind on the simple life of the Amish community. They led such pure lives. He was fascinated by them. Especially Ruth. He had fallen for her the first time he saw her in the village marketplace. It had been a surprise when she turned up as his neighbor. He felt as if fate was on his side. Today had been really special. He had enjoyed spending time with her, both at lunch and later at the lake. Yet, a thought kept gnawing at him. What are you trying to prove? She is a lady of the Amish. There is no future in this relationship. His logical mind told him what he didn't want to hear. Yet his heart had a different logic. Love conquers all. She will love me despite who I am. I will show her my positive side. She is pure like the wind-driven snow, his mind retorted. You have a drinking problem. Why would she accept you? He sighed. He knew that this was the reason he hadn’t had a drink for the past few days. He wanted to prove to himself that he could reform. James glanced at the locked suitcase again. The temptation was still there. He knew that a cup would help him to deal with the pain of his internal struggle. With some difficulty he pulled his gaze away. * * * * Chapter 7 “Good morning, Miss Byler.” Ruth was startled. She had been picking radishes for their lunch and hadn’t noticed James approaching. She turned to find him standing next to her, a kindly smile on his face. She remembered her discussion with Sadie yesterday. She was unsure how to respond to his attention. “Good morning, Mr. Townsend,” she somehow managed. “How is your aunt doing?” “Much better. I would say she is completely recovered.” Ruth realized she couldn’t avoid answering his questions. It would seem rude. “Can I see her?” he asked. Ruth acquiesced. It was better if they didn't spend time alone, she knew. She called out to her aunt. Sadie came outside and smiled at James. “Good morning, Mr. Townsend.” “How are you doing, ma’am?” James asked. “I am feeling good. And it’s all thanks to you.” “It was nothing. I just did what any doctor would have done.” “You are too kind,” she told him. After a brief pause, James turned to Ruth. “Miss Byler, would you do me the pleasure of joining me again today for an expedition to the lake?” Ruth turned crimson. “I'm sorry, Mr. Townsend, but Sadie and I will be knitting together this afternoon,” she told him. “Oh! Maybe later then.” He waited for an answer, but Ruth didn’t say anything more. Finally, James continued, “I will take my leave now. Mrs. Schrock has given me a few chores to do.” * * * * Sadie watched James leave. It was good that they had made plans to knit today. Otherwise, it would have been difficult for Ruth to decline his request. Sadie became even more determined to let Samuel know what was happening. He would be able to guide her. She went inside and immediately composed a short letter. She would post the letter that afternoon. She hoped that Samuel would receive it by the following day and be able to assist her in this dilemma. * * * * Chapter 8 Samuel received the letter the following afternoon. He felt distraught at Sadie's words. A myriad of thoughts went through his mind. His worst fears had been realized. Ruth and an Englischer… “You seem to be ill at ease, Samuel. Is everything all right?” Emma asked, concerned. Samuel didn’t reply. Instead, he handed her the letter. After reading it, she asked, “What are we going to do?” Samuel’s jaw was set. “I know what I am going to do. I will go there first thing in the morning and bring Ruth back.” “But … the rumspringa. You know we need to let her complete it.” Samuel shook his head. “No, I think it’s better for everyone if she comes back.” Emma closed her eyes and started to pray. Samuel watched her lips move softly in devotion. He closed his own eyes and prayed to God for guidance. Emma’s words from the other day came back to him. You lose what you cling tightly to. Samuel considered this for a minute. Was he being too protective of Ruth? She was no longer a child. She was now a young woman who could make her own decisions. Wasn’t that the very point of rumspringa? She needed to have the opportunity to choose for herself. He thought of the Englischer. He was showing an undue and improper interest in his child. He knew that someone should draw the line on that. It wasn't good for Ruth to be influenced by an outsider. Samuel looked at Emma. She had opened her eyes and was now watching him closely, trying to read his thoughts. Samuel smiled. “I have decided to bring Ruth back.” Emma nodded silently. “I will get your things ready in the morning.” * * * * Samuel didn’t sleep well. He tossed and turned for most of the night. He prayed again to God. He felt better after leaving his cares with the Almighty. It was after midnight when he finally fell asleep. He woke up feeling much more relaxed than he had the night before. He didn’t need to confront the Englischer. He would simply bring Ruth home. He got into his buggy and took the lunch pail that Emma had packed for him. He smiled at her. “Everything will be alright.” “Yes. I know that God will make everything all right,” she told him. Samuel was struck the simple trust Emma had in God. He wondered if he was as trusting of God as she was. He absentmindedly slapped the reins. The horse started forward, but Samuel was still lost in his thoughts. They crossed the village and the buggy ambled along through the open fields. It was a bright sunny day. He loosened the reins and continued to ponder Emma’s faith in God. Her words came back to him: Let go and let God. What was he so worried about, he wondered? He had always felt God’s presence in his life. Today, as his buggy meandered through the green fields, he felt God’s presence more strongly than ever before. God is on my side. Why should I worry about anything? He stopped the buggy and turned it around. He no longer felt the need to watch over Ruth. A greater power was already watching over her. A few minutes later he was back at the farm. “Samuel, you are back?” Emma asked. “Yes ... you know, er, I thought …” Samuel stumbled for words. Emma smiled and embraced him. “You did the right thing.” * * * * Sadie received Samuel’s note that afternoon. It was brief and to the point. Ruth will be all right. God is watching over her. Sadie smiled. This was indeed the case. Sadie had never doubted her faith and now, with Samuel’s note, she felt reassured. She no longer worried about how Ruth would avoid the Englischer’s attentions. She knew that it didn’t matter. In the end, everything would be resolved as it should be. The next few days were quiet. Surprisingly, James didn’t pay them a visit. Sadie was grateful, but wondered about the turn of events. It wasn’t as if he wasn’t in his shed. She intermittently saw him coming and going from the farm. A chat with Mrs. Schrock revealed that James was busy with his research and had been quite reclusive recently. Sadie shared this with Ruth and saw her visibly relax. Ruth had been thinking a lot about the choice she would be making. She had talked with Sadie at length about becoming a member of the church. Sadie had advised Ruth to pray at the church service the next day. The church service was being held at a Mrs. Yoder’s house. There were only a few people there. As the service started, Ruth thought about how her rumspringa had gone so far, and the choice that she had to make. She thought about her family, her friends, Sadie, and even James. She asked God to bless everyone whom she had met in her life. She felt good after the prayer was concluded. When the service was over, Sadie said, “Come, let me introduce you to our host.” She led Ruth over to Mrs. Yoder. “Good morning, Rebecca. How are you? This is my niece, Ruth.” Mrs. Yoder nodded happily. “Welcome. I don’t think we have met before.” Ruth said, “No, we haven’t. I am here on my rumspringa.” Mrs. Yoder smiled. “Ah, rumspringa. Do you know that is the toughest part of life?” Ruth was puzzled. She had never thought of it that way. “I would have thought that managing a husband and children after marriage would be tougher. Why do you think this?” “Few people realize that rumspringa is a test," Mrs. Yoder told her. "The Ordnung knows it, which is why rumspringa is the gateway to becoming a church member.” “I don’t understand. Why do you call it a test?” “Rumspringa is a test of your ability to resist temptation. Have you felt as if you were at a crossroad, one path leading you to the church, the other leading you out of the community?” Ruth mulled this over. When she had met James, she had unconsciously considered both options. Mrs. Yoder was right. Rumspringa was about temptation and making choices. She nodded. “I have been a victim of temptation.” Mrs. Yoder quoted the Bible: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” * * * * The days passed quickly for Ruth and Sadie, and it was soon time for Ruth to return to her family. Sadie assisted Ruth with her packing. She gave her some of her treasured fruits from the backyard. “Take these. Share them with Abram and Mary. It’s been a long time since I have seen those kids. Give them my love and blessings.” “Of course, Sadie. I will pass on your message.” “I know you will.” “I think I should pay a visit to Mrs. Schrock before I leave," Ruth said. "She has been very kind to me.” “Yes," Sadie agreed. "You should let her know that you are leaving.” Ruth walked over to Mrs. Schrock’s house and knocked on the door. Mrs. Schrock opened the door and beamed at Ruth. “Ruth, how are you? Come inside.” As she entered, Ruth said, “Mrs. Schrock, I wanted to thank you for your hospitality these past few days. I also wanted to let you know that I am returning home to my family.” “Ach! That’s a pity. When are you leaving?” Mrs. Schrock asked her. “I will be leaving in an hour.” “I will not let you leave without tasting some of my breakfast.” Ruth smiled. She had already finished her breakfast, but she knew that Mrs. Schrock would insist that she eat with her. “I will have just a little bite.” They sat down to have a chat. Ruth told Mrs. Schrock about her rumspringa and her decision to become a church member. Mrs. Schrock told her about the time when she was a young woman on her rumspringa. She had been a rebel during her youth and she and her brother had almost decided to leave the community. However, better sense had prevailed. Ruth listened to her story with interest. After breakfast was over, the two of them sat on the front porch. Ruth could see James’s shed from where she sat. She briefly felt as if someone was watching her from the window, but the sensation lasted only an instant. She looked closely but she couldn’t see anyone. Ruth thought about James. It had been a long time since they had talked. She had thought about him several times over the past few days and had wondered why he hadn't visited her anymore. She wondered if she would miss the Englischer. He had been a really nice gentleman. The thought of James brought a flush to her face. The emotions that she had suppressed came back to her. She felt an unexpected desire to see him, even if it was for the last time. His handsome features filled her mind. Mrs. Schrock’s words broke into her reverie. “Ruth, do me a favor. Can you go over to Mr. Townsend's room and ask him to come see me? The buggy is making grinding noises and I hope he can fix it.” Ruth’s eyes snapped open. “Me?” “Yes, please be a dear and beckon Mr. Townsend over here.” Ruth’s cheeks flushed. She didn’t want Mrs. Schrock to see her reluctance and then have to explain why she wanted to avoid James. After a moment's hesitation, she acquiesced. “Yes, Mrs. Schrock. I will inform him.” She walked over to the shed, her heart beating more loudly with each step she took. The door was closed. Maybe he wasn't inside. Hope swelled up inside her. She wasn’t sure in her heart whether she wanted to see him or not. She tentatively knocked on the door. There was no sound from the inside. She waited a few moments and knocked again. She heard the sound of dragging feet, followed by a scraping and then a tinkling noise. The bolts slid open and her heart leapt as she saw James in the flesh. * * * * Chapter 9 “Good morning, Miss Byler. How are you doing?” The warm voice and the handsome face brought Ruth’s emotions to the fore. She blushed as she remembered the time they had spent together, happy in each other’s company. He had been different from the young men of their community, and that had made him attractive to her. Now, seeing him again after so many days, she realized that she had missed him more than she would have cared to admit. “Would you like to come in?” he asked. Ruth realized that she hadn’t answered his first question. “I'm sorry. Mrs. Schrock wanted you to check the buggy.” “I will look into it presently.” He glanced at her. Ruth looked at his eyes and realized that there was something amiss. She listened to him talk and then observed that while his words were friendly, his eyes were remote. And his diction was slow and at times indistinct. “Come over here. We can sit at the table,” James said in a slurred voice. And it was then that she saw it. Ruth stopped in her tracks and looked at the bottle of white wine atop the table. “You drink spirits?” She asked in an incredulous voice. He picked up the bottle with a shaking hand. “I drink alcohol every day.” Ruth realized suddenly that James was drunk. She backed toward the door. “Excuse me, I need some fresh air.” James sat down heavily on the table. “Whatever. Come back soon.” Ruth opened the door and bolted. * * * * James got up and looked out of the window. He saw Ruth walking back to her aunt's house. It’s for her own good, he thought. He smiled sadly and thought, It’s for my own good too. He walked back to the table and picked up the wine bottle with a steady hand, his ruse finished. He waited for the temptation to come. It didn’t. He felt only a sense of loss. His mind had tussled with his heart for many days, but he was a man of science and eventually the logical mind had triumphed. James had realized that there was nothing to be gained by falling in love with an Amish girl. Their two worlds were just too far apart, and they didn’t have a future together. He had decided to avoid contact with Ruth. It had gone well. James had thrown himself wholeheartedly into his work. That had helped to keep him from thinking about her. His only worry was that Ruth herself might be attracted to him and might approach him. If she did he feared his resolve would not be strong enough to keep him from saying or doing something he would regret. He had eventually come up with a solution for that as well. He would act as if he were drunk. He had executed his part perfectly today. James glanced again at the bottle. He hadn’t drunk a drop for many days now. He knew why he had abstained. He wondered if there was a reason now to continue. Ruth would not come back. He might as well drink. Yet the desire to drink was absent. He took the bottle, placed it back in the suitcase, and locked it. There was only one thought in his mind. I will try to be pure and simple like the Amish. * * * * Ruth had been walking for an hour when she saw the familiar house set amidst a green farm. Home! Finally! Her pace quickened as home beckoned her. Abram saw her from afar and shouted loudly, “Schweschder is back. She has returned.” Ruth laughed and sprinted toward Abram. Abram ran across the field to meet her and held her tightly. “We all missed you, Schweschder.” Ruth looked up to see the rest of the family gathered in the doorway. Tears of joy streamed down her face. “I also missed you all.” * * * * Chapter 10 “Father, I need to talk with you about something,” Ruth said in a quiet voice. It was evening and they had just finished dinner. Ruth was happy to be back. It was incredible how comfortable everything felt when you were at home. She had spent most of the day talking about what she and Sadie had done during her rumspringa. “Sure dear, is there anything that is bothering you?” Samuel asked. “No. I'm fine. I just felt like I needed to share something with you. I met an Englischer when I was at Ant Sadie’s house.” Ruth paused and looked at her father to see if he would say anything, but her father simply nodded and gestured at her to carry on. “Ant Sadie fell sick one day. The Englischer was a doctor, and he helped to cure her sickness.” “That was really gracious of him.” “Yes. We were grateful for what he had done. He … er … became interested in me.” “Indeed?” Ruth lowered her eyes. “And at one point, I even felt that I liked him.” Samuel raised an eyebrow. “And?” Ruth continued hastily, “But later I realized that he was not the right choice for me, so I avoided seeing him. I wanted to share this because I felt guilty about it. I don't want to hide anything from you. But I feel that I acted immaturely. You might think of me as a bad child. I am sorry.” Tears trickled down Ruth’s face as she confessed the thing that had been gnawing at her. Samuel reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. “Ruth, why do you think of yourself as a bad child? You are my good daughter and you did what was right.” “I did? I don’t think so.” Ruth was still crying. “Yes, you did the right thing,” Samuel emphasized. “Your values determined the choice you made. You weren’t led astray. I am proud of you. You are a good example of a young Amish woman in the community.” Ruth wiped her eyes, thinking about what her father had said. Samuel continued, “God brought you into the world. He gave you a family, food, friends, and a good life. You are God’s creation. How can a child of God be bad? God is always watching over you. He is guiding you on the right path. And look, in the end, you realized that the outsider was not meant for you. That was God’s will.” Ruth nodded her head. It was indeed God’s will. She closed her eyes and started praying. She prayed to God that His benevolence would always be upon her. She asked for wisdom to distinguish right from wrong. She prayed for a loving soul mate who would understand her needs and provide for them, and she promised God she would be a worthy wife, a caring mother, and a respectable woman of the community. Ruth felt relaxed and lighter after her prayer. She felt as if God had listened to her prayer and would grant her what she had asked. She opened her eyes and saw her father looking at her. She smiled. “Thank you, Father, for listening. You have always been so supportive.” “Age gives one wisdom," he replied. "Would do you me a favor, child?” “Yes, Father. What do you want?” “When you are my age, remember to give your own child the same wisdom and support.” Ruth thought about it. “Yes, Father.” “Now go sleep. It’s been a long day for you.” “Yes, Father. Good night.” Ruth laid herself on the bed and thought again of the events of the day. She thought about God’s plans for her. She prayed again and fell asleep with God’s name on her lips. In her dream, Ruth saw a handsome young man with golden hair. He wore a straw hat and had a dazzling smile. The young man invited her to take a ride in his buggy. Her smile mirrored his as she accepted the invitation. They chatted and laughed together. They had eyes only for each other. The handsome young man finally spoke the words Ruth had been yearning to hear. “There comes a time in a young man’s life when he desires to be united in marriage to a fine woman.” The young man looked at her. “You are a fine young woman, Ruth.” Ruth felt her cheeks burning and her heart beating fast. She opened her eyes. It was the first light of morning. She closed her eyes again, hoping to revisit the dream. She wanted to know if she had accepted the proposal. But the dream had slipped away. She opened her eyes and sat up. She smiled as she thought about the dream. God has a plan for me.


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