I’m Adina Senft and I’m delighted to be part of the spring Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! If you at any time need to read the instructions for the hunt, please visit www.christianfictionscavengerhunt.com. My new book is titled The Tempted Soul and is the third book in my Amish Quilt trilogy.
About the book:
Carrie Miller and her husband Melvin have survived many lean years thanks to the kindness of their church community. They both long for children, but after eleven years of marriage, that blessing eludes them. So Carrie fills her days with managing her home, making artistic gifts and fancy cakes, and caring for her flock of chickens, every one of whom has a name and who under no circumstances will go in the soup pot. Carrie also finds support in her friendship with Amelia Fischer and Emma Stolzfus, and relishes the afternoons they share working on a wedding quilt.
One day, Carrie overhears two Englisch women talking about medical options available to non-Amish women in her situation. She takes it as a sign from God, but Melvin and the bishop see it differently. Then a local teenager, Lydia Zook, becomes pregnant out of wedlock and plans to give the baby up for adoption to an Englisch family—rejecting a blessing that Carrie would cherish with all her heart. Is God leading Carrie to another path to motherhood, or is her longing for a child tempting her to stray from her Amish beliefs?
I grew up in a plain house church, where I was often asked by outsiders if I was Amish (the answer was no). I hold an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, where I’m adjunct faculty. Writing as Shelley Bates, I was the winner of RWA’s RITA Award for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, a finalist for that award in 2006, and, writing as Shelley Adina, was a Christy Award finalist in 2009. Three of my books for teens have shortlisted for the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Carol Award for book of the year. A transplanted Canadian, I return there annually to have my accent calibrated. Between books, I enjoy traveling with my husband, playing the piano and Celtic harp, and spoiling my flock of rescued chickens.
Here’s chapter one of The Tempted Soul:
Chickens and babies had a number of things in common. They needed food and protection. They made their needs known with a variety of sounds. And they loved to be loved.
Carrie Miller buttoned her jacket and sat on the top step of the porch, and within a few moments, Dinah, one of her six Buff Orpington hens, had climbed into her lap and settled there with a contented sigh. If ever a woman were rich in love, Carrie was that woman. She had a husband who loved her and wasn’t afraid to show it. She had a home to care for, and friends she adored. And now, three quarters of her flock had now seen her sitting, so they hopped up the wooden steps and clustered around her, some lying on their sides in the early October sun, some preening their feathers, and some circling and waiting for Dinah to leave her lap so they could have their turn.
Her best friends, Amelia Fischer and Emma Stolzfus, would laugh and ask if the chickens also had their own chairs at the table with her and Melvin every night. Or worse, make pointed comments about the intended use of barnyard animals, which God had said were for food. But Carrie just smiled and let them have their fun.
Most days, she enjoyed the chickens as comforting, affectionate companions who would never see the inside of a soup pot if Carrie had anything to say about it.
But on some days . . .
Days like today, when her monthly had made its scheduled appearance. On days like these, she teetered on the edge of grief and despair, knowing she must not fall in, and yet finding it impossible not to. On days like today, even the chickens couldn’t help. Her left arm tightened around Dinah’s fluffy golden body, making the shape of a cradle that in almost eleven years of marriage, had never been filled with what she wanted most—a child of her own.
In their district in Whinburg Township, Pennsylvania—in every district, every Amish community, no matter where you were in the country—the Kinner were celebrated as a blessing from God. Some women had families of eight or ten, a miracle Carrie could hardly comprehend. In Whinburg, five or six was the average number, and if you weren’t expecting by the end of your first year of marriage, why, the married women would start asking gentle questions.
Some were more sensitive than others, when it became obvious their humor and concern caused her pain. Some, like her mother-in-law Aleta Miller, saw it as their duty to act as a kind of coach, blissfully unaware that their remarks and hints and general helpfulness on the subject were enough to make a person run for the chicken coop, where she could find acceptance and blessed, blessed silence.
And some, like Amelia and Emma, had stopped asking at all.
This was only one of the reasons why Tuesday afternoons meant everything to her. The three of them met every week, in the two hours before Amelia’s two boys got home from school, ostensibly to work on a quilt, but really to refresh themselves at the wells of each other’s friendship. There were some weeks, when Melvin’s work on the farm had not produced as well as it might have, that their time together literally saved Carrie from physical hunger. Certainly it saved her from a kind of hunger of the heart—the kind that a husband, no matter how beloved and caring—might not even know existed.
And today was Tuesday.
Emma had an eye for the little gifts that the gut Gott sprinkled upon His children from the largesse of His hands. For Carrie, Tuesdays were among those gifts.
“All right, you,” she said to Dinah, sliding her hand under the bird’s feet and gently setting her on the warm planks of the porch, “it is time for both of us to give up our idle ways. I’ll be back in time to put you in the coop, and the pork roast will be cooked and ready for Melvin’s supper.”
Dinah stalked away to inspect the flowerbeds, the rest of the flock scrambling to their feet to follow her, just in case they missed out on something.
The quilting frolic was to be at the Daadi Haus where Emma lived with her elderly mother, Lena. The Stolzfus place being way over on the other side of the highway, it meant that either Carrie planned forty-five minutes’ walk or simply hitched up and drove. But today, as on most days, Melvin had the buggy to go to Strasburg to talk to one of the businesses there and give them a little ENCOURAGEMENT to buy shipping pallets from him. She could take the spring wagon, which was their only other vehicle, but decided against it. Walking was good for you, and she often observed more on foot than she might when she was watching traffic and keeping an eye out for hazards that might spook Jimsy, their old gelding.
Besides, she knew a shortcut or two that Jimsy couldn’t manage, and that included a walk along the creek that ran through the settlement. It was a good place to watch birds and see the occasional fox or raccoon, and an equally good place to pick flowers and leaves to make things with.
By the time she let herself in through the back gate of the Stolzfus place, she had spotted out a loop of autumn-red Virginia creeper and some wild grape that would make the perfect base for an autumn harvest wreath. Her sister Susan’s birthday was coming up, and she knew just the place in her house where it would fit perfectly.
Emma waved from the back porch of the Daadi Haus. “You’re early! Amelia isn’t even here yet, and she’s only ten minutes over the field.”
“I didn’t want to rush the walk on such a pretty day, so I left a little sooner.” Carrie hugged Emma, then held her at arms’ length. “You look so happy, Liewi. Wedding plans must agree with you.”
If you wanted to transform a plain, workaday woman into a beautiful one, just apply happiness. It worked so much better than face paint.
Emma’s smile flashed and her green eyes sparkled. “They do indeed. Every job I finish, every jar of tomatoes I can, every quart of beans I put up has brought me closer to November first. I’m canning my way through the calendar, vegetable by vegetable. By the time we get to potatoes, I’ll be married.”
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And now it’s time to move on to the next stop on the Scavenger Hunt! Click here to visit the site for Richard Mabry—and thanks for stopping by!