A Christmas to Treasure

With everything that's going in the world right now, we could all use some peace of mind. And what better way to get into a that kinder, gentler lifestyle than escaping into Amish country?

My story in the Amish Christmas Miracles collection is set in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. One of characters in the story, Suzanne King, tries to play matchmaker for her widowed brother. In an interesting side note, Suzanne works at GreenValley Farmer's Market, the setting for a new series coming out in April 2021. The book cover is for the first book in the Surprised by Love series, Unexpected Amish Proposal.

Here's a sneak peek at the first chapter:

Chapter One

“Would you like to get married?”

The heady scent of coffee brewing nearly gagged Rose Beiler. How could her best friend be so cruel? They’d just finished pieces of chocolate cake at their favorite bakery, Rebecca’s Porch, to celebrate Rose’s thirtieth birthday.

Blinking back tears, Rose said in a choked voice, “If it’s God’s will.”

Suzanne leaned forward, and her intensity shook the rickety wooden table covered with a pink floral tablecloth. “Did you ever think God allowed you to be single this long for a purpose?”

“I’m sure He did.” Although for the life of her, Rose had no idea why, unless he intended for her to take care of her parents when they aged. If so, she’d be single for a very long time. Maybe forever.

“Would you marry a widower with children?” Suzanne’s eyes bored into Rose.

At this point, Rose wouldn’t care if he had twenty children, but she didn’t want Suzanne to sense her desperation. “If it’s God’s will,” Rose repeated.

  “I’m serious.” Suzanne studied Rose with an intensity that made her uncomfortable. “You like children, right?”

Why was Suzanne being purposely cruel? Rose almost snapped at her. I’ve babysat your two often enough. But she loved her friend too much to be mean. “Of course, I do. I often babysit.”

Rose volunteered to watch the children of other mamms her age from their buddy bunch at church. And she watched her nieces and nephews as often as she could.

“I know you do.” Suzanne softened a little. “I meant as in having a widower’s children all the time.”

“I’ve never thought about it.” The two older widowers at church had teenagers. Neither of them appealed to Rose.

“Think about it now, and tell me.”

Rose tried hard not to screw up her face at the thought of living with either of them. “Are you trying to match me up with Simon or Paul?”

Suzanne burst out laughing. “No wonder you scrunched up your face. No, silly, I had a different, much younger widower in mind.”

A relieved breath escaped Rose, but then she tensed. What other widowers did Suzanne know? Maybe someone at the GreenValley Farmer’s Market where she worked? “Who?” Rose asked cautiously.

“My brother.”

“Joshua?” Even saying his name brought her teenage crush back full force.

“You remember he lost his wife more than a year ago and that he has four little ones?”

“Of course. That was so sad.”

“His sister-in-law had been watching the children, but she’s sick. Joshua’s sold his house in New York and plans to move back to Lancaster to take over Daed’s construction business. He’ll need someone to help with the children.”

“I’d be happy to help any time I’m not working at the popcorn shop.” More than happy. She’d do anything for Joshua King.

Suzanne laughed. “I think he’ll need more than a part-time babysitter. The two oldest girls will be in school, but the little ones are four and two. I thought you’d make the perfect wife.”

Rose’s heart fluttered. “He wouldn’t be interested in me.”

“Joshua liked you when we were younger.”

“He did?”

“Don’t you remember how he used to stare at you when we were together?”

“He was looking at me?” She’d always thought he was keeping an eye on Suzanne.

“Of course.” Suzanne’s brisk answer seemed to be an attempt to brush away Rose’s doubts.

Marry Joshua King? Her childhood dream come true? What else could Rose say but jah?


Joshua leaned back in his chair at the supper table. “It’s so good to be home.”

“We’re glad to have you here,” Mamm stood and gathered plates. “We missed you so much while you were in New York.”

Ten years ago, Joshua and Lena had purchased a farm in Fort Plain, so they hadn’t been able to visit very often. He’d missed Lancaster and his family.

Daed sighed. “If we’d known you were coming back, we wouldn’t have made plans to move to Lititz.”

In the last letter Mamm had sent to Fort Plain, she’d mentioned Joshua’s older brother was building a dawdi haus attached to his farmhouse.

“When will the house be finished?” Joshua asked.

“It already is. Merv hoped you and I would help him finish a few interior details this weekend. We were planning to move in next—”

He stopped abruptly when Mamm frowned.

“We’ll stay here as long as you need us,” she said.

Daed leaned forward. “So, sohn, do you have any plans for, um, how you’ll take care of the girls while you work?”

“I can take care of them,” Joshua’s ten-year-old daughter, Hannah, announced.

“I’m sure you do a fine job.” Mamm picked another stack of plates and flashed a let’s-drop-this look in Daed’s direction.

He ignored her signal. “But he’ll need someone while Hannah is in school.”

Mamm swished into the kitchen. “Let’s give Joshua some time to get settled.”

A loud thump on the front door interrupted them.

“That’ll be Suzanne. She’s dropping off our meat order,” Mamm called over the running water. “Joshua, can you help her bring in the boxes?”

He hurried to the door and carried the first box of chicken parts into the kitchen. Then he helped Suzanne unload the rest.

“Not those,” she said as he reached for two more boxes. “The rest is mine. I can’t believe how much Mamm ordered this time, but I guess she does have five more people to feed.”

Was his sister trying to make him feel guilty? If so, she’d done a great job.

“Thanks, Suzanne.” Mamm shooed her out of the kitchen after they’d set down the last boxes. “I know you want to spend some time with Joshua.” She called to Hannah, “Why don’t you and Lillian do the dishes while I take care of the meat?”

Daed,” Suzanne said, “I’m sure Emily and Faith would love to have you read them a bedtime story.”

“Good idea.” His daed picked up two-year-old Faith, and four-year-old Emily took his hand.

What was going on? His sister seemed to be clearing the room. Were his parents in on this?

Suzanne sat across the dining room table from him. “Did you know Mamm and Daed planned to move into the dawdi haus next weekend?”

“That soon?”

Mamm had interrupted Daed before he’d given their moving date.

“Well, now they won’t. Not until you have someone to care for the children. Have you thought about what you’re going to do?”

“I don’t know.” Joshua felt like he’d been smacked with a steel beam. He’d assumed Mamm would be around for a while. Now he’d have to figure that out. He already had enough on his mind with taking over Daed’s construction business. He’d expected Daed to stick around to help with that too.

“Have you thought about getting married?”

What? Joshua bolted upright.

A dish slammed down in the kitchen, and Hannah burst through the doorway. “I don’t want a new mamm.”

“Hush, Hannah.” But, to tell the truth, Joshua didn’t either.

Hannah pouted. “If you marry someone, she’ll never be our mamm. Right, Lillian.”

His nine-year-old daughter peeked out from behind Hannah and nodded. She usually followed her older sister’s lead.

Don’t worry, girls. I won’t be adding a mamm to our family. Besides, Suzanne shouldn’t even be talking about this. Dating, which he had no intention of doing, should be his decision. And it should private.

His sister chatted about other things until Mamm had taken the girls up to bed. Then Suzanne cornered Joshua before he headed upstairs.

“I know the perfect wife for you. She loves children, and she’s always liked you.”

“I’m not interested.”

“You haven’t even heard who it is.”

He tried to walk around her, but she blocked the stairway. It didn’t matter who she had in mind. He had no plans to marry.

“Rose Beiler.”

“She’s not married?” That surprised him. She’d been sweet, kind, and cute.

He could tell she’d been attracted to him when they were teens. He’d been interested in her as well, but she was six years younger.  He couldn’t believe she’d never married.

“You broke her heart when you married and moved away.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Even if Rose had cared for him long ago, she wouldn’t have waited for him all this time.

“Rose is willing to marry you.”

“You asked her?” Joshua couldn’t believe his sister had done that. “I can’t afford to marry.” Even selling his home to move here had made little dent in the amount he owed for Lena’s cancer treatments.

“You can’t afford not to. You work long hours. How much will it cost to hire someone to take care of the children?”

“I don’t know, but—”

Suzanne didn’t let him finish. “All marrying costs is adding one more person to the meals.”

Neh, it had emotional costs as well. Costs Joshua wasn’t ready to pay.

Pool Forge Covered Bridge with snow on a bright winter day in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA.

You can get your copy of Amish Christmas Miracles at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Amish Christmas Twins

Are you in the mood to start reading Christmas stories? If so, I hope you’ve preordered your copy of Amish Christmas Miracles from Barnes & Noble or Amazon for only 99 cents. It’ll be out on November 10.

While you’re waiting, why not try this anthology that includes two of the authors from Amish Christmas Miracles, Loree Lough and Rachel Good, along with Shelley Shepard Gray? Enjoy three Christmas stories about Christmas blessings involving twins.

Here’s a sneak peek at my story, “New Beginnings,” in Amish Christmas Twins to get you into the holiday spirit:

Chapter One

“Jingle bells, jingle bells,” the shop owner sang at the top of her lungs as Elizabeth Yoder leaned against the door of Yolanda’s Christmas Year ’Round Shop to push it open.

Speakers around her blasted, “Jingle all the way,” and the string of sleigh bells on the knob jangled along. Cinnamon potpourri simmered in a pot near the register, and the aroma of pine garlands perfumed the air.

“Wait, let me get that for you.” Yolanda dashed over. She yanked the second glass door wide enough so Elizabeth could maneuver through the opening with a large box.

“This was outside the door.” Swirling snow flurries trailed Elizabeth into the store.

“Merry Christmas,” Yolanda trilled. With her Santa hat tilted at a rakish angle and her round face and red cheeks, she resembled the Santa figurines scattered around the store.

Fake Christmas trees adorned every corner, their lights blinking. They pulsed off and on the way Elizabeth’s head did from the loud Christmas carols. A tight band inside her temples tightened and throbbed, and her eyes stung. The closer the calendar inched to December 25, the harder it became to feign Christmas cheer.

“I’m so glad you’re here early.” Yolanda bounced back to the cash register. “In addition to that box, we have several new shipments and more coming later. You’re going to love our new manger sets.”

Yolanda’s enthusiasm should have been contagious. Elizabeth did prefer the nativity scenes to all the Santa kitsch, but anything Christmas-related reminded her of all she’d lost.

“Can you unpack that box and the others in the stockroom? You’ll need to price the items. I have all the costs listed on the clipboard,” Yolanda called. “I’ll let you know if I get too busy out here.”

Elizabeth set the box in the back room, hung her coat on a peg, and smoothed her black dress and apron. Then she grabbed the box-cutters and slit open the carton she’d carried in. Pure white tree ornaments sparkling with glitter nestled in layers of cardboard dividers. She carried the box and a price gun to one of the undecorated fake evergreens.

After each methodical click of the gun, she dangled another ornament from an empty branch. She stood back, searching for bare spots, and squinted to be sure she’d dotted them artistically around the tree. Then she lifted the packing cardboard, exposing the final layer of ornaments.

A tiny house, a reindeer, a sleigh, an angel. She reached into the box for one of the last three ornaments and pulled out . . . a sleeping baby.

Neh. Squeezing her eyes shut, she traced the indented lines of the miniature toes and fingers, the rounded bottom sticking up in the air, the soft curve of the back, the curls on the baby’s head. Elizabeth stopped before she stroked the tiny eyelashes spread on the cheek.

Why did this time of year have to be so cruel?


Luke Bontrager whistled as he tied his buggy outside the Christmas Year ’Round Shop. He’d promised Yolanda he’d drop off these nativity sets before she opened today. He’d hoped to get here sooner, but patches of black ice made the roads treacherous. Grateful for his horse’s steadiness, he’d skirted two fender-benders, whose owners chattered on—or screamed into—their cell phones.

Grateful he’d made it safely, he secured his horse to the hitching post. He lifted the first box from the front seat and strode toward the door. His boots slid in the light dusting of snow on the sidewalk. He caught himself before he and the nativity set ended up on the pavement. Yolanda needed to clear that icy spot before they opened. Maybe he could do it for her before he headed down the street to his woodworking shop.

He tapped at the door with a corner of the heavy box. Yolanda stood at the cash register, singing her heart out.

The words penetrated the glass. “Hark, the herald angels sing . . .”

Nice to see someone so joyous on this overcast day. She caught sight of him through the glass and hurried over to open the door. He stomped his boots on the large green mat before stepping onto the polished wooden floors.

“I brought the nativity sets you requested. Where would you like me to put them?”

“If you take them back to the stockroom”—Yolanda waved vaguely toward the back of the store—“Elizabeth can price them.”

Elizabeth. Luke’s pulse picked up its pace. He’d hoped she’d be working. In fact, during his whole trip to town, he’d daydreamed about seeing her.

Despite his eagerness to spend time with her, his steps slowed when he reached the stockroom entrance. The door had been propped open with a box. He edged around it, but Elizabeth’s bowed head arrested his attention. His heart went out to her. The Christmas season had to be painful.

Her eyes were closed as her fingers smoothed over all the curves and crevices of a small ornament.

Luke didn’t want to startle her, but he needed to get to work. He stepped back from the doorway as silently as he could and retreated partway down the hall. Then he clomped toward the stockroom door, making sure each footfall resounded.

This time, when he got to the threshold, Elizabeth was staring in his direction. Her eyes sparkled with tears. She reminded him of an angel, one who had borne a heavy weight of sorrow.


Her voice, soft and breathy, grabbed him in the gut and twisted his insides hard. All the old pain of desiring her from afar, but watching her marry someone else, came flooding back.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’ve brought the nativity sets Yolanda ordered.” He carried the carton over to the work bench. “Where do you want me to put them? I have five more sets in the buggy.”

His heart thundered as she moved closer. She stopped a moment, and sadness shuttered her eyes. Luke wished he could comfort her.

She gazed down at the glittering ornament she’d clutched so tightly in her hand that it left red ridges. The one she’d been caressing when he’d peeked in the door. Something about it must have touched her.

“Let me just move this box.” Elizabeth motioned to the carton beside her with one hand. “Then you can put your nativity set here.”

She nestled the ornament back in the box with such tenderness, Luke’s heart ached. Curious to see what she’d lavished so much care on, he leaned over. A tiny glittery baby.

She lifted the almost-empty cardboard box to make room for his carton.

Luke cast about for something to say. Something to distract his mind from thoughts of holding her. “That tree looks nice.”

Danke,” she said without much enthusiasm. “Once all the ornaments are on, I’ll have to carry it out to the store. I’m not sure where we’ll find room for one more tree. We have so many already.”

“Maybe you won’t have room for another nativity set either.”

Neh, that’s not a problem. Yolanda told me to clear a space for it.” She attempted a smile. “Besides, it’ll be great to move some Santa stuff to make a place for the real meaning of Christmas.”

“True. I’m guessing many of your customers don’t even know or care that we’re celebrating the Savior’s birth.”

Elizabeth didn’t answer. Instead, she stared into the box, her eyes open with wonder. She reached in and pulled out Mary.

Luke loved how her face glowed as she studied the carving.

She set the figure down and pulled out a camel and a wise man. “These are beautiful. I love the roughness of the wood.”

She ran her hands over what Yolanda had assured Luke was a primitive style sure to attract the eye of some of their upscale customers. It seemed they also appealed to Elizabeth.

“They’re rugged, yet each one captures real emotion. Did someone in your shop carve them?” She glanced up at him expectantly.

Luke shuffled his feet. “Jah. I did.”

He didn’t like taking credit for this work. He sold cabinets and furniture in his shop, but he’d always kept this other talent hidden.

He’d started carving to alleviate his sorrow when his best friend, Owen, started courting Elizabeth. The roughness, the primitiveness of each figure he’d chiseled revealed his raw emotions.

If Yolanda hadn’t surprised him in the back of his shop last spring, none of his carvings would ever have been public. She’d begged him to make nativity sets for her store. Luke had demurred, but she’d insisted. To be honest, the only reason he’d agreed was because he might see Elizabeth when he delivered them.

She pulled out an angel and drew in a long, slow breath. “I never knew you did this. How long have you been carving?”

Since I lost you. Luke stopped himself from blurting out that answer, the first one that sprang to his lips. He waved a hand, trying to be vague. “Since we were teenagers.”

Her eyes widened. “And you kept it a secret?”

He shrugged. He certainly couldn’t tell her the truth. “They were so rough I didn’t think they were good enough to sell.” Even if he had believed they were, he’d never have wanted to put his deepest feelings on display.

“Did Owen know?”

Luke tried not to wince when she said his best friend’s name. Owen would have been the last person Luke could have shown his work to. Owen had been the cause of Luke’s carving frenzy.

Elizabeth was staring at him, waiting for an answer.

Neh, Owen never knew.” Not about the carving. And definitely not about the love—and jealousy—in Luke’s heart.

“Oh.” She breathed out the word reverently as she pulled a shepherd. “You should have been selling these all along.” Her fingers traced the contours of the tiny lamb in the man’s arms.

“This—this baby is so precious. And the shepherd looks so tender, so protective.”

Exactly what Luke wished he could do for Elizabeth. Protect her from grief, from loss. “I, um, originally carved that to represent Jesus and the lost sheep, but Yolanda wanted me to include it in the nativity.”

“It’s perfect.” Elizabeth sounded as if she were holding back tears.

He hadn’t meant to increase her sadness, especially not so close to Christmas.

In silence, she unpacked every figure, exclaiming over each one. In the shop, the bells jangled and jangled. Business must be brisk this morning. Luke should be opening his own shop soon.

“Elizabeth,” Yolanda called. “I need help.”

That was Luke’s cue to leave. “I need to go, but where should I put the other boxes?”

“We’ll put out only one sample set, so could you put them over there?” She indicated a set of empty shelves in the back corner.

“Sure.” He let her precede him out of the stockroom and followed her into the shop. “I’ll bring in the rest,” he told Yolanda. “But first, do you have any salt? I could sprinkle some on the ice out there.”

Yolanda, who was ringing up the first customer in a long line, glanced up at him with gratitude in her eyes. “I meant to do that earlier, but I forgot. You’d be a godsend.”

She gestured toward the back hallway. “Just before you reach the stockroom door, there’s a small broom closet. Salt’s in there next to the cleaning supplies.”

Taking care of Yolanda’s front walk would make Luke late opening his woodworking shop, but he couldn’t leave the ice. If someone slipped when he could have prevented it, he’d never forgive himself.

He found the salt and a shovel, and headed out the door. After scraping the newly fallen layer of snow from the front sidewalk, he chopped the ice and tossed salt to prevent the dampness from freezing.

Once he finished, he carried in his other cartons, his heart lightening each time he went by Elizabeth at the cash register. As he passed the glittery ornaments in the stockroom, he couldn’t resist picking up the tiny baby. He cupped it in his palm, envisioning Elizabeth’s fingers stroking it, her reluctance to release it. What had drawn her to this sleeping child?

She’d shown a similar delight in his carvings. Something had touched her about this baby and about his nativity figures.

Luke shook his head and replaced the tiny tree decoration in its box. He had to hurry in case he had customers waiting. After one quick glance at Elizabeth, who was too busy working to notice his exit, he strode down the street to his store. But all morning, his thoughts stayed behind in Yolanda’s shop. He pictured Elizabeth’s fingers running over his figures whose every line had been gouged out to assuage his loss of her. Had she sensed the emotions he’d carved into each one—his longing and his heartbreak?

Pool Forge Covered Bridge with snow on a bright winter day in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA.
Preorder now

Books & Hooks

Are you a reader who enjoys crafts? You might like the Hooks & Books Facebook group hosted by one of our Amish Christmas Miracles authors, Kathleen Fuller.

A fun and relaxed place (like sitting down over coffee with friends) to share what you are reading, the crochet and other creative projects you are working on, Kathleen Fuller’s latest contests, new projects, collaborations, her pets, her coffee, and of course, chocolate!

This group is for both readers and creatives!

You can find Hooks & Books online here.

And if you haven’t ordered your copy of Amish Christmas Miracles yet, you can get this collection of 14 heartwarming stories of faith, hope, love, and Christmas miracles for only 99 cents. Preorder now and receive it November 10, 2020:

Amish Christmas Miracles

Amish Camel Farms

STOP! There's a camel! A camel in Amish country? Jah, an Amish farm raising camels AND water buffaloes.

Last summer, many authors and readers of Amish novels headed to Lancaster County, PA, to explore Amish country. In addition to visiting quilt shops, roadside stands, and other Amish businesses, we did a lot of sightseeing. My favorite spot was driving by the Amish camel farm in Bird-in-Hand, PA.

I'd been there several times before to research for my novel, His Pretend Amish Bride. Not only does this farm have camels, but they also have water buffalo. It's totally unexpected to be driving past typical Amish farmhouses and go around the bend to spy camels. And water buffaloes.

I adore the baby camels; they're so cute as they stay close to their mamas. Watching them trot across the road from the field to the barn gave me the idea for my hero's opening scene. A buggy racing around the curve heads straight at those babies. The hero knows there's no way that buggy can stop in time, so he prepares to sacrifice his life to save those baby camels. (I won't give a spoiler.)

The farm also has a huge warehouse-like store where they sell camel and water buffalo milk, yogurt, and cheeses. The first time I went for research, it was summer. I didn't realize you'd have to walk into a huge refrigerated room to get the milk. We wanted to explore all the interesting products inside the refrigerator, but we rushed out with our teeth chattering after only a few seconds. The next time we returned, we brought our coats even though it was close to 80 degrees outside. I'm sure the neighbors thought we were crazy as we packed the car with scarves, mittens, hats, and down jackets. But that time, we even managed to take some pictures.

Water Buffalo Cream

And buy some camel's milk.

camel milk

Can you believe this tiny pint of camel's milk cost $15? I opted for a partially filled pint container, which was less expensive. I'm glad I didn't get much. To me, camel's milk tastes like salty powdered milk--rather watery.

A young boy, similar to the one I wrote into my story, waited on me. He was all alone in the store, but he wrote up the receipt. I'm always impressed at the way Amish families trust their children to run businesses alone at very young ages.

Have you ever seen an Amish camel farm? If so, where? If not, would you want to see one?

If you'd like to win a free copy of His Pretend Amish Bride, you can comment on any (or all) of the blogs listed here during my tour from now until July 13, 2020. Here's a link: Celebrate Lit Blog Tour

His Pretend Amish Bride novel cover

His Pretend Amish Bride
(Notice the cute camel in the background!)


About His Pretend Amish Bride 

In a small Amish town like Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, one solution to an indiscretion is to get married. Or perhaps, fake a respectable engagement . . .
Priscilla Ebersol has a fulfilling life teaching special needs children—until her boyfriend’s humiliating betrayal ruins her reputation and threatens her job. Shunned for something she didn’t do, Priscilla throws herself into a project on the benefits of camel’s milk for autism. Her research leads her to a newly opened Amish camel farm, where she discovers far more than she bargained for. . .

When a pushy Englisch company shows interest in shy, handsome Gabriel Kauffman’s camel farm, he struggles to get out of a sticky negotiation. Lovely, well-spoken Priscilla appears at the perfect moment and defends Gabe’s business so well that she is mistaken for his wife, a pretense they both secretly wish could be true. But though their bond deepens, Priscilla’s heart is still wounded, and Gabe battles with a troubling secret. And when a misunderstanding comes between them, it will take faith, honesty, and trust in God to overcome the past—and to allow their partnership to blossom into something more.

About Rachel J. Good

USA Today bestselling author RACHEL J. GOOD writes life-changing, heart-tugging novels of faith, hope, and forgiveness. She grew up near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the setting for her Amish novels. Striving to be as authentic as possible, she spends time with her Amish friends, doing chores on their farm and attending family events.

Rachel is the author of several Amish series in print or forthcoming – the bestselling Love & Promises, Sisters & Friends, Unexpected Amish Blessings, Surprised by Love (2021), and two books in Hearts of Amish Country – as well as the Amish Quilts Coloring Books. In addition, she has stories in many anthologies, including Love’s Thankful Heart, Love’s Christmas Blessings, Plain Everyday Heroes, Love’s Truest Hope, and the forthcoming Amish Christmas Twins (September 2020) with Shelley Shepard Gray and Loree Lough. She is also the coauthor of the Prayerful Author Journey: Inspirational Yearly Planner.

Connect with Rachel:

Website: www.racheljgood.com

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