A Log Cabin Christmas, NYT best-seller, Blog Hop Day #3, Wanda Brunstetter

Wanda with her family
Today I am hosting Wanda Brunstetter for day 3 of our blog hop.  Unfortunately she is not able to join us due to writing deadlines.  To encourage her to remain focused to provide you with future best-selling author fiction, I offered to fill in for her. 
Wanda Brunstetter chose the scripture "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."  Proverbs 3:5.  It's the perfect scripture for her story titled "The Christmas Secret."  Wanda's written many novels, both historical and Amish-themed works.  Her latest novel has been on the New York Times Best-seller list...and so has A Log Cabin Christmas.  The scripture fits perfectly for a story that has twists and turns and characters thrown from times of joy to times of sorrow and then, because it's Christmas, back again to that happy ending.  It's like life in that way, I think. We simply can't know the ways of the Lord and we have to lean not on our effort to figure things out be willing to live with the uncertainty of the future and trust that God is in control.

A favorite writer of mine, Frederick Buechner, noted that the work of words is "to seek, to treasure and to tell secrets."  That's just what Wanda's story does.  Her characters are seeking answers to a troubling situation.  A wedding is planned for Christmas Day but something happens to interrupt the plans.  And it's the telling of a secret that opens the door for a surprise ending you'll love.

Have you ever had a secret unveiled when you least expected it?  Without giving us too much detail, how would you describe your feelings when you discovered what you'd never known before!

Here's a little surprise to end today's post with... Chapter 1 of Wanda's short story from Log Cabin Christmas.  Enjoy!  In case you have not yet registered for the contest, be sure to visit the official rules page. If the rafflecopter entry form isn't available, just be sure check back.

The Christmas Secret
by Wanda E. Brunstetter

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

Chapter 1
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Feeling the need for a bit of fresh air, Elizabeth Canning opened her bedroom window and drew in a deep breath, inhaling the earthy, leaf-scented fragrance that she knew even with her eyes closed was like no other season but autumn. 
When a chilling wind blew in, rustling the lace curtains and causing her to shiver, she quickly shut the window. It was too cold for the first of November. Did the nippy weather mean they were in for a harsh winter this year, or would they be spared and have only a few bitterly cold days? Whatever the case, she hoped they’d have snow for Christmas. God’s sparkling white crystals always added a little something extra to the beauty and atmosphere of the holiday season.
Through the closed window, Elizabeth heard geese honking in the distance, no doubt making their southward journey. She could almost feel their excitement as they flew to warmer territories. It never failed, spring or fall; hearing geese high in the sky stirred a thrill deep in her soul. 
When a knock sounded on the door, Elizabeth turned and called, “Come in.” 
The door opened, and Elizabeth’s friend, Helen Warner, entered the room. Her coal-black hair, worn in a chignon at the back of her head and covered with a silver net, stood in sharp contrast to Elizabeth’s golden-blond hair, which she wore hanging loosely down her back today. But then, Helen, who’d recently turned twenty, had always been the prim and proper one, often wearing highneck dresses with perfectly shaped bustles, like the one she wore today. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was the practical type and preferred full-skirted calico dresses, which were more comfortable when one was cleaning or working around the house. She felt rather plain next to Helen, but fortunately their friendship was based on more than the clothes they wore or their differing opinions on some things.
Elizabeth’s meticulous friend was outgoing and always seemed to have an air of excitement about her. Maybe Helen’s confident demeanor came from being the daughter of an esteemed minister of the largest congregation in Allentown, for she had a certain charisma that glowed like a halo around her. To Elizabeth, it was most invigorating, even though she, herself, was more down-to-earth.
“I thought you were going to help me clean the cabin today, but it doesn’t look like you came dressed for work,” Elizabeth said.
“I was hoping you’d change your mind and go shopping with me instead.” When Helen took a seat on the feather bed, her long, purple stockings peeked out from under the hem of her matching
Elizabeth’s brows furrowed. “There’s no time for shopping right now. If David and I are to be married on Christmas Eve, then it doesn’t give us much time to get the cabin cleaned and ready for the wedding.”

Helen’s brown eyes narrowed, causing tiny wrinkles to form across her forehead. “It’s one thing to have the ceremony in the cabin, since you’re only inviting family and close friends, but are you sure you want to live in that dreary little place? It’s so small, and far from town.”

“It’s not that far—only a few miles.” Elizabeth took a seat beside her friend. “The cabin has special meaning to me. It was the first home of my mother’s parents, and soon after Grandma and Grandpa moved to Easton, Mother married Daddy, and they moved into the cabin to begin their life together. They lived there until. . .” Elizabeth’s voice trailed off, and she blinked to hold back tears threatening to spill over. “After Mother died of pneumonia when I was eight years old, Daddy couldn’t stand to live there any longer, because everything in the cabin reminded him of her.” Elizabeth may have been young, but she remembered how empty and lifeless the cabin had felt once her mother was gone.

“So you moved to town and lived at the Main Street Boardinghouse, right?” 
Elizabeth nodded. “We stayed there until I was ten, and then when Daddy got his shoemaking business going well and married Abigail, we moved into the house he had built.” She smiled and touched Helen’s arm. “Soon after that, I met you.”

“So you’re used to living in town now, and just because your parents and grandparents lived in the cabin doesn’t mean you have to.”
“David and I want to begin our life together there.” Elizabeth sighed.
“Besides, he’s just getting started with his carriage-making business and can’t afford to have a home built for us here right now.”
“I understand that, but can’t you continue living with your father and stepmother or even at the hotel David’s grandfather owns?”

“I suppose we could, but it wouldn’t be the same as having a place of our own to call home.”
Helen folded her arms with an undignified grunt. “Humph! That cabin isn’t a home; it’s a hovel. If David’s so poor that he can’t offer you more, then maybe you should consider marrying someone else. Maybe someone like Howard Glenstone. I think he’s been interested in you for some time.”
“I’m not in love with Howard. I love David, and I’d be happy living in the cabin with him for the rest of my life if necessary.” It was obvious to Elizabeth that Helen didn’t understand or appreciate how the homey little dwelling came to be. It must have taken a lot of hard work, frustration, and long hours for her mother’s father to build the cabin for Grandma and the family they’d one day have. How proud Grandpa must have been, knowing he’d built the place with his own two hands. 
“I just think a woman as beautiful as you could do much better,” Helen said.
Elizabeth bristled. “Are you saying that David’s not an attractive man?”
Helen placed her hand on Elizabeth’s arm. “I’m not saying that at all. David has very nice features, and with both of you having golden-blond hair and vivid blue eyes, you make a striking couple.” She patted the sides of her hair. “Of course, I’d never be attracted to anyone who had the same color hair and eyes as me.”
“When you meet the right man and fall in love, you won’t care what color his hair and eyes are, because real love isn’t based on a person’s looks.” Elizabeth touched her chest. “It’s what’s in the heart that counts. While I do think David is quite handsome, the things that drew me to him were his kind, gentle spirit and the fact that he’s a fine Christian man.”
“He does seem to be all that.” Helen smiled at Elizabeth. “I’m sure the two of you will have sweet, even-tempered children with beautiful blond hair and pretty blue eyes.”
Elizabeth smiled. “I’m looking forward to becoming a mother. In fact, I’m looking forward to every aspect of being married.”
“Including cooking and cleaning?” Helen’s nose wrinkled.
“Yes, even that.” The springs in the bed squeaked as Elizabeth rose to her feet. “Speaking of cleaning, I should hitch my horse to the buckboard so we can go over to the cabin now.”
Helen gestured to her fancy dress. “I suppose I should change into one of your calicos first.”
Elizabeth pointed to her wardrobe across the room. “Feel free to wear whichever one you want.”

David Stinner had never been one to shirk his duties, but today he was having a hard time staying focused on his work. All he could think about was Elizabeth, and how he couldn’t wait to make her his wife. They’d been courting nearly a year and would be married on Christmas Eve. He couldn’t think of any better Christmas present for himself than making Elizabeth his bride, and she insisted that getting married to him on her birthday was the best gift she could receive for turning twenty. She was everything he wanted in a wife—sweettempered, patient, intelligent, beautiful, and a Christian in every sense of the word. She would make not only a good wife but also a fine mother to the children they might have someday.
“Hey, boss, how come you’ve been standin’ there holdin’ that piece of wood for so long?”
David whirled around, surprised to see his helper, Gus Smith, standing behind him. When he’d last seen Gus, he’d been at the back of the shop, cutting a stack of wood.
“I wish you wouldn’t sneak up on me like that,” David said, shaking his head. “I nearly dropped this piece of oak for the sideboards of Arnold Higgin’s bakery wagon.”
Gus’s bushy dark eyebrows lifted high on his forehead. “Looked to me like you were just standin’ there holdin’ that piece of wood, and you’re nowhere near the body of the bakery wagon you started yesterday.”
“I was taking a few minutes to think, that’s all.”
“Thinkin’ about your bride-to-be, I’ll bet.” 
David nodded, his face heating with embarrassment. He hated how easily he blushed.
“Are ya gettin’ cold feet?” 
“Of course not. I was just thinking about how Elizabeth and her friend, Helen, are going to the cabin to do some cleaning today. I wish I could be there to help them.”
“Why can’t ya be?”
David glanced across the room, noting the bakery wagon he’d been about to work on. Then there was an emerald-green carriage needing a new set of wheels, a coal-box buggy that was only half built, and the town coach the banker had brought in yesterday for new axles and springs. “I have too much work to do here right now. I promised to have the bakery wagon done by the end of next week, not to mention the other orders we have waiting.” Some days could be a bit overwhelming, but David was grateful for the work and good relationships he’d been building with his customers. He was also humbled by their trust in the fine craftsman he was proving himself to be.

“Maybe you can go over to the cabin when you’re done workin’ today,” Gus suggested.

“That’s what I’m hoping to do.” David leaned the piece of wood against the wall.
Gus moved closer to David. “You still gonna live in the log cabin after you and Elizabeth are married?”
David nodded.

“Wouldn’t ya rather live at the hotel your granddaddy owns? It’d be closer to your shop and has a lot more conveniences than the cabin.”

“It wouldn’t be our own place, and all we’d have is one small room.”
“That dinky old cabin ain’t much bigger than a hotel room.” Gus snorted like an old bull.
“It’s big enough for our needs, and once my business grows, I can either add on to the cabin or have a house built for us here in town.”
Just then, David’s mother rushed into the shop, wearing no shawl around her shoulders, despite the chilly day. “Come quickly, David! Your grandfather fell from a ladder, and he doesn’t respond!” Her hazel-colored eyes were wide with fear, and a lock of reddish-brown hair had come loose from the chignon at the back of her head. David figured she must have run all the way here.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” David called to Gus. He grabbed his mother’s hand, and they rushed out the door.

If you are interested in reading more about Wanda, visit her website.
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Tomorrow be sure to visit Liz Tolsma at Heart, Soul & Splash of Sass