Treasuring Emma (A Middlefield Family Novel)
by Kathleen Fuller

Published: 2011-08-02
Paperback : 320 pages
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Emma always put the needs of others ahead of her own. When will it be her turn to be treasured?

Adam was her first love and best friend. But then he went away. Determined to experience the freedom of living in the Englisch world, he left Emma heart-broken. How could he have chosen the ...

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Emma always put the needs of others ahead of her own. When will it be her turn to be treasured?

Adam was her first love and best friend. But then he went away. Determined to experience the freedom of living in the Englisch world, he left Emma heart-broken. How could he have chosen the world over her?

Now Adam is back in Middlefield and Emma can't seem to keep him away from her family's farm. But this time she's determiend to guard her heart. It might be love that keeps him there . . . or perhaps just guilt.

When a newcomer arrives in town and shows an interest in Emma, she dismisses Adam's insistence that she be cautious. All this attention is new to her and she doesn't know quite how to accept it. Emma knows her Heavenly Father treasures her. But will her new beau?

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ab im kopp: addled in the head

aenti: aunt

appeditlich: delicious

bann: excommunicatin from the Amish church

boppli: baby

bu, buwe: boy, boys

daed: dad, father

danki: thank you

Dietsch: Pennsylvania Dutch, the language spoken by the Amish

dummkopf: dummy

Dutch Blitz: Amish card game

familye: family

fraa: wife, woman

freind: friend

geh: go

grosskinskind: great-grandchild

grossmammi, grossmudder: grandmother

grossvadder: grandfather

gude mariye: good morning

gut daag: good day

gut nacht: good night


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haus: house

hungerich: hungry

kapp: prayer covering worn by women

kinn: child

kinner: children

kumme: come

leib: love

maedel: girl

mammi, mamm: mom, mother

mann: man

mariye-esse: breakfast

mei: my

meidung: shunning

menner: men

mudder: mother

onkel: uncle

Ordnung: the unwritten Amish rule of life

rumspringa: the period between ages sixteen and twenty-four,

loosely translated as "running around time." For Amish young

adults, rumspringa ends when they join the church.

schee: pretty, handsome

schwester: sister

seltsam: strange, unnatural

sohn: son

vadder: father

verboten: forbidden

willkum: welcome

ya: yes

yung: young

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Chapter 1

"Emma, I'm so sorry."

Emma Shetler lifted her gaze to meet Moriah Miller's eyes.

Moriah had been a good friend to her over the past year, and

Emma had never noticed until now how blue her eyes were. Blue

like the summer sky, and at this moment, full of compassion.

Emma tried to swallow down the thorn of grief that blocked

her throat. "I appreciate you and your familye coming by this


"Your mammi was a very special fraa." Moriah laid a hand

on Emma's shoulder. The warmth of the gentle touch seeped

through the thin fabric of Emma's black dress.

The color of mourning. Of death.

Despite Moriah's comfort, that's what Emma felt inside.


She glanced around the living room. As expected, most

members of the church district were here to pay their respects

and show their support. Dark dresses and white kapps for the


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2 Kathleen Fuller

women, black pants and hats for the men--all of them in

mourning clothes. They milled around the living room. Con-

versation and movement blurred into a meaningless cacophony

of sound and motion.

Emma tapped her toe against the polished wood floor of the

old farmhouse, her nerves strung tight as a barbed wire fence.

She should have been in the kitchen, preparing and serving the

traditional meal. But her sister, Clara, had taken over the cook-

ing and banished her to the living room. This was supposed to

make her feel better--stuck here, doing nothing?

She spied her grandmother Leona across the room. Clara

must have chased her out of the kitchen too. Several women

between the ages of fifty and seventy created a circle of support

around Grossmammi. Emma smiled to herself as she noticed the

women's ample hips drooping over the seats of creaking wooden

folding chairs. They spoke in low tones, nodding and shaking

their heads. The thin ribbons of their white prayer kapps swayed

against the stiff white aprons covering their dresses. Emma had

no doubt they were offering comforting passages of Scripture

and words of encouragement to their old friend.

During the seventy-five years God had granted her, Leona

Shetler had loved her family deeply. But that love came with a

cost. Three years ago her son--Emma's father, James--had

passed away. Now she had to deal with the death of a daughter-

in-law she loved as her own.

Emma felt the grief stab at her. First her father, then her

mother. It didn't seem fair. She wished she could muster even

a small measure of the grace and peace her grandmother

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Treasuring Emma 3

demonstrated. But instead she simply felt bereft, abandoned, and



She turned her attention back to Moriah. "Sorry. Did you

say something?"

"I asked if you needed anything else."

"Oh, ya. I did hear you say that." The words clanged

around in her head, empty noise. "Nee, I'm fine."

"All right." Moriah lifted an eyebrow. Her concern echoed

that of her sisters, Elisabeth and Ruth, along with everyone else

who had passed by Emma's chair. The same question over and

over: How are you holding up?

How did they think she was holding up? She had nursed her

mother through a painful, deadly cancer. She buried her today.

Emma fought to contain her emotions: Anger. Resentment.

Guilt. The community's heartfelt concern didn't deserve such

rudeness. But nothing anyone said could penetrate the emo-

tional wall that was growing around her, inch by excruciating


Throughout the rest of the afternoon, people paused to talk.

Relived special moments they'd shared with Emma's mother

and father. Assured Emma of God's will, His plan. Phrase after

empty phrase about God's comfort and mercy.

She nodded and smiled and tried to look peaceful, while her

foot went on tapping incessantly against the floor she'd scrubbed

on her hands and knees. Why wouldn't they just leave her alone?

That's what she wanted.

No, that wasn't the truth. There was one person she longed

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4 Kathleen Fuller

to have by her side. Only one. His words, spoken in a soft, deep

voice that never failed to affect her, had the best chance of

soothing her broken heart.

But he wouldn't come. He had walked out of her life two

years ago, and she had no hope he would walk back into it now.

Emma stood and stretched and walked around, but kept her-

self apart from the rest of the visitors. Moriah and Gabriel Miller

were the first to leave, followed by a steady stream of other

guests. Clara stood by the front door and thanked each person

for coming. The perfect hostess.

When the last guest disappeared, Clara turned to Emma.

"Where's Grossmammi?"

Emma looked at her grandmother's empty chair and

shrugged. "She probably went upstairs to her room."

"I'm sure she's exhausted. It's been a long day. For all of us."

Peter King, Clara's husband, came inside wearing his hat and

a navy blue jacket. A burst of cool October air wafted in behind

him. The screen door shut, and he looked at Clara. "Buggy's

ready. We should get back to the kinner."

Clara's lips pressed into a quick frown. "There are a few

more things I need to do in the kitchen."

"I can finish up here, Clara," Emma said. "I haven't done

anything all day."

"It won't take me long. Just five, maybe ten minutes."


That one word commanded the attention of both Clara and


"We need to geh home. Now."

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Treasuring Emma 5

Clara didn't protest; the pinch above the bridge of her nose

was response enough. "I'll get my shawl." She disappeared

from the living room.

Peter turned to Emma. "Are you okay?"

Would she have to hear that question for the rest of her life?

"I'm fine."

"You'd tell me and Clara if you weren't, ya?"

Emma nodded, but she didn't mean it, and neither did he.

His questions arose more out of duty than familial concern. She

never had confided in her sister or brother-in-law, and the death

of their father and their mother's ensuing illness had made the

sisters' relationship tenuous at best. Now that Mammi was gone,

Emma doubted she'd see much of Clara and her family, except

for church service every other Sunday.

Peter stepped forward. "I wanted to ask you something."

The low tone of his voice surprised her. "What?"

"I'd like you and Leona to consider moving in with us." His

voice was nearly a whisper now. "As soon as possible."

His question shocked her. She started to shake her head.

"There 's not enough room--"

"I can add on. It wouldn't take me more than a couple of


She thought about their tiny house. Her nephews, Junior and

Melvin, shared a room, and as far as she knew baby Magdalena's

crib was still in Clara and Peter's bedroom. "You and Clara have

your own familye to take care of."

"You and Leona are part of that familye, Emma. I've fig-

ured everything out. You and Grossmammi can share Junior and

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6 Kathleen Fuller

Melvin's room. They can sleep on the couch until the addition

is finished. It's not a problem."

"What's not a problem?" Clara appeared, her black bonnet

tied in place, the bow perfectly formed under her pointy chin.

A large safety pin fastened the corner of her black shawl to her


He let out a deep breath. "I've asked Emma and Leona to

move in with us."

"Without telling me?" She spoke the question softly. Politely.

But the edge was there.

"I don't need your permission."

"We could have at least talked about it." She turned to

Emma. "Do you and Grossmammi want to leave this haus?"

Emma wasn't fooled. Her sister knew how much the place

meant to her and their grandmother--the old farmhouse,

with its five acres of farmland, sturdy barn, and wood shop.

Grossmammi would never leave, nor would Emma. Besides,

Clara didn't really want them to move in with her.

"We'll be fine here."

"But what about the work it takes to run this place?" Peter

asked. "I know Norman Otto has been a big help, but you can't

always count on him to be there for you."

"God will provide." The words came out of Emma's mouth

automatically, without any feeling or conviction behind them.

"Like He provided a cure for Mammi's cancer?" Clara said.

She scowled and crossed her thin arms over her chest, then

glanced away. "Sorry."

Emma knew she should reach out to Clara. Hug her, or at

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Treasuring Emma 7

least give an encouraging touch on the shoulder, as so many of

their family and friends had done for her throughout the past

few days since Mammi's death. Yet her body wouldn't move.

"You should get back home. I'm sure the kinner miss you."

"Maybe you shouldn't be alone." Peter looked at Clara.

"Mei fraa can stay the night, at least. It wouldn't be a gut idea

for you and Leona to be all by yourself tonight."

Clara looked at her husband, her dark eyes narrowing.

"Ya," she said, with about as much enthusiasm as a cat volun-

teering for a soapy bath. "I can stay."

"It's the least she could do," Peter added.

Emma glanced at Clara. The least she could have done was

to help with her own mother's care during the long and painful

process of dying. The least she could have done was to be a sis-

ter when Emma most needed one. But none of that happened.

Emma had been taking care of things by herself for a long time,

and she didn't much need or want Clara's help now.

"That's not necessary. Grossmammi is probably asleep

already." For added effect, Emma yawned. "I'm tired too."

"It looks like you don't need me, then." Clara straightened

her shoulders and uncrossed her arms.

"But she'll be by in the morning," Peter said.

"Ya. I'll be by in the morning."

Emma shrugged. She could disagree, but what was the

point? Peter would make sure Clara would be here. It was the

Amish way, and Peter was nothing if not thoroughly Amish. He

opened the door, and the three of them stepped onto the front

porch. Layers of grayish-blue hues stretched endlessly across

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8 Kathleen Fuller

the dusky sky. Peter hurried down the steps to the buggy, paus-

ing to motion for Clara to follow.

Clara turned to Emma. She could barely make out her sister's

sharp features; only her stiff white kapp contrasted against the

shadowy evening.

"I know Peter offered to let you stay with us," Clara said,

"but let me talk to him about it first. It's not that you and

Grossmammi aren't welcome, of course."

Emma knew perfectly well that her sister didn't want them

living under the same roof, but she kept silent.

"There are other things to consider," Clara continued in a

rush, "and we haven't had a chance to discuss them. You know

Peter. He can be impulsive. But he means well." She paused.

"He always means well."

Peter hesitated before climbing into the buggy. "Clara."

Clara hurried toward the buggy. Emma waited until they

disappeared down Bundysburg Road before she sat down in her

father's old hickory rocker in the corner of the warped front


The back of the rocker touched the peeling white siding on

the house. Flakes of old paint dotted the backrest of the chair.

Emma ran her fingers over the worn wood of the smooth,

curved armrest. She glanced at her mother's matching chair

beside her. So many evenings her parents would sit in these

chairs, talking as they rocked back and forth. Or sometimes they

said nothing at all, simply gazing at one another now and then,

or touching fingertips as the rockers moved back and forth. It

was the closest they ever came to expressing outward affection.

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Treasuring Emma 9

Bright headlights appeared. She looked up. A car moved

slowly down Bundysburg Road. The hum of the engine faded

in the distance, replaced with the shrill chirping of crickets and

deep throaty moans of bullfrogs.

Shelby the cat jumped into her lap and added her purring

to the night music. Emma rubbed the cat behind her ears. Yet

even the presence of one of her beloved pets couldn't keep the

emptiness at bay.

For the past eighteen months her sole focus had been to care

for her mother. The animals--two cats and three dogs, plus the

chestnut mare, Dill--had received less attention than normal.

Now Mammi was gone, and what kind of future did Emma

have? Living with her sister for the rest of her life?

Exhaustion rolled over her in a wave, and her stomach

churned. Marriage was an option. Maybe. But she was twenty-

four years old, an old maid by some Amish standards. Besides

that, she wasn't even sure if she wanted to marry. Not after what

happened with Adam.

She closed her eyes and tried to push him out of her thoughts.

Still, the split second of attention she gave to him made her heart

twist. Two years since he left Middlefield. How long would she

continue to love him?


The timbre of the deep male voice sent a shiver through

her. Shelby leapt from her lap.


As soon as she said his name, her cheeks heated with embar-

rassment. How foolish could she be? The man who stood at the

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10 Kathleen Fuller

foot of the porch, holding a rusted, old-fashioned gas lantern,

was not Adam Otto.

"I'm sorry," Norman Otto said. "I didn't mean to startle

you. I thought you heard me coming."

Emma stood from the chair and went to the edge of the

porch. "I guess I was deep in my own thoughts."

To her relief, he offered no comment about what those

thoughts might be. "I see Clara and Peter left."


Norman glanced at the ground, then looked up at her. "Just

watered your horse and put down some straw in her stall. The

dog bowls still had food in them, so I didn't add any more. The

three of them were curled up on a pile of hay in the corner when

I left. Also filled the cat bowls. One of them put a dead mouse at

my feet."

For the first time in what seemed like weeks, Emma mustered

a half smile. "That would be Tommy. He likes to give presents."

Norman nodded but didn't say anything more. A man of

few words, that was Adam's father. He'd been their neighbor

for years, and she'd never heard him string together more than

a sentence or two.

Norman's help with the animals and chores, however, wasn't

merely a neighborly gesture. As a deacon of the church, the

responsibility fell on him to take care of the poor and widows in

their district. He'd been helping the Shetlers since her father died.

"Emma." Norman's voice cracked. He let out a sharp cough.

"No matter what you need, let me know. I'll take care of it for


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Treasuring Emma 11

"Danki," she said. But there was only one thing she needed.

One person. And both of them knew Norman couldn't do any-

thing about that.

"I best be getting home now. Carol said to let you know that

she 'll be over in the morning with breakfast."

"She doesn't have to do that."

"You know she wants to." He paused. "Your mammi . . ."

He cleared his throat again and straightened his yellow straw

hat. "We'll all miss her." He turned and headed for his house,

the light from his lantern flickering with each step.

Emma's eyes burned. Memories broke through her fragile

defenses again--this time not only of her parents but of times

she and Adam spent together as kids. She remembered how they

played on the front porch, games like Dutch Blitz or checkers.

The times they chased fireflies in the front yard and put them

in a glass jar, its lid filled with holes he'd poked using an awl.

The night she'd noticed him as more than a friend. The dreams

she 'd had of marrying him.

She could still remember details, like how his honey-

colored eyes were a shade lighter than his straight, dark blond

hair. The way the dimples in his cheeks deepened when he

flashed his lopsided smile. The natural huskiness of his voice,

so like his father's.

The emptiness gnawed at her. She sat down in the rocker

and pressed her palm against her forehead. She should be griev-

ing her mother, not thinking about the man who broke her

heart. Her eyes grew hot, yet she couldn't bring herself to cry.

Hadn't she wept rivers of tears when her father died? When

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12 Kathleen Fuller

Adam left? As she watched life slowly drain from her mother

over the past few months?

Now she couldn't generate so much as a single tear. She

didn't have anything left. Nothing at all. Her life, at one time full

of excitement and hope, had shattered into a broken, empty shell.

And she didn't know if she'd ever feel whole again.

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... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Have you experienced loss like Emma’s? What words offered you the most comfort in such a time?
2. What is your first impression of Adam? Do you immediately judge him?
3. Why do you think Emma’s grandmother wrote to Adam? Do you think she is a nosy old lady, or do her intentions appear sincere?
4. As the story unfolds, there is obvious discord in Clara and Peter’s marriage. Discuss the steps both could be taking to work out their problems.
5. Adam’s return home mirrors the biblical story of the prodigal son. What differences do you see between that story and Adam’s return?
6. Characters often reflect on the phrase “God will provide.” Do you believe that? Has there been a time in your life when you’ve doubted that God would come through for you?
7. Discuss Norman Otto and his relationship with his son. How do you react to Norman’s attitude toward Adam? Do you think that Norman is wrong?
8. At what point do you become suspicious of Mark?
9. Emma’s grandmother comforts her and tells her at one point, “We’re not guaranteed an easy life.” Do you disagree? How have you dealt with bitterness concerning the not-so-easy parts of your life?
10. Do you feel pity toward Mark? Why or why not?
11. In order for Adam to return to the community, he was required to stand in front of the entire church and confess his sins. He had to completely embrace humility. Have you ever had to do that?
12. How do you feel about where the author leaves Mark King, or Matt Kingston, as he tells the young Amish girl? Do you believe that he can be brought back from path he is on?
13. The title of this story is “Treasuring Emma.” What does it mean to actively treasure someone? In what ways do you see characters in this story treasuring each other?
14. What is your biggest takeaway from this story? Do you feel encouraged after seeing God’s faithfulness through so many difficult circumstances?

from the publisher

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