Book Club: Seek Me With All Your Heart


February 15, 2011

by Beth Wiseman

Tragedy struck Emily in Ohio, shaking loose everything she believed was firm―including her faith. Her family took the bold step of leaving to resettle in a small Amish community in Canaan, Colorado, where they hope the distance will help erase painful memories. David’s family moved to Colorado for reasons he doesn’t understand, but Canaan is turning out to be something other than the Promised Land they all anticipated. Fearing that a health condition will cut his life short, David plans to return home to Pennsylvania, as soon as he can. But then he meets Emily, who stirs feelings in his heart despite his apprehension about the future. Emily’s growing love for David surprises her, but she fears if he finds out the truth about her he’ll reject her. But what if the truth is that they are made for each other? And that God longs to give them the desires of their hearts if only they will seek Him first?


One Emily stood behind the counter of her family’s country store, watching as the tall man walked down each aisle, the top of his black felt hat visible above the gray metal shelving. First thing that morning, he’d strolled in and shot her a slow, easy smile, white teeth dazzling against bronzed skin. He moved slowly, sometimes glimpsing in her direction. Emily twisted the strings on her apron with both hands and tried to slow down her breathing. Her heart pulsed against her chest as she glanced out the window toward her family’s farmhouse in the distance. Where is Jacob? Her brother knew she didn’t like to be left alone in the store, and he’d promised to be right back. Their community was small, and all the members in the dis­trict knew each other, which was the only reason Emily agreed to work in the shop. But this Amish man was a stranger. And Amish or not, he was still a man. Emily jumped when the man rounded the bread aisle toting a box of noodles in one hand and a can in the other. With the back of one hand, he tipped back his hat so that sapphire blue eyes blazed down on her. As he approached the counter, Emily clung to her apron strings and took a step backward. “How come everything in this store is messed up?” Tiny lines creased his forehead as he held up a can of green beans with a large dent in one side. Then he held up the box of noo­dles. “And this looks like it’s been stepped on. It’s mashed on one side.” He dropped them on the counter, then folded his arms across his chest and waited for her to answer. He towered over her. Emily stared straight ahead, not looking him in the eye. The outline of his shoulders strained against a black jacket that was too small. Her bottom lip trembled as she turned her head to look out the window again. When she didn’t see any sign of Jacob, she turned back to face the stranger, who looked to be about her age—maybe nineteen or twenty—which didn’t make him any less threatening. His handsome looks could be a convenient cover up for what lay beneath. She knew he was not a married man since he didn’t have a beard covering his square jaw, and his dark hair was in need of a trim. He arched his brows, waiting for her to respond, looking anything but amused. Emily felt goose bumps on her arms, and chills began to run the length of her spine, even though Jacob had fired up the propane heaters long before the shop opened that morning. “This is—is a salvage store.” Her fingers ached as she twisted the strings of her apron tighter. “We sell freight and warehouse damaged groceries.” She bit her lip, but didn’t take her eyes from him. “I can’t even find half the things on my list.” He shook his head as he stared at a white piece of paper. “What about milk and cheese?” “No, I’m sorry. We mostly have dry goods.” He threw his hands in the air. Emily thought his behavior was improper for an Amish man, but raw fear kept her mouth closed and her feet rooted to the floor. “Where am I supposed to get all this?” He turned the piece of paper around so she could see the list. Emily unwrapped the strings of her apron and slowly leaned her head forward. She tucked a loose strand of brown hair underneath her kapp. “What’d you do to your hand?” Emily glanced at her hand, and a blush filled her cheeks when she saw the red indentions around her fingers. She quickly dropped her hand to her side and ignored his comment. “You will have to go to Monte Vista for most of those things. People usually come here to save money, just to get a few things they know we’ll have for a lesser price.” “That’s a far drive by buggy in this snow.” He put both hands on the counter and hung his head for a few moments, then looked up as his mouth pulled into a sour grin. With an unsettling calmness, he leaned forward and said, “Just one more thing I can’t stand about this place.” Emily took two steps backward, which caused her to bump into the wall behind her. “Then leave,” she whispered as she cast her eyes down on her black shoes. She couldn’t believe she’d voiced the thought, and when she looked back up at him, the stranger’s eyes were glassed with anger. “Please don’t hurt me.” She clenched her eyes closed. David couldn’t believe what he’d heard. “What? Hurt you? What are you talkin’ about?” He’d never hurt anyone in his life. He walked around the counter and reached his hand out to her, but she cowered against the wall. “I’m sorry. Whatever I did, I’m sorry. Please, don’t cry.” He touched her arm, and she flinched as a tear rolled down her cheek. He pulled back and said softly, “Please. Don’t cry. Look . . .” He showed her his palms, then backed up and got on the other side of the counter. “I’m leaving. Don’t cry.” He rubbed his forehead for a moment and watched her trying to catch her breath to stop the tears from flowing. She swiped at her eyes and sniffled, then looked up at him. He noticed a scar above her left brow. A deep indentation that ran nearly to her hairline. The bell on the front door chimed, and David looked away from the woman and toward the sound. An Amish fel­low around his own age stepped inside. He glanced at David, then took one look at the woman against the wall and hastily rushed over to her. He brushed past David, almost pushing him, and touched the woman on the arm. “Are you all right?” “I didn’t do anything, I promise.” David watched the young man wrap his arm around her and whisper some­thing in her ear. “I mean, I guess I acted like a jerk, but I never meant to . . .” The fellow waved a hand at him and shook his head before turning his attention back to her. “Go on back to the haus.” David’s eyes followed the young woman as she scurried out the door, her chin tucked. Through the window, he saw her trudge through the snow toward a white house on the other side of a picket fence, her brown dress slapping at her shins as she hugged herself tightly. David pointed to a black wrap hanging on a rack by the door. “She forgot her cape,” he said and looked out of the window again. He wondered what exactly had just happened. “I’m Jacob.” The man walked closer and extended his hand to David, who forced a smile. “I’m David, and I’m real sorry. I came in here in a bad mood, and I guess I must have scared her or something.” He dropped his hand and shook his head. “But I sure didn’t mean to. Really. I’m just real sorry.” Jacob peeled off a snow-speckled black coat, walked to the rack, and hung it beside the forgotten cape. He turned to face David. “It’s not you. My sister just gets like that sometimes. I try not to leave her alone, but I heard one of the horses in the barn kicking at the stall, and I was gone longer than I should have been.” “Is she . . .” David wasn’t sure how to ask. “Ab im kopp?” Jacob chuckled. “Nee, she ain’t off in the head.” His expres­sion grew serious. “She’s just . . . I reckon she’s just going through a hatt time right now.” . . . Emily’s face flushed with embarrassment as she watched him walking toward her. When was she ever going to feel—and act—normal again? She reached up and touched the scar on her forehead. Never. The screen door slammed behind her, and Vera Detweiler joined her daughter on the porch. “Who is that handsome fellow comin’ ’cross the yard?” Mamm smoothed the wrinkles in her brown apron. “I don’t recognize him.” “I’m going in the haus.” Emily started to step around her mother, but felt a hand on her arm. “Emily. That’s rude. Is this young man coming to see you? Did you meet him at the shop?” Emily wiggled free of her mother’s grasp. “Ya. But he’s not very friendly, and I’d rather not talk to him.” Mamm’s lips thinned. “Emily, how are you ever going to find a man and get married if you keep running away from everyone?” She softened her expression. “You must move past what happened.” The man was nearing earshot, so Emily didn’t have a chance to respond. “Guder mariye.Mamm waved from the front porch. Emily didn’t think there was much good about this morning at all. “Guder mariye to you.” He stopped in the yard and looked up at Emily and her mother. “I just wanted to come apologize to Emily.” He shoved his hands in his pockets, and with his shoul­ders hunched forward, his gaze landed on Emily. “I’m sorry for the way I acted back there.” He nodded toward the shop. “I’m just having a really bad morning. I didn’t mean to scare you.” With renewed humiliation about her behavior, Emily looked away from him. When she turned back to face him, his gaze was still on her. “It’s all right,” she mumbled, casting her eyes to the ground, wishing she’d never have to see him again. Not much chance of that if he lives here. . . . Excerpted from Seek Me With All Your Heart © 2010 by Beth Wiseman. Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
A Conversation with Seek Me With All Your Heart Author Beth Wiseman WoF: Tell us your story—what made you become an author? Beth: I’ve been writing in some capacity since I was a kid. Then I started writing some freelance articles, I was a columnist for a year, and I worked as a reporter. I wrote many manuscripts and had many rejections. I was under the assumption, back in the day, that if you write a really great story somebody will buy it. It wasn’t until about 2006 that I got really serious. I focused on learning the craft of writing and incorporating that into my stories. I picked up a little tiny contract; at that point I also had another publisher interested in a manuscript, so I was able to snag an agent. I was going through rewrites on a standard formula romance for the secular market when God dropped something in our laps. My son got sick. He had multiple diagnoses . . . just crazy, crazy symptoms. We were in and out of the Emergency Room; he ended up in ICU. During this time, my agent and I quit talking about books, contracts, anything going on with all that. Instead, she became my friend. She prayed for my son. When I was at home with him my agent said, “Beth, we’ve been through so much together. I know you’re a Christian. How would you feel about writing for the Christian market? You seem to be in the right spiritual place. I’ve got publishers asking me about Amish fiction. How would you feel about trying your hand at it?” It just felt like the right thing to do. I did a lot of research―hundreds and hundreds of pages of Amish research. Then the doors began to fly open at warp speed. I was instantly connected with an ex-Amish woman in Lancaster County who to this day reads all my books to verify authenticity. I could just feel God’s hand in my life. I started writing Plain Perfect. My agent said “This is your book. This is it. I will sell this right away. What do you want to do with the other publisher looking for revisions to your secular book?” It was a real crossroads: take the sure thing or go ahead and let her submit Plain Perfect and see what happened. I said, “I want to let everything else go.” So my agent sold those first three chapters (plus a paragraph for book two and a paragraph for book three) to Thomas Nelson. I was floored. It was a blessing on so many levels. Then we went back to the hospital a few weeks later and my son had made a complete recovery. I believe I witnessed a miracle. That tumor just disappeared and the doctors had no explanation. None. I can’t even describe all the blessings that have been handed to me. It’s been amazing. I’m getting ready to start my 12th book since Plain Perfect released in September 2008. WoF: It seems as though, not too long ago, Amish stories came out of nowhere and now they’re a huge part of the fiction market. Why do you think they’re so appealing? Beth: I think they’re so appealing because it’s an escape. Especially women—and I venture to say most of the readers are women—we’re hauling kids around, we’re packing cell phones, we’re running to this, we’re running to that. We lead such busy lives; I think it’s a way to escape. So many readers write in and say, “I would love to live like that, just for a little while. It might be hard to give up my cell phone forever, but I would like to live like that for a little while.” WoF: We Englisch (non-Amish people) often have the perception that Amish don’t have issues like infidelity, single parenthood, and divorce. Did you deliberately set out to break that stereotype? Beth: In my conversations with my Amish friends, they have told me “It’s important to us that not only do you portray us correctly, but that the people out there know we are human. We have emotional issues just like everyone else.” Unfortunately, there is infidelity. They do not believe in divorce; they don’t remarry unless there’s a death of a spouse. In Seek Me With All Your Heart we’re dealing with a character that’s a single mother. Book two of the Land of Canaan series, The Wonder of Your Love, is her story of having a child in an Amish community and the challenges she faces as a single mother. I loved writing her story. She’s a little bit older, it’s not “boy meets girl,” it’s very different. WoF: Speaking of characters, Martha is wonderful! Where did the idea for her come from? Beth: I have no idea. The same way all my characters come—it’s like I’m a crazy person and hear voices or something. Usually within a month before I start writing the book it’s like I can see them and hear them. I don’t really have a character that Martha was based on, but I just love her, too. She has a large role in the next book. WoF: You mentioned your Amish friends. How did you find them; what’s your research like? Beth: When I felt like I had done everything I could do from Texas—I’d gone through all my notes, I’d read all the fiction and non-fiction books I could get my hands on—I decided I needed to find a B&B and spend some time [in Amish country]. Of all the bed and breakfasts I “just happened” to stumble upon one where the woman’s family was shunned by the Old Order Amish. She grew up Amish; her husband was Amish. His family is still Amish. Over the years we developed a friendship. I have Amish friends there who take me into their homes, take me on buggy rides. We write letters. My friend is ex-Amish, so she has Internet and I get a lot of questions answered quickly. Her mother is still Beachy Amish—it’s kind of like being Mennonite―but she grew up Old Order. They read each book before it goes to print, then we have a very long phone call. I’m glad to say with each book the phone call has been shorter. I had to do a lot of research for the Colorado series, too. Once again, it seemed like doors just flew open. I walked into a dry goods store right outside of Monte Vista CO and there was an Amish woman who was more than willing to sit down and talk to me. Next thing I know, I was planning another trip, she invited me to her home . . . Doors have come open and it makes me know I’m on the right path. WoF: One of the major themes of the book is communication. Both Emily and David’s family keep secrets from each other; even Martha has communication issues with her beau. How important is it to keep lines of communication open, even when it’s hard? Beth: I try to always stress to my own children—they’re 26 and 19—that it is important that we communicate. When you don’t communicate, even though you think you might be sparing the person out of love, these are the kind of things that happen, just like what happened to Emily and David. There was miscommunication. Ultimately there was hurt that might not have needed to be there had everybody been upfront and honest. WoF: We’d like to thank you for including recipes in the back of the book. We just polished off a Chocolate Shoofly Pie at the WoFfice this morning; it was delicious! Where do you get the recipes? Beth: The recipes come from my Old Order Amish friends. I have to try every one of those recipes before it goes in the back of the book because the editor wants to make sure the recipe is correct. A lot of the recipes say things like “Put pie in oven and bake.” No temperature, no nothing. In one of my books I had to make rhubarb pie. I had to make a LOT of rhubarb pies to get it right. One of the first recipes we had to try was for Plain Perfect. I should have known when it called for four heads of cabbage it was going to make a massive amount. At eleven o’clock at night my husband and I had to go to Wal-Mart, get one of those big, huge plasticware things, take it home and sterilize it . . . we were making chow-chow. It was wonderful, but we made 30-40 bottles of it. We cut the recipe in half—maybe even a quarter—for the book. WoF: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers? Beth: Seek Me with All Your Heart went through the most revisions, it was the hardest book for me to write, and ultimately it’s my favorite. I think there are a lot of strong messages in there. I like the way the different characters are seeking God and their different reasons why. It’s very close to my heart so I was super honored that it was chosen to be the Women of Faith Novel of the Year. I’m so looking forward to going to my first event! My agent is coming from New York; my best friend, my assistant—we’re all planning a girls’ trip. Every time I mention Women of Faith to someone who’s been they get this look on their face and say, “You’re gonna LOVE it!” We’re really looking forward to that!
Chocolate Shoofly Pie 1 unbaked pie shell 1/4 tsp. baking soda 11/3 cups boiling water 11/2 cups (16 oz. can) Hershey’s syrup 1 tsp. vanilla 11/3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 tsp. baking soda 1/4 tsp. salt 1/3 cup butter cinnamon Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in boiling water; stir in chocolate syrup and vanilla. Set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender to form coarse crumbs. Set aside 1 cup each of chocolate mixture and crumbs. Gently combine remaining chocolate and crumbs, stirring just until crumbs are moistened (mixture will be lumpy). Pour reserved cup of chocolate mixture into pastry shell. Pour chocolate-crumb mixture evenly over liquid in shell. Top with remaining 1 cup of crumbs. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 375° for 50 to 60 minutes or until set. Cool completely. —From Renee Klevenhagen, Slatedale, PA
February 15, 2011 22 views Women of Faith