The Forgiving Jar

By: Wanda E. Brunstetter
Dedication


To my special Amish friends who live by the scriptures and know the meaning of forgiveness.


And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

EPHESIANS 4:32




Prologue


Strasburg, Pennsylvania


It was a beautiful clear night, but even as the stars twinkled above, they shone in stark contrast to the mood inside Ezekiel King’s truck. As they approached the home of Willis and Mary Ruth Lapp, Michelle Taylor’s apprehension grew. She clutched her purse straps so tight the lack of circulation tingled her fingers. Michelle was no stranger to being cast away, but right now she felt more nervous and fearful of rejection than at any other time in her life.

Ezekiel must have sensed Michelle’s anxiety, for he let go of the steering wheel with one hand and reached over to touch her arm. “It’s gonna be all right. You have nothin’ to worry about.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You’re not the one who has to face the Lapps.” She released her purse straps and pushed a lock of shoulder-length hair away from her face. “I’d rather have a tooth pulled without anything to deaden the pain than speak to the Lapps in person. I don’t know if I can forgive myself, let alone expect them to.”

“Don’t say that.” Ezekiel’s tone was reassuring. “I’ve known the Lapps a long time. You’ll soon find out that your worries are for nothing.”

As they passed more familiar places, Michelle’s fretfulness intensified, even though Ezekiel tried to help her cope. “I really blew it when I didn’t come clean with them before. What if they don’t want to see me? They might slam the door in my face.”

Taking hold of the wheel with both hands again, Ezekiel shook his head. “The Lapps aren’t like that. They’ll let you in and listen to whatever you have to say.”

“I don’t expect them to invite me to live with them again. I just want the chance to tell Mary Ruth and Willis how sorry I am for impersonating their granddaughter.” Michelle blew out a puff of air. “I’ve never been more ashamed of myself than doing that to people who have made me feel loved like no one else ever did.”

“I’m sure they will forgive you.”

“I hope you’re right, because if they won’t speak to me, I can’t return to Harrisburg. I quit my job, remember? Maybe I’ll have to catch a bus and head for Ohio after all. If I beg my foster parents in Columbus, they might take me in.” Michelle bit the inside of her cheek and winced. “I deserve whatever I get.”

Ezekiel turned up the Lapps’ driveway. “I don’t think it’ll come to that, but even if things don’t go well, I am not letting you leave.” He turned off the engine and reached for her hand. “We’ll figure out something—together.”

Michelle nodded. She didn’t know what she would do without Ezekiel. If he hadn’t come to Harrisburg to get her, she wouldn’t be here right now. She’d have probably spent the rest of her life moving from town to town, trying to hide from the past. Well, however things ended up, it was time for her to face the music.





Chapter 1


One month later


Glancing in her rearview mirror as she slowed for a stop sign, Sara Murray smiled when she noticed a horse and buggy coming up behind her car. She rolled down her window to listen to the steady rhythm of the hooves engaging the pavement. Sara breathed in the crisp, fresh air. It was good to be back in Amish country, and even better to be heading to her grandparents’ house to celebrate Thanksgiving a few days from now.

She still couldn’t get over the fact that her mother had been raised in an Amish home, or that she hadn’t known anything about it until she’d arrived in Lancaster County earlier this fall. A letter Sara found after Mama’s death had revealed her grandparents’ names and stated that they lived in Strasburg. Sara had wanted to meet them right away, but due to her part-time job at a dentist’s office, plus taking some business classes, she was unable to go to Strasburg until fall.

Another shock had awaited Sara: a young woman had been living with the Lapps for several months, pretending to be her. It was hard not to be bitter about that, but Michelle Taylor had left the first day Sara arrived, so it was behind her now. Sara had spent several weeks getting to know Willis and Mary Ruth Lapp and was glad for this opportunity to spend more time with them.

Last week, the dentist Sara worked for had decided to retire, so she was currently out of a job. She hoped to move out of the duplex she rented from her stepfather in Newark, New Jersey, and move to Strasburg permanently. Perhaps, if her grandparents were willing, she could live with them—at least until she found another job and could rent a place of her own.

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